Buy a Chromebook Pixel today? No way. But tomorrow could be a very different story

Buy a Chromebook Pixel today? No way. But tomorrow could be a very different story

Summary: The Chromebook Pixel is the most expensive Chromebook on the market, and its specs mean it can run with fully-fledged laptops - but would I buy one today? No. But it could be a different story in the future...


The Chromebook Pixel is the highest profile Chromebook out there. At just under $1,300, it's easily the most expensive too, and at the heavier end of the spectrum. It really is quite a piece of kit: on several occasions I've had to fend off colleagues' covetous advances to get some alone time with the machine.


The reason for some of the Pixel's appeal (and that extra weight) is its touchscreen and anodised aluminium chassis design, which includes a backlit keyboard and glass touchpad. The glass touchpad gives the Pixel "exceptional smoothness and accuracy", Google reckons. And it's not wrong.

Does the Pixel really need a touchscreen?

Not that you'll be relying on the touchpad's exceptional accuracy too much if you use the touchscreen - and, if you're used to using Windows 8, there's a good chance that you'll be reaching out to paw at the screen more than you might have imagined.

However, while touchscreens make sense for Windows 8 hardware given Microsoft has redesigned elements of the operating system to be geared around touch input, the Pixel is a slightly different proposition, and that's one of my issues with it.

Whereas on Windows 8 different swiping actions perform different tasks — say, opening the Start menu by swiping right to left or switching back to the last-used app by swiping left to right. But in Chrome OS, there are very few specific touch features - and therefore reasons for the touch input in the first place. Sure, you can use it to navigate between windows, resizing them along the way, and some might even support other features such as pinch-to-zoom, but right now, very few do. Until that changes, there's almost no need for the touchscreen at all.

As things stand today, the web is still largely designed for use with a keyboard and mouse — it's all search boxes and small text links to navigate, neither of which is suited to an all touch input. Perhaps by the time the Chromebook Pixel 2 makes it onto shelves there may be enough apps that support touch input to make a touchscreen worthwhile, but for now, it simply adds expense and weight.

Hardware overkill

Almost without exception, there are very few concerns with the rest of the hardware - although I would take a micro HDMI output rather than a Display Port plus adaptor, which wasn't included in the box.

In fact, I (like many others) would say the hardware is almost overkill for the rest of the laptop. The beauty of the average Chromebook (and they haven't been a runaway success so far, by any means) is the price. For around £200, you can have a fully functional laptop that allows you to do everything you'd normally do in the browser, with a reasonably long battery life and quick boot time.

The audio playback was surprising too with loud, if not crystal clear sound, coming through the speakers. Sadly, it showed a trait seen in many, many other laptops too - it got rather warm under the USB ports when in use. Still, that didn't stop me using it as my everyday work laptop for a little while when my underpowered everyday machine became too slow to bear.

While the Pixel mostly matches up to what its rivals can offer (although I would have expected a more generous battery life: with the screen on around 70 percent brightness, it lasted for around two and half hours or so of continuous playback), it can't compete in the most crucial area: the price.


The verdict

It's hard to sell the idea of a Chromebook Pixel to a lot of people. At first glance it has a lot in common with a laptop — you can do most of the things you'd want to do on laptop on a Pixel — but, unlike a laptop, you can't use Skype or download any of the other apps traditionally found on such machines.

However, the biggest difference most people will notice between a Pixel and an average laptop is simply the price. People will accept cut-down functionality at a cut-down price, but combine cut-down functionality with an asking price larger than a MacBook Pro's and it all starts to make a lot less sense.

There's really very little to consider in making this decision. I'd love a Chromebook Pixel: it's definitely stylish, it has a reassuring quality feel to it and there's not any sign of the flex or paint rubbing off that I quickly saw in the Samsung Chromebook (which retails for around £230). I like the fact it boots quickly, and most of what I want to do, I do in the browser.

And still, I couldn't even consider buying one now. Perhaps when there are more touch-enabled apps it would be more enticing, but I could never hand over that amount of money for what I'd perceive to be a bit less than a laptop.

Right now, it feels like a concept machine, a glimpse at what could — and likely will — be, rather than a machine for today's needs. But give it a year or so and I'd bet we'll see the premium Chromebook market making a lot more sense.

Topics: Hardware, Google, Laptops, Mobility, Operating Systems

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • This is clearly a concept machine

    There is not other way of looking at it.
    I don't agree when people compare a $200 chromebook and a $1300 chromebook to say it makes no sense, that price range exists with other type of laptops.

    Samsung just updated their series 9 laptops and the price is $1900, you can get the "same" for $300. It's true that the Samsung has a good capacity SSD and the best processor, but stills behind regarding resolution... and it's a lot more expensive than the pixel.

    Very expensive products are hardly made for the majority, it requires a lot of skills and maybe luck for some company be able to do it.

    I believe in a way, retina mac laptops and Pixel deprecated a lot of other low resolution laptops, hopefully they soon will stop using 768 lines on large screens.
    • Value added feature

      That may need to be considered (depending on how you work) is the 1TB of offsite data storage for 3 years. Throwing a 1TB hard disk into a laptop that is backed up for you and made available to any internet connected device is quite a nice plus.

      As an aside, I actually hate Google. I own an iPhone, Windows Phone 8 and Windows PC. I am a Windows administrator. But even I can see the benefits here.
  • Never!

