I went shopping for a laptop yesterday, with a fairly high budget and thoughts of a new MacBook, but came home with a $300 Toshiba Chromebook 2 instead. Now obviously a Chomebook gives up something to any Mac in terms of capability but my decision was possible because my laptop isn’t my primary workstation. That being said the new generation of Chromebooks represent a great value and a huge leap in quality over my first-gen Acer C720. With it’s elegant design and amazing display (IPS up to 2400×1350) most casual observers wouldn’t know that you weren’t using a Mac.
Like a lot of Chromebooks this is going to be a light-duty machine. I’ll use it for notes and email in meetings, streaming videos to my TV via Chromecast, and as Linux laptop for stuff. I used Linux on my Acer but options on that front are slowly improving. You still have to run in developer mode but thanks to Crouton I had Kali Linux (Sana/XFCE) up and running on the Toshiba in just a few minutes. And it seemed to work fine right out of the gate. In fact, I also tried Ubuntu Trusty KDE, Ubuntu Vivid Mate, and Kali 1.0 with decent results. Only Vivid presented any real difficulties. So the Toshiba is perfectly viable as an inexpensive Linux laptop.
However, you’re probably still wondering about the tile of this piece. How could a $300 Chromebook be a “decent MacBook” without some kind of next-level hackery? Well, Chrome Remote Desktop is the way – provided you have a Mac to remote in to. I use it extensively on all of my devices and I’m always amazed that more people haven’t discovered it. I’ve been known to spend an entire workday remoted into my Mac at work. Of course, this solution is not perfect but performance is reasonable – surprisingly good actually. You can get real work done. If there’s a killer app for the Chromebook, Chrome Remote Desktop is probably it.
I might be alone in this but what I’d really like is a 17″ version of this machine. The display is incredible but I wouldn’t want to spend an extended period of time working on a 13″ laptop. I tend to want my laptop to be either really small or gigantic and even a 15″ display isn’t the right compromise for me. Dreams of a massive Chromebook aside, I still have to say that at the end of the day the Toshiba does what it’s supposed to. It’s portable, powerful, and surprisingly elegant for a $300 laptop that (with a little tinkering) can do far more than is advertised. Oh, and let’s not forget – it saved me a thousand bucks.