Toshiba Chromebook 2 with 1080p IPS

We often complain about the effects of the race to the bottom – the race to the lowest possible price, regardless of what effect that has on overall quality. For more than a decade we’ve seen very little in the way improvements in display quality on laptops, with the primary change being the switch from CCFL backlighting to LEDs. In fact, it really wasn’t until the tablet market exploded that we started to see true improvements in laptop displays – or if you prefer, it was roughly around the time that Apple first released their MacBook Pro Retina.

Whatever you want to attribute the change to, there has been an increase in demand for good quality laptop displays, and that in turn has driven down the prices on such displays. Huzzah! We’re still a long way from putting TN panels behind us, but it’s now possible to find good displays in a laptop at price points well below $1000, which is great news. And it’s something that needs to continue to happen, as tablets are pretty much a guarantee that you’re going to get something better than a TN panel with a 250:1 contrast ratio; with tablet performance creeping ever closer to that of budget laptops, you can definitely make the argument for just getting a tablet with a keyboard...but that’s still a tablet with a keyboard rather than a laptop.

Chromebooks basically target that niche where there’s a desire for a true laptop experience, though obviously with some other qualifications. We've covered these before, but the biggest is that users need to be willing to leave behind the world of Windows and move to a new OS, but again with the proliferation of tablets, smartphones, Apple’s OS X devices, and a greater reliance on Internet and cloud-based services, people in general have become far less attached to their OS. Along with that, you need applications to perform everyday functions, with the Google Chrome App Store filling that role.

Chrome OS and the Chrome App Store also gives users the walled garden experience, ensuring that you won’t become a victim of the latest viruses and malware. It’s true that you can get a lot of that with iOS and Android, but Windows users at least have generally rejected that approach. And the Windows software developers are opposed to having a fully curated app store as well – look no further than Valve and their Steam OS initiative to see an example of this. For better or worse, Windows has a legacy of openness, and as the largest share of installed PCs it’s not something easily changed. At the same time, a lot of money ends up being poured into antivirus and antimalware tools, not to mention the support costs, so many are looking for an alternative. They’re saying, “Let Windows be Windows, but give me something easy to use and maintain.” For Google, Chrome OS is that something else.

Getting to the Toshiba Chromebook 2, let’s hit the spec sheet before we go any further. It’s important to note that there are actually three models of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 available, and when we say “Toshiba Chromebook 2” throughout this review we’re specifically referring to the model with the 1080p IPS display that we’re testing, also called the Toshiba Chromebook CB35-B3340. The Toshiba CB35-A3120 is actually the original Toshiba 13” Chromebook and sports a 1366x768 TN display with a Celeron 2955U, while the CB35-B3330 is the same as the model we’re reviewing but with a 1366x768 TN display and 2GB RAM.

Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35-B3340 Specifications
Processor Intel Celeron N2840
Dual-core 2.16-2.58GHz
HD Graphics 4 EU GPU
Connectivity 2x2 dual-band 802.11ac (Intel 7260NGW)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel 7260NGW)
Memory 4GB DDR3L
Storage 16GB eMMC
Battery 3-cell ~10.8V, 3860mAh, 44Wh
I/O 1 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
HD webcam
Dual array microphone
Headphone/mic jack
SD Card reader
Dimensions 12.6" x 8.4" x 0.76" / 320 x 213 x 19.3 mm
Display 13.3-inch IPS 1920x1080
Weight 2.95 lbs. / 1340g
Price $330 MSRP, $329 Online

Besides the inclusion of a great display – more on that in a moment – the remaining specs are pretty typical of Chromebooks. The processor of choice this time is Intel’s Celeron N2840, a dual-core Bay Trail chip running at 2.16-2.58GHz. The GPU portion of the chip is based on Intel’s HD Graphics architecture, the same architecture in Ivy Bridge and Haswell processors, but with only 4 EUs active. By comparison, the Celeron 2955U has 10 EUs, and they’re clocked higher as well, making the 2955U graphics potentially 2.5-3X faster. Whether or not that ends up being important is something we’ll discuss in our benchmark section.

Other features include two USB ports – one 2.0 and one 3.0 – an SD card reader, and a full size HDMI port. You also get 4GB of DDR3 memory (non-upgradeable) and 16GB of eMMC storage (plus 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years). The battery is a 3-cell 44Wh model rated for up to nine hours of battery life, which is good though not class leading. Compared to Windows laptops, some of the specs might seem a bit limited, but we’re talking about a $329 laptop with a good display, which is something you can’t currently find in the Windows laptop space. (Windows tablets however….)

Toshiba Chromebook 2 Subjective Evaluation
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  • nafhan - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    I upload all my photos and videos straight to cloud storage from my phone. I don't bother with this dragging it across to my device thing you speak of. Old school right there...

