Starting at $1300, Google’s Chromebook Pixel isn’t even in the same categories as most other Chromebook models, which typically cost $200 to $600.
However, the Pixel is well worth the price premium for freelancers and other professionals who earn their living on their computers. It may not be a perfect machine, but it is by far the most capable Chromebook available on the market today.
At $1300 for a Wi-Fi-only model and $1450 for a version that can connect to Verizon’s LTE network, the Pixel is over twice as expensive as its less powerful cousins. Upon booting up the Pixel for the first time, users will immediately notice the gorgeous 13-inch touchscreen. With a 3:2 aspect ratio, it’s not the best screen for streaming widescreen movies. On the other hand, it works exceptionally well with most websites, which typically don’t take advantage of 16:9 displays.
With an incredibly sharp 2560×1700 resolution, the display blows 1080p desktop monitors away, and the touchscreen is as responsive as any other tablet. After playing around with the touchscreen, Pixel owners will find that using the integrated keyboard and touchpad is a bit of a letdown.
With an Intel Core i5 CPU and integrated graphics, the Pixel outperforms all of the ARM-powered mobile devices but can’t keep up with a full notebook’s performance. However, the Core i5 provides smooth video streaming and web browsing, which is what’s most important for a business computer.
With only 32 to 64 GB of integrated storage, users won’t be able to keep movies or thousands of music albums on their Chromebook Pixels. Google does provide Pixel owners with three free years of Google Cloud Storage, but users should beware if they don’t cancel the service before the free trial ends. At the December 2012 prices, 1 TB of storage will set users back about $1,000 a year, which is nearly enough to buy a new external hard drive every single month.
Because most Google services are available online, users will also have to maintain a Wi-Fi or LTE connection if they wish to type documents or access files. The Pixel’s reliance on the Internet shouldn’t be a problem most of the time, but it can limit the Pixel’s capabilities on long flights or car rides.
While beautiful and fast, the touchscreen and CPU draw more power than energy efficient notebooks, so the Pixel only gets about 5 hours of battery life on a single charge. Users can use it for an afternoon, but they can’t use it all day without plugging in.
In a Class of Its Own
By combining a laptop with a touchscreen, Google has put the functionality of both a MacBook Air and iPad into a single device. Chrome OS still lacks many of the programs available for the Mac OS, Windows, and Android platforms, but Google has largely avoided this issue by providing remote access. Users can access their other computers right from their web browsers.
The 3:2 display offers a superior web browsing experience, and the integrated Google apps ecosystem is extremely intuitive. What the Pixel does well, it does exceptionally well. Users looking for a compact, fun, and functional device for office productivity and web browsing can’t get a better device than the Chromebook Pixel.