The stand out feature of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is it’s amazing IPS full HD screen, let’s take a closer look in this review…

Reasons to buy:
Amazing full HD IPS screen
Fantastic value for money
Weighs only 1.35kg
Up to 9hrs battery life
Simple stylish design

Things that could be better:
Creaky screen
Fonts and icons on screen look small

Update:

This review is for the 2014 version of the Toshiba Chromebook 2, if you’re interested in the newer 2015 version (it has a better processor and backlit keyboard) see this review for the Toshiba Chromebook 2 2015 edition.

Design and Build 4/5

On first seeing this chromebook, I have to say I was impressed straight away. The grey silvery colour gives the chromebook a premium quality look.

dot_surfaceThe textured ‘dot’ surfaces on the outer top and bottom prevents that slippy feel in the hands and compared to the smaller toy-like 11″ chromebooks, it feels more like a ‘real’ laptop.

It’s a minimal look that works well with it’s thin, light, portable and sleek appearance.

After handling the chromebook, it became obvious that although the special coating makes the casing look like aluminium, it’s not.

The casing may be plastic, but it’s thick plastic that is not flimsy at all. The overall build is solid and does not feel cheap apart from the creaky cover.

On opening and closing the lid, I could not help but notice the creaking sound. It’s a shame and lets the otherwise great build quality down.

curved_edgesThe front of the laptop is curved up to give the illusion of being thinner and on the underside are little rubber feet which keep the chromebook from sliding around when in use.

I like the rounded corners and smooth surfaces and think it adds to the overall stylish design.

Specs 5/5

In simple terms the processor is the brain of the computer and the faster it is the quicker the computer runs. If you, like I did, are googling around comparing the specs of different chromebooks before deciding which one to buy, let me be of some help.

Intel_Celeron_Processor_N2840This chromebook uses the 2.16 GHz Intel N2840 processor (Bay Trail processors) whereas the original Toshiba chromebook had a better processor, the 1.4 GHz Intel Celeron 2955U (Haswell processors).

Haswell processors are faster than Bay Trail ones and so you may be wondering why a slower processor is being used in a newer chromebook?

Bay Trail processors are a better choice for ultra lightweight laptops like chromebooks because they are very energy efficient preventing heat build up like most laptops. Bay Trail processors don’t need a cooling fan making them completely quiet. Less power means the battery lasts longer too.

It’s a slower processor compared to the previous one when tested in labs, but in normal everyday use the difference is barely noticeable. Resulting in the benefits of a quiet cool laptop with a longer battery life.

With this model you get 4GB’s DDR3 memory and 16GB’s of eMMC hard drive space. The extra memory combined with the eMMC drive really does make this a fast chromebook.

ports_left

On the left side is the power socket, the charging light, a USB 2.0 port and the SD card slot

I would have preferred the option for a larger hard drive but I suppose Google want to encourage users to use Google drive as their main storage area. The SD card slot is there for more storage space should I need it.

I use a high capacity SD card that I permanently leave in the slot and store things on that I prefer not to store in the cloud. It’s a convenient way to add storage especially since the card sits flush with the side of the chromebook and can hardly be seen.

ports_right

On the right side is the headphone socket, the USB 3.0 port, the full HDMI port and the Kensington Security Slot

If you want faster data transfers, you can always use the USB 3.0 port with a small flash drive instead. There’s also a USB 2.0 port, a full HDMI port and a headphone jack. Pretty impressive for such a slim design.

The other features of note are the graphics, the sound, the webcam and the microphone.

The Intel HD Graphics card gives a crisp clear display which can handle movies and graphics without any problems. The Skullcandy sound quality is also surprisingly good for such a small, compact machine, it lacks bass but is quite pleasant for listening to most music tracks.

The quality of the built in HD webcam is good enough for online chats but the colors are a bit too dark at times. The dual array microphone on the other hand is excellent. It picks up your voice clearly and I find that it’s great for google voice searches.

