The introduction of Intel's Haswell-based processors in 2013 fixed part of the problem, giving us affordable Chromebooks with plenty of power -- devices like Acer's C720 Chromebook and Dell's Chromebook 11. Then this year's Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook brought in the first midrange option, with a never-before-seen level of build quality, display quality and versatility -- and a price just under $500.
Now Toshiba wants to offer a touch of class for even less cash with its new Chromebook 2, on sale from a variety of retailers for $330. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 provides the best display ever seen on a low-cost Chromebook along with exceptional speakers and commendable design. So could it be the first entry-level Chrome OS system that actually delivers a great all-around experience?
I've been living with the Chromebook 2 for the past several days to find out.
(Note: This review is specifically about the $330 Chromebook 2. Toshiba is also selling a lower-end, $250 version of the device; the remarks made here apply to the $330 model only.)
Body, display and speakers
When you pick up Toshiba's Chromebook 2, it doesn't feel like you're picking up an entry-level laptop. The device is made of plastic and is by no means a premium product, but it doesn't seem at all cheap or flimsy, as low-cost Chromebooks frequently do. Instead, it's solid and sturdy while still managing to appear classy and sleek.
The Chromebook 2 has a distinctive textured design on its silver lid that's easy to grip and makes the laptop look more expensive than it is. At 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 in. and just under 3 lb., the computer is reasonably sized and quite light for its class; it's easy to carry around and rests comfortably on your lap.
It is a bit bigger than many Chrome OS devices and there's a reason for that: The system packs a 13.3-in. display, which gives you significantly more screen space than the more common 11.6-in. size. Dimensions aside, though, it's the quality of Toshiba's screen that truly makes the system stand out.
This is the first Chrome OS device to offer a 1080p display that's built of high-quality IPS material -- not the cheap and grainy TN-based technology we see on the vast majority of Chromebooks. As a result, the screen is bright, crisp and clear, with vivid colors and excellent viewing angles. It really is a night-and-day difference from the typical Chromebook viewing experience; once you use a device with a display of this caliber, you'll never want to go back to the vastly inferior alternative.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.