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Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Awesome. Just AWESOME!


ChromeOS has been around for awhile now and is slowly starting to gain some traction with users. Mostly because the average cost of a ChromeOS machine is around 300, but also because the OS itself is extremely versatile in the right hands, sitting somewhere between a mobile OS like Android or iOS and full-blown operating system like Linux, OS X or Windows. ChromeOS does have its detractors, though — not everybody is onboard with Google s vision of what a pseudo-laptop should be like. For a lot of people it simply isn t powerful enough to be their daily work machine. For others, the idea of doing EVERYTHING through a browser seems a little odd. And to an extent it is. But this doesn t mean there isn t any room for ChromeOS in today s consumer electronics space. To be fair, I was pretty much on the fence about ChromeOS, being neither completely onboard with the idea or totally against it. I had a MacBook Air and was pretty happy with the way things were going. But then it broke, leaving me well and truly in the lurch as I had a press trip the following week. And a journalist without a laptop is like a bar without booze. Just plain wrong.

This is how I met the Chromebook Pixel, Google s REALLY expensive poster boy for its burgeoning ChromeOS platform. Unlike 99.9% of ChromeOS machines on market, the Pixel is a thoroughly premium affair, jam-packed with all the latest and greatest hardware and specs, and it has a price tag you won t forget about in a hurry — the best part of 1000. The average cost of a Chromebook is around 300. This is the sweet spot in Google s eyes, making the devices an ideal choice for students or those that just want something cheap and portable to work on while on the move. Like a lot of things in tech, ChromeOS has A LOT of serious fans; people 100% committed to the platform that d argue you can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING on a Chromebook. I am not one of those people but I do like ChromeOS very, VERY much. I haven t missed my MacBook Air at all when using the Pixel. I can still edit pictures and upload content to the web. It has INSANE battery life and it looks absolutely amazing. But this isn’t your average Chromebook.

Not that Google cares. The Pixel wasn t built to sell by the boat-load. Nor is it designed to give Apple s MacBook line any trouble. No, this machine is a proof of concept, a means of showing the world just how good a ChromeOS can look and feel. In this respect it s sort of like a Renault Clio with an F1 engine in it — positively insane and definitely not for everyone but immense fun all the same.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Design, Display & Trackpad

The entire chassis is made from a metallic material, similar to Apple s MacBook line. The bodywork is angular and precise; nothing seems out of place and everything serves a function. Closed, the Pixel looks like a metallic-slab of awesomeness with its completely superfluous but still amazing strip of LED lights, which, when tapped three times, indicate how much juice is left on the battery.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Awesome. Just AWESOME!

Open, the Chromebook looks much like any other laptop and its keyboard reminds me very much of the one from my 2010 MacBook Air. Travel is decent on the keys. Ditto for spacing. And you seldom miss a beat when bashing out words (unlike Apple s new, teeny tiny iMac keyboard). The keyboard has a few tricks up its sleeve, too: a Google Search key below the Tab key and a bunch of useful navigation keys across the top that include access to a screengrab tool, tabbed window mode and brightness settings.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Awesome. Just AWESOME!

The Chromebook Pixel s big USP, the thing EVERYBODY is talking about, is its gorgeous 12.9in 2560 x 1700 pixel resolution display. It s stunning to behold and is one of the most impressive displays I ve ever seen on a laptop. Nothing I ve tested in the past 12 months, save for my 5K iMac, even comes close. The Pixel s ultra-high-resolution display is a pleasure to look at, work on and interact with on a daily basis. And because of its 3:2 aspect ratio, which makes the screen taller, you see a lot more when surfing the web. Combine this with 4.3 million pixels and, well, you have perhaps the best display of any laptop currently on market. But that s not all the display does. No, this bad boy is also a touchscreen. Yep, that s right: a mother humping touchscreen. And while this might sound a little like overkill, I must admit I have become rather fond of occasionally prodding the display when something takes my fancy. It s great for flicking through image articles, browsing websites and zooming in for a closer look at high-res, detailed pictures. It also works as good as any tablet I ve used too, so don t think of it as something that Google simply heaped on at the 11th hour to impress handsy early adopters like myself.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Awesome. Just AWESOME!

