Seriously impressive: Google Pixelbook can travel
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