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Toshiba Chromebook 2 review: Impressive Chromebook for the cost

For its second Chromebook, Toshiba shaved off as much chassis as possible without sacrificing screen size or quality -- and without jacking up the price.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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5 min read

A big part of the appeal of Chromebooks is their prices, which typically don't go beyond the $300 or £300 mark. Low prices generally don't equate to great build quality or design, though, something Toshiba improved on with its second go-round, the aptly named Chromebook 2.

toshiba-chromebook-2.jpg
7.8

Toshiba Chromebook 2

The Good

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 has an excellent 1080p screen, good Chrome OS performance and a nice feature set including a full-size SDXC card slot, fast 802.11ac wireless and great-sounding speakers.

The Bad

Build quality, particularly the lid, feels a bit flimsy. Battery life in our benchmarks, while good, fell short of competing models.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for an all-around solid Chrome OS experience -- with one of the best screens we've seen on a Chromebook -- the Toshiba Chromebook 2 should be your starting point.

Toshiba's first Chromebook looked good enough, but because it had a 13.3-inch screen, it was bulkier than the 11.6-inch models it was competing against. For the 2, Toshiba shaved off as much as possible so it is closer in size to those smaller-screen Chromebooks while keeping the 13.3-inch screen.

The result is more screen to work with and a more spacious keyboard to type on, but without occupying too much more room in your bag.

Toshiba's Chromebook 2 is available in an entry-level $250 model (£200) with a 1,366x768-pixel resolution or a $330 (£250, AU$449) premium version with a full-HD display using an IPS panel for better off-angle viewing. We tested the 1080p model and the display is awesome and totally worth the extra cash.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features

Toshiba shaving down the size of the notebook is pretty great, but the look and feel of the Chromebook 2 overall isn't anything special.

The silver-colored body is covered in a textured resin that I personally do not like the feel of. Plus, the lid has some flex to it and doesn't seem like it'll offer too much protection for the screen on the inside. However, Toshiba offers optional snap-on covers for this model that should toughen it up a bit as well as smooth out the finish.

If you were contemplating going with a smaller Chromebook to save some travel space, it might not be worth it. For example, Samsung's 11.6-inch Chromebook 2 measures 11.4 inches wide by 8 inches deep by 0.7 inches thick (29x20x2cm) and weighs 2.7 pounds (1.2kg). Toshiba's Chromebook 2 measures 12.6 inches wide by 8.4 inches deep by 0.8 inches thick (32x21x2cm) and comes in at 3 pounds (1.3kg).

Sarah Tew/CNET

That extra screen space is really nice to have once you start opening Chrome apps or multiple windows. And the screen itself is fantastic compared to what we're used to seeing. The colors and viewing angles of displays on competing models look sad by comparison. Pictures and videos pop on this Toshiba and text looks sharp. And it's a bright display (340 nits) too, which comes in handy when battling glare.

The lid opens about 135 degrees. I only mention this because I found myself occasionally trying to push it beyond that to defeat glare off the shiny screen and find a comfortable working angle with it on my lap. In general, though, it doesn't pose a problem.

Also, the higher resolution might squinting more to read what's on screen, but the resolution is easily adjusted. Click on the settings box in the lower right corner of the screen and then click on Internal Display. From there you can drop the resolution, which will enlarge what you see. It will make things look fuzzier the lower you go, so for viewing pictures and video you'll probably want to keep it at 1,920x1,080 pixels.

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Toshiba's Chromebook 2 sheds some bulk from the original (bottom). Sarah Tew/CNET

Adding to your media enjoyment are the stereo speakers tuned by headphone-maker Skullcandy that fire up through the keyboard. Generally speaking, branded audio features like this tend to be a letdown, but these things sound really good even when cranked up.

Another benefit of the slightly larger body is that there's more room for the keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard is a comfortable size, though there isn't much travel on the keys and they're on the soft side, which made the typing experience feel sluggish. Your mileage may vary, of course. It's also not backlit, but that's typical.

The touchpad is large, responsive and supports multitouch gestures. I tend to drag my palms when typing and experienced no cursor jumpiness because of it. The surface does have a slight texture to keep your finger tips gliding smoothly.

Rounding out the features are an HD webcam with a dual-mic array; one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0 port; a full-size HDMI output; a headphone/mic jack; an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot supporting cards up to 2TB; and 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance and battery life

It doesn't take much to run Chrome OS, something else that helps keep Chromebooks inexpensive. For the Chromebook 2, you get a newer, better-than-Atom dual-core 2.58GHz Intel Celeron N2840 processor, 4GB of memory (2GB if you go with the lower-resolution version) and 16GB of flash storage (100GB of Google Drive cloud storage is included as well).

The 4GB of memory does appear to have some benefit, seen both in our benchmarks and anecdotal use. Video playback -- streamed and stored locally -- was smoother than I've experienced on models with 2GB of memory and managing multiple windows with several tabs open didn't result in a sluggish experience.

Simple photo editing using Pixlr Touch Up or Polarr or playing a quick game of Cut the Rope weren't issues, either. Still, this is no gaming system and if you think you'll need better graphics performance, consider the Acer Chromebook 13 . Otherwise, the Intel HD graphics are good enough for most Chromebook activities.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As for battery life, Toshiba claims up to 11.5 hours of battery life on the 1,366x768-resolution model and up to 9 hours on the 1,920x1,080-resolution model we tested. Those times are based on results from Google's power-testing procedures.

Using our continuous wireless video-streaming test with sound and screen brightness set to 50 percent, we hit 5 hours and 57 minutes, which is a big gap. However, with more typical everyday use of it, I had no problem breaking the 7-hour mark before feeling the need to plug in.

Conclusion

If you're looking for an all-around solid Chrome OS experience -- with one of the best screens we've seen on a Chromebook -- the Toshiba Chromebook 2 should be your starting point. One look at its price tag basically eliminated any issues we had with it.

Futuremark Peacekeeper

Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook 1293Lenovo N20p Chromebook 1334Acer Chromebook 13 1399HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 1455Samsung Chromebook XE500C12 1614Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook 2 1694
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance


Sunspider Javascript

Samsung Chromebook XE500C12 589Acer Chromebook 13 574Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook 566HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 518Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook 2 514Lenovo N20p Chromebook 513
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance


OortOnline.gl

HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 1000Lenovo N20p Chromebook 1260Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook 2 1360Samsung Chromebook XE500C12 1380Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook 1420Acer Chromebook 13 3820
Note: Longer bars indicates better performance

Hulu streaming battery test

HP Pavilion Chromebook 14 177Lenovo Yoga 11e Chromebook 336Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook 2 357Samsung Chromebook XE500C12 426Acer Chromebook 13 483Lenovo N20p Chromebook 499
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Toshiba CB35-B3340 Chromebook 2
Chrome OS; 2.58GHz Intel Celeron N2840; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 16GB SSD

Lenovo Yoga 11e
Chrome OS; 1.83GHz Intel Celeron N2930; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 16GB SSD

HP Pavilion Chromebook 14
Chrome OS; 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 16GB SSD

Acer Chromebook 13
Chrome OS; 2.10GHz Nvidia Tegra K1; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 16GB SSD

Lenovo N20p
Chrome OS; 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2830; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 16GB SSD

Samsung Chromebook XE500C12
Chrome OS; 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2830; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 16GB SSD

toshiba-chromebook-2.jpg
7.8

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 7Support 7
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