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Naysayers be damned: Why I bought a Chromebook Pixel

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Perception is a funny thing: Nearly every Google Chromebook Pixel review says the device is great, but it’s not for you. So is it not great or is it only great for certain people? Starting at $1,299, it’s certainly not cheap, but it’s not priced that differently from similar hardware; in fact its less expensive than laptops with comparable displays. The real issue seems to be that people aren’t ready for the web as a primary interface. I am – I have been for some time, actually — and after using a loaner Chromebook Pixel full-time for several weeks, I ordered my own.

The hardware is outstanding

The hardware is on par with, if not better than, the MacBook Air(s aapl) I owned prior. The design is industrial and pleasing with no extras to take away from the look and feel; no cooling vents are visible, for example. Just a few ports adorn the sides: a pair of USBs, a mini DisplayPort and a microSD card slot. The speakers are hidden under the keyboard and are among they best I’ve heard on a laptop. At 3.35 pounds, the Pixel is near the top end of weight that I’d want to carry around, but I don’t find it too heavy.

Chromebook Pixel keyboardGoogle did a great job with the keyboard and, in particular, the trackpad. The island keys are well laid out and this device is a joy to type on. The top row of special keys — Refresh, Full Screen, volume and brightness, for example — are harder to press, making them more like buttons, but that helps mitigate accidental key strikes. The etched glass trackpad is superb and supports multitouch gestures, such as two-fingered scrolling.

Then there’s the bright, pixel-packed screen that I can’t take my eyes off. Yes, the 2560 x 1700 resolution is similar to the Retina Displays found on Apple’s latest MacBook Pro laptops, but it just looks better to my eyes. I can’t be sure if it’s the default fonts, the way Chrome OS handles resolution doubling or what. I’ve made several side by side comparisons to my wife’s 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop with Retina Display and in every test, the Pixel simply looks better to me.

The Pixel’s display is also a touch screen although I don’t find myself using touch for interaction all that much. On occasional, I’ll dab at the screen to tap a button or a link, or to scroll a web page, but not often. I wish Google had introduced a non-touchscreen version for maybe $200 less as there’s little need for the feature at this time. That could change if Google brings support for touch-optimized Android apps, however.

Performance-wise, the device offers the fastest experience on the web I’ve seen yet. The 1.8 GHz Intel(s intc) Core i5 processor paired with 4 GB of memory easily keep up with my all day usage requirements. The device boots in seconds and wakes instantaneously: You simply open it and get to work. The HD camera is outstanding for video chats. I do wish the 59 wHr battery lasted longer than 5 hours, however.

Let’s talk software and limitations

First, some clarification on the Chromebook Pixel can and can’t do since the most common misconception is that “it’s just a browser.” Yes, the Pixel runs Chrome OS, which uses the Chrome browser as its main interface. But that browser runs on a Linux kernel and that gives Google some opportunity to flesh out the experience a little more.

There’s a full-fledged File Manager that integrates local and cloud storage for example, as well as a standalone music player and video player; these all work offline. A basic photo editor is included. There’s support for Google Docs, which also works offline. There’s a Camera app for taking pictures, although I haven’t seen much use for it. Essentially, the basics of an operating system are  here and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Chromebook PixelIn fact, I’d argue that less is more in this case: I’m far more focused when using the Pixel then when using a device with various third-party applications. It’s the same reason we opted not to get a navigation system in our Chevy Volt(s gm) when we bought it in November: It was adding more buttons and complications that we simply didn’t want or need on our drive.

It’s true you can’t install native software apps on the Pixel. Is that a problem? For two reasons it isn’t, at least not for me. First, all of my work is done in a browser: Research, blog posts, online classes, social networking, email, and general content consumption. I’ve had no problems doing what I want on the Pixel, which includes watching online video from Amazon(s amzn) and Netflix(s nflx), enjoying live out-of-market NHL games, writing dozens of articles, etc….

For the few times I’ve wanted to play a game that wasn’t web-based, I simply turned to a device I already have (and one you likely do too): a smartphone or a tablet. I’m getting my app fix from those devices now and using the Pixel for everything else.

Second, it’s easy to install another operating system on the Pixel. Using a simple set of instructions made available by David Schneider at Google, I run Linux as needed on the Pixel; at the same time I’m running Chrome OS!

From an end-user perspective, this is little different than running Windows(s msft) in a virtual machine on a Mac; and it’s actually faster to set up. This allows me to install third-party apps as needed: Skype, Audacity, Gimp or whatever else that can’t be done on the web.

Can you live a web-based life?

Chances are that most of you already live in a browser too but there are still a few activities where you prefer a third-party app. But living the web life isn’t as bad as it sounds; in fact, it’s a far better experience than it was in the past. Back in 2008, I took a 60-day web challenge, bypassing all third-party apps (save the browser) and living to tell about it. In fact, I found it actually fun to find web-based solutions for my various needs and still do.

ClearlyThat’s where Chrome web extensions come in today. I routinely use several on a daily basis as these mini-apps help overcome some browser limitations. The Any.DO extension manages and syncs my active tasks, a Pocket extension fires links to my offline reading list and Evernote’s Clearly extension removes the crap from a web page to let the content shine through. Extensions are only the beginning, however. Google is working on Native Client, an effort that will allow native code to run in the browser, as well as Packaged Apps, which it describes as:

“Just like web apps, packaged apps are written in HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. But packaged apps look and behave like native apps, and they have native-like capabilities that are much more powerful than those available to web apps.”

