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Toshiba Chromebook 2 review – hands on with Toshiba’s first Full HD Chrome OS laptop

Toshiba proves Chromebooks don't need to have low resolution displays, or make a racket with the fanless, full HD Chromebook 2

Toshiba is fairly new to Chromebooks, only having launched its first Chrome OS laptop earlier this year, but the company is already gearing up to launch a second, more premium version. The Chromebook 2, announced earlier this week at IFA in Berlin, swaps the low resolution screen of the original for a 1080p panel and fanless Intel Celeron processor for silent running. We got an early look at it ahead of its UK launch next year, in order to bring you some first impressions.

Little appears to have changed from the original Chromebook in terms of design; the Chromebook 2 has the same textured white plastic lid and grey, matt metal effect body that borrows heavily from Apple’s MacBook Air. Toshiba has thinned it down significantly, however, so it’s both smaller and thinner than its predecessor. It only weighs 1.3Kg, so should be light enough to take on the move without having to ditch anything from your bag first.

Inside, Toshiba hasn’t compromised on performance just because the operating system has incredibly low system requirements. Power comes from a latest generation Intel Celeron processor, paired with 4GB of RAM, which should be enough to open multiple Chrome tabs without experiencing any slowdown – although it won’t be quite as fast as Chromebooks from the likes of Acer and Samsung already on the market. The CPU runs at such a cool temperature that it doesn’t even need a cooling fan, and with no mechanical hard disk it makes absolutely no noise when powered on.

Unfortunately that means you only get 16GB of onboard storage, but with 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage you should be able to keep whole libraries of photos, music, videos and documents online. There’s a full size SD card reader, one USB2 and one USB3 port around the sides, so you’ll be able to add external storage if you need to have big files saved locally.

Lasting nine hours on a single charge in Google’s own battery life test, you should be able to go a whole working day without having to reach for a power adapter, and Toshiba says you could squeeze up to 11 hours if you turn down the screen brightness.

Beneath the lid, the Chiclet-style keyboard and all-in-one touchpad have been adapted for ChromeOS, with gesture controls and Chrome-specific shortcut keys in place of the function keys. You don’t get a backlight for working in the dark, which isn’t surprising given the budget nature of the laptop. Typing felt comfortable, thanks to a large wrist rest and full-size keys, which had plenty of travel and a reasonably springly action.

Toshiba has stealthily hidden the speakers, tweaked by headphone specialists Skullcandy, behind the keyboard to avoid adding unnecessary lines or breaks in the sleek silver chassis. It’s surprisingly potent, too, with much better sound than other laptops in its price range, with noticeable bass and a clear mid-range – even on the busy IFA show floor. Of course there’s still a 3.5mm audio jack for listening through headphones too.

The screen is definitely the highlight; the 13.3in, Full HD screen uses an IPS LCD panel, with excellent viewing angles and vibrant colours. The 330cd/m2 maximum brightness meant we could clearly see the screen even under the bright show floor lighting, and both images and text looked very sharp. It won’t compete with greater than Full HD screens, but for the price it could be tough to get better.

Toshiba isn’t the first company to add a 1080p display to ChromeOS, although as it’s still tough to actually buy Samsung’s Chromebook 2 in the UK so this was our first realy chance to try ChromeOS at such a high resolution. Although ChromeOS isn’t really optimised for Full HD, small icons and text are a small price to pay for significantly more screen real estate; we could fit multiple Chrome windows onscreen comfortably, which should help make it easier to work on multiple things at once.

Toshiba seems to have paid attention to criticism of its first Chromebook, improving the new model in almost every way. The thinner dimensions, higher resolution screen and faster performance are all welcome changes, and if the company gets the price right it could be a very compelling budget laptop.

The Chromebook 2 should be going on sale across Europe from the beginning of next year, although Toshiba hasn’t yet settled on a price. We’re hoping to bring you a full review a little closer to launch.

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