Now is the time to seriously consider a Chromebook. Not long ago these machines were little more than cheap netbooks running Google's OS. But Chromebooks are getting better in almost every way, and the new Toshiba Chromebook 2 is proof. Starting at $249 ($329 as tested), this system features a stunning 13-inch 1080p display in a slimmer and lighter frame than the original. Toshiba also offers Skullcandy-powered speakers and close to 8 hours of battery life. If you like the simplicity of the Chromebook concept but want a more premium experience, you've come to the right place.
Editors' Note: Toshiba has announced refreshed versions of the Chromebook 2 featuring new backlit LED keyboards and the choice between an Intel Celeron 3215U or Core i3 5015U CPU. Prices start at $330 for the Celeron model while the Core i3 version will cost $430. Both models will be on sale starting in October.
The original Toshiba Chromebook was an elegantly designed device, and yet the Chromebook 2 bests that version in every way. Similar to the original, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is made of a silvery, textured plastic that's easy to grip. The body has a slightly angled look toward the front where it opens to reveal the display and keyboard. The original Toshiba Chromebook had this type of design as well, but in the slimmer, lighter frame of the Chromebook 2, it's more noticeable and gives the device a stylish, edgy look.
The keyboard deck is made of a smoother plastic, which not only was comfortable on my wrists, but also made the interior appear sleeker and more high-end than its price would suggest.
Measuring 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inches and weighing 2.95 pounds, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is slightly thinner and lighter than the original (12.9 x 8.9 x 0.8 inches, weighing 3.3 pounds), as well as the Acer Chromebook 13 (12.87 x 8.96 x 0.71 inches, 3.1 pounds) and the HP Chromebook 14 (13.56 x 9.44 x 0.81 inches, 4 pounds).
Keyboard & Touchpad
In general, the 4 x 2.8-inch touchpad responded well to my finger swipes and movements, although the cursor was a little sluggish at times.
Our review model had the 1080p IPS display, which is truly lovely, with bold colors, sharp details and great viewing angles. I had to turn the Chromebook 2 nearly 90 degrees before the image quality degraded. When watching the trailer for Fury, I could clearly see the dirt that caked soldiers' faces, the vivid colors of fiery explosions and all of the detailed grittiness of the battlefields.
The Chromebook 2's display boasts excellent color reproduction. Based on our colorimeter readings, the screen can reproduce 98.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That's far better than the 65 percent ultraportable average, not to mention the Acer Chromebook 13 (58.1 percent) and the HP Chromebook 14 (61 percent).
It's also a bright display: Pumping out 339 nits, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 easily outshone the ultraportable category average (216 nits), as well as the Acer Chromebook 13 (222 nits) and the HP Chromebook 14 (209 nits).
When I played Kiesza's "Hideaway" at maximum volume, I could hear the entire track clearly from across my apartment. The background of the track was a little muffled, but it wasn't too scratchy, and the vocals were powerful and crisp. On Barcelona's "Background," I could hear all the resonating piano chords, and the lead singer's voice was soft and melodious.
On the Laptop Mag Audio Test, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 reached 93 decibels, just louder than the Acer Chromebook 13 (91 dB) and much louder than the HP Chromebook 14 (82 dB).
Ports & Webcam
Selfies taken with the Chromebook 2's HD webcam looked a shade darker than normal, and there was massive pixelation around the edges of my eyes, nose and mouth. Large text in a sign behind me was legible, but smaller, thinner text quickly became blurred.
After streaming Hulu for 15 minutes, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 stayed pretty cool, measuring 88 degrees Fahrenheit on its underside. That's well below our acceptable threshold of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The device's touchpad reached only 73 degrees, while the space between the G and H keys hit 78 degrees.
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While there is a Files app to access the things you've downloaded from the Web, there is no stationary "desktop" as you would find on a Mac or a Windows-based notebook. Most apps appear as a tab in the Chrome Web browser; however, a few, such as Evernote, show up as standalone windows.
While that's not close to the 100,000 apps available for Windows, you'll be able to find some pretty compelling options, including Evernote, Spotify, Instagram, Bejeweled, Netflix, Feedly, DropBox and Picasa.
Offline Experience & Desktop Apps
Some apps have offline capabilities, including Angry Birds, Evernote, Duolingo and Vine. You can also program apps such as Google Docs and Google Drive to work offline, to a certain extent. For example, for Google Docs, you'll have to activate the Drive setting, which syncs all your documents for offline access.
Overall, the Chromebook 2 ran Chrome OS well, with little to no lag when loading videos or playing music. When I was multitasking, going in between many Chrome tabs with multimedia playing in some, each Web page took just a second or two longer to load than usual.
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We saw similar results in Peacekeeper, which measures browser performance. The Chromebook 2 scored 1,462, which is better than the Acer (1,244) but not quite as good as HP (2,771).
If you're looking to play games on your Chromebook, this is not your best option. On the Web GL Cubes test, which renders 150,000 rotating cubes with three lights to test graphics quality, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 notched 11 frames per second, which is just over half that of the Acer's 20 fps.
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 didn't fare well on the OortOnline.Gl test either. On this test, which shows a time-lapse animation of a year in the Oort Online game, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 scored 1,380, which is nowhere near as strong as the Acer Chromebook 13 (3,690) or the HP Chromebook 14 (2,940).
The Chromebook 2 has a 3-cell/44Wh lithium polymer battery that Toshiba claims can run up to 9 hours on a full charge. On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi at 100 nits), this laptop lasted 7 hours and 49 minutes. That's a bit shy of both the Acer Chromebook 13 (8:08) and the HP Chromebook 14 (7:57), but not by much.
Both Toshiba Chromebook 2 models are powered by 2.58-GHz Intel Celeron N2840 processors, and come with 4GB of RAM and 16GB SSD hard drives with free 100GB of Google Drive space for two years. The starting Toshiba Chromebook 2 model features a 1366 x 768 screen and will cost $249. You can opt for the 1920 x 1080, IPS display for $329.
For $30 less, the Acer Chromebook 13 offers better graphics performance and slightly longer endurance, but it's display isn't nearly as vibrant and its design not as attractive. If you're willing to spend a bit more for a Chromebook, the Toshiba Chromebooks 2 is the one to buy.
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|CPU||2.58GHz Intel Celeron N2840 Processor|
|Operating System||Google Chrome|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||16GB SSD|
|Hard Drive Speed|
|Hard Drive Type||SSD Drive|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics|
|Touchpad Size||4 x 2.8 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||security lock slot|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 2.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Combo Headphone/Mic Jack|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||SD card slot|
|Card Slots||SD memory reader|
|Card Slots||SD/SDHC Card reader|
|Size||12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 inches|