Google has also outfitted the Pixel with a rather excellent trackpad. It supports multi-gesture, so, two fingers for scrolling up and down, one finger for pointing, and four fingers for switching tabs, which means a mouse is never really required unless you re doing very specific, close-work in something like Polarr or the like. In addition to an awesome display, excellent trackpad and solid overall design the Pixel also utilises USB Type C ports for charging. There are two ports located on the left and right side of the machine, as well as two USB ports on the left-hand side and a handy SD-card reader on the right.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Specs & Hardware

The Pixel is an absolute monster in the specs department. A beast of such epic proportions you might wonder why the hell Google decided to make it so powerful when it runs such a lightweight OS. I have no idea, myself, and I don t really care one way or another. This thing FLIES. Under the hood you ll find an Intel Core i7 CPU model and 16GB of RAM inside the 999 version and a fifth-generation Intel processor (2.2GHz Core i5-5500U) backed by 8GB of RAM in the 799 one. Both versions are brutally fast, though I d argue the 799 version makes more sense as it s still plenty powerful and you save a couple of hundred pounds in the process.

To say the Pixel is fast, though, is an understatement. I ve had hundreds of tabs open, ran six HD videos at once, and edited video all at the same time and it runs as smooth as Tom Cruise. Nothing you can do in ChromeOS seems to slow it down. Nothing. It just keeps on going, and going, and going like some kind of PCP-powered Duracell bunny. You also have two storage options to choose from: 32GB SSD on the 799 model or 64GB SSD on the 999. Again, if I were buying this machine I d go for the cheaper model. Partly because of the cost, but mostly because you don t need all that additional storage — you get a ton of free Drive storage (100GB for two years) and the Pixel accepts SD-cards. All of this processing grunt translates into pretty exceptional performance across the board — and, yet, this isn t even the Pixel s biggest USP. More on that later, though…

In order to illustrate just how powerful the Pixel is we performed a bunch of benchmarks on the machine during testing. As you can see below the results are pretty impressive, even compared to top of line MacBooks and Windows machines:

  • SunSpider — 196ms
  • Peacekeeper — 4432
  • WebGL Cubes — 30fps

The Pixel is an expensive piece of kit and it certainly won t be to everybody s tastes. However, you do get plenty of bang for your buck. The design. The hardware. The specs. The careful thought that has gone into its engineering — all of it is best in class and for that you always have to pay top dollar.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: ChromeOS

I have to admit prior to testing the Chromebook Pixel I was ready and willing to completely rubbish ChromeOS. I didn t understand how you could build an OS out of a web browser or, for that matter, why you d even want to. But just as my preconceived notions about the BlackBerry Passport were wrong, so too were my ideas about ChromeOS. Dead wrong

There is an adaptive phase you go through when using ChromeOS. You need to learn all of its little features and nuances to really get the most out of it. But for the most part it is a very simple, easy to use OS — mostly because the core component of it, Chrome, has already been used by most people. Core apps can be saved at the bottom of the display for easy access in a similar fashion to OS X and Windows. Google seems to have most of the big boys covered too. I have Spotify, Office, and Tweetdeck, as well as all of Google s core applications at my disposal, so can pretty much get on with my day-to-day without feeling like I m missing out.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Awesome. Just AWESOME! Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Awesome. Just AWESOME! Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Awesome. Just AWESOME!

Some users may find issues with using ChromeOS, however. I don t see machines like this ever being widely used in enterprise for instance as a lot of business applications are not present. But for those that predominantly work on the web, or just want a machine for general office tasks and web browsing, ChromeOS is perfect. I ve edited images (Polarr) and video on the Pixel. I do all my accounting and spreadsheets in Drive, as well as word processing. And if you need anything else, well, you just do it via the web. You can t please everyone, though, and I do think some power users might find ChromeOS a little too limited. But I would argue these types of users are the minority. Most people could use ChromeOS as their daily driver, as it does all the core things a laptop should — word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, image and video editing — very well indeed. And if it doesn t do something you want, a quick Google search usually presents a solution, workaround or alternative.