It’s true that a future filled with apps using either of technologies is just that for now: A possible future. So the best way to see if you can live with just the web is simply to try it. Use your existing computer with just the browser for a week and find out. I think one needs to give it at least that much time because this isn’t a transition most can make in just a day. If it doesn’t work out, you’re no worse for wear, but if it does, maybe a Chromebook could meet your needs.

So: Wi-Fi or LTE?

After test driving the LTE model of the Chromebook Pixel, I opted to spend the extra $150 for that model. Instead of paying $1,299 for the Wi-Fi edition then, I ordered the $1,449 Pixel. The premium nets the integrated LTE radio, 100 MB of included LTE service each month with the option for pay-as-you-go broadband as needed, and 64 GB of local storage, which is double that of the cheaper model. Both devices benefit from 1 terabyte of Google Drive storage for three years and 12 free GoGo in-flight sessions.

Pixel LTE VerizonThe LTE radio can sometimes take a good 15 seconds to grab a Verizon (s vz)(s vod) signal — particularly when waking the device — but overall, having integrated connectivity for the times when Wi-Fi can’t be found is worth it to me. My LTE smartphone uses AT&T’s network and can be a hotspot, so I essentially have three ways to keep the Pixel connected: Wi-Fi hotspots, AT&T’s(s t) LTE network from my phone (which is already paid for each month) and Verizon’s LTE network as a last resort add-on.

Without a doubt, $1,449 is a seemingly high price to pay. I’ve been using a $450 Chromebook for nearly a year so the question in my mind is: Does the Pixel represent a 3x boost in experience over my lower priced Chromebook? For me it does: It’s at least 3x as fast, includes mobile broadband connectivity, comes with 10 times the cloud storage and has a screen that looks magnitudes better.

It’s all about the future and change

When I think about the Pixel, I can’t help but be reminded of a key GigaOM mantra. “Broadband is the processor,” is one of the big themes my colleague Om Malik had when starting the blog back in 2006. Indeed, if it weren’t for broadband — first wired and later wireless — we wouldn’t have the portable computing products that are so popular and in widespread use today.

No platform I can think of exemplifies this thought any better: Using web technologies as a front-end interface is the heart and soul of Google’s Chromebook Pixel. And because I’ve embraced this thought, and the experience it brings, the Chromebook Pixel with LTE is the best device for how I work. It’s not for everyone – I’d never say otherwise — but it just might surprise you if you take one for a test drive.

86 Responses to “Naysayers be damned: Why I bought a Chromebook Pixel”

  1. Minn Tun

    A little love for the Pixel, please:

    Piano hinge
    A piano hinge not only makes it possible to open and close Pixel with a single finger, it’s also engineered to augment the range of the Wi-Fi antennas and act as a heatsink to help keep the machine cool.

    Glass touchpad
    The feel and precision of a touchpad is one of the first things you notice about a laptop. Pixel’s is made from etched glass, analyzed and honed using a laser microscope for exceptional smoothness and accuracy.

    Backlit keyboard
    Backlights in the screen and keyboard respond to both the room’s ambient lighting and how Pixel is being used. For example, when watching a full-screen video, the keyboard automatically dims to an appropriate level.

    The best connectivity
    Pixel has an industry-leading WiFi range thanks to two precisely positioned antennas and dual-band support. With LTE engineered directly into the machine, mobile download speeds can reach up to 100Mbps (LTE model optional).

    Powerful speakers
    Powerful, high quality speakers are hidden beneath the keyboard to preserve the sleek, machined aluminum design. A custom digital signal processing engine helps tune the speakers for clarity, ensuring that they deliver lifelike audio.

    Microphone array
    The two microphones hidden at the top of your screen work together to form a beam that cancels out the noise around you. A third microphone beneath the keyboard cancels out any typing sound as well.

    High resolution touchscreen
    The 12.85″ IPS display has the highest pixel density of any laptop. A layer of 0.55mm glass is fused directly to the screen, preserving the highest picture clarity, rich color, and 178° viewing angles.

  2. Laqiureil

    Hopefully Google will abandon the desktop UI with the merge ChromeOS & Android. Once MS goes full metro I imagine that Mac & Linux will follow suit with something of their own. It’s strange to see Google start ChromeOS down this path considering the days of the Windowed-based UI’s are coming to an end.

  3. Bejezzus

    Very good review. I really feel like the key is apps support. Although like most vendors Google Apps work great on the Chromebook, the integration with Enterprise and Graphic apps will keep people away for a while. I like my Chromebooks and they work well for my family, but they are HORRIBLE for my work environment. No WebEx, Citrix or GoToMeeting. No Lync or LiveMeeting support. No Citrix softphone. Excel spreadsheets don’t render correctly in Office Web Apps. My Remedy web client generates errors. You get the point.

    The answer that most of the community says is to get new Web Apps, but for my office it will be years before we max out the ROI on these apps. The other answer is to RDP into a Windows or Mac machine but we have no Macs and block RDP.

    So for me its a contradiction. It works great for home and personal use, but not so good for work.

    We’ll see if that changes. But for now I’ll stick with my S550 and keep my $1500.

