So I’ve now had my new Chromebook (Toshiba Chromebook 2) for about 3 weeks and have been using it in conjunction with my iPad/iPhone for all computing needs, including blogging. (I do have a Windows laptop for my day job.) I thought now would be a great time to write an initial review! I’m going to review it both from an overall use perspective and then also from a blogging perspective.
Overview of the Toshiba Chromebook 2
Overall, I’ve been really happy with the performance of the Toshiba 2. With a decent Wi-fi connection, it’s fast and seamless, able to handle my requisite 5-8 Chrome tabs and all of the apps that I want to run on it. The “with a decent Wi-fi” connection part is important though. For my purposes, I’ve found it to have very limited use offline. That’s not normally a huge deal for me since I usually have internet access; however, while I was traveling recently, it did cause some minor hiccups (let’s just say I’m glad we have a big data package with Verizon). I think if you primarily want to use a machine without an internet connection, a Chromebook may not be for you!
What I Use it for and Specific Feedback:
Here’s a list of the major apps/sites/purposes that I use my Chromebook for. I think this is important grounding because it may be more or less than what you all are looking for in terms of device usage. I tried to add in some specific information on each of my uses to help guide you if you’re looking into purchasing a Chromebook.
Word Processing/Spreadsheets/Slides: I use the online version of Microsoft Word/Excel/PowerPoint as well as Google Docs for these purposes. However, I’m a pretty light user, mostly for jotting down notes, writing blog entries, personal vacation planning and budgeting. These substitutes for actual Microsoft Office are more than sufficient for me right now; however, if I were producing more content to share with other people or where presentation mattered more, I can see them being limiting. (I can’t imagine doing my 9-5 job with only these tools…)
E-mail: I was already a Gmail user so I continue to use Gmail within the Chrome browser.For me, this is simple, intuitive and offers more than enough tools for what I’m looking for. (For reference, I do have the addresses for this blog routed to a Gmail account that I’ve given both send/receive permissions to. It’s easier for me just to have one inbox to manage!)
File Storage: So here’s where things get interesting. Unlike normal laptops where you can store a LOT of information on the actual hard drive. Chromebooks tend to have much more limited hard drives and instead encourage users to use cloud-based storage (aka Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.). I had already been using Dropbox for many years for backing-up my photos, documents, etc., so it made sense for me to continue to do so. Overall, it’s not a huge problem to use Dropbox – although I did have to install a plugin (File System for Dropbox) to help facilitate this process. I would switch to Google Drive which is better interfaced with the Chromebook; however, the Chromebook will not allow me to access multiple Google Drives on the same Chromebook account (I use several Google Drive accounts for different purposes… personal, blog, etc.). So I’m limited to just personal documents. I’m actually contemplating just getting an external hard drive to plug-in and use – but that doesn’t have the cloud back-up that I like so much. I think this is one of the areas where I need to figure out the best way to use my Chromebook.
Photo Editing: I am by no means a photography or photo editing professional. I barely touch the surface of using basic filters, but I did want/need to be able to do basic photo editing for the blog. I’ve been using Polarr and Pixlr Editor to do my photo editing. And so far the combination of the two seems to be work all right for me. I could probably just use Polarr, except for some reason, when I rotate images from my camera, the rotation doesn’t “stick” with Polarr – it un-rotates when I insert the media into my blog entries. And then, when I rotate them through WordPress, they don’t stay rotated in mobile platforms. So overall, it’s easier to just rotate images with Pixlr and have it stick! As an odd aside, for some reason Pixlr won’t load pictures from Dropbox – I have to save them to my Downloads folder and then upload them to Pixlr and then resave them to Dropbox after they’re edited…! While these aren’t full powered, they work for me for now, and as a plus, they’re both free!
Games: I don’t really use the Chromebook for games. I’d love a good Sim City-type game for the Chromebook though, if anyone is interested in making one! 🙂
Social Media: I use the Chromebook for updating both personal (and soon blog!) social channels including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. I’ve loved using the Chrome browser on my Windows laptops for years, so these all function just as well and in the same way as I’m used to.
Blogging: I use WordPress.org software on a Bluehost platform for blogging purposes, and these both seem to be completely fine on the Chrome browser. I had previously used them on Firefox from my Windows laptop and I notice no significant difference in use or performance between the two.
The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is super light which is great for carrying around/transporting it. While it’s not a super heavy-duty construction, I like the textured case which makes it less slippery and I never feel like I have to be super duper careful with it. Although I’m also not very hard on electronics… now shoes on the other hand…! J
The keyboard is great in my opinion, a nice size and the keys feel nice. I have a love-hate relationship with the track pad. It works well and I like the “shortcuts” (two fingered scrolling, etc.), but I do find clicking to hold and drag things a bit more challenging than with a regular mouse. To be fair, I find this true with all laptop trackpads, it’s not unique to the Toshiba 2. I just bought an inexpensive wireless mouse to go with the Chromebook and voila, problem solved!
I love love the screen on this Chromebook – consistent with feedback that I’ve seen from other reviews, I feel like the Toshiba 2 has one of the best/clearest screens out there on Chromebooks.
Given the budget I had to spend and my desired uses, I think the Chromebook was a great purchase for me. It has taken (and probably will continue to take) some adjustments on my part to go from using a more standard laptop to a Chromebook (figuring out the file storage thing!).
I’m hoping/planning to take some online courses in photo editing and potentially upgrade my camera in the next year or two. After that happens, I think I may need to rethink having a Chromebook as my only computer… (I have my eye on either an iMac or a Macbook…). But for now, this is a great solution for me. And even if I do eventually get a more powerful computer, I can see this Chromebook having a regular place in my device rotation for travel and around-the-house use!