Friday, February 12, 2016

Toshiba Chromebook 2 - 2015 Edition (CB35-C3350) Review

It has been about two weeks since I bought this chromebook and I am thinking of writing a review in-the-progress and keep updating it for a month or so.

This is my experience on my first chromebook and a review attempt on the Toshiba Chromebook 2 - 2015 Edition (CB35-C3350, the one with the Intel Core i3 CPU). Yes, I am writing this review from the chromebook.


So lets start with the purchase itself. I read some reviews on chromebooks and decided that the best option for me would be a 13.3 inch chromebook. Out of all the 13.3 inch ones, this Toshiba had the best screen resolution which I value and also is available with an Intel Core i3 CPU.

I went to Best Buy and talked to the sales person in laptops. I specifically asked for the Toshiba Chromebook 2 but the 2015 edition. This is important because there is also the previous edition of the Toshiba Chromebook 2 in the market and due to having the same product name and being almost identical looking, it is easy to make a mistake and buy the old one (which is a tad cheaper). So, the guy there did a search in their inventory and came up with the Toshiba Chromebook 2 but not the 2015 edition. He also had it on show case and pointed it to me. An easy way to tell the 2015 edition from the old is the backlit keyboard which only exists on the 2015 edition. I asked him to light up the keyboard, he tried and said that it must be a defective model...

To make a long story short, I cannot know if the Best Buy sales guy knew that he tried to sell me the old edition or not (although I insisted and had a conversation with him about the new edition). I went online on Best Buy and searched it, there was one result with the 2015 edition but it was both out of stock and unavailable for pickup. This led me to Amazon, which had it available for 1 day shipping.

Total cost was $429.99 including shipping and handling.

The laptop came in a very well packaging which made it almost impossible to get damaged while being shipped. I opened the box and tried to turn it on but it needed to be powered. The battery was not charged (and for a good reason).

I plugin the power and power it up. It boots in about two (yes, 2) seconds from powered off to login screen! That is really fast and from stand by, it resumes instantly. I log in , setup Wifi and open Chrome. I was taken to a Google web page with "Goodies" for my Chromebook Device. This page granted for free:

  • 3 standard HD movies from Google Play
  • 90 days unlimited music from Google Play
  • 100 GB Google Drive Storage for 2 years
  • 12 free Gogo in-air internet passes that you can use over 12 months on domestic US flights
On each offer there was a Redeem Offer button, I clicked the movies option and got 3 offer keys and each had a button to claim them. I tried to claim them and boom, an error dialog with the message that my country is not supported for this offer! 

I was a bit surprised that a chromebook I bought from the states and used it within the states said that but then again my Google Account was originally created in Greece, so there. I logged in to Google Wallet and started the Identity Verification to change my address from the Greece to USA. This procedure requires you to scan / photo some documents and have Google Review them manually, which can take 24 hours to happen.

Finally once my identity was confirmed I went to this Google Page to retry and redeem the free movies only to realize that the free movies offer was gone as if I had properly claimed it! I phone called Google, explained the situation and they forwarded my call to Amazon which had nothing to do with this issue!

Anyway, on with the review. 
The screen on this chromebook is amazing, no, its really good! Sharp and colorful from edge to edge.
Here is a list of the hardware specs:
  • Intel® Core™ i3-5015U Processor (average cpu mark: 3158)
  • 4GB DDR3 1600MHz (Memory is not user upgradeable, factory installed only)
  • 13.3'' 16:9 FHD TruBrite® LED Backlit Display (1920x1080, 340nits) with IPS Technology
  • SSD Storage: 16GB solid state flash memory (eMMC)
  • Stereo speakers tuned by Skullcandy (under the keyboard keys)
  • Dual array microphone,HD webcam
  • Intel® Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
  • Bluetooth v4
  • Battery is a Lithium Polymer (44Wh, 3-Cell)—*Not user replaceable
  • Battery life up to 8.5 hours
  • HDMI output port
  • 1x USB v2 and 1x USB v3
  • Keyboard,Touch pad pointing device with multi-touch control
  • Built-in slot supporting SDHC, SDXC-up to 2TB, Mini SD, Micro SD

The keys are soft and responsive, the touch pad is pretty nice as well.
I have to warn you though, there is no caps lock key, home, end, page up, page down or delete key.

