Chromebook Pixel Review

Faced with replacing a 15″ Retina display Macbook Pro a third time in 9 months – daily GPU panics being the latest issue – I couldn’t but help think of the Albert Einstein insanity quote, “…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” With this top of mind I ordered a Chromebook Pixel.

I’ve been using the Pixel for 3 weeks. Its been as eye opening as driving an electric car for the first time (which if you haven’t done yet I thoroughly recommend) and as impactful as cutting the cord from ones cable provider (in terms of helping breaking old habits and helping with productivity!)

Why the review? People are inquisitive about the Pixel. Infact I’ve never had a laptop that has initiated so many conversations and not surprisingly – it is a seriously sleek high end piece of hardware. What do you like most about it? Do you use the touchscreen? What do you do when you need an app? Perhaps the most popular question of all, how long does the battery last? Keep reading for answers to all these questions.

Findings

  • Setup is amazingly simple – sign into Chrome and you’re pretty much good to go. The packaging is super zen too
  • Weight – at 3.35 lbs (1.52 kg) it’s 40% lighter than the Macbook Pro. My point here is not to compare the two very different machines but the fact I have never considered laptops to be heavy – until now! The weight of the Pixel is perhaps one of my top 3 benefits. It’s like carrying around a tablet
  • Keyboard  – fantastically comfortable offering the perfect amount of give before returning confidently to position ready for the next keystroke however fast you may type – it’s unquestionably responsive in addition to being backlit. The dedicated search button, which is standard on any Chromebook, has to be one of my favourite features
  • Touchpad – the texture is best described as silk. Pinch-to-zoom and a number of other gestures had to be configured as experiements in chrome://flags
  • Screen – The 12.85″ screen has the highest pixel density of any laptop. Each of the 4.3 million pixels work together to bring crisp text and colors. It truly is a beautiful screen – so clear you almost don’t want to touch it!! In addition the 3:2 aspect ratio gives 18% more vertical height making it ideal for browsing
  • Living in the cloud – the Drive Synch is awesome, and I’m happy with an environment that discourages me from keeping too much data locally
  • Stand alone apps. – Outside of MS Office I haven’t been a big stand alone programs user for a long time. Google Drive has made significant steps forward. Google Spreadsheets for example have a list of functions able to address my needs. Looking forward to seeing further evolutions but I have no reason to use MS Office anymore. However you may need an app and so it’s worth noting you can run other operating systems such as Ubuntu, Android and Linux. Once installed you can simply switch between Chrome OS and lets say Linux – using ctrl + alt + backarrow. Here are the instructions by Googler David Schneider on how to install another operating system – it takes about 15 mins to set up
  • File Manager – integrates local and cloud storage very well, it’s surprised me a number of time how it just works
  • Battery – I’m getting 4.5 hours of use from a charge however have been caught out a couple of times on days with back-to-back meetings. Given we’re totally spoilt with chargers hardwired in every meeting room I’m looking forward to Pixel chargers being widely available. I need to remember not to short change the charge cycle, plug in when I get back to my desk and also experiment running the screen around 70% brightness which is entirely doable. I’m interested to see how the less power hungry Intel Haswell chips will perform, wrt battery, in the new Acer C720 released this week
  • Close to instant power on and power off – given the number of times you do this during the day it creates a much nicer experience in not having to wait for an OS to spin up a bunch of processes
  • Body – unblemished anodized aluminum – check!
  • Help  – the  “ctrl + alt + /” keyboard overlay is super handy
  • Processor – Intel Core i5
  • Ports – 2x USB 2.0, SD reader, headphones out and SIM slot

The asthetics of the device are great – there are no visible screws, air vents or speaker grills – the speakers are mounted under the keyboard and provide a rich and full sound.

Switching from the Apple Eco-system may not work for some – it was surprisingly easy for me however in fairness I was not heavily vested.

The verdict – I’m on Chrome OS and have no plans to look back with the web now as my primary interface. This feels more in line with the future as opposed to trying to work with the past. Chrome OS is entirely usable for everyday business especially if you’re company is running on Google apps. The Pixel has given me back time (the days of waiting on spinning rainbow wheels and sign in prompts have passed), and simplified a computing experience that I now realize was becoming unnecessarily heavy (literally) and complex.