    Plus, to discount your final point: there's a number of W8 based devices (mostly x86 tablets) with a similar amount of storage - from the same OEM's.
  • BackInAction - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    I have the older Toshiba 13 CB at home. I have easily gone 3+ weeks without touching my desktop machine. But I don't do pix, audio or movie editing. I need zero local storage. The only reason I use my desktop is the once-a-month itch I get when I feel like doing a bit of gaming (cheap Steam games).

    The real crime is that they even make laptops with HDD anymore. That should be the premium upgrade, not the SSD. I would be willing to bet 95% of the PC (windows, MAC and 'linux' desktops) could get by with a 256GB SSD. Which is less than $80. But Apple, Dell, etc. make it a premium option only for stupid expensive PCs.
  • chlamchowder - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    I wouldn't go so far as to call them pointless - you just need a really, really good internet connection.
    The intention is this: Jimmy loads the video into his Chromebook, which realizes it doesn't have enough internal storage left. So it uploads directly to the cloud through his dedicated low-latency gigabit connection, and it doesn't feel much slower than using internal storage. The pro is that when Jimmy gets a new Chromebook, he doesn't have to worry about spending hours copying files.
    The problem is how hard it is to get a high speed internet connection. It's hard even at home, let alone when traveling (which kind of defeats the portable laptop form factor).
  • SM123456 - Saturday, February 14, 2015 - link

    >>If this were windows it would be laughed out of the page even with 32GB of storage.<<

    Yes quite right if you were using Windows OS on the device - like for example the HP Stream 11 Windows netbooks which Microsoft has being trying to push as Chromebook killers - these have only 32GB local storage, which reduces to 17.5GB after you deduct the space used by the Windows with no apps installed. These crappy revisited netbooks have apparently flopped very badly.

    However this limit does not apply to a Chromebook because, unlike Windows, the ChromeOS image is tiny and doesn't grow in size (in only contains the bare minimum required to run the provided hardware and the web browser, and you can't install programs or drivers on it). ChromeOS also does not use local storage at all except for user downloads and for caching data - all user data, apps etc. are created and stored in the cloud other than for what is temporarily cached locally (eg. local apps, data). Indeed Chromebooks will warn you that data in the local downloads directory may be subject to automatic deletion if space is required (you should use an SD card to store local files you do not want deleted).

    Chromebooks just work completely differently to an old OS designed for the low end disconnected desktop era like Windows or an OS designed for high end connected network servers like Unix/Linux. This is how they are able to boot up fast, and run fast and responsively on low end hardware and limited disk/RAM space on which desktop Windows and full Linux installations run very slowly and very painfully.
  • AdmV0rl0n - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    Lame. The whole industry needs a complete kicking. What we want is a cheap option, and a decent option. So for granny I don't give a crap, I'm happy with the low end, easy care device. What I want is a real laptop that runs chrome AND allows me to do what I want. So give me a Chromebook that has denet spec, and upgradable ram, disk, etc. ts been the heart of the PC industry for two decades, the fact Google and the tech companies can't do this is purely embarrasing.

    The google guys have added the capability to run linux in the OS. Thats awesome. But not on 16GB of space it's not.

    I accept adding ram slots and disk slots adds to price. I accept a faster CPU does as well. *I* accept it has a higher price. Guess what. I have not yet bought a chromebook, and I'm not going to. Not unless this is fixed.

    No prime OS and vendor should be happy failing to youtube in 2015. Its pathetic.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    Somethign seems to have changed starting with the haswell pentium/celeron U lines. They seem to be all vapor. I cant find one reasonably priced product containing any haswell pentium/celeron 15W chips.
  • savagemike - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    I'm not aware of any Haswell Pentium ever being offered in a ChromeOS device. Haswell Celerons were the standard for a while. Acer C720 and others of its era should still be readily available and at good prices. The screens on most of them aren't great though.
    Last year Intel really began pushing BayTrail chips in tablets and Chromebooks. Almost all the Chromebooks switched to it. Though I think all the Chromeboxes stayed using Haswell Celerons.
    Now Broadwell is about to launch in the Celeron class chip and there is already information that at least some Chromebooks will be using it. Should be on sale in another month or two. I'm hoping Broadwell Celeron is the common chip this year as the Bay Trail stuff was slightly too much of a regeression in my book. The Haswell Celeron is a plucky little chip though and the Broadwell should be all the better.
  • Pneumothorax - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    Why can't a single PC laptop maker make a laptop with this great screen with a DECENT CPU/iGPU, expandable HDD/SSD, and decent battery life at the $500 price point? Everything else still comes with the same $25 TN panels that should be all automatically thrown in the dumpster.
  • jabber - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    I bet the IPS option costs $25 and the TN $10.
  • zodiacfml - Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - link

    Awesome screen. Awesome WiFi. Yet, what to do with those with such an OS?
    I'd buy in a heartbeat with a big Celeron chip and Windows based for that price.

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