  4. It is a nice artcile.
    But one most important thing missing is that it limits your choice of the browser.
    On Windows m/c or Macs you have a choice of using Chrome, Firefox, Safari/IR or any
    other browser.
    On Chromebook you are stuck with Chrome.

    One can live on web but you do not need to limit yourself to Chrome.
    So even if you want to live on a web, Windows machine or Mac is a better choice.

    if you want to write a review about some features in Firefox you can not do that.
    May be tomorrow some one launches an excellent browser you can not test it
    on Chromebook.
    Either you need another machine or you need to install another OS.

    In short Chromebook is trying to lock a user in using Chrome and limits user choice.

    Generally I’ve seen your article talking about user choices but lately I’ve seen that
    when you talk about something related to Google you ignore this aspect.

    Please continue writing in favour of secure user choices.

  5. Derik Perry

    NIce job Kevin in explaining the virtues of the Pixel and the ease of running Linux on it. I’ve recently run into some problems with the Samsung Chromebook that it freezes and reboots intermittently. These haben’t been resolved by resetting the device, or reinstalling Chrome OS. Tell me, any hints of those problems with the Pixel? Also glad to hear your driving a Volt now. I love mine and think its a great ride for around town (and the occasional long haul).

  6. Loved this review and I agree with you. I have the Samsung Chromebook and live on it. It does exactly what I want it to do because I work in the cloud. Being an art student I do use Photoshop but that’s available at Uni and I can boot up my desktop. I have begun to use some apps like Pixel Editor because I do basic editing. I’d definitely look to buying a Pixel because it does what I want, but even better. I’d love to have the i5 over the Exynos and I’d love a high res screen too.

    My Chromebook works perfectly, so it makes sense that there’s a high-end model for people with the money.

  7. jaytee shen

    Wonderful and unbiased review as always Kevin.

    It does seem that there are a few, so called “naysayers” in the comment section. I’d like to contribute a few pieces of thoughts.

    1. Chromebook is .. on a whole, from public opinion getting a negative press (except from a few tech blogs), is in my opinion, due to Google’s lack of marketing and branding. Admittedly, marketing and branding certainly isn’t Google’s strong suit, compared to the likes of Apple or Samsung. Google’s Chrome browser is a massive success, so when labelling a laptop as Chrome Book, automatically make people, especially people who have never played with one, think it is a laptop that is a browser and *absolutely nothing else*. Yes Chrome browser is the main and majority part of the laptop, but the user experience at the beginning is quite similar to that for Windows or Mac OS -> there is a desktop, there is a task bar, you can have some apps put on desktop or task bar, and you can have files (i can only attest to Google doc files) on the desktop. Even though this is may be the only similarity with the two aforementioned operating systems, I believe it makes a difference. By closely associating this line of laptop with a browser, most people will think: “oh i turn on a computer, I’m going to see a webpage with a search bar, can’t put my file on desktop, have to go through web to retrieve it”. If Google doesn’t want to market this product or this line product heavily fine, that’s their tradition, but perhaps the name can be changed to “NexusBook”? So not to give people the false impression that the Chrome browser is the *only trick* this laptop can do?
    2. My view on the price vs value is this. Chromebook is definitely a step in the right direction-> cloud, connected-ness, top notch hardware, and however limited it may be at the moment, whatever software it provided is top-notch (ie. smooth, functional and pleasing UI). Our mindset and what we considered good value is limited by our surroundings and experiences. Before iPhone came out, no one knew that capacitive touch panels can be used for an entire display (it was mostly used for buttons on electronics), and people were saying the same thing -> “Why would I pay $4 Bill of Material for a panel, when there are already touch panels (resistive) that only costs me $0.5” But as technology evoked and we now know the two panels are indeed different, and people(both manufactures and end customers) would be gladly paying the extra money for a capacitive panel. When the first iPhone came out, you remember how much it was? $499 on a two year contract. People laughed it off, because there are phones that are half the price that could go on internet (sort of, but people didn’t know at the time what does full internet on a smartphone mean, again, shaped by our experiences and surroundings). Now $600 end price is the norm for smartphone, and people are more than glad to pay for that. (may be except you Yankees when phones are subsidized :p). Now I do hope the $1200 price will drop as more people pick up more connected-devices and the value of a cloud-only laptop would increase in that sense. But for the very first premium Chromebook, it is in every sense a step in the right direction, in concept, software and hardware.

  8. Ram Kanda

    The reason why all the reviews have been saying the same thing is because it’s the truth. Great machine, but does far too little to be worth the cost. I don’t see any reasonable argument presented that makes that statement untrue. It does less than a tablet for 3x the price. Put a keyboard cover on an iPad and you have the same typing functionality, retina touch display, web browsing, access to Google’s iOS apps, plus the entirety of the app store (which the pixel does not have). For far less money. And no one has ever had an issue with the iPad’s build quality or battery life. Or you could spend about the same amount and use a Macbook Air. Heck, if you want you could turn on parental controls and lock all those “distracting features” away from yourself until you want to use powerful desktop software or in a plane when you’re away from an internet connection.

    There’s a tad too much rationalizing in this article that smells like a contrarian viewpoint to either simply be contrarian or defend an overpriced machine on behalf of users who would usually accuse Apple of creating overpriced machines. A smartphone that did this little would be crucified, but you’re accepting this in a laptop at four times the price.

