Google Chrome­book Pixel

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Three years on from its first it­er­a­tion, Google has up­dated the Pixel, mak­ing an al­ready im­pres­sive, best-in-class lap­top an even more tempt­ing ma­chine. The price is still high, but if Chrome­books are your thing, then this is as good as it gets.


In terms of de­sign, the Pixel has changed very lit­tle. It still bears the in­dus­trial, chunky, square edged styling that we found ini­tially so ap­peal­ing, and that re­mains true to­day. When so many PCs seem to be try­ing to re­build MacBook Airs and Pros, the more bru­tal form of the Pixel stands out as some­thing to savour. That’s not to sug­gest that this is in any way a great lum­mox of a ma­chine. In the hand, or rest­ing on your lap it feels com­pact, solid, and very com­fort­able to use. At 1.5kg, it might not be as svelte as the new MacBook, or even a Dell XPS 13, but it isn’t a heavy de­vice to carry around in your bag.

Chrome­books are never over­bur­dened with ports, as ChromeOS isn’t re­ally in­ter­ested in do­ing much with them, but the Pixel has a very use­ful col­lec­tion of slots. Two USB 3.0 ports and a head­phone jack adorn one side, while the other side makes room for an SD card reader. The real in­ter­est­ing aper­tures though, are the two USB Type-C ports that flank the ma­chine, and are used for power charg­ing or at­tach­ing any num­ber of pe­riph­er­als. One fea­ture we like is the LED strip across the lid, which when tapped gen­tly will show you the amount of charge left in the bat­tery.

We’ve grown ac­cus­tomed to find­ing great key­boards and track­pads on in­ex­pen­sive Chrome­books, but the Pixel packs the best of the lot. The shal­low, is­land-style lay­out is won­der­fully easy to use for ex­tended pe­ri­ods, prov­ing re­spon­sive and ac­cu­rate. The back­light also makes typ­ing af­ter the sun goes down just as pleas­ant. There are, of course, a few changes to the nor­mal ar­range­ments, as Chrome­books fea­ture in­ter­net nav­i­ga­tion but­tons along the top and a search but­ton where the Caps Lock nor­mally lives, but they make sense on this ma­chine and op­er­at­ing sys­tem. A glass track­pad is a step up from the nor­mal plas­tic ver­sions found on cheaper mod­els, and again it proves ex­cel­lent. Mul­tifin­ger ges­tures, of which there are plenty in ChromeOS, ex­e­cute in­stantly, while gen­eral nav­i­ga­tion is smooth and pre­cise.

The real star of the show is the gor­geous IPS 2560x1700 res­o­lu­tion HD dis­play. It’s bright, colour­ful, clear and bears an un­usual 3:2 as­pect ra­tio that Google deems more ap­pro­pri­ate for us­ing the web. The taller na­ture of the dis­play does mean

We’ve grown ac­cus­tomed to find­ing great key­boards and track­pads on Chrome­books, but the Pixel packs the best of the lot

you see more of a web page’s con­tent be­fore need­ing to scroll down, although if you watch a lot of movies on your lap­top, then there is a trade-off here against the widescreen dis­plays of­ten found on other PCs. One added bonus is that the dis­play is also a touch­screen. This might seem a lit­tle overkill for a de­vice like a Chrome­book, but it’s a use­ful fea­ture when travers­ing the web, with it’s widespread, tap­pable op­tions. The pinch-to-zoom fea­ture also works very smartly, ex­pand­ing pages with no hint of hes­i­ta­tion.

Video call­ing is a nat­u­ral fit with an in­ter­net ob­sessed de­vice, and the Pixel takes care of busi­ness in style thanks to a 720p we­b­cam, with blue glass and a wide aper­ture. Why the blue glass? Well, to be hon­est we’re not en­tirely sure it makes a dif­fer­ence, but images are sharp and well de­fined. Callers also re­ported au­dio was solid, which is down to the twin mi­cro­phones on the de­vice.


The Pixel is light­ning fast. Web pages load rapidly, nav­i­ga­tion is swift, and even with mul­ti­ple tabs open you don’t re­ally sense any kind of slow­down. Stream­ing HD video from YouTube is no prob­lem, 4K vari­ants proved smooth and con­sis­tent, and the stereo speak­ers are sur­pris­ingly loud and ar­tic­u­late. Much of this will be down to the 2.2GHz In­tel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM that are at the heart of the ma­chine. It’s cer­tainly a po­tent com­bi­na­tion when paired with the light­weight op­er­at­ing sys­tem. Of course, all of this speed ar­rives with a few caveats. While ChromeOS has come a long way in the few short years it’s been around, it does still boil down to be­ing a su­per­charged browser. Yes, you can run a num­ber of use­ful ap­pli­ca­tions off­line now, such as Google Docs, and also a small num­ber of An­droid apps, plus in the end most peo­ple do use their ma­chines to pri­mar­ily in­ter­act with the web, but when you’re look­ing to spend around £800 on a ma­chine you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to want a lit­tle more for your money.

If you cre­ate or edit mul­ti­me­dia con­tent, then all of a sud­den the Pixel is go­ing to feel lim­ited. Photo-edit­ing is avail­able through some ap­pli­ca­tions, but if you want Pho­to­shop, then you’re out of luck. The same goes for iTunes, although some would say that’s ac­tu­ally a bless­ing. Don’t get us wrong, the Chrome­book Pixel is a very ca­pa­ble ma­chine for a lot of ev­ery­day tasks, but you need to un­der­stand what you’re pay­ing for up front. ChromeOS is a web-fo­cused op­er­at­ing sys­tem, so as long as you spend the ma­jor­ity of your time there, and es­pe­cially if you use the Google suite of apps, then there is much to like. The bare-bones na­ture of ChromeOS does prove very ben­e­fi­cial when it comes to bat­tery life though, and in our looped video test the Pixel held out im­pres­sively for just over nine hours.


Stream­ing HD video from YouTube is no prob­lem, 4K vari­ants proved smooth and con­sis­tent, and the speak­ers are loud

As we’ve stated in pretty much ev­ery Chrome­book re­view, they’re not for ev­ery­one. Be­ing tied to the web, and Google’s ver­sion of the web in par­tic­u­lar, isn’t go­ing to be ideal for some users. The same goes for those that want to edit video, record mu­sic or play AAA games. Those users would be bet­ter served by a de­cent PC, which you could cer­tainly buy for the same money as the new Pixel. But, and it’s a very big but, if you em­brace the ideals of Chrome­books, and have the money to spare, the Pixel is a truly be­guil­ing de­vice that is a gen­uine plea­sure to use. Do we want one? Un­ques­tion­ably. Will we be buy­ing one? No.

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