While others try to serve up the cheapest Chromebook for the classroom, Toshiba has taken a step back and created its Chromebook 2 with one eye on value and the other on making it the best equipped Chromebook around. At $330, it is not the least expensive Chromebook, but it might be the most computer for the money.
Toshiba’s top-shelf approach to Chromebooks starts with the system’s silver case, which has a textured bottom and lid that not only feels good in the hand but makes it harder to accidentally drop. Rugged and solidly made, the Chromebook 2 appears to be able to stand up to the everyday drops and abuse at schools.
At 0.8- by 12.6- by 8.4-inches and 2.9-pounds, the Chromebook 2 is fractions of an inch smaller than Acer’s CB311 Chromebook 13 and 5-ounces lighter. With its tiny AC adapter, the entire package travels at 3.2-pounds. In other words, it should just as easily fit into a child’s backpack as in to a desk drawer for lunch or a between-periods break.
In addition to an Intel Celeron 3215U processor that runs at 1.7GHz, the $330 Chromebook 2 model 3300 that I looked at came with 4GB of RAM and 16GB of a solid state storage. That’s a big step up from Acer’s $250 Chromebook CB311’s NVidia K1 processor and 2GB of RAM. You can augment its storage potential with an inexpensive SD card and the system comes with two years of 100GB of online storage with GoogleDrive.
If performance counts for more than price, Toshiba also sells a Core i3-based version for $100 more. Unfortunately, at that point, it’s on a par with a mainstream Windows notebook.
The CB35 Chromebook 2 has a good assortment of connections with a USB 2.0 as a USB 3.0 port. You can connect a projector or large display via its HDMI jack and the CB35 has an output jack for audio. It has the latest wireless with 802.11ac WiFi and the lack of a wired LAN port can be fixed by using a USB-to-LAN converter to plug into a network. If you want to use a wireless keyboard or speaker, the system has Bluetooth 4.0.
Without a doubt, the center of attention of the CB35 is its superb 13.3-inch screen. While much of the competition, like the Asus Flip C100 have wide-XGA displays, the Chromebook 2’s screen shows full HD resolution and is among the brightest and richest displays available today. On the other hand, there’s no touch option that would have extended the Chromebook 2’s usefulness in schools.
Above the screen, the system has an HD Web cam and dual microphone array and below there’s a keyboard with comfortable 19.2mm keys and a large touchpad that measures 2.7- by 4-inches. Happily, for those who teach by the stray light of a projector, the keyboard is backlit. It does without a super-secure Trusted Platform Module, though, which can make remote authentication easier. It’s included on the Asus Flip C100.
While everything else is well placed, the Chromebook’s speakers end up under the keyboard and despite branded Skullcandy hardware sound better for spoken word programming than for playing music. It not only can sound muffled at times, but is weak in midrange tones. On the other hand, it gets surprisingly loud without any external speakers.
As far as performance goes, the Chromebook 2 is top shelf. It scored a 327.9ms on the SunSpider test as well as 15,273 on Google’s Octane 2.0 benchmark. This makes it about twice as powerful as the Asus Flip C100 and able to complete any school task.
This performance potential is, however, at the expense of battery life with the CB35’s battery powering the system for 8 hours. That’s less than either the Acer CB311 (at 9:10) or the Asus Flip C100 (at 9:20), but still should be fine for most teachers and students. It’s more than enough for the typical school day with some battery time left over for a movie, game or homework correction session. It comes with a 1-year warranty.
If a large screen and lots of power sound good, this Chromebook may not be the cheapest around, but it is among the best around.
+ Excellent configuration
+ Responsive keyboard
+ Large touchpad
+ Bright display
+ Excellent performance
+ Optional Core i3 processor
- Lacks touch-screen option
- Audio light on mid-range tones