Toshiba Chromebook 2 review: Impressive Chromebook for the cost

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MSRP: $249.00

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.

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7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7
  • Support 7

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'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.

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