I was also trying to right click using the touch pad but it did not work, I thought I had a defective one!
Only to search the internet later and realize that all the above missing keys / functions are provided with different methods than the ones most people are used to, here is a list of some common key shortcuts:

Right ClickTwo fingers tap on Touch Pad
Delete the previous wordCtrl Backspace
Delete the next letter (forward delete)Alt Backspace

Page upAlt or Search and up arrow
Page downAlt or Search and down arrow
Go to top of pageCtrl Alt and up arrow
Go to bottom of pageCtrl Alt and down arrow
Go to end of documentCtrl Search and right arrow
Go to beginning of documentCtrl Search and left arrow
Switch between the keyboard languages you've setCtrl + Shift + Space
Switch to the previous keyboard language you were usingCtrl + Space
Take a screenshot of your current page
Ctrl window switcher key
For non-Chrome OS keyboards:
Ctrl + F5
Take a partial screenshot
Ctrl Shift window switcher key , then click and drag.
For non-Chrome OS keyboards:
Ctrl + Shift + F5
For a complete list, check this link

Of course, there are some dedicated keys on the keyboard for Search, Back, Forward, Reload, Brightness, Full Screen, Volume Up/Down and Power.
In general, I had no problems typing on the keyboard long texts, although I still haven't gotten used to, many of these shortcuts.


As far as the software goes, it is really simple to use and perhaps impossible to make a mistake.
Chrome OS is as simple as an Operating System can get. You have your applications on the bottom left corner of the screen and your time, wifi, battery status and keyboard language on the bottom right corner of the screen. I believe this is the most user friendly operating system to date, although limited in features.

A Warning to potential buyers. Please know beforehand what your needs are and what is a Chromebook. Let me explain. To those unaware of what a Chromebook is and is not. Chromebook is almost, a bare Chrome Internet Browser. I say almost because it has some extra features beyond your typical Chrome Desktop Browser we all have used. Having said that, know that you cannot (at least for the time being) install or run a Microsoft Windows, Linux or Mac Desktop application natively on a Chromebook. This can only be done through a Remote Desktop Session or through a Web Service such as https://www.rollapp.com/

There is a files manager / explorer pre-installed which also allows the use of Google Drive, Dropbox and more cloud storage service.

You can compress or uncompress most common archives (zip, tar, gz, rar, etc) but most of them only through Chrome Apps or Web Services. This is not a real issue, just that the operation happens somewhere on a remote server and not on your laptop.

Spotify and Netflix work without issues. You can even install and use a Torrent Client, Teamviewer, a Terminal for SSH connections and more recently there has even been a Chrome Dev Editor (developer preview) to assist in writing web code locally.

If you are a web developer, chances are though you will have to use a cloud IDE such as https://c9.io/
for all your development needs.

USB ports are compatible with U2F FIDO tokens such as the YubiKey which is good for two factor authentication on your Google Account or LastPass vault.

I haven't got to test Android Chrome Remote Debugging yet but I think it will work without any issues.

Printing though, beware. Your printer must have wifi / google cloud print compatibility. You cannot connect your printer on the chromebook directly through its USB and print. If your printer is not compatible, you need another computer with Linux / Mac or MS Windows on it to "share" the printer and use it as a proxy.

Video playback and Web Page Scroll is pretty smooth on this device, even with 20 tabs open (be careful of the memory consumption though, 4GB is not that much for many tabs, I recommend the use of an Unused Tabs Suspension Extension such as The Great Suspender)



That's all for now. I will try to keep this updated and write more information as time passes and I use the Chromebook more.

Thank you for reading.

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