Google Pix­el­book

Android Advisor - - Contents -

£1,199

The Pix­el­book is Google’s lat­est at­tempt to make the Chrome­book cool. De­spite two prior gen­er­a­tions of flag­ship Chrome­book Pix­els and a hand­ful of high-end copy­cats from other man­u­fac­tur­ers, the Chrome­book cat­e­gory re­mains in a rut. Type­cast as cheap, dis­pos­able brows­ing ma­chines or eas­ily locked-down class­room com­put­ers, Google hasn’t fig­ured out how to make

the Chrome­book es­sen­tial in the same way the smart­phone is for most peo­ple.

Google’s an­swer is to make the Pix­el­book more like a smart­phone. It joins the grow­ing list of Chrome­book mod­els that sup­port An­droid apps. It’s also the first Chrome­book to sup­port Google As­sis­tant, for­merly avail­able only on An­droid de­vices.

As you might guess from the Pix­el­book’s name, some of its fea­tures work specif­i­cally with Google’s flag­ship An­droid phones. In the ab­sence of Wi-Fi, for in­stance, it’ll be able to tether au­to­mat­i­cally to your Pixel phone.

For this re­view, I’ve looked at both the hard­ware and the soft­ware ex­pe­ri­ences. The hard­ware is brand­new and the soft­ware we tried was still in beta, so not ev­ery­thing worked as planned. I can con­firm the Pix­el­book is a fast, ca­pa­ble de­vice, but that’s no longer enough. Join­ing forces with An­droid is prob­a­bly the best shot Chrome­books have at be­com­ing de­sir­able hard­ware to main­stream users. Whether this strat­egy will work for the Pix­el­book (and be broadly adopted by other Chrome­book man­u­fac­tur­ers) is still un­known.

De­sign

Even if the Pix­el­book didn’t have a bunch of An­droid tie-ins, it would still be the nicest Chrome­book you can buy: thin, light, and full of for­ward-look­ing fea­tures. You can see the specs and prices for all the SKUs in our orig­i­nal Pix­el­book news story, but be­low I have de­tails on our par­tic­u­lar re­view unit.

Price:

£1,199

Di­men­sions: 11.4 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches. This is a very thin lap­top that slips eas­ily into your bag or un­der your arm.

Weight: 1.1kg. This is lighter than usual com­pared to pop­u­lar Win­dows 360-de­gree lap­tops, such as the lat­est HP Spec­tre x360 (1.32kg).

CPU: In­tel Core i5-7Y57 1.2GHz. This is a 7thgen­er­a­tion (Kaby Lake) mo­bile CPU with two cores and four threads. It has a base clock of 1.2GHz and a max­i­mum of 3.3GHz. As you’ll see in our per­for­mance tests be­low, this CPU per­formed hand­ily.

Graph­ics: In­te­grated In­tel HD Graph­ics 615 (a lower-end chip).

Mem­ory: 8GB RAM. This looks small com­pared to what you’d get with a Win­dows or Mac lap­top, but for a Chrome­book, it’s an ad­e­quate amount.

Stor­age: 256GB eMMC stor­age. This is an af­ford­able, if un­ex­cit­ing stor­age type that’s com­mon to Chrome­books. The high­est-end Pix­el­book SKU has a 512GB SSD.

Dis­play: 12.3in, 2400x1600, 235ppi LCD touch­screen on a 360-de­gree hinge. The de­fault res­o­lu­tion is 1200x800, which is prob­a­bly eas­ier on your eyes as well as on the lap­top’s power draw. The dis­play has a very high max­i­mum bright­ness of 400 nits, though we mea­sured it even brighter. Note, how­ever, that the brighter the dis­play, the more power it needs.

Chas­sis: Alu­minium uni­body with 360-de­gree hinge, in one colour, Sil­ver.

Key­board: The full-size key­board has a 19mm pitch and a short 0.9mm travel – an ex­pected com­pro­mise in a de­sign this slen­der. The key­board is still com­fort­able, but I pre­fer the longer-throw key­boards on past Chrome­book Pix­els.

