Chromebook Pixel: What the Pixel 2 needs

Chromebook Pixel: What the Pixel 2 needs

Summary: Google surprised many with the introduction of its first laptop. While the Chromebook Pixel is a good laptop, here's what Google needs to do with the next generation Pixel.

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TOPICS: Laptops, Google, Mobility
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Chromebook Pixel
Chromebook Pixel -- Image credit: James Kendrick/ZDNet

The Chromebook Pixel is a nice first effort by Google to make a high-end laptop that shows off its Chrome OS. The company hasn't confirmed it will bring a refreshed model to market, but my gut feeling says we will see a new Pixel early next year. As good as the Chromebook Pixel is, here's what I'd like to see in the Pixel 2.

The design of the Pixel is something you either love or hate. I've heard repeatedly from those who find the industrial metal design of the Pixel to be ugly, and others who think it's gorgeous. I happen to really like the look of the Pixel, and while carring it around it frequently garnered the attention of others who found it attractive.

Previous Pixel coverage: Chromebook Pixel: One of the best laptops I've used |  Chromebook Pixel: 5 tips and tricks | Chromebook Pixel hands on (photos)

Hardware improvements

For the next generation of the Pixel, lets call it the Pixel 2, I'd keep the design largely unchanged. Google does need to make it a bit thinner and lighter to stack up against laptops currently on the market; just a little more portable than the first model and Google will have nailed it.

I find the Chromebook Pixel to be one of the best laptops I've ever used, but when I factor in the short battery life I can't bring myself to pay that high price.

Inside the Pixel 2 we need to see the new Haswell chips to address the main problem with the original laptop. The Haswell processor, as demonstrated in the MacBook Air, should let the Pixel 2 get at least 9 hours of usage away from a power outlet. This is mandatory, as the measly 5 hours of battery life on the original Pixel is a big reason I didn't buy one for myself. That's just not enough, and Haswell should address that.

Google needs to leave the gorgeous high-resolution display of the Pixel firmly in place. There's no need to change this in the Pixel 2 as it is still state-of-the-art. Leave the touch screen, too, as it can be as big an advantage in the next generation Pixel as it is in the first.

Leave the keyboard and trackpad untouched in the Pixel 2 as they are first-rate already in the Pixel. Don't mess with what works, and works as well as anything currently on the market.

Pixel keyboard-side-view
Fantastic Pixel keyboard/ trackpad

What it boils down to is Google needs to make the Pixel 2 a thinner, lighter laptop with better battery life. That's pretty much all that needs to be done on the hardware side to make a good showing of the generation two model.

Chrome OS improvements

On the software side Chrome OS is evolving nicely and that's expected to continue. What needs to happen for the Pixel 2 is to improve touch operation to better leverage the new model.

There are two facets to touch operation and Google needs to address them both for the Pixel 2. First up, augment the touchpad gestures to rival that of OS X and Windows 8. Give full touch control to Chrome OS with one, two, and three-finger operation to make navigating the OS simple with the touchpad. Improve the Chrome browser to have full touch control to rival what it can do on Android. That means pinch and zoom, tab navigation, and smooth scrolling.

Once Chrome OS has full touch features on the trackpad, give it the same using the Pixel's touch screen. It should be operable like a tablet that happens to be attached to a keyboard. Make it work the same way as using the touchpad and the Pixel 2 will really shine.

Easier on the wallet

While the high price of the original Chromebook Pixel (up to $1449 for the LTE model) is an accurate reflection of the great build quality Google put into it, it is still a high price to pay. I find the Pixel to be one of the best laptops I've ever used, but when I factor in the short battery life I can't bring myself to pay that high price.

That's what I hear from a lot of folks who are very interested in the Pixel. For that reason I believe that Google needs to drop the price for the Pixel 2 by a few hundred dollars at least. While it might not make sense to keep the build quality as good or better than the first generation Pixel while dropping the price, it's what needs to happen to get buyers to pony up the cash.

I would pay up to $1,200 for a Pixel 2 with LTE but not more than that. That price is in line with the MacBook Air I recently purchased. It's also what I hear from others they'd pay for the Pixel, and I'll bet they would for an improved model. It's a tough game with low profit margins, and that will be the case with the Pixel 2.

Bringing it all together

Google doesn't need to do much to properly refresh the Chromebook Pixel. A few tweaks to the hardware to make it thinner, lighter, and have much better battery life. Leave that beautiful touch screen alone but make it work better through software.

