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Summary:

My hopes for official Android support on the Chromebook Pixel are just that for now: Hopes. You can install and Android 4.2 on the Pixel, or most other laptops, however, without trashing your computer’s native operating system.

Android on Pixel
photo: Image credit: Brad Linder

When Google announced the Chromebook Pixel with high resolution touchscreen last week I noted that there was something missing. Namely, I think the device would greatly benefit from the ability to run Android apps, which are already touch-optimized. Sure you can navigate the web via touch — we do that with tablets and phones today — but I’m really not using the touchscreen for that on the Pixel unit I’m reviewing. Android app support would change that. However, it turns out you can run Android on the Pixel, or on practically any other device with an x86 chip inside.

The software solution is called Android-x86 and I actually used it in 2009. Back then, I installed Android 1.6 in all of its ugliness on an Intel Core Solo Ultra Mobile PC with 7-inch display. The touchscreen on that device didn’t work for Android and sadly, even with the new build of Android-x86, the Pixel’s touchscreen isn’t yet working either. Brad Linder over at his Liliputing site gave it a go on the Pixel to confirm.

Still, the touch capabilities could be implemented through updated driver support in the build, so I’ll be watching for further development. And I may give this a try anyway since the supported version of Android is 4.2 Jelly Bean. The difference between that and Android 1.6 is like the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette and the old Pinto we owned in the early 1970s, both in performance and looks.

To run Android 4.2 on a laptop, you don’t have to remove your current operating system. Instead, if your computer can boot from a USB stick, you can run a live CD, which boots into and runs Android directly from the USB device. When you’re done tinkering with Android on your laptop, you simply shut down, pull the USB key and reboot back into your native operating system.

  1. What this author forgot to tell you is that a very large percentage of the apps in the google play store will not run on this android x-86 implementation. Now, I ask you: what is the use of tinkering with android on a laptop if can not run its applications.

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    1. jm, do you mean because Android in this case is running on an x86 chip, not an ARM chip?

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  2. Yet another reason why I would want this device to be a convertible tablet/laptop, and not a static laptop.

    And, is this running Android as a “dual boot” or in a virtual layer on top of ChromeOS (sorta like what Crouton does for Ubuntu)?

    11″ Convertible Laptop/Tablet, ChromeOS, Virtual Android, Crouton for Ubuntu … in a device that’s close $1000. That would be interesting and compelling.

    ChromeOS for light web based every day activity. Android for games and recreational stuff. Ubuntu for “real work” (programming, shell level stuff, etc.).

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  3. dick-valentine Sunday, March 3, 2013

    Kevin,

    Have you used a gamepad with your Chromebook Pixel? If so, what controller did you use and what games worked?

    Thanks,

    Dick

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  4. lots of chromebooks have arm-processors, so android games should work perfectly with em

    im considering a chromebook (for mom) but the lack of android-apps is a really big killer of the idea.

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  5. Unfortunately the only information on android for chromebooks is for the x86 archs. What about the arm chromebook? This would be better as android apps are more commonly built for arm processors.

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    1. chromeshark Friday, May 24, 2013

      The ARM Chromebook doesn’t have a touch screen, but if they could make one with both that supports Android apps out of the box, maybe a hybrid tablet, that would surely be the ultimate Chrome OS device.

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