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Review: Dell Chromebook 13 vs. Toshiba Chromebook 2

JR Raphael | Nov. 9, 2015
Midrange Chromebooks have never been so good. Here's a long-term, real-world comparison of this season's standout models.

While these devices may not win any awards for thinness, they fall into a good middle-ground size when it comes to most typical use. They're big enough to give you ample room to work, which isn't always the case with the more common 11-in. Chromebook models -- but at the same time, they're small enough to remain easily portable and fit effortlessly into a bag, which is something you sacrifice once you start getting into larger desktop-replacement-style devices.

Both Chromebooks are also comfortable to use on your lap or on a table. In either position, everything about the Dell's construction feels noticeably more premium than the Toshiba's -- from the strength and stability of its large hinge, which opens with ease and keeps the screen completely still during use, to the base area around its keyboard, which has a surprisingly soft texture that feels smooth and pleasant under your hands.

The Toshiba Chromebook is certainly fine in those regards -- just more "okay for the cost" as opposed to "spectacular." Its screen can get a little shaky as a result of its two-piece hinge, and the plastic surface of its base is serviceable but nothing special.

Inside the lid: Display, keyboard, trackpad and speakers

Once you get past the surface, things start to look much more similar between the Dell and Toshiba Chromebooks. Both laptops have excellent 13.3-in. 1080p IPS displays, for instance -- a distinction that goes a long way in setting them apart from most affordable Chrome OS systems. The screens are crisp, clear and richly colored. Once your eyes get used to their level of quality, you won't be able to tolerate the dull and grainy TN-based displays on the majority of inexpensive laptops.

The displays on the Dell and Toshiba Chromebooks are really quite comparable, with one noteworthy exception: The Dell's screen has a matte finish, while the Toshiba's display is glossy and reflective. I wouldn't call either approach inherently better; image quality and viewing angles on the two are similarly superb, and there's little to complain about with either panel. It's mainly just a matter of personal preference (if you even have a strong leaning either way; most people probably won't give it an ounce of thought).

Both systems have a fair amount of plastic bezel surrounding their displays, with an HD Webcam in the center of the top portion. The devices' keyboards are in the same general league, too: plasticky but satisfying to type on and backlit for optimal evening use. The backlighting on the Dell looks a bit better, but either setup will get the job done (and you can actually adjust the lighting level on either device by holding the Alt key and pressing the brightness up or down key in the function row). The Toshiba keyboard has slightly larger keys with a softer-feeling finish, but like the quality of the backlighting, it really isn't a make-or-break factor.


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