Customer Review

23 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's good as far as Chromebooks go, January 27, 2014
This review is from: Toshiba CB35-A3120 13.3-Inch Chromebook (Personal Computers)
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The Toshiba Chromebook is another incarnation of the thin client computer that runs Google's Chrome operating system. Like the first Chromebooks by Acer and Samsung in June 2011, this Toshiba one does pretty much the same thing. It's meant to be used while connected to the internet (although you can run some applications while offline), and has no local storage - you save your data to 'the cloud' (internet data servers).

Schools have been the largest customers for thin client computers, probably because there are no worries of students loading their own programs into them, or of viruses being stored on the computer itself. However, Google has expanded their marketing to target first-time computer users and households seeking an additional computer. This computer lacks the ability to run local programs and apps, which makes it unsuitable for most computer users as their only computer. However, there are many online apps in the Google Chrome Store that will allow you to do word processing, spreadsheets, powerpoints, photo editing, view videos, play online games, play music, etc. Now that we know what it can do, let's compare this one with other Chromebooks available.

The main players in this arena are Acer and Samsung, with the Acer C720P Chromebook (11.6-Inch Touchscreen, Haswell micro-architecture, 2GB) and the Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch). HP offers a version, the HP Chromebook 11 (White/Blue), and Dell will be introducing one this year as well. The immediate difference you will see is that this Toshiba has a 13.3 inch screen, larger than the usual 11-12" screens on competitors (although HP sells a 14" model, but for a higher price). The Toshiba screen is not a touch-screen, whereas the Acer is. A touchscreen is not necessary with the Chrome OS (unlike Windows 8 which is geared to touchscreens), but a touchscreen may help with navigating some apps.

The keyboard is a scaled-down QWERTY chiclet keyboard with no number pad and no function keys. There is a row of dedicated keys at the top for volume, brightness, web paging - however, you do have the option of changing these keys to work like the F-keys on other keyboards. One thing I didn't like about the keyboard (other than not liking chiclet keyboards in general) is that the letters on the keys are in lower-case. Not a big deal, but you have to get used to seeing letters on the key caps, like lower case "g" and "l", that look different from the capitals you usually see. There is also no Caps-Lock key, being replaced by a dedicated Search key.

There are two USB ports where you can plug in a mouse and your own keyboard if you'd like, or plug in a flash drive. There is also an HDMI port to output the video to another screen or TV. There is a SD card reader to load (upload to the internet) your videos, photos or music to the web. You cannot connect a printer directly to a Chromebook - you must use the Google Cloud Print service and connect to your 'classic' printer via the cloud or buy a cloud-ready printer. The stereo speakers are located under the front/bottom of the computer, which I was skeptical at first whether it would sound OK, but the volume can get very loud with no distortion.

So I think the advantages of this Chromebook over others is its reasonable price, the bright, larger screen (although it's not touchscreen), the SD card reader that some others lack, a front-facing webcam and mic, decent battery life, and nice sound output. Some cons I have found are the mousepad has only a left-click button - to right-click you tap the mousepad with two fingers (weird!). The keyboard could use a backlight. You cannot run Skype (since it requires its downloaded program), but the alternative is Google Talk, and it's free.

So if you are looking for a 'safe' computer for your kids to use, a computer for just web browsing, playing games, listening to music or watching online video, a computer where you want to store your documents in the cloud to access from anywhere you have an internet connection, a computer for video chatting -- then this Toshiba is a good choice. If you need more local storage and/or need to run local apps, then a small netbook would be a better choice for you, like the HP Pavilion DM1-4310nr 11.6" Laptop (T-Mobile 4G) or ASUS Q200E-BSI3T08 11.6-Inch Touchscreen Laptop (Slate Grey).

Update 4/15/14: This computer screen suddenly began flashing bright/dim and the colors were off. There is also a green vertical line down the center of the screen. It seems something inside has come loose or shorted. I have sent it back to the factory for warranty repair. I had to pay for shipping, which was $11.50 via USPS Priority flat rate, vs. the $25 they want you to pay for them to send you a prepaid shipping box. The computer arrived safely at their facility and I am awaiting word on its return.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 1, 2014 6:22:39 AM PST
BKarno says:
Acer doesn't sell a 14" model, I think you meant HP. Acer may be the most popular model, but the touchscreen isn't as big a seller due to it's $100 premium. You can change the function of the search key to caps lock if you desire. Once I got used to navigating with the Chromebook touchpad, using the touchpads with the left and right buttons felt less efficient. I like that you can swipe (quickly) with 2 fingers left or right to page back and forth, and how if you slide (slowly) left and right with 3 fingers you can move between tabs. And if your into keyboard shortcuts hold down ctrl-alt-? for an onscreen map. Great review. I may have to pick one of these up and hand down my C720. Though I could probably sell it for a premium now that they aren't making the 4GB model anymore.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2014 1:18:55 PM PST
Bryan Cass says:
Thanks, BKarno -- yes, I meant the HP 14" one... sorry! I'll fix that in the review. And I didn't know you could change the search key back to a caps lock -- good tip! As you can tell, I'm pretty used to the standard PC keyboard, and I use a Microsoft "Natural" one at that, so that the laptop style keyboards just feel uncomfortable. We use this Toshiba as just an internet surfer or media player, so the keyboard is not that important. But for my job as a computer programmer, I definitely would not be happy unless I had my full size keyboard. :-)

Posted on Feb 2, 2014 1:39:39 PM PST
BKarno says:
I should also tell you that I had to laugh at myself when, after reading your review, I realized that the keys on the Chromebook had lowercase letters.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 2, 2014 1:43:00 PM PST
Bryan Cass says:
I know -- I've never seen that. It threw me for a loop! :-)
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