Toshiba's Chromebook 2 makes a good argument for Chromebooks as work machines. The device has virtually everything you could want in a new notebook, including a top-notch keyboard, a sharp, roomy display and really long battery life. Plus, its $329 price tag is extremely affordable, even for business users on a budget.
Of course, even the best Chromebooks aren't for everyone. Workers who depend on a particular piece of PC software will be alienated, as will those who need more power than a budget-priced Chromebook can provide. Still, the Toshiba Chromebook 2's epic battery life makes it a really nice travel companion for business trips.
At 2.97 lbs., the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is the lightest 14-inch Chromebook we've tested, though just by a hair. In comparison, the Samsung Chromebook 2 weighs 3 lbs., while the Acer Chromebook 13 tips the scales at 3.31 lbs. The bottom line is that the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is the best of the bunch if you need a notebook that won't weigh you down on your daily commute.
It's also reasonably sturdy for a budget notebook, despite its all-plastic construction. The lid tends to flex, but overall, the machine feels less flimsy than the average laptop in its price range.
The lid sports a dimpled texture that glints when it catches the light, which looks great. The inside of the notebook, meanwhile, has the same matte-silver paint job, without the texture. For the price, it's a nice-looking laptop.
The Chromebook 2 makes a great first impression, thanks to its crisp HD display. The 14-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel panel is nice and roomy, providing plenty of screen space for work tasks. Editing a large spreadsheet was comfortable, and so was split-screen multitasking.
Our tests showed that the Chromebook 2's display is brighter and offers more accurate colors than you'll find on competing Chromebooks.
Keyboard and touchpad
Typing on the Chromebook 2's keyboard is supremely comfortable. In fact, it's one of the best laptop keyboards I've tested, ticking all the boxes that make for a great typing experience.
The keys are nice and deep, with a generous 1.53 mm of travel; the keys of laptops in this price range are usually much shallower. That gives the Chromebook 2's keyboard a desktoplike feel. Plus, the keys offer snappy feedback, which will help touch typists avoid mistakes.
Serious typists will lament the lack of a Delete key; as on all Chromebooks, the Chromebook 2's power button has taken its place. Shift+Backspace serves as a decent stand-in for Delete, however.
The touchpad, meanwhile, feels pretty nice. I like the smooth matte finish, which lets my finger glide easily. Cursor control was responsive, and gestures such as two-finger scrolling were reliable.
The Chromebook 2 is a little light on ports, but so are most budget-priced notebooks. The right edge includes a USB 3.0 port for connecting accessories, and an HDMI port for linking the computer to a monitor or projector.
The left edge, meanwhile, has a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot for expanding the notebook's modest 16GB of internal storage.
You won't find an Ethernet port or a VGA video-out port on this machine, but it has enough connectivity options to get you by when you're away from the office.
Frequent travelers will really appreciate the Chromebook 2's longevity. The notebook ran for an impressive 10 hours and 5 minutes, which blows away the category average of 7 hours and 36 minutes. It also handily beats the Acer Chromebook 13 (8:08) and edges out the Samsung Chromebook 2 (9:34). Even if you don't travel often, it's nice to know that the Toshiba Chromebook 2 can easily last through the end of the workday and beyond.
The Chromebook 2 isn't equipped for editing video or running demanding engineering software, but it's more than fast enough for everyday work tasks. It's powered by a 1.7-GHz Intel Celeron 3215U CPU with 4GB of RAM, which provided smooth performance during my testing period. I was able to type this review while streaming HD video and jumping between more than a dozen tabs in my Firefox Web browser, and didn't notice any hiccups.
An affordable laptop like the Chromebook 2 may look like a great bargain, but it won't do you much good if you can't run the software you need. For workers, that's a Chromebook's biggest weakness: they aren't compatible with PC or Mac software.
Instead, Chromebooks run on Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system developed by Google that's mostly based on the Chrome Web browser. But before you write off Chromebooks altogether, consider the wide array of powerful Web applications that are now available.
For starters, the online versions of Microsoft's Word, PowerPoint and Excel are nearly as full-featured as their desktop counterparts — not to mention totally free. Google has its own productivity suite, which includes Docs, Sheets and Slides, all of which can be used to create and edit documents regardless of whether you have an Internet connection.
And while you won't be able to install Outlook on the Chromebook 2, you can still manage your email inbox from the online Outlook portal. The same can be said for countless other productivity applications, from note-taking app Evernote to accounting software QuickBooks — both of which can be accessed via the Web.
Still, there's no getting around the fact that you won't be able to do your job if you can't find suitable software on Chrome OS, so make sure you can before buying.
Can you do your job on a Chromebook? That's the key question to answer before considering a machine like the Toshiba Chromebook 2. If you can, then Toshiba's machine is a steal, offering an excellent keyboard and nice hardware at a bargain price. And even if it can't handle every work task, the Chromebook 2 might still make a nice travel companion for basic productivity on the go.
Acer's Chromebook 13 is another enticing option, considering its low $229 price point. But the Toshiba Chromebook 2 simply offers better bang for your buck, making it the best Chromebook for business yet.