We take a look at Toshiba’s first entry into the Chromebook market. Is the Toshiba Chromebook 13.3″ right for your students?

This year has seen a raft of new Chromebook releases spurred on by the success of last year’s Samsung Chromebook Series 3. Just about every major manufacturer has leapt onto the Chrome OS bandwagon — HP, Dell, Samsung, Sony, and now it’s Toshiba’s turn.

If you’ve used a Chromebook before you’ll be in familiar territory here. Google’s mandatory Chromebook design language adorns the Toshiba — the Applesque keyboard, large trackpad, and the lack of caps lock — but the thing that makes the Toshiba stand out from other Chromebooks is the 13″ screen and the sleek Macbook Air style body.

Hardware

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Toshiba Chromebook 13.3″ Specification

Dimensions: 45.6 x 26.6 x 5.6 cm

Screen Size: 13.3 inches

Processor: Intel Celeron 1.4 GHz

RAM: 2 GB DDR3 SDRAM

Storage: 16 GB SSD (plus 100GB Google Drive storage free)

Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics

Operating System: Chrome OS[/dropshadowbox]

Weighing in at just 3.3lb, Toshiba’s Chromebook is only slightly heavier than Samsung’s 11″ equivalent while boasting a significantly larger screen. With the Toshiba you get the best of both worlds, a light, attractive laptop with the extra screen space needed for working on large documents. This Chromebook makes the HP Chromebook 14 feel like a rotund beast of a laptop.

Like other Chromebooks in the same price bracket the Toshiba is of flimsy construction. Instead of the aluminium exterior of the Macbook Air that the design suggests, Toshiba’s Chromebook made of thin, flexible plastic. This isn’t a premium device by any means, but its tapered body, faux metal exterior, and wannabe Apple design, has a certain charm which has followed the Chromebook line since its inception. While this is no uni-body aluminium laptop, it’s still sturdier than most of last year’s models. It’s a £220 laptop, and you can’t really expect much else.

The Toshiba’s 13.3″ screen is great for productivity and, like the HP Chromebook 14, feels like a more rounded laptop than any of the smaller alternatives. The Toshiba screen gives plenty of space to work on documents or large spreadsheets, and the Intel processor makes hopping around the OS a breeze.

toshiba-chromebook-2Internally the Toshiba has 2GB of RAM, and while this doesn’t appear to negatively affect performance there are cheaper alternatives on the market, such as the Dell Chromebook 11, featuring 4GB.

The Toshiba features two USB 3.0 ports for speedy data transfer, an HDMI port, and an SD card slot. The USB 3.0 ports in particular are a nice feature to have allowing you to quickly transfer work to and from external storage. I’m not sure how common it is to use flash drives with cloud based Chromebooks, but it’s nice to have the option.

Keyboard, trackpad, and student experience

While the keyboard has the familiar Chromebook design and layout, the keys don’t have quite as much travel as other models and for me typing was less than ideal. After a serious typing session it felt like typing on a touch screen rather than a physical keyboard.

The trackpad is plastic and feels slightly squishy, but it’s accurate and large enough to make multi-touch gestures smooth and reliable.

Performance

As we’ve come to expect with Chromebooks, the Toshiba 13.3″ is fast. Most users will find the laptop fluid and responsive with the trackpad giving accurate and smooth control. Unless you’re dealing with large image files, which can bring the file manager app to a halt, most will find the Toshiba Chromebook silky smooth.

The 2GB RAM is a bit of a disappointment, but it doesn’t really affect performance unless you’re opening a hundred Chrome tabs at once.

Battery

Toshiba claims a 9 hour battery life for their Chromebook, and our test suggest this is pretty accurate. With general use we got very close to the full 9 hours — perfect for a full school day plus a little bit extra for homework!

In the classroom

The Toshiba Chromebook 13.3″ finds a sweet spot between screen size and portability. It doesn’t have the quite the flexibility of the lighter, smaller HP Chromebook 11 or Samsung Series 3, but repays any faults with the additional screen real estate for easier productivity.

But the thing that lets the Toshiba Chromebook down — as with almost all Chromebooks — is the screen. The image is bright and colorful straight on, but move to an angle and the picture becomes washed out. It’s also very flexible and pressing your finger even lightly against it results in a puddle effect as the LCD distorts. It’s not unusable by any means, but it would be nice to see a reasonably priced Chromebook with a decent screen.

Ease of repair

If you’re managing a significant number of Chromebooks you’re likely going to have a few repairs to carry out. The Toshiba Chromebook, like its cousins, is constructed from thin, cheap plastic, so the casing will become quickly scratched. The lid of the laptop is also flexible and prone to bending. The HP Chromebook 14 is a much more rugged package than the Toshiba, but the result is a far heavier laptop. This choice is yours: do you go for the weighty but robust HP or the sleek and light but flimsy Tosh?

DSC01511

If you’ve ever had to replace a screen in a traditional Dell or HP laptop you’ll know that it’s a task getting hold of replacement parts and repairs can be less than straight forward. While Chromebooks may not be the most rugged devices they are some of the simplest laptops to repair, and the parts are easily available and cost next to nothing. Repairing the Toshiba Chromebook is simply a case of prising open the laptop and swapping out a few screws.
Click here to check out the latest prices for the Toshiba Chromebook 13.3″

Thanks to C-Learning.net for providing the review unit.

Wrap Up

7.5 Awesome

Toshiba has the Chromebook formula exactly right with the CB30-102. The laptop is light, low cost, has good performance, and makes an excellent education machine. In my humble opinion this is certainly one of the nicer Chromebooks currently available, and can be seen as a direct descendant of Samsung’s Series 3.

The same Chromebook tropes appear with the Toshiba — plastic casing, a below-par screen, and flimsy trackpad — but you get what you pay for, and nothing here makes the device unusable.

Where the HP Chromebook 14 feels bulky, Toshiba manages to fit the same hardware and screen size into a much more appealing package. The Toshiba feels like a big brother to the Samsung Series 3 — it’s light, thin, has a pleasing tapered design, and can easily slip into a school bag.

If you need a solid productivity laptop for your students, and are already embedded in the Google Apps ecosystem, the Toshiba Chromebook 13.3″ is a great option.

  • Performance 8
  • Screen 6
  • Design 7
  • Battery Life 9
  • User Ratings (2 Votes) 5.4
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About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

1 Comment

  1. It’s nice to see Toshiba join the Chromebook party. Chromebooks make sense for education, as they are easy for students to use and for the IT staff to manage. The price is reasonable, so if they’re lost, stolen or damaged, they’re easier to replace.

    One issue is that many web-based education applications need Java, which Chromebooks do not support. And some schools may still be running Windows applications. A way around these issues is with a solution like Ericom AccessNow, an HTML5 RDP solution that enables Chromebook users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run Windows applications or desktops in a browser tab. That means that you can open up an Internet Explorer session inside a Chrome browser tab, and then connect to the applications that require Java and run them on the Chromebook.

    Please note that I work for Ericom

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