The Chromebook Pixel is a halo product for Google, designed to showcase what the Google OS can offer from start to finish, both from the best hardware finish down to web-connected software options. With a stunning touchscreen screen, premium material design, we review whether the Pixel a genuine alternative to Windows and Mac laptops...
The first sign the Chromebook Pixel is different is revealed upon unpacking. The white box packaging is sparsely branded, revealing the boxy slab of metal with an unusual aspect ratio of 3:2 inside. The Pixel is made of aluminum, presenting a handsome presentation and thoughtfully pleasant feeling in hand. I immediately noticed small details like the piano hinge engraved "Chrome", which offers a smooth open/close experience alongside the subtle branding, immediately making it known the laptop has higher aspirations beyond hitting price points and wide adoption.
Like all Chromebooks, the Pixel boots remarkably quick, with initial set-up as simple as logging into your Google account. Because I use Chrome pretty heavily on my MacBook Pro and other devices, I already had plenty of apps and data (e.g. bookmarks, contacts, etc) to migrate over to the Pixel. Thankfully your whole Google life is automatically populated from other devices and your Google profile onto the Pixel in an instant.
I'm not a regular touchscreen laptop user, so I had to remind myself I could use the punchy and pleasing 12.85" screen to navigate and interact with sites and services. With 4.3 million pixels populating the screen, the display is really is something to behold, rivaling the quality of my day-to-day machine, the Retina MacBook Pro. While I did not find many reasons to use the touchscreen outside of trying it with Google Maps navigation, the screen was responsive without lag.
The Chromebook was specifically designed to focus on the web browsing and web app experience, ditching the paradigm of locally stored and launched applications. While the focus may sound limiting, for many people a Chromebook can be a viable option beyond Windows or OS X machines, because almost all of the most majority of task-oriented applications are available via Google services. Email, social networks, presentations, word processing — a Chromebook can do all of these without the worry of viruses or the need for perpetual software updates, nor the costs related to them. A Chromebook updates itself, offering what feels like a maintenance-free experience, ideal as a secondary household browsing/work machine.
What makes the Pixel standout from competitive lower cost Chromebook alternatives like the Samsung Series 5 is the inclusion of its high pixel count touchscreen, a terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage free for 3 years, 12 free GoGo inflight wi-fi sessions, and possibly most importantly, a higher build quality unique to this Chromebook model.
What's so nice about the hardware? Well in addition to the usual port suspects of two USB 2.0 ports, a Mini Display port, and a 2-in-1 card reader, the keyboard and trackpad feel excellent. In my line of work I've tried and used an assortment of laptops, and outside of the keyboard and trackpad experience of Apple laptops, I haven't found one I love. The Pixel proves the exception, with typing on it a complete joy. The trackpad offers just the right amount of give with a solid feel while swiping and pressing. And with the quality comes its higher price: $1299.00 for the wi-fi edition and $1449.00 for the LTE connected version.
Is it worth paying $1299 for the Pixel when you can get a Chromebook for $199 and $249? That all depends on your needs. Everything you can do on the Pixel, with the exception of the touchscreen, you can do on the lower cost Chromebooks, and Google knows this. The Pixel is not the Chromebook for everyone, but Google's equivalent of a concept car, showcasing the best the platform has to offer. In many ways the Pixel is like Tesla Motors electric cars: beautifully crafted, high tech, priced accordingly. Is it pixel-perfect? No, but the Pixel is easily the best Chromebook laptop available today.
Pros: Excellent hardware, gorgeous high resolution screen, very good keyboard and trackpad, LTE connectivity is fast, the supreme Chromebook experience.
Cons: Price, not very loud speakers, power adapter falls out of laptop, still not yet a full laptop replacement for certain power users outside of the Google eco-system.
(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho)
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was provided by the manufacturer for testing and review purposes.