- Good battery life
- Dim, low-resolution display
- Subpar touchpad
- Poor speakers
Quick TakeThe Toshiba CB30-A3120 Chromebook is a good addition to the Chromebook family, offering a strong ChromeOS experience despite a poor screen and construction.
The Toshiba CB30-A3120 Chromebook is a 13-inch device designed for web browsing, productivity through Google’s apps and document services, and light media consumption. Like other Chromebooks, it doesn’t run Windows, instead using Google’s ChromeOS, which simply exists to run the Chrome web browser and its associated apps. This new Toshiba model is a few inches larger than the last Chromebook we reviewed (the Acer C720), but will the CB30-A3120 handle the Chrome experience with the same ease as Acer’s smaller model? Read on to find out.
The A3120 features a silvery-gray plastic body with a slightly textured top that is pleasing to the touch and is emblazoned with the Chrome and Toshiba logos. The smooth plastic around the screen, keyboard and bottom is not the most sturdy available, and pressing on the back of the screen and around the edges on the plastic causes noticeable screen rippling. Overall, the machine’s 3.3 lb body feels dense and well-balanced. The A3120 has two vents: one on the bottom in the center, and one at the rear of the machine left of the center. Together they keep the machine running cool overall, and are adequate at dissipating any heat that accrues through very strenuous use.
Ports and Connectivity
A limitation to keeping everything from applications to files in the cloud is that Chromebooks require an internet connection to access most of their functionality. The A3120 features 802.11 a/g/n Wi-Fi, but like others of its kind, does not feature a physical Ethernet port.
|Left: Lock Port, Power Adapter, Card Reader||Right: Headset Jack, 2x USB 3.0, HDMI output|
Due to only having two USB 3.0 ports (located on the right side of the device), an Ethernet-to-USB dongle is not a very practical option for use, so users should ensure that their Wi-Fi coverage in areas they will be using the device is consistent. Bluetooth 4.0 allows users to connect external mice, keyboards and other accessories wirelessly and without using a USB port, though it does reduce battery life considerably. The device also includes an SD card reader, a full HDMI output, and a PC lock port.
Software and Operating System
As we’ve written about in past Chromebook reviews, ChromeOS, which is the defining feature of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes can only run Google’s Chrome browser and associated apps & extensions. Any apps that are downloaded through a synced Google Account can be accessed from all other computers (both PC and ChromeOS) that have Chrome installed and the account logged in, so once users download an app, it is always available for their Chrome experience.
PC executables such as Microsoft Office and Skype cannot be installed on a Chromebook, though apps such as Google Drive and Google Hangouts can mitigate these shortcomings fine for users who enjoy the Googleverse. The simplicity and linked nature of these services and programs also mean that ChromeOS is a good introductory system for children and students to use.
If ChromeOS works for you, it works great on this machine. If it’s not for you due to application needs, this may not be the machine to pick.
This Chromebook comes with 2 years of 100 GB additional Google Drive storage to supplement the 16 GB SSD. Google encourages the use of its cloud service further by not having small images or documents created in Google Docs take up any of that space. This 100 GB of Drive space is linked to the Google account you sign up for it with, and is available via any device that you access Google Drive on. Additional cloud storage is available at competitive rates from Google, with 100 GB only costing $1.99/month after the initial 2 years runs out.
Display and Sound
The A3120’s 1366×768 TruBrite display features very good side viewing angles, however it is very dim. The resolution is not excellent, and blacks are not very deep or rich. It functions fine for document editing, YouTube videos and other similar tasks, but is definitely not the best screen on the market. The Acer C720 looked much sharper even though it featured the same resolution screen, due to a higher pixel density on its 11-inch model.
The stereo speakers on the A3120 are fairly loud, but get tinny at high volumes, and are a bit flat at low volumes. The speakers can be used to fill a small room, though with the poor audio quality, we’re not sure we’d ever want to. Classical and metal tracks sounded a bit distorted and flat at mid to high volumes, and even movie dialogue lacked much distinction. However, with the low, low price, that’s to be expected.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The black, flat-topped chiclet-style “Chrome keyboard” features dedicated browser buttons (Back, Forward, Refresh, Search) and the Google Search key, which also can search the Google Chrome Marketplace for apps, and can search the Chromebook for files saved to the SSD. There are also full-screen and window-tile buttons, alongside the typical brightness and volume keys. The key travel is a bit shallow, but it still has decent tactile feedback when a key is pressed.
A negative feature we found irksome on the keyboard was that each arrow key is only ½ the hight of the other keys; this made moving around a page with the left and right ones a bit more awkward and cumbersome than on a keyboard that has full-size left and right arrow keys. As well, there was a bit too large of a gap between the power button and the keyboard casing surrounding it (as evidenced by us being able to see the power indicator light shine through from the edges). This could lead to dust or other particulate matter getting inside the machine, which cannot be opened without voiding the warranty.
The plastic trackpad on the A3120 is a very floppy, clackety piece of hardware. Even lightly pressing on the edges causes it to visibly bend a bit, and pressing at one corner of the trackpad causes the opposite end to raise a bit. Overall it feels very flimsy, and is our guess for the first piece of the machine to break or be damaged through normal use. The curved corners of the trackpad closest to the keyboard are aesthetically pleasing, but ultimately result in wasted space.