Chromebook Pixel is fantastic, but Surface Pro is the mobile computer for me

Chromebook Pixel is fantastic, but Surface Pro is the mobile computer for me

Summary: I've been using the Chromebook Pixel for over a week and I wish I could fit it into my lifestyle. The hardware is superb and it is much more useful than people seem to give it credit for.

TOPICS: Mobility, Google, Laptops
Chromebook Pixel is fantastic, but Surface Pro is still mobile computer for me

A couple years ago, if someone asked me what the best portable computer hardware was, I had no hesitation in sending them to the Apple Store. That is now changing though, as we see companies like Microsoft and Google challenging Apple with amazing hardware.

A few writers here at ZDNet have been using the Chromebook Pixel (see links to related coverage below) and I really wanted to see one for myself and see if I could get by with using one. Google sent one for me to try out for a couple weeks and I am indeed incredibly impressed with the top-notch hardware and Chrome experience. However, the Microsoft Surface Pro better meets my needs since Windows is still needed to run some of my engineering apps.

I tested out the $249 Samsung Chromebook a few months ago and ended up giving it to my youngest daughter for a Christmas present. She absolutely loves it and uses it as her laptop for school research, writing papers, chatting with her sister in college via Google Talk, and watching streaming video content.

I was EXTREMELY productive with the Chromebook and if writing here on ZDNet was my only job then I would buy the Chromebook Pixel in a heartbeat, even at the $1,449 price. The display will blow you away, the touchpad is elegant, the keyboard is functional, and I love the look and feel of the retro-looking hardware. It is quite heavy and that actually resulted in a slip off my lap one night last week. The Pixel is still fully usable and functional, but there is a small dent on the back of the display where it struck my MacBook Pro.

Related ZDNet coverage

I'm still not sold on the need for a touchscreen and don't like experiences where you jump between a display and keyboard. I am hoping Google has more in store for this, perhaps at Google I/O in May. Jumping between a touchscreen and a keyboard is one reason that iPad keyboards frustrate me a bit. Apple has a lock on how far external keyboard manufacturers can go with functionality and they are really just good for text entry.

My wife and I were streaming Vikings on Hulu and she kept looking behind us since the speakers on the Pixel are the most amazing laptop speakers I have ever heard and we swore action was behind us. I can't even find the speakers on the Pixel. James told me they are under the keyboard, and the sound just seems to come at you from the device. If you watch a lot of streaming content without headphones, you may want the Pixel just for that experience.

Browsing in Chrome, writing posts in an offline text editor, watching media with streaming services, and more were all great experiences. However, I need to still use the full version of Excel, Word, and Project while running ship stability software, so the Pixel just won't fit into my life at this time.

One thing I miss on the Surface Pro and other laptops I have tried is integrated LTE. You get 100MB of free Verizon LTE per month on the more expensive Pixel, and it also comes with double the integrated flash memory, and I find having integrated wireless to be extremely convenient. I have it in my iPad and prefer integrated wireless over tethering in most situations. It was great to use the Pixel on the Sounder train and it's actually where I am working on this article right now.

The Pixel is expensive, but if you spend most of your time in the cloud, you won't regret the purchase. The hardware is simply fantastic, so if Chrome meets your needs then it is a great purchase. I understand you can also dual boot into a Linux distribution so you can do even more with the Chromebook if you spend a bit of time setting it up.

My MoTR podcast co-host, Kevin Tofel, told us he ordered his own during the last show, so keep listening to the podcast for more of his long-term experiences. If Google doesn't have me purchase this scratch-and-dent model, then it will be going back at the end of the week and I am sure I will miss it dearly soon after.

Topics: Mobility, Google, Laptops

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Fair Enough

    I can hardly wait for the juvenile comments to appear about how you are an idiot for liking either one. The important thing, which you allude to at the start of your article, is that the best portable computer hardware is that which best meets your needs (and wants). Different people have different needs, and make different choices.
  • no sense

    are you paid just to write out your day dreams...if you spend most of your time on cloud you wont regret the purchase...blah blah blah..they why would one spend so much on pixel ..better not buy an old windows laptop??
    • and no brains,

      just pointless whining. You mean an old Windows laptop with a 1.5 hr battery life weighing 6 lbs?

      Sharp, you ain't.
      • Actually I was wondering why

        all of the reviewers are spinning the size and weight of the pixel in a positive light. For most other products if it is not thin and light they treat it as dead meat.
      • Agree, you have no brains.

    • Actually ...

      I think he is paid to do that. Writing opinion articles is a pretty sweet job to have, right?
  • There is no need to dual boot both chromebook and Ubuntu can run on one

    kernel and be used simultaneously as was mentioned here:
  • I would agree except that Chrome book in any form is a waste of money

    • I would agree with you except

      that Windows in any form is a waste of money.
      • And yet 90 percent of the PC world uses Windows.

    • In what world do you live?

      You must not have been out long...
    • QED

      Owlll1net to the rescue. Quod erat demonstrandum.
  • Sorry

    Anything from google is garbage.
    • sorry

      Everything from MS is garbage.
    • why is it so ideological with you MS types?

      Is google search really garbage, billions of searches every day, someone must think it works reasonably well. Google maps garbage? Not the top mapping software, but pretty good. Google translate? Works as well as anything out there. Google Chrome browser? I don't like it because it doesn't let me display bookmarks (favorites for you MS types) , but it is faster to load than FF and I do use it occasionally. None of it is garbage, in my opinion. I can substantiate how well it works, can you substantiate why it's garbage (ie, it doesn't work?)
      • WhatsamattaU

        I use Chrome browser almost exclusively these days. There is one vendor that only writes for IE (and sort of for Firefox). I have bookmarks on my bookmarks bar and I have folders on my bookmarks bar so I can group like bookmarks, such as mail programs, TV, bank, etc. You need to change your settings to display the bookmarks bar. I used to use IE almost exclusively, but ever since IE 9 it has been really quirky; i.e., I close a tab and get a pop-up saying IE has stopped working and Windows is looking for a solution.

        Mapping is pretty good, but I use my GPS for driving. I tried my new Nokia 810 HERE Drive+ Beta, but it still needs some work and my GPS has current traffic alerts.
  • What about the Free Microsoft Office Web Applications

    Did you try the web versions of MS Office on the Chrome Book?
    • Office web apps

      I've tried both the free version and the Office 365 in OWA mode (no software loaded locally) and they both work pretty well; not as good as Google Apps for Business, but good.
    • Good point, will try that out

      That's a very good recommendation and may meet my Office needs. I still need to use some engineering apps. Maybe I could VPN with a Linux distribution on the Pixel. Still not as convenient as having Windows on the Surface Pro though.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • Chromebook Pixel is fantastic, but Surface Pro is the mobile computer for m

    You made the right choice with the Microsoft Surface Pro. You are not limited to a web only device and it will run your current applications. Its really hard to beat that.