Toshiba Chromebook 2

I recently spent some time with Toshiba's Chromebook 2.

There is very little a manufacturer can do to stand out in the Chromebook space. This has to be one of the most challenging consumer segments for manufacturers. The idea behind Chrome OS is that you can log on to virtually any Chromebook, and it is "your" Chrome. The software experience, generally speaking, is outside of the control of the manufacturer. There is also an expectation that Chromebooks are very low cost, and many buyers will make their decision based on price alone.

Given those constraints, I believe Toshiba did a pretty good job with their trade-offs.

First, Toshiba chose Skullcandy speakers for the Chromebook 2. These are not the best speakers, but they are above average for low-cost laptops, and the Skullcandy branding will have an appeal to younger users. Those users may not be the buyers of the device itself, having something that will get buy-in from them can still be important.

The shell of the Chromebook 2 is plastic, but has a nice metallic look, and a texture that is not a fingerprint magnet. In situations where the Chromebook is shared by multiple users, it is nice that the shell doesn't look like it's been touched by a thousand greasy fingers. The Chromebook 2 also felt fairly rugged, which is important for a shared device.

The keyboard has decent travel and a good feel. The travel could possibly be a little better given the amount of free space at the sides. It isn't the greatest keyboard, but it was good for a low-cost laptop. The model I received had the "Canadian keyboard layout", which I always find frustrating. I was told it might be possible to specifically request the US layout if making a larger order. The trackpad, much like the keyboard, was good for a low-cost laptop. It was reasonably sensitive and accurate.

The Chromebook 2 uses Intel's dual-core Celeron N2840 with 2GB of RAM. Web browsing, various Chrome apps, and Netflix all worked very well. Restart, startup, and app launching were fast.

The built-in microphone was surprisingly good. You won't want to make any professional recordings with it, but it worked very well for video conferencing. Unfortunately the webcam was not nearly as good; it required strong lighting. The screen was clearly chosen for its low cost. It was a standard 1366x768 display with somewhat poor viewing angles. Toshiba has a more expensive (roughly $70 extra) version of the Chromebook 2 with a much higher quality 1080p screen.

At 1.3 Kg (2.86 lbs), it isn't the lightest laptop or Chromebook, but I would not go so far as to describe it as heavy. Battery life was good, and should be enough to get through a work/school day. The Chromebook 2 also had good standby time, and the battery would lose very little charge when the Chromebook wasn't in use.

Overall, the experience with the Chromebook 2 was positive. I wish the screen was slightly better, but there are always tough decisions to be made by manufacturers for low-cost laptops and Chromebooks.