  9. As an IT professional I spend time every day in five or six different operating systems, flavors of UNIX and Linux, Windows, Mac OS (I have an older MacBook), Android on my smart phone, and Chrome OS on my Cr-48 which I was fortunate enough to receive from Google. When I boil down everything I do in a day, with the exception of my UNIX/Linux work, I could do everything on my Chromebook (as long as I can connect it to the corporate network when I have to do that job thing). I know the merging of tablets and laptops is inevitable. My 3 year old doesn’t understand why my Chromebook doesn’t have touch screen but my wife’s iPad does. So to her the world will always be touch screen and in the not too distant future voice input. All of these technologies are so close to being perfected to the point it makes sense to use them as primary input methods. I would say the Pixel is Bleeding edge. I always wait until Leading edge. I don’t make enough to be an early adopter of things. Right now it would be hard for me to justify the Pixel (though I am extremely fascinated by it). Once the merging of Android and Chrome OS kicks into high gear and the touch screen capabilities are put to full use, then that will be the jump on point where it would be easier to justify it. The screen is amazing and I run through the possibilities of what I would/could do with it. Like Microsoft attempted to do with Surface, making something that pushes the envelope so people will open their mind about the possibilities, the Google Pixel is the same way. Thank you for being an earlier adopter of this as you blaze a trail that will eventually pay dividends when its price point and features make it easier to ask my wife, honey, can I have one of those?

    Roy Richardson
    [email protected]

  10. Nice informative review / demo. Thx, and sorry you bought it.

    My conclusion that this is no premium product – even a total IT geek wouldn’t spend the money for this type of experience. PC’s and Apple have already sewn up low cost and premium solutions that do way more than this machine.

    Google is wasting time and money getting into the hardware business. The user experience vis a vis price isn’t there – looks like a belly-flop to me.

    They should stick to search, and get that right. This is a case of a company with too much money, wasting it on products that have microscopic markets. Google has totally lost focus as a company.

  11. robert burch

    i was a tablet pc fanboy at the time (still would be probably) and was willing to pay these prices for those kind of laptops. if it had something like a swiveling touch screen i’d at least be intrigued, but from this laptop to my checkbook is a bridge too far. heck, this is mac price range and until i hear about some mac people making the permanent switch to chromebooks this really doesn’t register on my radar (and i don’t own a mac).

  12. Mike Brown

    The review provided some good points, but the Chromebook Pixel still remains to be a niche device. 1TB of storage is great, but when that 3 years gets closer to an end I will sense my data being from hosted to hostage because 1TB is not cheap. The true premium is the display. If you want the most gorgeous display possible and live in the browser look no further than the chrome pixel. Personally I think the 13″ retina Pro or even an Air is a better value. Stil great displays with a cohesiveness with it’s 3 party apps along with performance that is unmatched, plus if you want to live mostly in a cloud, that option it there rather than taken away.

  13. Finally, a review that is more to the point! I also found that I do 99% on the web. From streaming video to doing my taxes. The only time I use my Windows laptop is to rip a CD.
    I too bought a pixel since I’ve been using my chromebook 550 all the time. :-)

  14. Lancelot

    I couldn’t agree more & I went all Google due to my last 2 MBP’s needed major service no less than 5 times. I’m happy as can be & haven’t looked back even once. I total agree that like the last stage coach builder who hated the advent of the model A apples lovers will also eventually embrace the cloud & the benefits of an uncluddered os. Even the very closed minded will eventually be forced to reevaluate their chooses.

  15. Great review! I bought the Chromebook Pixel WiFi and have been very happy with my purchase. So many reviews keep saying the hardware is never pushed by the software, but I don’t really think that is the point. I sold my other computer and various other electronic devices so I could buy the Pixel, and I do not miss my “traditional” laptop. I haven’t side-loaded Ubuntu yet, time will tell if I need something that the Chrome OS doesn’t provide for me.

    You make a good point in saying it would be nice if there were a non-touchscreen version available. I actually turned off the touchscreen since I have no intention or desire to touch the screen. Other than that, my biggest complaint is battery life. I think turning off the touchscreen has saved me battery life, but a premium, portable machine should have at least 6 hours of juice.

  16. Armando Ferreira

    I have to agree with Simon Cohen. It’s no so much about what you “need” as much as what you can “do”. At the end of the day you are still limited despite you saying “I will never need it”. There can be a time where you could be in a situation and wished you had all the features of a full fledged notebook.

    Not sure what you mean by “having a full desktop OS complicates the system” You turn it ON just like the pixel and you can have shortcuts that go to your GMail, Drive, etc just like the Pixel. If your not going to install anything else I don’t see how it “complicates”

    In regards to “adds more potential maintenance and uses the hardware in ways I don’t need.” Now a days Operating Systems are as maintenance free. Heck, I don’t remember the last time I did any “maintenance” on my 2007 desktop running Win7 and runs like a dream.

    If anything, the biggest reason to stay away from the Pixel is the horrible resale value it has. When Google release a much better Pixel2 next year you would be lucky to get $600.00 for first GEN. Where is if I bought a Macbook Pro or Air even with a New generation coming out I would probably lose $200 $300 should I decide to upgrade.

    • Lancelot

      Two quick points
      1. Just because your win7 runs fine doesn’t mean it couldn’t use a serious deep cleaning & the bios updated.
      2. Obviously you’ve never attempted to sell your used Mac. As someone who’s sold several I’d suggest you get ready to lose 50%, even more if it doesn’t include the 3 yr warranty. Don’t forget that apple sells refurbs at quite a good discount so your $300 number doesn’t hold water. I know of no product, except gold, that will ever hold that kind of value.