Track­pad: Etched glass, with soft white rub­ber pan­els on either side. Click­ing, scrolling, and mous­ing on the pad all felt re­spon­sive.

Con­nec­tiv­ity: Two USB-C for charg­ing and 4K dis­play sup­port. That’s it, peo­ple. No legacy USB-A, not even an SD card slot. But there is a head­phone jack.

Wi-Fi: It’s worth not­ing the broad com­pat­i­bil­ity of the an­tenna: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. Also, the rea­son the Pix­el­book has a glass up­per lid area is to en­hance the Wi-Fi an­tenna’s strength.

Bat­tery life: The 41Whr bat­tery lasts up to 10 hours, Google says. Your mileage will vary, es­pe­cially if you crank up the dis­play bright­ness. See our per­for­mance sec­tion for more on the bat­tery life.

Pix­el­book Pen: A £99 op­tion (fave.co/2xKTD9s), it mea­sures 147mm long and 10.7mm in di­am­e­ter, and weighs 21.3g. It takes a AAAA bat­tery. It has 10ms

la­tency, which is fast, and rec­og­nizes 2,000 lev­els of pres­sure, which is about midrange – some com­pet­ing pens have up to 4,096 lev­els of pres­sure.

Most of the shaft is alu­minium, but Google says it put a white-plas­tic sec­tion near the nib to make the pen eas­ier to grasp.

There’s just one no­table down­side to this pen. Other mod­els we’ve used, such as the Porsche De­sign Book One’s Sty­lus and Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Pen, have one flat edge to keep them from rolling. The Pix­el­book Pen is per­fectly round, and it rolled all over the place on my desk. It would be nice if a £99 pen were a bit harder to lose.

Google As­sis­tant and pen sup­port

Nor­mally I’d dive into per­for­mance next, but the Pix­el­book is dif­fer­ent. Its An­droid app sup­port, along with its new ca­pa­bil­i­ties re­lat­ing to Google As­sis­tant and pen sup­port, mat­ter much more than its speeds and feeds. And, over­all, my ex­pe­ri­ences were pos­i­tive.

I’ve tried An­droid apps on Chrome­books, and it’s still a work in progress. Google even warned us that the Pix­el­book’s app be­hav­iour would be buggy due to the beta build loaded on re­view units, though the prob­lems we ran into were few and mostly mi­nor.

An­droid app sup­port mat­ters be­cause it gives the Chrome­book a lot more to do. For diehard An­droid users, be­ing able to use a favourite app on a big­ger dis­play with a key­board im­proves us­abil­ity sig­nif­i­cantly.

At the time of this re­view, how­ever, my favourite app (In­sta­gram), and many other An­droid apps, re­main stub­bornly puny: you can en­large In­sta­gram

from smart­phone to tablet for­mat, but you can’t make it full-screen. Google says it’s work­ing with de­vel­op­ers to help apps em­brace the full width of a Chrome­book’s screen com­pared to a mo­bile screen, but they’ve been say­ing that for a while now, so ap­par­ently it’s go­ing to take some time.

Mean­while, adding Google As­sis­tant to the Pix­el­book inches Chrome­books closer to par­ity with Win­dows and Mac PCs, which have Cor­tana and Siri, re­spec­tively, to talk through sched­ules, tasks, and ran­dom search queries. When I added my user ac­count to the Pix­el­book, I said “OK Google” three

times to train the de­vice to rec­og­nize my voice. Then all I had to do was say “OK Google” within range of the Pix­el­book’s four mi­cro­phones, and Google As­sis­tant would launch on the dis­play, ready for my re­quest.

If I didn’t feel like talk­ing, I could type a query into Google As­sis­tant’s text box. Even bet­ter, I could pick up the Pix­el­book Pen, and watch Google’s AI en­gine re­ally go to work. You start by hold­ing the but­ton on the pen’s shaft while draw­ing around any image or snip­pet of text in a Chrome web page. Once you’ve se­lected some­thing and re­leased the but­ton, Google As­sis­tant will try to iden­tify the image and pro­vide

in­for­ma­tion, or tran­scribe the text for you. In my tests it also seemed to learn from its mis­takes: a search on an image from Rome yielded re­sults that were slightly off, but re­peat tries led to more pre­cise re­sponses.

