Review

Published on October 20th, 2015 | by Varuna Singh

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Life in a browser: Toshiba Chromebook 2 Review

I recently got my hands on the browser based Operating System Chrome OS. It really has grown immensely around the world for its simplicity and for the relatively cost and quality devices you get. Something that Windows PCs have never had in prior to 2015.

“One of the most simplest Chromebooks for under AED1000”

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is one of them and is available in the Middle-East. We reviewed the CB30-A3120. It retails for just AED999. It comes with an Intel® ULV Celeron N2840 (BGA) which is an ultra low power Processor at 2.16 Ghz, 4GB of DDR3L RAM, a 13.3″ TruBrite TFT LED display with a resolution of 1366 x 768.

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It has a 16 GB of SSD Storage and comes with Intel 802.11 ac a/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless. There is a build in camera that’s very average at 0.9 MP. The speakers are stereo but nothing that would shake the room.

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On the ports part, it has 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 USB 2.0 port, a full sized SD Card reader, combo microphone headphone jack and a full sized HDMI port. The battery is a 3 cell battery which lasts over a full working day as I talk about it below. Thanks to the ULV processor, the laptop isn’t on the thick side.

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It isn’t an ultrabook by any means but it is 1.35 kgs in weight. The dimensions of the ultrabook are: 320 x 214 x 13. The colour we had was the “Blast” Silver with a fairly well designed Dot pattern.

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But first, what is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook are laptops with Google’s desktop style operating system called Chrome OS. As the name suggests, its heavily built on Chrome- the browsing ecosystem with state of the art extensions, rendering engine and a few offline capabilities. If you want to geek in further, Chrome OS is the set of Google services and apps that over a Linux foundation. Its basically what Android is to the Laptop.

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It runs Chrome apps. The growing marketplace of (mostly free) extensions that offer some neat capabilities and features that most people might in developed nations might need. It does NOT run Android apps and the discussion on Android and Chrome OS merging is for another conversation. For now, the two are distinct and serve different visions of computing. The Chrome OS however is more modern and future looking thanks to Google user’s heavily investment in their services.

How does it feel ?

The Toshiba Chromebook is a very moderate looking device. It doesn’t look bad at all. I t feels good to pick up and start using. Its body looks like metal, but its plastic and so is everything else inside of it. The laptop is fairly sturdy with not much flex. The weight isn’t much of a problem. The screen looks outdated but with the right angle, is a good experience. The battery lasts for over 9-10 hours which is by far the best reason to buy the Toshiba Chromebook. It also has a great large trackpad.

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The screen is frankly quite poor in viewing angles. Its okay and pixelated when looked directly but it gets completely washed in any other orientation. Chrome OS doesn’t encourage that so its not as bad as other mobile operating systems. The screen is pixelated but it isn’t as bad when looking at it from a normal distance. The screen is of matte type which is a big plus. It is not a touchscreen.

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Every chromebook comes with 100 GB of Google drive storage which is always a plus when you start thinking about the storage limitations on the Toshiba Chromebook. The Toshiba laptop comes with only 16 GB of SSD storage out of the box.

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They keyboard is really good. I particularly like the back and forward buttons on the Function row to make browsing easier as well as fast. Typing felt good with good feedback. This chromebook isn’t going to disappoint in that regard.

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The speakers and audio output have Skullcandy branding on them but it honestly didn’t added anything noticeable.

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The Toshiba Chromebook felt inspiring and I say that because the time it took for me to surf the web and take notes was the quickest I’ve ever experienced. You don’t see apps loading in the background, you don’t see complex contextual toolbars or taskbars. It’s simple and it works. That’s really the best bit about Chrome OS. It’s also the worst.

The elephant in the room

I think every conversation about the Chromebook should begin with that/a question. A Chromebook is a perfect product of a result and vision of what a cloud computing laptop should be. The Toshiba Chromebook is a cheap container to that with a great trackpad and keyboard. I wish the screen was better even considering its price.

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The problem is twofold however. On one hand you have Google wanting you to use the Chromebook with more and more of its services. It’s kind of what the Chromebook is – a google ad as a laptop. But if you choose not to, you are left with a super-fast browser based laptop. It’s a brilliant front door to your Google account, and what a super-fast initial experience it is. Anyone can take any Chromebook and make it theirs with their mail, calendar, docs and photos just by signing in. It becomes yours immediately.

“Any Chromebook can become yours immediately”

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The other bit is if your content and files are not on the cloud. The Chromebook’s is a perfect creation device as long as you are creating things from scratch or your stuff is already on the web. Getting to manager stuff that’s not on google becomes discouraging and hard. There is a certain bit of muscle memory that the Chromebook aggravates the Mac or PC user. It can take some time getting used to. Once your apps and files aren’t accessible and un manageable, the Chromebook becomes a sudden let down.

“It is also a big letdown at some points”

It’s perfect for tasks that do not demand micromanagement but fall short on any high level creation tasks. Its why the Chromebook is seeing more success in schools and research where you really start off with a clean slate.

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So where does that leave a laptop brand like Toshiba in this debate? The Chromebook by Toshiba hits some good points with that. It’s a relatively cost effective machine with a decent design and a quality that was better than I expected. The trackpad works better than any Windows Laptop I’ve ever tried and its faster than any MacBook for getting work done that doesn’t demand much resources. Writing and surfing with the Toshiba feels great and is the kind of laptop you wouldn’t mind having text books and pens along with it- but don’t expect it to last a drop test or standout.

“It’s perfect in the first world connected world”

I’d recommend the Toshiba Chromebook if most of your life is on Google’s services and if you are mostly always covered by Wi-Fi connectivity. The Toshiba Chromebook isn’t necessary useless when offline, but you do need to download extension apps to really do more than write documents if you were offline.

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I’d highly recommend this to students who start off with a clean slate and do most of their research on the web and can take notes and collaborate using Google Docs. I would also recommend it to small companies who don’t have any special app requirement and if their files are remotely accessible over a network.

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The Toshiba Chromebook is available on a pre-order basis. The market for Chromebooks isn’t much established hence today in the Middle-East there are more questions about them then direct sales. Hence, Toshiba wants you to pre-order one through them. You can pre order them through Toshiba’s head of products and services. We can provide  you with the details, just comment below. When you realise that the Toshiba Chromebook retails for AED999, its worth being bold in trying out what is the best window to the web. Just make sure its Google’s web.

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About the Author

I work with technology in Education. I also write stuff. I love design and people. @varunasingh



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