  17. TheSilverKnight

    When I bought my first laptop in 2011, I opted for a traditional laptop with an optical disk drive. I thought at the time I’d still need it to play games and install software. I think 2012 was really the year that changed that paradigm. I suspect something will happen like that with the web. People, probably without realizing it, will use the browser almost exclusively. In 2011 I wouldn’t have wanted a Chromebook. 2013, I’m confident I could use Chrome OS and have little to no problems. The concept truly came a little ahead of its time.

  18. Minn Tun

    Great review Kevin. For me, it’s about the joy factor of using it. Someone could have a top-of-the-line MacBook or Ultrabook, but if they don’t enjoy using it, what’s the point?

    Excellent display, fast boot, great sound, incredible trackpad and keyboard, virus protection, LTE radio, handsome design, touchscreen, plus cloud storage……..I’m sold.

  19. I’m with you, Pixel brother! I’ve got the wifi version – now accompanied by 4g mifi – and love it. Build quality is awesome, screen is stunning, and it’s just great to use. Am finding that there’s little that I can’t do; and when Quickoffice arrives for Chrome OS then it’ll be complete. I love the speed of start-up and shut-down – so refreshing after using Microsoft machines. And overall speed is blazing. I actively don’t want to use software on my machine, and do pretty much everything online already. With the offline capabilities that the Pixel does have then if you are offline then you can get stuff done (and a growing amount of stuff at that). So here’s to the future. Suck it up naysayers. From a convert.

  20. Aaron Berlin

    Enjoyed the review, Kevin. I’ve gotten pretty tired of seeing essentially the same review for the Pixel pop up in my stream again and again (“amazing piece of kit; too expensive for what it can do”) and it’s nice to see someone with what I think is the more forward-looking perspective about the power of the web. For me, there are unfortunately some third-party applications I need to do work (what’s really a shame is that if Citrix would give me GoToMyPC support on the Chromebook, this problem would basically go away instantly). For play, if I had a reliable way to get top-shelf PC games running on a Chromebook (say, streaming from a Steambox located somewhere in my house?), it would be an even more intriguing proposition. I realize that, with a little hackery, both of these issues could be solved in Ubuntu (with a little time on the command line and a little WINE), but I can’t see myself shelling out $1500 to rely (either for work or play) on a hack that Google could break at any time. I think we’re nearly there, but just not quite!

    • John Nevill

      I thought Steam had a native Linux version now? Shouldn’t it be a snap to run it in Ubuntu? I would think that the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics would be the biggest stumbling block. Even pumped up to suck up as much RAM as you can feed it, integrated graphics are going to make your framerate suffer. :(

  21. Riël Notermans

    How little it does. How little it does. How little it does.

    First of all, it’s about getting things done. And on my Chromebox I am far more productive in the long run. It is much more stable, less distracting, a LOT faster in booting, has NO maintenance. It is so worry-free, it makes the difference at that point.

    The last part is a real kicker, especially in enterprise usage. Once you see the advantages of this rockstable system, that adds more as a plus, then the lack of native applications (which you don’t ever need) add less.

    And Joe, your choice is the internet as a platform. And, you indeed don’t get it. Use it for few months. You’ll get it, if you are open for it.

    • What you describe is any device. No maintenance, quick to boot. The internet is my platform, just that I’m not restricted to Google’s version of it.

      What’s the real difference between an app downloaded from an app store that’s written using HTML5/JS, maybe using PhoneGap or some framework – and a Chrome Plugin with offline capabilities. There’s no technical difference – the rest is just marketing and SEO opportunities.

  22. I’m sorry, I don’t get it.

    When you say ‘cloud only’, you really mean ‘browser only’. You can be ‘cloud only’ today on any Android, iOS or Win8 device. I only use local storage for offline access – my clouds are GitHub, SkyDrive, DropBox, iCloud and Amazon.

    In fact, even ‘browser only’ is a fallacy. A lot of the apps that I use are written in HTML/JS, they’re just downloaded through an app store, cached and available offline. There’s really not that much difference between a PhoneGap written app in the appstore and a Chrome Plugin. Even Windows 8 has a first class HTML5/JavaScript API to build apps with.

    The only thing you really get with a ChromeBook is the restriction of choice. Not sure why anybody would pay a premium for less choice. So unless you want to stop yourself being tempted by other clouds, I really don’t get it.

  23. Another well-reasoned, balanced, and informative review, Kevin.

    Like you, I’ve been frustrated by the plethora of reviews saying “It’s such a great device, but don’t buy it.” To me, these reviews have missed the fact that the Pixel represents a different perspective on computing. This perspective isn’t a good fit for all users, especially those who are remain tied (due to work restrictions or personal preferences) to the traditional operating system model. But for other users, like you and I apparently, it fits quite well and offers distinct advantages.

    I sold my 2012 Macbook Air (upgraded to 8gb ram) to buy a Pixel. I had no real “problems” with my Air – it’s a well-built, reliable machine. But my cloud-based workflow made it so that I rarely used native OSX programs. Further, OSX’s extra capabilities (for which I had no need anyway) brought some downsides: slower wakes, greater system resource needs, required software updates, and just more things to manage generally. As a Chrome user, I also saw occasional freezes and crashes that served as a continual reminder of the lack of full integration between browser and OS.

