Toshiba Chrome­book 2

£269 inc VAT • toshiba.co.uk

Tech Advisor - - CONTENTS -

Chrome­books are in­cred­i­bly use­ful, sim­ple lap­tops that of­fer ex­cel­lent value for money, and a sur­pris­ing amount of pro­duc­tiv­ity, if you’re will­ing to fully em­brace the cloud. Up un­til now, the vast ma­jor­ity of mod­els avail­able have favoured the smaller 11.6in screen size, which is per­fect for porta­bil­ity but can be a lit­tle cramped if you’re work­ing with lots of text or watch­ing videos. Toshiba ad­dressed this gap in the mar­ket last year with its 13in Chrome­book, which was a solid of­fer­ing a lit­tle let down by its av­er­age dis­play.

To be fair, most older Chrome­books fea­tured un­der­whelm­ing screens, of­ten plump­ing for 1366x768 res­o­lu­tions on cheaper TN pan­els that do the job, but can be some­what frosty and muted. Th­ese days IPS is pretty much the norm, with TN be­ing the rar­ity. Toshiba has wisely opted for IPS in the Chrome­book 2.

De­sign

De­sign-wise this model bears more than a pass­ing re­sem­blance to its pre­vi­ous it­er­a­tion. The chas­sis is made from sil­very-grey plas­tic with a dim­pled pat­tern on the outer sur­faces and smooth metallic-style fin­ishes in­side. It’s not re­ally go­ing to win any awards for ser­vices to aes­thetic ad­vance­ment, but the de­vice is sturdy, neat and light at 1.35kg. Var­i­ous ports adorn the cas­ing, in­clud­ing ones for HDMI out­put, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and an SD/SDHC card reader.

It’s a lit­tle cu­ri­ous that the pre­vi­ous model came with two USB 3.0 ports, whereas this ver­sion has only one, but its hardly a deal-breaker. One use­ful thing to know is that the soli­tary USB 3.0 port sup­ports sleep-and-charge, so you can plug in your An­droid phone and it will charge while the Chrome­book is asleep. Use­ful if you’re caught out and need a quick top up.

Chrome­books key­boards have largely set­tled on a stan­dard de­sign, which is sim­ple and usu­ally spa­cious. One glar­ing omis­sion is a caps-lock key, in­stead re­placed with a search key – Chrome is a Google op­er­at­ing sys­tem, af­ter all. But fear not, if you still wish to shout at peo­ple on the in­ter­net then press­ing Alt+Search tog­gles caps-lock mode on and off. The Chrome­book 2’s key­board is very nice, with hardly any no­tice­able flex­ing, and the shal­low travel of the keys tak­ing about two min­utes to get used to.

Com­ple­ment­ing this is a gen­er­ously-pro­por­tioned touch­pad, which is re­spon­sive, ac­cu­rate, and ex­e­cutes the wide range of use­ful ChromeOS multi-fin­ger ges­ture con­trols with no prob­lems at all. It re­ally is a lovely de­vice to work on.

Sound and vi­sion

Of course, all of this is el­e­vated to an­other level, in Chrome­book terms, by the in­clu­sion of a full HD, IPS dis­play. And the Chrome­book 2 doesn’t suf­fer from any lag, thanks to the Bay­trail in­spired In­tel

The chas­sis is made from sil­very-grey plas­tic with a dim­pled pat­tern on the outer sur­faces and smooth metallic-style fin­ishes in­side

Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM, and the res­i­dent 16GB SSD stor­age. Moving be­tween web pages is smart and snappy, plus when you get there ev­ery­thing looks de­tailed and colour­ful.

It’s enough to bring small tears of joy to the eyes of us who reg­u­larly use Chrome­books. The 1920x1080 res­o­lu­tion does make text smaller, but thanks to the sim­ple zoom fea­ture on ChromeOS all the con­tent in the main panel can be set to re­size while re­tain­ing clar­ity. We ran mostly on 150 per­cent and ev­ery­thing still looked very sharp.

Toshiba does of­fer a lower res­o­lu­tion model (1366x768) for £50 less, and while this does of­fer a cou­ple of hours ex­tra bat­tery life, it only comes with 2GB of RAM, which would make it more akin to the Chrome­book R 11. To be hon­est the full HD model is al­ready good value, so that we can’t see any rea­son to skimp on the cost, as you most cer­tainly get tremen­dous value for money. Our re­view model also sur­vived for over seven hours of movie playback, so there’s still, about, a day’s work in this de­vice.

One other new fea­ture in the Chrome­book 2 is a set of stereo speak­ers that have been tuned by head­phone man­u­fac­turer Skull­candy. Search­ing the cas­ing will re­veal no clues to their po­si­tion though, as Toshiba has ac­tu­ally placed them un­der the key­board. On full blast they ex­pel a bois­ter­ous vol­ume which can eas­ily fill a small room. Def­i­ni­tion is good, and you can clearly hear the place­ment of in­stru­ments in the mix, but the sound is still de­void of any real bass re­sponse due to, well, physics. This is af­ter all a light­weight, thin de­vice. Say­ing that, the sound is per­fectly rea­son­able for watch­ing videos and stream­ing mu­sic in the back­ground.

ChromeOS

Google’s Chrome op­er­at­ing sys­tem pow­ers all Chrome­books, and keeps on adding re­fine­ments that make th­ese de­vices more and more us­able for ev­ery­day life. True, you still need ac­cess to the

in­ter­net for a wide va­ri­ety of tasks, but many apps now work off­line, in­clud­ing Google Docs, Gmail, Ever­note, Pocket, plus a num­ber of other pro­duc­tiv­ity and en­ter­tain­ment pro­grams. In fact, the Chrome store con­tin­ues to sur­prise us with its breadth of in­ter­est­ing apps that show how the ecosys­tem is ma­tur­ing nicely. Things are at their best though, when Chrome­books are on­line, and then you have ac­cess to an even more ex­ten­sive li­brary, plus any web-based ser­vices.

A few no­table ex­cep­tions to the rule still ap­ply. iTunes is pretty much never go­ing to run on ChromeOS, so if you want to sync your iPhone or iPad to a Chrome­book well, you’re out of luck. Skype is also ab­sent for the most part, it can be used af­ter a bit of hack­ing but the process isn’t for ev­ery­one. Thank­fully, Google’s own Han­gouts is a de­cent al­ter­na­tive. If you want to use Mi­crosoft Of­fice, then it can be done through the free on­line ver­sions, which are a lit­tle fea­ture-bare, but sync up through a OneDrive ac­count so you can edit them in full desk­top ver­sions of the suite when you’re at work or on a Win­dows/Mac com­puter. Google’s own of­fice suite is very good too, and as each Chrome­book comes with 100GB of stor­age on Google Drive, you won’t run out of space any­time soon.

Ver­dict

If you’re happy to live in the cloud for the ma­jor­ity of your tasks, then the Chrome­book 2 is the best way to do it. The de­vice is light, fast, and that screen is worth the money alone. Chrome­books are com­ing of age, and this Toshiba is some­thing that could eas­ily con­vert a le­gion of fans to the ever im­prov­ing ChromeOS uni­verse.

Moving be­tween web pages is smart and snappy, plus when you get there ev­ery­thing looks de­tailed and colour­ful As each Chrome­book comes with 100GB of stor­age on Google Drive, you won’t run out of space any­time soon

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