Chromebooks provide a dead-simple way to get online and get stuff done -- but the process of picking out a Chromebook has gotten increasingly complicated over the years.
One look through Google's Chromebook device page tells you all you need to know: There are tons of different models out there -- and at a glance, most of them look pretty similar. Heck, I keep an eye on these things as part of my job (and spend time using most of them, too!), and even I have trouble keeping track of the differences.
Two of this fall's new Chromebooks, however, definitely stand out from the pack. One is Toshiba's 2015 Chromebook 2, an updated version of the device that's been my go-to Chromebook recommendation for the past year. The other is Dell's Chromebook 13, a new laptop that brings a touch of luxury to the midrange Chromebook realm.
The systems have a lot in common, but they also have some important differences. First is their price: Toshiba's Chromebook starts at $330, while Dell's starts at $429. (Dell has been promoting a lower-level $399 version of its device, which, as of this writing, was due to ship at the end of November.)
So between the $330 and the $429 Chromebooks, what does that extra hundred bucks get you -- and is it worth your while? After spending the past several weeks using both the Toshiba Chromebook 2 and the Dell Chromebook 13, the answer is quite clear.
Let's break it all down:
On the outside: Build quality and design
Toshiba's new Chromebook 2 looks and feels almost identical to its predecessor, with a plastic body and a textured plastic lid. The build quality is slightly better than most systems in its price range, but it's nothing to write home about. The same can be said for the device's design, which is okay but unexceptional.
Dell's Chromebook 13 is a different story. The laptop has a carbon-fiber cover and an aluminum-magnesium body that work together to make the system stylish and approachable, as well as exceptionally sturdy. It's by no means at the level of build quality or design of a high-end system like Google's $1,000 Chromebook Pixel, but it's a really nice laptop -- and a meaningful step above every other system in the sub-$500 class.
Dell Chromebook 13. Credit: Dell
Dell's laptop is the larger of the two devices, at 12.9 x 9.0 x 0.72 in. compared to the Toshiba's 12.6 x 8.4 x 0.76 in. frame. It's also heavier, at 3.23 lbs. vs. Toshiba's 2.97 lbs. In real-world terms, those differences are pretty subtle: The Dell device does feel a bit bulkier -- as you'd expect, given its materials -- but neither system is especially svelte.
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