There’s no doubt that Chromebooks are quickly becoming the computers of choice at schools, not only because they are rugged and the online curriculum for them is rapidly gaining ground, but because they cost much less than comparable Windows or Mac systems. Two of the most recent Chromebook bargain notebooks show this evolution with a pair of systems that seem custom-made for schools.
Although the $250 Samsung Chromebook 2 is one of the smallest and lightest portable systems you can get, its 11.6-inch screen pales in comparison to the 13.3-inch HD display on the larger, heavier and, at $330, more expensive Toshiba CB35. Still, each has its place in the digital school.
From a distance, the Samsung CB 2 and Toshiba CB35 look very much alike with silver tone plastic cases that have rounded corners and textured surfaces. Look a little closer and you’ll see that the CB2 has a faux leather screen lid with fake stitching, circa 1965. By contrast, the CB 35 has a more contemporary look.
While the smaller CB 2 weighs in at 2.6-pounds, the CB35 is 5-ounces heavier at 2.9-lbs, but has a larger screen. Happily for those who work in older schools, they both use two-prong AC adapters to charge the systems up. They have travel weights of 3- and 3.2-pounds, respectively.
Size matters and both are about 0.8-inches thick, but the CB 2 with its smaller screen takes up 11.4- by 8.1-inches of desktop space. It’s a bit smaller than the CB35’s 12.6- by 8.4-inches. Both have rubber feet, but the CB 2’s front cut-out from the base makes it a little easier to open the system’s lid.
The CB 2 has also been designed with how notebooks are used and abused at school in mind. It has reinforced corners, a heavy duty screen frame and electrostatically protected USB ports, features that are not matched on most inexpensive notebooks or the CB 35.
Their displays set them apart from each other. The CB 2 is outfitted with an 11.6-inch that can show a mundane 1,366 by 768 resolution. On the other hand, the larger 13.3-inch screen on the CB35 can display the full HD resolution of 1,920 by 1,080. It’s also brighter, richer and displays more accurate colors.
On the downside, neither of them have a touch screen as an option, putting them a step or two behind Acer’s C720 Chromebook. They both have comfortable keyboards with 19 millimeter keys, but the CB35’s larger deck allows Toshiba to fit in a larger touchpad. On the downside, neither have the luxury of a backlit keyboard.
Inside, they both have Intel Celeron N2840 processors that run at between 2.2- and 2.6GHz. Both come with 16GB of solid state storage space, but the similarities end there because Toshiba includes 4GB of RAM and 100GB of space on GoogleDrive for two years, versus the 2GB that Samsung provides for the Chromebook 2.
Neither have a fingerprint scanner, but both come with a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that can make secure log-ins easier. They have the same array of ports with USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 connectors, HDMI, audio and a flash card reader. Neither has Ethernet built-in, but both can use a USB adapter and come with 802.11ac WiFi as well as Bluetooth 4.0.
Audio separates the two Chromebooks, as well, with the CB 2 including run of the mill sound processing equipment and a pair of 2-watt speakers. By contrast, the CB35 has had its audio tuned by engineers at Skull Candy for greater dynamic range and clarity. There are matching headphones available.
With the same processor, it’s not surprising that they scored nearly identically during benchmark testing. They both could handle the University of Colorado’s PHET science and math simulations and the CB35 has a slight advantage over the CB 2 with a 509-millisecond score to complete the Sun Spider test; the CB 2 ran the same tests in 515 milliseconds. The CB 2 led by a hair with a 1,676 result on FutureMark’s PeaceKeeper tests versus the CB35’s 1,673.
They both did well in terms of battery life but the advantage goes to Samsung’s CB 2 with its ability to playback online videos continuously for 7 hours and 25 minutes on a charge. By contrast, the CB35 could go for a respectable 5 hours and 42 minutes or plenty for a full school day of work.
Each of these Chromebooks came with the same operating system that automatically updated itself halfway through my evaluation. They can be wiped clean for a new user in a matter of seconds and flew through Web browsing, using Google’s Chrome software. Their ability to start up and shut down quickly makes them perfect for school use where every teaching minute counts. Samsung outfits its CB 2 systems with a few extra apps, like Little Bridge, which can help bilingual students master the English language.
In the final analysis, these two Chromebooks are the same but different and either would do well in the typical classroom, but I think they each can fulfill a specific role based on they physicality and equipment. Due to its size, price and screen, Samsung’s $250 Chromebook 2 would do better as a student machine while the larger and better equipped $330 Toshiba CB 35 would suit teachers better.
Either way, they’re both classroom winners.