    Why would anybody pay money for a spyware machine from Google. Oh yes, they already do with Android devices. Put Ubuntu on it, and it might get interesting. But, I can already do that on a MacBook Air or on a netbook. Won't be long until everybody has "retina" screens.
    • No one...

      is forcing anyone to buy a ChromeBook. Only those that feel they must have the latest and "coolest" buy them. My question to you would be "would you buy a retina screen"-from any source-Google,MAC,MS, Linux?
    • spyware

      Spyware? And there is none on Apple or MS machines right, and malware besides? Get a grip, at least with a Chrome machine even when paid to break it, they haven't been able to.
      • Look at the business model

        From the moment that Google learned how to commercialise search, it was based on profiling their users. Every app and service they "give away" continues to expand that profile. That is how Google makes money and survives.

        Sure, Apple, Microsoft, and others can spy on their users, but for those two, they manage to make a lot of money without doing so. They sell real products. Google sells advertising.

        All you Google fan boys out there, remember Google has a profile on you (and billions of other people) on their servers. One day that info will be leaked and we will see an identity theft day that will shock the world.
        • I see the conspiracy theorists out in abundance.

          The only people who need to be concerned with having a Google identity leak are those who spend too much time on freakish porn sites...and its not just Google that would be tracking that, its your computer, your IP, your server, and every other obvious path back to your odd indiscretions. If you're that concerned maybe get off the computer and fulfill some of your issues with a trip to Tijuana where you can do it fully anonymous. For the rest of us though what you describe is never going to be an issue.
          Marc Ello
  • tomorrow could be a very different story

    What are they going to do tomorrow that will make it anything more than a fancy, overpriced browser???

    • Lower the price

      Seems rather obvious.
      Marc Ello
  • One of his last complaints is a misconception

    I can do about 99.999% of what I need to do on my Chromebook, and I'm using the original Samsung 5. The only things I can't do with it are video and picture editing (I mostly did pixel art, anyway, and if I boot chrome apps in Win XP, they work fine), small games (java based, or on Facebook) and Office Productivity (I can use Google Docs). So, in conclusion, I think if I ever had to buy another Chromebook, I would buy the Pixel because it looks like it has the processing power to address these issues, plus, Google Accounts are like Microsoft's roaming profiles that sync between XP and Windows Server '03. It would have to be at a more reasonable price, though.
    Richard Estes
    • But you are 90% of the people

      and that is who he is directing it towards so IMO he is dead on accurate. And based on our spot survey here amoung IT - he's right on the money.
      • Ugh - need EDIT back... are NOT 90% of the...

        Meant to say not 90% of the people.
    • S5 vs Pixel

      I was part of the Cr-48 pilot project, and I now have a Samsung S5 and a Pixel. The S5 has "adequate" performance, plus outstanding battery life and 3G, but everything on the Pixel works better. The Pixel, is a revelation, "This is what a Chromebook was meant to be." It's the first computer since my first Mac that actually brings joy.

      My daily driver is a Honda Fit, and today I took a test drive in a Buick Encore, which is almost the same size, but has about 20% less cargo space, and costs $10,000 more than the Fit. The comparison between the two is not unlike the S5 and the Pixel.

      There is definitely an "early adopter" tax on new hardware, but the Pixel sets a path for higher-end Chromebooks with Haswell processors and HD screens, at a lower price point.
    • If you can use a chromebook for 99% of your work ...

      Perhaps you're job isn't demanding enough and it wont be too long before you're replaced by a bonobo.
      • If you judge the value of someone's job based on...

        ...the computer/software they use, you are ignorant. Thanks for posting though.
        Marc Ello
  • Best, and probably most accurate line, about Pixel I have read...

    "People will accept cut-down functionality at a cut-down price, but combine cut-down functionality with an asking price larger than a MacBook Pro's and it all starts to make a lot less sense."
  • Tomorrow is another day...

    ...and will see ultrabooks with Intel Haswell starting at 600$. Hopefully there will be chromebooks as well (muahaha...).
  • Google should drop the pride and the competition against MS, and turn pixel

    into a full-fledged laptop, with all of the hardware that defines a good laptop, and all of the software that defines an operating system and applications.

    Then, because of the "superior" specs and looks and retina screen, it could be a big seller, and good competition to the other laptop/ultrabook makers. But, the price had better not go up, and should probably be lowered. Thus, price and superiors specs (hardware and software) could make for a very good laptop with decent or good sales.
    • I am pretty sure Google has a different vision than you and MS

      Google is going full steam ahead on a cloud based future where processing and internet speeds make the need for native applications nearly insignificant. We're obviously not there yet, but that so many can get along with simple a tablet already illustrates that a large segment of the market is no longer dependent on the Windows parading.
      Marc Ello
      • Yeah, sure, like Chromebooks are selling like hotcakes, and the pixel is

        outselling iPads and everything around it.

        I was talking about the pixel, which has no future in computing, other than as a terminal, but, no terminal should ever be so expensive. If an expensive piece of hardware like that is ever going to make it, it better not be just a terminal with browser intended to be just for on-line purposes.

        The pixel is the equivalent of purchasing a Boeing 747 for the sole purpose of taking a person to work and back every day. It's overkill for what it's intended for.

        Get it????

        Besides, the Google vision of the cloud will be dying off within 2 years.