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A Classroom Teacher’s Review Of The Toshiba Chromebook

Toshiba Chromebook

Toshiba Chromebook

At A Glance

When I first picked up the Toshiba Chromebook, I smiled and frowned at the same time. I smiled because it felt like it weighed around three pounds. I frowned because I really didn’t like the feel of the faux metal body. The Toshiba Chromebook looks even more like a Macbook Air than the 14″ HP Chromebook. Maybe that’s part of the problem – I think want Chromebook manufacturers to deliver a Macbook Air, but not at a $1099 price point.

I imagine my students will like the 13.3″ screen nearly as much as they did like they did the 14″ HP Chromebook. There is plenty of screen so that typing a paper, reading PDFs, editing a graphic, or trimming a video will not require that they squint their eyes or move their faces inches from the device. The newly announced Samsung Chromebook 2 will sport the same 13.3″ screen but pack in 1920 x 1080 resolution. Hopefully, the next iteration of the Toshiba Chromebook uses a similar resolution upgrade.

The case material is flimsy like the Samsung Chromebook. Unlike the 11″ and 14″ HP Chromebooks in my previous review, the case did not feel remotely industrial. I could easily flex the case, and pushing down in the palm rests produced noticeable “give.” I’m not really a looks guy when it comes to devices, but the dimpled, faux leather body material did not impress me.

I was impressed, however, by the placement of ports. Placing the jack for the AC adapter on the left side of the device, rather than in the back, means schools using a Chromebook Cart would not have to worry about damage to the hinge and spine every time students return the device to the cart. Two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI port on the right side of the Chromebook means peripherals don’t get tangled up with the power cord.

Pros

  • The. Screen. Is. Serviceable – The 1366 x 768 resolution is not enough to provide crispness on a 13.3″, diagonal, canvas. I came away feeling as disappointed as with the 14″ HP Chromebook screen. Netflix, WeVideo, and Screencastify all look OK on this screen. Like the larger HP Chromebook, there’s no need to squint to see the screen.
  • Near “sweet spot” weight – This chromebook weighs 3.3 pounds, and I felt a noticeable difference in my already-heavy Saddleback leather backpack. This might not seem heavy to students or teachers after repeated trips between home and work.
  • Sufficient ports – With two USB 3.0 and one HDMI port, this Chromebook provides plenty of options for peripherals,
  • The keyboard – The keyboard has a nice, tactile response when typing, but every key does not make a loud click. That’s a plus – in a classroom full of students banging away at keyboards, that would get distracting in no time.
  • Good battery life – with 9 hours of battery life, the Toshiba Chromebook finds a nice balance. Toshiba found a small enough, longer lasting battery that delivers a reasonable weight-to-performance tradeoff. Schools considering 1:1 initiatives will appreciate a device that gets students through an entire school day.

Cons

  • Recessed clickpad – the recessed clickpad doesn’t feel right. I have notice that on devices that recess the clickpad too deeply, I have far more false right clicks than clickpads mounted flush to the case.
  • Looks – The dimpled, faux metal case is not terribly appealing.

My Take On The Toshiba Chromebook

Overall, I like this device. Toshiba’s initial entry into the Chromebook market manages to deliver a serviceable device with which students and teachers could certainly be productive.

Teachers investing in an external monitor for home will love the ability to connect their Chromebook via the provided HDMI port. I never used to concern myself about monitor size, but my now-older eyes appreciated the difference when I connected to the 21″ LED monitor at school. The nine hour battery life means a whole day of use at school with charge left over to continue working at home.

In my district, it is possible that devices like Chromebooks will replace desktop machines for teachers. Trust me – teachers used to a school machine and a home machine will appreciate the 3.3 pound weight of this Chromebook as they start to carry it with them.

If asked, I’d say that the Toshiba Chromebook will work well for both students and teachers. I may quibble about placement of the clickpad (it is beyond annoying to have the right-click menu constantly pop up) the screen resolution, and the faux metal case material, but this Chromebook has a lot to like.

[Updated on Monday, March 10, 2014]

After conferring with my students, I’d have to say that they didn’t notice the benefits I see in the Toshiba Chromebook. If they believe that “It’s just another Chromebook,” then perhaps I’m being too picky. That being said, this is a group of seniors who will NOT have to use this device for four years. They test drove it for a class period. It will be interesting to see long-term use feedback. I think I still like the 14″ HP Chromebook more, despite the weight. Students, though, seemed to like this unit.

Room To Improve

Here’s my suggestion for Toshiba. Work hard to innovate on your second attempt at the Chromebook. The 13.3″ screen feels about right – a 13″ screen might might be even better, especially if combined with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. If we need a bigger screen at home, a large monitor is cheaper than a whole system.

See if you can trim the bezel – this Chromebook has a noticeably smaller footprint than the 14″ HP Chromebook – keep going. Work on keyboard  placement – the palm rest looks similar to the 14″ HP, so I imagine my student Yachee will still find it difficult to reach all of the keys. Give your device a solid, industrial feel – people know cheap when they feel it – this could move you out in front of the pack. We all know that metal is not a viable material to achieve the needed price point, but ditch the faux metal look. We will appreciate a solid, indusrial plastic with little flex or give far more than dimples.

Don’t try to give us the device we need today – try to envision the device we will need tomorrow. More and more storage space is available through services like Box, Dropbox, Drive and others. At some point, it will be impractical to provide card storage slots. Give us the device that works when wireless is ubiquitous. Everyone thought Apple was crazy for delivering a Macbook Air without an optical drive. A look at the current Chromebook market says otherwise.

[UPDATE: Monday, March 10, 2014]

Student Input

I had students in each class use the Toshiba Chromebook to finish research and start writing their paper. I came away surprised by their responses. Many of them referred back to the 14″ HP Chromebook and said that it reminded them of a real computer.

1st Hour

Katie in 1st Hour said, “I don’t really notice a difference, in this one [Toshiba] – it’s just bigger.” We even compared it side-by-side with the Samsung Chromebook, and Katie said that while it appeared the keyboard on the Toshiba was more spaced out, it actually wasn’t different.

2nd Hour

Hannah in 2nd Hour said, “The thing that I liked the most was the wide screen.  On the smaller chrome books, it’s sometimes hard to see things.  This screen allows you to have a closer look at text and sort of blows things up for you. ” She was less enamored of the clickpad, noting that ” It’s almost just a little too far down.” By “down,” she means that the click pad is recessed below the case surface. Interestingly, Hannah believes that “…this bigger laptop would be difficult to haul around in your backpack.  It can get damaged more and you can just throw the smaller laptop into your backpack without worrying about space.” I hadn’t thought that students would want a more compact device. The importance of screen size may be more of an issue for me because I have bifocals.

4th Hour

Deidre in 4th Hour said, “I really like this.” When I inquired further, she explained, “The other Chromebooks [Samsung] feel cheap. This one feels more like a computer.” She was impressed by the screen and the response of the keyboard.

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