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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  • tdo51144 - Thursday, February 12, 2015 - link

    like it
  • TheJian - Friday, February 13, 2015 - link

    "In Octane, Kraken, and SunSpider, the N2840 consistently beats the Tegra K1 and in some cases it even ties (roughly) Apple’s A8X."
    Umm, isn't nexus 9 running a K1, and beating n2840 here in Octane and Kraken?

    "Take NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 SoC, which pairs one of the fastest SoC GPUs with a respectable ARM-based CPU; by contrast, the N2840’s CPU is generally faster than the Tegra K1’s CPU"
    Both won 2 of the 4 benchmarks you ran (if comparing to nexus 9 which houses the latest K1 rev), not sure how you say either won. Seems like a tie? But yes, gpu lopsided to NV. I think we'd need Denver in a chromebook before you could say these statements for sure correct? You talk as if there is only ONE version of K1. There's only one version in a chromebook, but it's incorrect to say faster than both K1 versions here. Maybe I'd feel better about the statement if you called it 32bit K1 in this context. I can see you're talking chromebooks, but people may not get that denver simply can't be bought yet in one (or at least note that when saying it). We'll probably see an x1 based chromebook before denver again but still...Since I don't think it will be back until 14nm samsung version that is.

    You compare the cpu to apples A8x, so why are you not mentioning the 64bit Denver version of K1 in Nexus9? Apple isn't a chromebook either, but is lopped in the cpu talk. If you hadn't done that, it would be clear you're not comparing cpus from tablets and chromebooks. But with apple you ARE adding tablet cpus to the talk, so why not nexus 9's K1?
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, February 15, 2015 - link

    Technically the Nexus 9 is the Tegra K1-64, or more commonly referred to as Denver. Of course, Denver has its own pros and cons, with performance sometimes being quite a bit slower due to the way the binary translation works. I'm not super hung up on which CPU is fastest by 5-10%; it's merely interesting to see Bay Trail Atom doing reasonably well. K1-32 and A8X are both more power efficient however, which is at least as important as raw performance.

    But you're missing the real point, which is that as slow as the N2840 is, it's as fast as (faster than) the top smartphone SoCs. And yet the slowest Haswell-U processor runs circles around N2840. And the 2955U does that without really sacrificing a lot of battery life. I'm super interested in the 3205U, as you might guess.
  • LazarusNine - Friday, February 13, 2015 - link

    @JarredWalton Excellent review. Informative and useful for comparison. I would very much like to see a review of the Windows 'chromebook', the Acer ES1-111M, or one of its variants. It is very similar to the HP Stream 11, but with upgradeable RAM, it makes for an interesting contender in the sub $200 range.
  • benelux - Saturday, February 14, 2015 - link

    This was a really nice article, thanks. Would you mind providing the vintage of your benchmark results? That 5440 Octane score for the HP Chromebook 11 looks dated. My girlfriend's HP Chromebook 11-1101 is on Chrome 41 the current beta release. I get octane scores that average around 6800 on it. My 2013 Samsung Chromebook X303C12 has very similar hardware. It has the same SOC, the same display resolution, and the same 2G ram and 16 GB SSD. My Samsung is on Chrome 40 stable. It has Octane scores above 6400.
    I realize you might not have all the devices lying around to retest, but if you could indicate when a test was done and on what release that would be great. Chrome OS is very much a moving target. My Samsung Chromebook had Octane scores in the mid-3000 range when it came out in Q4 2013. Now it's in the mid-6s.
  • benelux - Saturday, February 14, 2015 - link

    Correction: the Samsung Chromebook came out in fall 2012, not 2013.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, February 15, 2015 - link

    You're right: some of the scores are quite old. The only recent scores for Chromebooks are the two Acers (C720 and CB13) and the Toshiba; everything else is probably at least a year old. I hope to retire some of the results soon and replace them with more recent offerings.
  • realwarder - Monday, February 16, 2015 - link

    Is this a paid article? It sounds very pro-Chrome OS, which given the severe limitations of that OS seem to skip over that completely and even mention it as a benefit.

    Given that an end-user are basically buying a web browser with no ability to do simple things like print or work offline, it's a lot of money for a pretty worthless PC. It only has 16GB storage (or whatever is left of that).

    There are cheaper and more capable PCs around these days running Windows that provide so much more functionality. If all you do want is a portable web browser, there are many tablets that provide more for less too.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, February 16, 2015 - link

    The Windows alternatives have garbage displays, and while you *can* run the stripped down version of Windows on 32GB of storage, it's not comfortable to do so. Chrome OS also boots faster and stays peppier than Windows in general with limited resources. It's so far the best Chromebook in my opinion, but would I personally want to do all my work on it? No, because Chrome OS has plenty of limitations. I covered those extensively in a previous article, and rather than trot out the same content every time I just link back to the relevant review. Like this:
  • Christopher1 - Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - link

    Chrome OS is a waste. It is not as 'fully featured' as Windows 8.1 even and is not able to do a lot of the things that Windows 8.1 can do.
    Such as full-featured multimedia viewing. Such as even low-end ACDSee Pro-esque photo viewing and editing.
    Need I keep on going? Chrome OS is a toy to the most 'in the know' out there today and just is not going to overtake even iOS for most people.
    Give me a cheap 400 dollar Windows laptop for each of my children and they are pretty much golden.
    It can do nearly ANYTHING save for high-end, last 5 year AAA gaming.

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