    The Pixel serves 99% of my computing needs while providing advantages that my Air simply could not. Simply put, they are different species of computer. Yet they offer similar hardware quality which “justifies” their high price tags. Granted, both are quite expensive, but there is clearly a strong market for high-end hardware that can’t simply be dismissed as an Apple cult thing. I for one appreciate a machine that is well built, looks nice, and is comfortable to use. I also like being able to factory reset the machine occasionally, or even switch machines, and have everything back where I need it in minutes.

    For most web-based tasks, my Pixel is faster than my Air. I also appreciate the consistent, fast, and seamless update process that comes with Chrome OS. The screen, speakers, keyboard, and trackpad are excellent. My only real gripe is battery life. But until real next-gen battery technology is introduced, we’re going to continue to struggle with the balance between display quality and overall size.

    To the trolls out there who comment on articles like this without ever having seen a Pixel in real life – don’t knock it til you try it. (I’m looking at you, “realjjj”)

    • Ryan Gunn

      ‘Next-Gen batteries’ were introduced by MIT 8 years ago, and Motorola immediately negotiated an exclusive contract, with which they did nothing. I think they’ve started using them in the Razor Maxx, based on the what, 30 hr talk time? The battery MIT designed has 10x the storage capacity of the standard battery used today. I remember all the talk, 60 hr laptop batteries, 2 month cell phone stand by time. Everyone was all excited that Motorola was going to be putting out game changing devices… And then, nothing.

      • I agree. Stories about battery breakthroughs pop up now and then, but the tech never seem to make it to market – at least not as promised. I don’t know if it’s a scalability or cost thing, or if the stories are just overblown in the first place.

        Regardless, it’s my only real problems with the Pixel. I’d estimate my Air consistently got 90-120 more run time for the same workload. The difference screen quality makes up for the loss in my opinion, but it’s still unfortunate.


      OK, I get it Pixel is the shiny new platform I can respect that. I thought about it but it’s too heavy for me. If it were thinner and lighter I’d switch. I already have a heavy laptop for when I need real processing power it’s a 15″ MacBook Pro

      You can’t upgrade memory on a 2012 MacBook Air

      If you are having slow wakes your doing it wrong

      I haven’t turned off my macs even when I was rocking the power processors

      They have always been instant on and zero maintenance

      You could try taking your own advice. From your post it’s very clear you never owned
      a MacBook Air

      • You can’t upgrade ram on a 2012 Macbook Air? Try selecting a 13″ from the Apple website, it’s the first configuration option.

        I was “doing it wrong” by opening the lid to wake the device? That’s funny.

        And while Macs are certainly lower maintenance than PC’s, they still require periodic updates to both the OS and installed programs. There’s a reason why it’s a selling point for Chrome OS.

        Cool post, bro.

        • YourePathetic

          Boo fucking hoo, deal with the rare occasional update which takes less than a minute and runs in the background. Jesus Christ what is this world coming to?

  24. I’m slowly moving over to living a completely browser-based life. I have a Chromebook myself but it has served little use. The keyboard is odd for me and the touchpad is not my best friend. Being a Windows user, I’m always awkward about not really having a right click option (or an awkward shortcut). Personal problems. I actually paid $150 for my Chromebook and it feels like it’s a bit too much. The Chromebook comes in handy big time in a pinch, but the battery life and its inability to hold the same type of information my regular laptop does doesn’t make up the price completely.

    I love the review, and you definitely make it clear that the Pixel is for people who have adapted to make the web their personal hotspot. My only concerns are having a constant internet access for a reasonable price. Being all web-based is phenomenal in some cases, such as being able to access the information anywhere, but at the same time I enjoy the third-party app ability to have content I don’t necessarily trust in the hands of others. Privacy’s out the window just by being online, but my concern is mostly just my information being safe via existence.

    If my terabyte hard drive fails, that’s my fault completely and all I can do is blame my carelessness for not making sure the hard drive is in working order. But if my data in the cloud fails, is that server corruption and can the blame be placed on the company when its the only option you have on such devices? Allowing others to handle the information both improves security and at the same time ups the risk of losing that security. It’s the only reason I won’t put all my stock into keeping my documentation in a web-based notepad or otherwise. I’m just one person throwing their information into the cloud, a cloud being used by millions of people. My information lost is a huge concern to me, but pretty small compared to the cloud, especially if its not happening to others and is just assumed to be user error or an ‘accident’.

    I love where Google is going with this, and I cheer for them all the way. But I think that by at least offering the ability to have third-party based programs (or hell, Google can make the programs standard just like Mac and Windows do exclusively for their PC), it gives a little extra ‘padding’ in keeping information safe both online and offline, as well as accessible. It’d be really nifty if Google managed to pull off a similar Android feature of allowing a hotspot to be generated from the Chromebooks themselves just like our phones. Wouldn’t that be fun.

  25. All the naysayers aren’t a fan of the Chromebook Pixel not because it doesn’t do what it is supposed to do well, but for $1300 dollars, it seems surely excessive for the little it does.

    Granted there is a huge difference between the original Chromebooks and the Chromebook Pixel but is that difference worth paying nearly 1000 more for a machine that is overspecced to do basic web/cloud-based applications?

