Toshiba Chromebook Review - How Good is Good?
While one could not look at the Toshiba 13 and think it is as beautiful as a MacBook Air, they could not argue it is far off either. Utilizing a cheap silver plastic throughout the device makes it simple, if not overly simple in ways. But therein lies the beauty of what Toshiba did. They not only managed to cut back on production costs and weight, they also managed to capture the simplicity that makes the MacBook line what it is.
"If you like this understated design philosophy then go no further"
Paired with the body is a MacBook like black chiclet style keyboard and a single white LED mounted in the power button. The standard array of Chrome specific buttons border the keyboard in the typical F key setup found on most Windows machines. While this is no MacBook keyboard it departs from the typical clackity cheap sounding keyboard found on the Acer, but it isn't quite up to the HP designed ones found on the HP 11 and HP 14.
It has shallow to moderate movement with a hint of mush to the keys. Under normal usage I have not noticed any issues and my above average hands find their homes quite easily on this keyboard. By no means will you be getting an all day typer, but you will find a keyboard that is perfectly usable.
..."The keyboard isn't quite up to those found on the HP11 and HP14"
Below the keyboard is the large trackpad. This particular trackpad will not win any awards for feel or use, it again is perfectly acceptable. The feel is slightly tactile but is not sticky or grabby. Once it was broken in I have had no issues sliding my fingers across it, and even use it without thinking. Two finger scroll works without issue and tap to click works perfectly fine on every corner of the trackpad, it does have a little give during a slight tap though.
I did want to take some time to tackle a complaint about the Toshiba head on, and that is the loud clicking trackpad. Yes the click is a little like a clack and it is loud for a laptop but except for the rare occurrence I need to click and drag I don't click it. In the world of touchscreens and capacitive buttons, who clicks it except out of sheer necessity.
"...no Chromebook, aside from the HP 11 & Pixel... has a very desirable screen."
While first picking out a Chromebook one thing I know is that no Chromebook, aside from the HP 11 & Pixel, has a very desirable screen. But in a world of give and take I think the Toshiba has the least about of take. The colors are acceptable as are the contrast ratios and blacks. But lets be honest, I use my Nexus 10 if I want to see things in amazing detail and resolution and I go for the Note 3 if I want to have things pop, even if its a bit unnatural at times. The 13.3" screen size is a sweet spot in my opinion. There is a reason that both MacBooks are sold at this size. It is the crossroads of comfortable to work with, but yet small enough to lug around without much thought. Compared to the 11.6" displays I vastly prefer it. But again that is just me, to each their own. Just weigh out the pro's and con's of each before purchasing.
Just above the screen is the Webcam which again, is acceptable. Its good for a quick hangout or two and the microphones have no issues that I noted in my testing.
Rounding out the input output experience are the speakers. Mounted beneath the device on the sides are two speakers of perfectly adequate quality. The placement of these on the shape of the bottom are actually quite good. They sit on a slight angle on the bottom and they are not the lowest point of the device, or the region in which they sit. This has a two fold benefit. The first is if the device is sitting on a desk it will fire more towards the sides instead of straight at the desk. The second is that unless you are really pushing this thing down into clothing or a soft blanket you will not completely cover the speakers. I have actually found myself listening to music without the headphones. Something that I cannot say for the Acer or other Chromebooks, sans the HP 11.
"Taking minimalism seriously there are no logos for the ports on the side of the device. Kudos to Toshiba"
Around the right side you will find not 1 but 2 USB 3.0 ports along with your full sized HDMI and headphone jack. Again taking minimalism seriously there are no logos for the ports on the side of the device, only along the bottom. This makes for a very clean ‘apple-like' look to the Chromebook. Around the left side of the notebook is something I vastly preferred to the Acer. This is the full sized SD card slot that accepts 100% of the card. I typically will find myself needing to mount my Note 3 to the PC. Since Android uses MTP currently instead of Mass Storage it makes mounting with a USB impossible. Apps like AirDroid and Google Drive allow you to wirelessly transfer files, but nothing is as easy as leaving the adapter in the PC and having it there for whenever you need it. As you can see in the pics mine stays in the slot at all times. Quick, easy, and convenient. Also on the left side is your Kensington lock along with the horribly designed Toshiba proprietary power adapter. Toshiba has not been known for making an attractive or even a semi convenient power plug and this one came out from the bargain bins. As bad as that is I do find myself enjoying the small, think very very small, LED notification light that is amber while charging and green when charged. Far better than the awful blue/orange found on the Acer front panel. Like the other Haswell powered Chromebooks the Toshiba has dual band 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi along with Bluetooth 4.0. In my testing both performed as expected with the speed on the Wi-Fi a little better than I expected.
"...don't let benchmarks be your deciding factor between the Haswell based systems"
Speaking of the Haswell mounted in the Toshiba it is the very same unit found in the Acer C720 and HP14. Recently though some test results came out that showed the Toshiba benchmark a bit lower than the Acer C720 and the HP14. While there could be numerous reasons for this I believe the reviewer may have received a bum unit. My machine with numerous extensions running including: G+ Notifications, Gmail, Hangouts, Chromecast, Google Calendar, Pushbullet and AdBlock, ran a 413 on Sunspider, an almost 40 point decrease from the testers unit. I also feel though that Toshiba may have adjusted the clocking on the processor to allow it to run cooler than the other Chromebooks. Again this is just a myth, but one thing is certain: You will not notice any performance difference between any of the Haswell based systems when equipped similarly. Just as with any processor all have a level of difference between them, some perform better, some run cooler, and some have the best or worst of both worlds. Again, don't let benchmarks be your deciding factor between the Haswell based systems.
Paired with the Haswell are 2GB's of Ram and a 16GB SSD. While there are the number that would have preferred 4GB, it is not a deal breaker. 2GB is perfectly acceptable and for most people you wont notice any issues. You can also enable Swap to the very speedy SSD to allow for some more usable RAM space. Both the Ram and the SSD are mounted to the motherboard. Again many will hate that they are not user replaceable, but this helps cut down on costs, materials and even weight. It also no doubt allows for a slimmer design.
So... How good is the Toshiba Chromebook 13?
To me it strikes an almost even kilter balance of the Chromebook selection currently available. Toshiba managed to find a balance between performance and screen quality, size and weight, materials and build philosophy. The Screen is great for a sub $300 laptop, as are the keyboard, trackpad, battery life and overall look. While none of these things are segment smashing revelations, none of them are deal breakers either and that's where the Toshiba finds its stride. On the other hand the overall feel of the device is lacking due to the materials Toshiba chose to use, while these cut down on weight and size they make the laptop feel cheap at times. But when it boils down the Toshiba is perfectly portable, attractively simple, performs with the best, and is just downright good.
I think that just about sums up the Toshiba Chromebook, it is just Good bordering on Great.
No, it is not amazing, but who really expects that at $279