Monday, November 10, 2014

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review

Finally, a gorgeous 1080p screen on a Chromebook

"A little short on battery life and savings, this thin and light 13-inch laptop has the best looking FHD screen of any Chromebook. Just watch out for that glare."


  • Gorgeous 1080p screen
  • Thin and light


  • Blinding screen glare
  • OK battery life
  • Mismatched casing parts

The golden age of Chromebooks is here. Google's little cloud computing experiment has blossomed into a new segment of affordable and long last laptops. All throughout the year we've seen new, yet very identical Chromebooks. Now after long last last we're start to see some new models that shake up the formula including the sequel to the Toshiba Chromebook.
The new 13.3 inch Toshiba Chromebook 2 uses a fanless design made possible with a an Intel Bay Trail processor. Ditching the fan has made the new laptop slimmer and lighter. What's more, it also comes with a 1080p screen to join the ranks of the slowly burgeoning group of full HD Chromebooks, including the 13-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer Chromebook 13. On paper, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 looks to be an improvement in every way compared to the original, but has this laptop sacrificed anything for a shinier screen?


The Toshiba Chromebook 2 smaller and thinner than its predecessor despite sticking with a 13.3-inch screen. Thanks to the new fanless design Toshiba has shaved down the dimensions of its original Chromebook from 12.9 x 8.9 x 0.8 inches (W x D x H) to 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inches. A few fractions of an inch might not sound like a big deal, but the mark two model noticeably lighter at 2.95 pounds compared to the 3.3 pound predecessor.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
Beyond numbers the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is a sleeker package that tapers off to a noticeably thinner edge, whereas last year's model resembled a thick wedge.
What's more, Toshiba has slightly tweaked the design of the Chromebook 2. The notebook's glossy finish has been replaced by a matte coat of paint that's also better at deflecting greasy fingerprints. The corners of the laptop are also squarer, which also adds to the Chromebook 2's edgier look.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
Overall, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is neither bad looking machine nor does it feel like it was made on a flimsy budget. That said, it's not going to turn any heads when you pull it out of your bag at the cafe, because of its traditional design.
The only knock I have against the design is the bottom side of the laptop is made with a piece of white plastic while the rest of the device is painted in a metallic silver. This mismatching sticks out from the laptop's otherwise completely silver body and almost seems like the laptop was mistakenly built with the wrong bottom panel.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
Along the right side is an HDMI port to plug in your Chromebook to an external monitor or HDTV. Additionally, on the right side of the laptop you have one USB 3.0 port, which is a downgrade considering Toshiba's original Chromebook came with two. On the opposite side, there's a USB 2.0 port for a mouse or any other peripherals – not that you'll need them. The keyboard is more than serviceable with a traditional layout and below it is a large trackpad that clicks with precision. 

Specifications and performance
Although the Toshiba Chromebook sports a 13.3 inch screen, it's an extremely light machine, weighing only 2.95 pounds. By comparison, 11.6 inch Chromebooks such as the Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer C720 only hold a slight lead tipping the scales at 2.65 pounds and 2.8 pounds, respectively. As more fanless designs come out, the weight difference between a few more inches of screen real estate will become even more negligible.
In terms of the dimensions, the 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inch Toshiba Chromebook 2 is also almost as thin as the Acer C720, which measures 11.34 x 8.03 x 0.75 inches. The Samsung Chromebook 2, however, is the smallest laptop in the bunch with dimensions of 11.40 x 8.60 x 0.66 inches.
Here is the Toshiba Chromebook 2 configuration given to TechRadar:

Spec sheet

  • CPU: 2.16GHz Intel Celeron Processor N2840 (dual-core, 1MB Cache, up to 2.58GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
  • RAM: 4 GB DDR3L
  • Screen: 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1090 TruBrite TFT display
  • Storage: 16GB SSD
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, SD card slot, headphone/mic jack
  • Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 72608, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: HD webcam
  • Weight: 2.95 pounds
  • Size: 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inches (W x D x H)
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 comes with a higher premium of $329 (about £205, AU$382) compared to its predecessor, which originally retailed for $279 (about £167, AU$309). That said, the latest model is also better equipped with 4GB of RAM and a higher-resolution 1080p screen. As one of the newer Chromebooks, the Toshiba also comes equipped with a Bay Trail processor plus the fanless architecture to go with it.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
Of course there are other dirt cheap options including the Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer C720, both of which retail for $249 (about £154, AU$282). While you'll save a bit more money, keep in mind going for these lower end models also means settling for a lower resolution 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 screen and only 2GB of RAM. (That said, Toshiba also offers a 1366 x 768 option for the Chromebook 2, also at $249.)