    Personally it seems more practical to simply just get a nice MBA or a nice Windows ultrabook that is specced similarly but also has the functionality to run other items as well. Obviously everyone has their own uses for their laptops but the Pixel seems a bit excessive.

    • Karl Maria Fattig

      Personally, it seems impractical to me to get anything if you’re not going to use it. Not only impractical, but wasteful. Why would you buy something you’re not going to use? Furthermore, why would you saddle yourself with OS upgrades, security patches, third-party software installation, if you don’t need to? Doesn’t seem “practical” to me.

  26. Very good piece. I’ve been hoping for something like the Pixel for a long time. As a writer, my main desires in a laptop are: quality keyboard, quality trackpad, quality display. For writing I like a minimal set up and access to the internet for research. Google products and other web apps are good enough for me. In fact, Chrome is all I’ve been using for months now. I’ve ordered a Pixel to replace my Mac Air, mainly because of the superior display.

  27. realjjj

    This only shows that you have too much money and you are using them unwisely.
    A reasonable person wouldn’t pay half that for the hardware (the software is not a factor,it’s free).
    You don’t even have the excuse of not knowing any better , just wasting your money and bragging about it.
    Childish and out of touch , i hope that sometimes soon you’ll starve for a week or two,maybe learn something.

    • Congrats, you know me so well, gleaning your “wisdom” from a single post. *sigh* In this life, I’ve begged for money, lived in a train station for days, was kicked out of college and had to work my way back through, and worked 2 or 3 jobs at the same time when things were tough. Shame on you for even thinking about the comments you made without really knowing me, and worse yet for saying them publicly.

      • I really like your insight and views of ChromeOS Kevin. Please keep up the good work and supplying us with new information on it :)

        ChromeOS seems like it will be a good part of the future and needs to get more mainstream attention from reviewers such as yourself.

        If my computer died today you better believe I’d be running straight over to BestBuy to purchase a $249 Chromebook. Only reason I don’t have one right now is because I currently have a old, still working laptop so I can’t justify spending the money yet.

      • Aw, don’t let the haters get you down Kevin! I was teetering on getting the LTE version, but cancelled it because I had all these bills come due (I owed $5000 in taxes, I need a desktop computer, my guitar is broken and needs to get fixed.) So I cancelled it. But maybe in the summer time, I will pick one up when my funds get back. Plus, I have a lenovo thinkpad for work already. I also might try ebay when a few go on sale after the LTE version comes out. There are always people that realize it wasn’t for them after all.

      • FesterNScab

        Yeah that was pretty lame. But the point is, the Chromebook will not work for most people who rely on their computers to do tasks such as Word Processing, Databases, Spreadsheets, etc. Yes, I know there is Google Docs but for college students this is a headache because there’s no capability for learning programs such as BlackBoard, etc. As a Chromebook user you will be inconveniencing your professors and co-workers just so they can see your work. Not good.

        • I bought the Pixel and am a college student and I have had no problems using Blackboard online or writing papers – A LOT of papers (History major) – in fact I just wrote a 25-page seminar thesis using Google Docs for the entire process. Google Docs had everything I needed: headers, footnotes, margin sizing, Chicago/Turabian required fonts, etc. I can even save my documents as PDFs or Microsoft Word documents. (received an A on the paper, hardest A I’ve ever earned)

          For my French class, we use Quia for our online workbooks and speaking assignments and I never ran into any issues recording and submitting my speaking assignments.

          As far as Blackboard, I am not sure what you mean – the Blackboard I have used at all three of my university institutions was web-based. During my Pixel tenure, I did not have to use video chat with Blackboard so I cannot say how that would be affected by Chrome OS, but there was no problem I encountered in Blackboard otherwise: downloading PDFs and Word documents was a breeze because the machine just works.My education has not suffered because I am a Chromebook user, just as it did not suffer when I was an Ubuntu user or a LinuxMint user.

          Yes, if you require very specific programs, a Chromebook will not be for you – but with that said, people needing to run very specific software programs have to choose machines that can be just as expensive as the Pixel, all for one or two programs.

      • Raymond Coolidge III

        The naysayers either don’t understand the purpose of the Chromebook Pixel and why it’s so appealing to people like you and me, or they’re just poor. Just because something is expensive doesn’t mean nobody should buy it. People who can’t afford it shouldn’t buy it, but It’s perfect for my needs and a joy to use. I’m totally satisfied with mine. Absolutely no regrets about buying one.

        What I look for in a laptop is a great screen, great keyboard, great trackpad, and decent speakers. The Chromebook Pixel fits the bill perfectly. The touch screen and gorgeous styling are just icing on the cake. The browsing experience is phenomenal, and for anything requiring local apps, I have my desktop, which is far better than any laptop at playing games or editing video.

        I just don’t understand all the hate for a product that people haven’t even experienced yet.

  28. Interesting review. You nearly lost me completely when you admitted to being a Volt owner, but I recovered and was able to finish.
    I take all of your points, and after having used a Samsung Chromebook for a few weeks, I too am happy to start using the cloud as a real platform. But that’s a $250 machine. It lets me do about 80% of the stuff I typically do at a fraction of the price of a full PC.
    But the Pixel is the same or more to buy than a really well-equipped MBA or Ultrabook. And it does *less*. All of the advantages you describe in the Pixel (with the exception of the LTE which is still hard to find, but I’d argue isn’t a deal-breaker) are readily available in a machine that runs OSX or Win7/8. So why limit yourself to what the cloud can support when you could have what it supports and much, much more?
    This for me, remains the biggest question around why one would buy a Pixel.

