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Review: 6 business-class Chromebooks test their mettle

Woody Leonhard | Dec. 11, 2014
I've spent the last three weeks taking six business-oriented Chromebooks through their paces. I started out as a skeptical Windows-rules-them-all kind of guy: I've been using Windows since the early days, and I've rarely strayed from the ghosts of my Windows masters. By the end of my Chromebook experiment, however, my old biases were shaken.

Unfortunately, Toshiba is showing a backlog of orders at the moment — the 1,920-by-1,080 version won't ship until late December.

(Pro tip: I'm forever surprised that people don't realize how easy it is to scale the display inside Chrome. If 1,920 by 1,080 gives you text that's too hard to read, click on the three-line "hamburger" Settings icon in the upper-right corner and, in the middle of the fly-out menu, click the + sign next to Zoom.)

The Toshiba Chromebook 2 and its Celeron N2840 clocked 8,100 on the Google Octane 2.0 JavaScript speed test, right behind the Dell Chromebook 11, with its higher-performance (and less battery-friendly) Celeron chip. In my multitab speed typing tests, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 never skipped a beat.

The case, which measures 12.6 by 8.4 by 0.76 inches thick, is comfortable and relatively thin. At 2.95 pounds, it's a touch lighter than the Acer Chromebook 13.

Ports include all the usual suspects: one USB 3, one USB 2, a full HDMI, and a full-size SD card slot. Wireless is state of the art with 802.11b/g/n/ac and a 2x2 antenna. The sound system "tuned by Skullcandy" rocks — really. From rock to blues, classical to country, the built-in speakers showed great range and at least a little bass.

The keyboard failed to impress. It's of the minimal-throw persuasion, and feedback is minor. I wouldn't want to spend all day typing on it. The trackpad, on the other hand, works fine — easily distinguished clicks, light actuation, no ambiguity with double-clicks.

My take-no-prisoners YouTube battery drain test saw the 1,920-by-1,080 Toshiba Chromebook 2 dead in about 7.5 hours. That puts it behind only the Acer in this roundup, even with the Dell.

Toshiba seems to put together sales from time to time, so it would be well worth the effort to check the Toshiba website for the latest prices.

All in all, if you need a good working-class Chromebook, with an outstanding screen and don't mind the $330 price, this is the one. For those of you who bang on the keyboard all day — or at least back at the hotel — toss in a USB keyboard and you'll be well provisioned.

Chromebook or Windows laptop?

For the longest time, Chromebooks were plain cheap compared to reasonably capable Windows laptops. With the advent of $200 and $300 Windows 8.1 + Bing laptops from every major manufacturer — good ones, too, depending on your predilections — that cost advantage has faded into oblivion. For $300 you can get a good Chromebook or a good Windows 8.1 laptop, and at $350 the choice between Chromebook and Windows laptop may become even more difficult.


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