For me, the real fun be­gan when I tried draw­ing apps like Painter. In the course of mak­ing the sketch shown be­low, the pen’s 10ms la­tency rarely dis­tracted me, but I al­ready found my­self wish­ing for more lev­els of pres­sure when I wanted to cre­ate finer ar­eas of shad­ing. Still, the abil­ity to get off the key­board and track­pad and get cre­ative is some­thing I love about all the pen sup­port.

Kaby Lake rules

When we talk about Chrome­book per­for­mance, re­mem­ber that Google up­dates Chromes OS ev­ery six weeks. Newer mod­els will al­ways ben­e­fit from any re­cent im­prove­ments. That said, the Pix­el­book’s great­est ad­van­tage its 7th-gen­er­a­tion Kaby Lake CPU, which is a lit­tle more pow­er­ful and a lot more ef­fi­cient than its Sky­lake pre­de­ces­sor. An im­proved video en­gine helps, too. Com­pared to its 2013- and 2015era Chrome­book Pixel pre­de­ces­sors, the Pix­el­book makes great leaps for­ward.

The Cr-XPRT test mea­sures Chrome­book per­for­mance in ba­sic pro­duc­tiv­ity tasks, as well as in more de­mand­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, such as watch­ing movies and play­ing games. Com­par­ing the Pix­el­book to Chrome­books with­out Kaby Lake, it’s no con­test.

Base­mark is a broad-based bench­mark that in­cor­po­rates We­bGL and JavaScript tests. The

Pix­el­book main­tains its strong lead against mod­els with 6th-gen and 5th-gen CPUs.

We also ran Cr-XPRT’s pre­dicted bat­tery run­time test. For the test, we set the Pix­el­book’s bright­ness as

close to 200 nits as pos­si­ble, and at­tach head­phones for au­dio out­put. The Pix­el­book’s pro­jected run­time of 11.67 hours ex­ceeds Google’s spec of 10 hours and is more than enough to get you through a long day.

Ver­dict

The Pix­el­book prob­a­bly has more power than most Chrome­book users will ever need. It gets a high rat­ing not be­cause I think ev­ery­one should buy it. In­stead, the Pix­el­book earns its rat­ing be­cause it suc­ceeds in show­ing the best a Chrome­book can be.

In­ter­est­ingly, ‘best’ has evolved from sim­ply ‘pre­mium lap­top’ to ‘pre­mium Chrome­book-slashAn­droid ex­pe­ri­ence’. With its 360-de­gree hinge, and its sup­port for An­droid, Google As­sis­tant, and pen in­put, the Pix­el­book is pre­pared to be­come an An­droid phone’s best friend and open up new fron­tiers for the hum­ble Chrome­book. Melissa Riofrio

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 12.3in (2,400x1,600, 235ppi) Quad HD LCD dis­play • 7th-gen In­tel Core i5 or i7 pro­ces­sor • 8/16GB RAM • 128/256/512GB stor­age • 720p at 60fps we­b­cam • 3.5mm head­phone jack • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac • Blue­tooth 4.2 • 2x USB-C • 41Whr bat­tery • 290.4x220.8x10.3mm • 1.1kg

Google says 10 hours of bat­ter life on the Pix­el­book. The Cr-XPRT-2015 pro­jected run­time says al­most 12 hours

Google’s Pix­el­book pulls ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion in this mix of We­bGL and JavaScript tests

Us­ing the Painter app on Google’s Pix­el­book with the Pix­el­book Pen, it was easy and fun to make this draw­ing. I no­ticed a lit­tle pen lag, and the pen was un­able to pick up some of my lighter strokes

Se­lect­ing a photo us­ing the Pix­el­book Pen brought up search re­sults via Google As­sis­tant. The re­sults got more pre­cise with fur­ther queries

The Google Play and Painter apps on either side can ex­pand to fullscreen on the Pix­el­book, but the In­sta­gram app in the mid­dle can­not

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.