Thanks to Google, there's now a way to save a couple hundred dollars on buying a 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro. All you have to do is make it a tiny bit smaller, move most of its storage space online to Google Drive, and take away the ability to run practically any apps. Instead, you're going to be going to websites like Google's for pretty much everything.
That, at least, is one way of looking at Google's new first-party laptop, the Chromebook Pixel. Unlike previous Asus and Samsung Chromebooks, this one is 100 percent Google, and gives us a pretty good idea of how Google thinks laptops should be. It's a very different idea from Apple or Microsoft's, however.
Like Apple's MacBook series, the Chromebook Pixel is made from an aluminum unibody. It's a bit more squared-off than theirs, but still looks more high-end than most PC laptops.
The screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which means that it isn't widescreen. On the other hand, its 239 ppi (pixels per inch) display is a bit sharper than the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro's, partly because it's a bit smaller. It's also a touchscreen, although you can't fold or twist it back and use it like a tablet the way you can some Windows 8 laptops. Instead, you have to reach up and touch the screen.
Under the hood
How about the Chromebook Pixel's internals? It has a dual-core, 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 processor with integrated graphics, 4 GB of RAM, and a 32 GB solid state drive which will mostly be used for caching offline websites. The LTE Chromebook costs $150 more, and has a 64 GB solid state drive plus a couple years' worth of free LTE from Verizon (only 100 MB per month though).
It does come with one terabyte of storage on Google Drive, the company's Dropbox clone which has Google Docs integration. Upload speeds are very slow for most people with residential Internet connections, however, so it'd take awhile to backup your existing files there. It's also a limited-time offer which lasts for three years, so if you want to extend it you'll need to either pay $49.99 a month afterwards or buy another Chromebook.
The apps and experience
Will you find familiar PC and Mac apps like Microsoft Office and Photoshop? Not really, no. Both have online versions, that you can go to in Chrome even if they aren't in the web store. But those lack most of the features of their offline counterparts.
The bottom line
For typical use, a Chromebook Pixel can do most of the things people normally do with "computers," although it helps if you spend most of your time in a browser already. Most professionals, though, or even serious PC/Mac gamers, would be hard-pressed to make it their primary computer, because the games and apps simply aren't there.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.
- Technology & Electronics
- Google Docs
- Google Drive
- Chromebook Pixel