Toshiba Chromebook 2. Credit: Toshiba
Far more significant is the difference in the devices' trackpads. The Dell Chromebook's is made of glass and feels just incredible under your fingers. You may never have considered a trackpad to be a highlight of a laptop, but after using this Chromebook, you will. The Toshiba device's is ordinary in comparison -- made of plastic and about on par with what you see on most lower-end Chromebooks. It's accurate and easy to use but in a very different class from Dell's.
Both laptops have impressive speakers that are loud and fairly full-sounding (as laptop speakers go). I'd give the edge in audio quality to the Toshiba: Its speakers are artfully hidden beneath its keyboard, which allows sound to be directed toward you without the need for any ugly visible grilles.
The Dell Chromebook has speakers on either side of its bottom, which isn't nearly as ideal of a placement -- but they're on the outer edges of the surface, at least, and so they usually avoid getting muffled entirely. Still, while the laptop's audio is reasonably decent in and of itself, it ends up sounding markedly less loud and clear than the Toshiba Chromebook's when you listen to the one right after the other.
Under the hood: Performance, storage, stamina and ports
Dell and Toshiba both offer varying levels of processing power with their new Chromebooks. I'll make that part of the decision easy for you: The only models you really need to consider are the base-level models I mentioned at the start of this review -- the $429 Dell Chromebook 13, which has an Intel Celeron 3205U processor and 4GB of RAM, and the $330 Toshiba Chromebook 2, which has an Intel Celeron 3215U processor and 4GB of RAM.
(On the Toshiba, the specific model you want is the CB35-C3300. Since last year's device is also called the Chromebook 2 -- and appears almost identical in outward appearance -- it's worth double-checking to make sure you're looking at the current model and not the older version.)
Those almost-identical setups are more than capable of handling even the most demanding needs -- like my own anything-but-average style of working, which tends to include frequent switching between as many as 15 to 20 simultaneously open tabs. I've used both systems from morning to night in that manner and things have been consistently smooth and snappy, without a single slowdown or sign of lag on either device. Both laptops are fairly quiet during use, too, and neither gets especially hot.
(Technically, Toshiba's processor is a slight step ahead of Dell's, as it has a higher operating frequency, but don't read too much into those sorts of spec-sheet details. In terms of real-word performance, the laptops are essentially the same -- even with a direct side-by-side comparison.)
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