Display 5/5

The screen is what transforms this chromebook from a great laptop to an awesome laptop. It’s full high definition screen really is a gorgeous viewing experience. I’ve been avoiding comparing this laptop to a Macbook Air in terms of size and design but the screen warrants the comparison.

full_HD_display

With a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and an IPS screen, this Chromebook puts other more expensive laptops to shame

Apple have also always made screen resolution a priority. They have been using IPS screens for a while now as these offer better viewing angles and colour quality.

I would call the Toshiba Chromebook 2 a ‘Macbook Air on a budget’ but would also point out that Chromebooks are designed to do different things. Using design ideas from the Macbook Air to make their chromebook more desirable is a good move by Toshiba in my opinion.

Back to the full HD screen, did I mention it’s amazing? Colours are bright, text and icons are sharp, it’s a pleasure to use and gives this chromebook an elegant look. The only issue with a 13” screen displaying at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 is that fonts and icons can look quite small. The Surface Pro has similar issues with it’s HD screen.

I have to admit that I found viewing web pages at this resolution a bit uncomfortable, especially for long periods. I now have my Chrome browser set to a default resolution of 150% making all my apps easy on the eyes without having to keep zooming in and out.

Text may seem a little small, but changing the zoom setting in the Chrome browser fixes the problem

Text may seem a little small, but changing the zoom setting in the Chrome browser fixes the problem

There are times when some things look too big in which case I just use the shortcut ctrl and – to zoom down. If your eyes are able to cope with this screen resolution I would highly recommend paying a little extra for the full HD version.

 

 

Differences between the Standard and HD Toshiba Chromebook 2

Standard HD
Model No. CB30-B-103 CB30-B-104
Memory 2GB 4GB
Screen LED Full HD LED IPS
Resolution 1366 x 768 pixels 1920 x 1080 pixels
Price Cheaper

Check price

Slightly more expensive

Check price

Keyboard and Trackpad 5/5

The keyboard is a good size and the keys are very responsive. The trackpad is nice and large and supports multi gesturing.

Multi gesture allows you to right click and scroll with 2 fingers and zoom in and out using pinching. The trackpad also includes the normal left and right click buttons for those that prefer a more traditional approach.

Another nice feature is the control you get because of the slight friction on the trackpad. It’s much better than the super smooth ones which cause the mouse to go all over the place.

Both the keyboard and trackpad feel of a very high quality considering the low price of the chromebook. It’s disappointing that other manufacturers are happy to use cheap keyboards and trackpads on their laptops but charge 2 to 3 times the price!

Portability and Battery Life 5/5

This chromebook is designed to be lightweight and compact, it’s under 2cm thick and weighs a mere 1.35kg. That’s only slightly heavier than the Lenovo Yoga 3. As a mobile device it’s as easy to use on the sofa as it is on a desk.

Having used the Chromebook for a couple of months, the battery lasts about 8 hours for normal use. Normal use being a couple of tabs open and some music in the background. I think that’s pretty good and not far off Toshiba’s claim of up to 9 hours.

When you do run out of battery, you’ll be surprised to find the 3 cell lithium ion battery fully charges in about only 2 hours!

What I do find a bit strange is how the battery indicator software fluctuates so much. Sometimes I can turn the chromebook on and the indicator reports that I have 6hrs left and 10 minutes later it might say 3.5 hours left?

To check this I monitored the battery life myself instead of using the indicator status and the battery did actually last on average 8 hours. Hopefully at some point Google will release an update to correct this problem.

Final thoughts

After looking at other chromebooks and ultrabooks I decided that this was the best choice for me. Not only is it very good value for money but it is one stylish laptop. It has a minimalist look without being plain and is at least 3 times cheaper than similar ultrabooks.

The wow factor is definitely the 13.3" full HD IPS screen, it’s a pleasure to use and is easily comparable to a Macbook Air’s screen.

The wow factor is definitely the 13.3″ full HD IPS screen, it’s a pleasure to use and is easily comparable to a Macbook Air’s screen.

Please keep in mind that this is a chromebook and so is not a Windows laptop. If you’re not sure of the difference, read my chromebooks post where you’ll get a better idea of what chromebooks can do.

At this price point I am impressed with how well the Toshiba chromebook 2 is made. Just goes to show that with clever design and a good use of materials, stylish laptops can be made at an affordable price.