You kind of have to commit to Drive to really get the most out of the Pixel, though. Not that this is a bad thing. It just might feel a little too much like a conversion for those that do not use it already. I ve been addicted to Drive for years, so there was no issue with switching to using it full time for all my office needs. You get a ton of free storage and the software now works offline, meaning you aren t completely reliant on a web connection to get stuff done. ChromeOS is lighter, simpler and not quite as feature-packed as Windows 10 or OS X. But this is exactly the point behind it; ChromeOS is meant to be used, I believe, as a supplementary platform. You have your main workstation, in my case an iMac, and a Chromebook for when you re on the move. Or, if you only really use the web and do a bit of word processing, your main PC. And if you want to get really fancy, you can install Ubuntu on the Chromebook Pixel as well, giving you access to full desktop functionality. Personally, this isn t something I d do myself, as I am more than happy with how it works out the box, but because ChromeOS is based on Linux it makes life pretty damn easy for those that want to.

Linux.com has an AWESOME and very easy to follow tutorial on how you do this. Below is an extract but we’d recommend you check out the full post in full HERE1:

There are many ways to install a Linux-based OS on your Chromebook. For this tutorial I have chosen Crouton (aka Chromium OS Universal Chroot Environment), which is a set of scripts that bundle up into an easy-to-use, Chromium OS-centric chroot generator. The scripts are hosted on GitHub and currently support only Ubuntu and Debian. It offers various desktop environments including Xfce, Unity, and KDE. Unity can be quite heavy for your Chromebook, depending on your hardware, and I don t find Xfce to be enough eye candy, so I am going to try KDE and see how it works. The Pixel is something of an aberration in the world of Chromebooks, however, on account of its insane specs and price. Most Chromebooks are dirt cheap, like 300 or less. But the Pixel isn t your average Chromebook, or PC for that matter. It is the poster boy for ChromeOS, the physical embodiment of everything the platform could potentially be when money and R&D costs are of no concern. I do absolutely love this machine. But it does cost A LOT of money. However, I don t think Google made the Pixel for profit. I think it made the Pixel as a means of communicating just how good ChromeOS can be when it is completely unhindered by costs, specs and hardware. It has worked too because I would now always think about ChromeOS first when updating my mobile computer. And to be completely honest, I like the Pixel so much I wouldn t really have any issue paying 800 for one. But that s just me. You might think differently.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Battery

This has been a fairly gushing review. But I did save the best for last. The Chromebook Pixel has an absolutely astonishingly good battery life. So much so that it really does have to be experienced to be believed. Google quotes the battery life at around 11 hours, which is very good. But in our tests we ve seen the Pixel surpass the 12 hour mark and, in some instances, top out at 13 hours. You can just leave it unplugged for what seems like days and come back to it and find there s still juice in the tank. In idle it is superb, gently sipping at power. With heavy use, you re looking at a very solid 10+ hours. For example: I recently flew to Hong Kong, a 12+ hour flight, and the Pixel was with me every step of the way. I watched two films, did some work and wrote a bunch of emails and, once we landed, there was still about 15% left on the battery. What this means in real world application is that you can take the Pixel with you anywhere, providing it is fully charged, and not have to worry about plugging it into a wall charger for an entire day. I regularly take mine with me to events and never bother bringing the charger. You just don t need to with 10+ hours of power at your disposal. This for me is one of the biggest USPs of the Pixel, especially after using a five year old MacBook Air that struggled to get through four hours of intensive work.

Google Chromebook Pixel Review: Verdict

The Chromebook Pixel is easily one of the coolest things I ve tested this year. The machine itself looks damn impressive, but it is the little surprises you encounter while using it that make all the difference because they add up to create one of the best portable computing experiences I ve ever encountered. The battery is exceptional, as is the screen. It s got more power under the hood than you ll ever need and it looks positively stunning. ChromeOS is super lightweight, easy to use and, in the right hands, a perfectly capable OS that can do 99.9% of the things most people want from a laptop. I d say the price is a downside — and for some it almost certainly will be. Nevertheless, once you factor in everything this machine has going for it becomes impossible to imagine it costing any less. If you want the best in class experience you have to pay top dollar. Them s the rules, and if you don t like it, well, you can just get a cheaper one from Samsung or Asus.

For me, though, there really is only one Chromebook and it goes by the name PIXEL!

References

  1. ^ HERE (www.linux.com)

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