Se­ri­ously im­pres­sive: Google Pix­el­book can travel

Irish Independent - Business Week - - TECHNOLOGY - Tech Re­view

work prac­tices to it, from Google Docs and photo-edit­ing to mu­sic, movies and other things.

Twice be­fore I’ve bought a Chrome­book, hop­ing they could sub­sti­tute for tra­di­tional Win­dows or Ap­ple lap­tops. Twice be­fore, I’ve faded away from them be­cause of crit­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions in work­flows. Will the Pix­el­book lure me back?

Any­one who has tried a Chrome­book will know that one of its key traits is to act as a speedy gate­way to fully func­tional apps and pro­grammes that live on­line.

The Pix­el­book is a tes­ti­mony to this. It’s light­ing fast to start up and get into Chrome – there’s no 20 to 30 sec­onds of fid­get­ing as you wait for things to warm up.

An­other ad­van­tage is de­sign and form fac­tor. The 12-inch Pix­el­book is very slim and very light, at just 1kg. Con­sid­er­ing the heavy­weight tech un­der the hood, that’s great. But its big­gest de­sign fea­ture is its 360-de­gree hinge, which al­lows you to stand the de­vice up as a video screen (in ‘tent mode’) or use it as a slight heavy tablet. I like this in lap­tops be­cause th­ese de­vices are in­creas­ingly also be­ing used in our down­time as Net­flix, YouTube or Sky Go screens.

The dis­play on the Pix­el­book is ab­so­lutely ex­cel­lent – re­ally bright (up to 400 nits) and sport­ing a high-end 235 pix­els-per-inch res­o­lu­tion.

To dif­fer­en­ti­ate the rear cas­ing from ev­ery other sil­ver-coloured lap­top, the Pix­el­book has a white glass rec­tan­gu­lar panel on the up­per side of the cas­ing. From afar, this looks like plas­tic, so don’t be sur­prised if your first im­pres­sion of the look of the machine is that it’s a lit­tle cheap. Once you’re used to us­ing it, how­ever, it’s quite an at­trac­tive fea­ture and sets it apart from the gazil­lions of sil­ver lap­tops out there.

The Pix­el­book’s key­board is sleek and re­ally nice to use. A small quib­ble is the back­lit key­board: the keys are lit un­evenly. For ex­am­ple, on one of the ‘shift’ but­tons, the ‘s’ and the ‘h’ are lit brighter than the ‘ift’. On the ‘en­ter’ but­ton, the ‘r’ is much brighter than the ‘e’ be­side it.

There are also a few other small things to get used to. For ex­am­ple, camped in the place of a caps lock but­ton is a search but­ton. So to turn on caps lock you have to jointly press the ‘alt’ and search but­ton.

Don’t ex­pect many phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity op­tions here. There are just two USB-C / Thun­der­bolt ports on the de­vice with a 3.5mm head­phone jack. This goes back to a core point: with this machine, soft­ware and ad­di­tional stor­age (over the 128GB to 512GB op­tions avail­able) is pri­mar­ily ac­cessed on­line.

In the Pix­el­book’s favour, there is al­most no ap­pli­ca­tion that you can’t now get or down­load on­line. The first thing I did on this machine was to sign up to Adobe’s Light­room soft­ware (for a sub­scrip­tion of a fiver a month) and get to work edit­ing pho­tos on the machine with­out any no­tice­able lag.

Google has widened the po­ten­tial for app usage here, mak­ing the Pix­el­book com­pat­i­ble with down­loads from its Play Store. Ob­vi­ously, very few are op­ti­mised for it. Still, this has great po­ten­tial. Google says that de­vel­op­ers are adding more beta ver­sions of Chrome OS apps to op­ti­mise for screens such as the Pix­el­book’s.

That said, some pro­grams on the Pix­el­book aren’t re­ally apps, but are bet­ter de­scribed as short­cuts to web­pages. Com­ing from a pro tablet (such as the iPad Pro) or a hy­brid (such as the Sur­face Pro), this can feel a bit cheap by com­par­i­son.

Iron­i­cally, us­ing some of Google’s own apps with the touch­screen Pix­el­book is not as fluid as de­vices such as the iPad Pro. For ex­am­ple, I’m a big user of Google Docs. But when you try to high­light a word or sentence us­ing your fin­ger, it im­me­di­ately pulls up a menu, dis­al­low­ing you from de­cid­ing how much more of the sentence or para­graph you want to edit.

Adding in­sult to in­jury, there’s no such prob­lem us­ing touch­screen ed­its on ri­val sys­tems such as Mi­crosoft Word.

How­ever, the idea that the Pix­el­book is some sort of a light­weight machine that

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