Toshiba's '7-in-1' PC convertible is more cumbersome than cool

The Dynabook Kira L93 goes on sale in Japan this month

PC convertibles are not new, but Toshiba is releasing one that can change into seven different forms, thanks to its attachable keyboard and a 360-degree hinge.

We had a chance to try out the Dynabook Kira L93 at this week's Computex show in Taipei, and found it to be a cool concept, but unwieldy to use. It's a high-end laptop, and will retail for about ¥220,000 (US$2,150) when it goes on sale in Japan this month, according to information from two retailers. For that price, a consumer will get a device that feels and looks sleek in its sturdy metal casing.

But the major selling point is Kira L93's ability to assume seven different shapes. The device comes as a touchscreen tablet with a foldable kick-stand on its hinge. The additional piece is a wireless keyboard that can attach to the kick-stand. When all three parts are connected together, the device forms into a traditional clamshell laptop.

The hinge on the device, however, can rotate 360 degrees. This lets the Kira L93 turn into six other tablet modes, with the keyboard either attached or not. For instance, you can flip the kick-stand back to prop up the tablet at different angles, and use it as a touchscreen device.

The Kira L93 is certainly versatile, but when actually trying to flip the device into the different modes, it feels more like a hassle that takes up too much time. The PC convertible has a 13.3-inch screen, so there's a bit of weight and size you have to deal with changing it from laptop to tablet form. This can take a minute or two to figure out, given that the keyboard has to be properly attached. With all three pieces connected the Kira L93 weighs 1.75 kilograms, or 1.3 kg without the keyboard.

Despite all its conversion options, we actually preferred keeping it in laptop mode during our short test, as that felt easier to understand. However, buyers of the product will have more time to get used to its different modes.

The Kira L93 runs fast with its Intel Core i5 dual-core 1.5 GHz processor. Its touchscreen is also quite responsive, making the installed Windows 8.1 operating system on the device easy to use. In addition, slotted into the side of the screen is a stylus that can be taken out.

A major drawback of the Kira L93 is its pointing device. Instead of a trackpad the keyboard has a black rubber joystick button near its center. This was less than precise, and the long button for left- and right-clicks on the front edge of the keyboard provided little feedback and was uncomfortable to reach. Although this design choice keeps the keyboard smaller and lighter, using this configuration was sometimes a pain, and added to the feeling that the device had a steep learning curve for which most consumers won't have the patience.

Toshiba originally showed its shape-shifting PC concept at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, so it's nice to see that the company dared to turn it into an actual product. But from our hands-on with it, the Kira L93 isn't as refined as we hoped, and might work better as a more scaled down PC convertible.

A Toshiba customer service representative said the tablet would not be available outside Japan.

(Tim Hornyak in Tokyo contributed to this story.)

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