After an annoyingly sluggish experience with the Samsung Chromebook 2, I was afraid the Toshiba Chromebook 2 wouldn't perform well at all. The two laptops share the same 2.16GHz Intel Celeron Processor N2840 and to top it off the Toshiba decided to go slap on a full HD display.
Thankfully I had little to no performance issues with the Toshiba unit. The laptop ran swimmingly with a dozen and half web browser tabs open and Google Music streaming in the background. It also churned through 1080p video without any stuttering or streaming hiccups.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
Performance issues only cropped up while I playing Bastion at full resolution. As I foraged forward in and the game's environment fell from the sky, the frame rate dropped to a choppy 10 to 15 frames per second.
This isn't all too surprising considering the the minimum system requirements state it needs a graphics card with 512MB of video RAM, even if it is a browser game. But you'll still be able to play all your Facebook and other less taxing browser games.

All the colors of the rainbow

If there's one thing Chromebooks have been starved for (other than apps) it's screen resolution. For too long Chromebooks have been saddled with paltry 1366 x 768 resolution screens. Now we're starting to see a new crop of HD laptops including the 13-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer Chromebook 13 – and now the Toshiba Chromebook 2.
This small resolution increase makes a world of difference even for laptops that serve little more as dedicate web browsing devices. Thanks to this higher resolution text on websites looks sharper and there's more screen real estate to multitask with.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 not only has more pixels but is also a better quality screen in general. Rather than use a TN panel as most Chromebooks have, Toshiba has opted for a TFT screen, which renders vibrant colors and produces deep blacks.
This is the first Chromebook with a great screen that I've actually wanted to watch videos with. I can only hope Adobe will release its Photoshop Cloud program to the public soon, because this would be an excellent platform for photographers as well.
If only Toshiba went with a less reflective finish on the screen. As it stands, the screen looks as shiny as the protective plastic covers made for comics, reflecting every beam of light back into your eye. It's not only distracting while you're using the laptop indoors, it's blinding in the presence of sunlight.

Pinched battery life

Of course, the downside of pushing so many more pixels is shorter battery life. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 only lasted 6 hours and 26 minutes between browsing on a Chrome dozen tabs, catching up with friends on Google Hangouts, streaming music on the web, watching snippets of Transformers Dark of the Moon through Google Play, and writing this review.
This test was also done with the display just a tick under 50% screen brightness and the speakers set at roughly 20-percent. Compared to the original Toshiba Chromebook, which lasted six hours and 16 minutes, this is actually a small improvement.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
However, the world has moved on, and now I come expecting an extremely extended battery life out of Chromebooks such as the Acer C720's run time of 8 hours and 30 minutes. The Samsung Chromebook 2, which again comes equipped with the same Intel Bay Trail processor, also lasted an hour longer with a battery life of 7 hours and 32 minutes.
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 will still outlast most notebooks outside of Ultrabooks. But if you have a particularly long day ahead of you, be sure to bring the power cord along.

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is a complete shake up and improvement from last year's model in every way. It's a bit more expensive for that sharper screen. But, considering it's better equipped with double the RAM and slightly better battery life than the original, these are all upgrades well worth the bigger price tag.

We liked

The original Toshiba Chromebook felt budget in every way and to make it worse, it was made with a repurposed low-end Windows 8.1 laptop chassis. This time around, the mark two version feels like it was purpose built to be a Chromebook. Toshiba slimmed down the laptop thanks to the fanless Bay Trail architecture and tinkered around to make it a sleeker package.
External aesthetics aside, the 1080p screen is a big bonus of the laptop. It's a small premium, but the sharper resolution makes everything look better, from smoother text to sharper images. Plus the excellent screen is paired with a decent set of laptop speakers made by Skullcandy. It all adds up to make the Toshiba Chromebook 2 an excellent streaming system for everything from YouTube and Google Play to Hulu Plus and Netflix.

We disliked

The screen glare is real. You'll never want to take this notebook outdoors. Even in the shade, the display simply reflects everything. This is great if you want to see what's happening behind you or to use the laptop screen as a mirror.
Otherwise, be prepared to have the screen brightness turned up all the way to try and combat the glaring problem. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 also has a fairly short battery life when compared against its competitors, most of which you can get for a bit less money.

Final verdict

For $329 (about £205, AU$382), the Toshiba Chromebook 2 pushes the envelope on what a Chromebook can be. The laptop comes with more RAM and a full HD 1080p screen, making it a step up from the Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer C720. Considering the difference in cost between these three laptops isn't that dramatic, I would gladly choose the Toshiba over everything else, even considering its somewhat shorter battery life.
All said, you should consider that both the price and configuration is pushing the Toshiba Chromebook 2 closer towards the territory of an affordable Windows 8.1 laptop. This is especially true as Microsoft and laptop manufacturers create more affordable options, like the HP Stream.
A Windows laptop such as the Stream won't be as thin or provide as much battery life, but it's built on a much more fully-featured operating system with support for image editing, gaming and much more than web browsing. Due to these reason you might want to consider what Windows-flavored options you can pick up for the cost of a Toshiba Chromebook 2. But if you're one of the millions already engrossed in Google's ecosystem, Toshiba just put forth an affordable, gorgeous solution to access all that good stuff.