    • Simon, we’re looking at this from 2 different points of view. You’re looking at what the Pixel can’t do as compared to similar priced devices. I get that. But if the Pixel does everything I need to do and I don’t NEED the other bits (which only slow things down) why is that a bad thing? Put another way: I really wasn’t using 3rd party apps on my MacBook Air for the past year or two: so the Pixel isn’t any more limiting the way I use a computer.

      • Not a bad thing per se, just not a convincing argument for a machine that is going to be (for most people at that price) their primary computer. How’s this analogy given your choice of vehicle: It’s like saying that if the Volt came as an electric-only model for the same price as the one with the extended range gas engine, you’d prefer the electric-only model because it already does everything you need. And that would be fair enough. But if all things are equal (e.g. you could use the extended range model as electric-only all of the time if you wished) then why not get the car that has the range-insurance-policy of a gas engine? If you never need to use it, fine. But if having it installed carries no price premium and (for the sake of this argument) carries no other down-sides, I’m just not sure why you wouldn’t get it. Yeah?

        • Great thought Simon. The difference is that I already knew there are days when we drive more than the 35 or so miles that the Volt can drive us. So getting the extended range of the generator in the car was a requirement. I have no 3rd party requirement for my main device except on very rare occasion. And in that rare case, I simply use the Linux side as needed. I disagree slightly that having a full desktop OS doesn’t carry any other downsides: it complicates the system, adds more potential maintenance and uses the hardware in ways I don’t need. My $0.02.

          • Simon I completely agree with your prospective. To 100% transparent I was given a CR-48 as part of the pilot program back when and a Samsung Chromebook at Google I/O. At first I was a sceptic, to the abilities of the operating system, but the more I noticed, the more work I was able to complete because I was not constantly worrying about viruses, firewall, system updates, and other nagging pop ups that happen on a typical operating experience. I just opened the lid waited 8 seconds, logged on and responded to client emails, drafted documents, and surfed the web. Honestly the biggest drawback of all the chromebooks I have used in the past was the slow and cheap hardware. Just like any system there are great apps and pathetic ones, if I had any advice for google, it would be to do some spring cleaning and manage their web app store more like apple to only have the best “apps” in the store instead of generic website wannabes. I have since been stuck to a macbook air due to work restrictions, but really, really miss the simplicity of a chromebook. Side Note: Still bummed out and kind of angry the Google made the “Evil” decision to nix free Google Apps accounts for domain names with no notice and no input from users as this Google Apps accounts really allowed me to make my chromebook feel like a true personal computer. All in all though chromebooks are marvelous and I hope they catch on so more people can experience what I have.

      • nickiler

        @Simon – This idea of more is better even if you never need it is getting out of control. You at some point in life need to identify your true needs and make decisions based on those ONLY. Adding additional crap you don’t need and may never use only adds additional things that can go wrong. It’s also considered marketing to an old sales dog like myself. Reminds me of the guy that has all the books he can download yet never makes time to read any of them, he’s just happy to have them “Just in case”… Lol

        It’s the “Just in case” “Might as well” “Why not” “You never know” – these are all sales tricks to sale people sht they don’t need. Believe me… You might as well NOT!!

        Of course there are exceptions when you go, “Damn! Glad they pushed me into buying this stupid thing, I never knew it would come in handy”


      @Simon Cohen

      What you are saying about the Pixel is exactly what everyone was saying about the iPad when it first came out.

      When OSX came out based on BSD and NextStep virtually the entire Linux community migrated to it as it was by far more functional than gnome and KDE. So yo had a more functional GUI that you could build things for Linux on

      You’re coming at it only from the standard frame of reference of what more you can do with comparable hardware as opposed to what new uses are possible with a new platform.

      It’s the new unintended uses that sprout out from a new platform that are going to make or break the Pixel

      I wish my MBA had integrated broadband. It’s a pain to have to carry a separate broadband device for on the go access.

      It’s kind of like the IT mid level techs who build out job security by being anti-cloud when the inevitability that their jobs at the firm they are currently at definitely has an expiration date. Changes are coming and fighting it isn’t going to stop it from coming.

      • But I’m not denying the value of chrome OS or cloud computing. I’m questioning the value of buying a device like the pixel for doing those things when a different machine could do all of that and more. So the iPad analogy really doesn’t work as far as I can see.

    • nickiler

      @Simon – This idea of more is better even if you never need it is getting out of control. You at some point in life need to identify your true needs and make decisions based on those ONLY. Adding additional crap you don’t need and may never use only adds additional things that can go wrong. It’s also considered marketing to an old sales dog like myself. Reminds me of the guy that has all the books he can download yet never makes time to read any of them, he’s just happy to have them “Just in case”… Lol

      It’s the “Just in case” “Might as well” “Why not” “You never know” – these are all sales tricks to sale people sht they don’t need. Believe me… You might as well NOT!!

      Of course there are exceptions when you go, “Damn! Glad they pushed me into buying this stupid thing, I never knew it would come in handy”

      This only happens once every few years if even that. Normally I get annoyed I bought stuff I never needed but thought it was a good idea. How many of us are updating apps we never use? Just a vicious cycle of useless stuff and useless maintenance.