To bring it home drop the price to make it easier on the wallet; the Chromebook Pixel 2 will be as good as anything out there.

Topics: Laptops, Google, Mobility

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42 comments
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  • I know what to do.

    Give it a real hard drive and windows 7 or a useful version of Linux.
    Sam Wagner
    • We're hoping

      That eventually, ChromeOS will evolve to be able to handle desktop applications. Yes, I get that it is meant to run things primarily online, but I wouldn't mind a hard drive or at least a 128 GB SSD. To me, ChromeOS would have the Chrome browser with a large amount of browser apps, plus the capability to run desktop apps aside from the Chrome browser.
      TheMimic12
      • Careful What You Wish For...

        Because when 'the browser' evolves into handling all sorts of desktop applications -- that 'browser' will very, very likely evolve into the same degree of complication as the desktop OS today -- if not more so.
        ReadandShare
      • Understanding the Chrome OS Environment

        So basically, you want the Chrome Browser and a PC or Mac, and not a Chromebook.

        What sort of desktop applications are you running?

        I think a lot of times, it's hard for people to wrap their brains around Chrome OS. it's sleek, and it eliminates much of the clutter of the PC and even Mac life. I was a big Apple fan boy, until recently, and i started noticing that all the things that i trust most, tend to be on the Google side. I love Gmail, and Google News, Google +, Youtube and Chrome. Oh, how i loved Chrome! Still do.

        With Chrome OS, it turns that whole experience of Chrome into an OS. A light and fast and beautifully simple OS. One of the things you have to understand, is that Chrome is built for the Cloud. There are more and more web apps that are being made to store locally, but the embodiment of Chrome OS is Cloud based computing. Why this is better IMHO is that you allow your security, and backup, your computing power to be handled on Google's servers. Very powerful, very in tuned servers, all managed by the best minds in the business.

        Google Apps for business showed me the power of being able to collaborate through Google. And Google Drive is a big part of that. You don't have to send copies of things like docs or presentations, you can simply share them with a given audience. And later, you can restrict that audience. It's a wonderful system.

        Amazon is now selling a SanDisk Extreme 128 GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card 45MB/s SDSDX-128G-X46 for $152.94 - and that should shut up most people saying that it has no local storage. You can add storage. Fast Storage via SDHC.

        But if you game on your computer, and not your XB1/WiiU/PS4/etc, then this might be something you pick up as a secondary machine. If you plug your iPod or Smartphone into your computer to do anything like load songs or modify the OS, this is not really going to be the type of device to do that on. It can't DO everything. It wasn't meant to DO everything. But you can instal Linux as a dual boot, through Chrubuntu or Crouton, and then it can do just about everything.

        Check out these videos:

        What is Chrome OS? http://youtu.be/0QRO3gKj3qw

        Chrome OS Explained: http://youtu.be/_aemBh_vC-Y

        How to alternate Chrome OS and "ChrUbuntu": http://youtu.be/9ecBvOTJzA4
        jiggskc
    • Re: and windows 7

      That would double the price.
      ldo17
  • They need to improve the processor and what is around it

    And it's part of the normal progress of computers. They can keep the rest, even price.
    Sales of this very expensive computer must be very small, it works more like a showcase.

    Google needs to partner with PC makers, advertise chromebooks, sell them around the world, and improve the offer of online apps. They should start selling more quantities of cheaper devices before having big chances of selling a lot of over $500 computers.
    AleMartin
  • It's still just a Chromebook

    What's the point of these things? There's nothing it can't do that a Windows notebook running Chrome can't, and the Windows notebook costs a lot less and does a lot more
    larry@...
    • It's Chrome OS

      If you spend almost all of your time in the Chrome browser, as I do, then the Chromebook makes sense. It is a decent laptop where all the hardware has been optimized to do one thing brilliantly, make your Chrome use the best it can be.
      JamesKendrick
      • the best Chrome can be

        Yes, if I basically just used Chrome I might feel that way, but they still grossly overcharge for the privilege.
        larry@...
      • Agreed with the article James

        For me, the killer is the battery life. 7 hours at the minimum is needed (although considerably more should be possible now - e.g. macbook air).
        And just a tad cheaper.
        Chrome OS is great,but not yet ready to be your 1 OS yet. In a few years, highly possibly, but it's still around the 90% mark.
        But as an IT pro of 15 years, I love getting home and just opening the Sammy Chromebook (or the Box). Just so easy and smooth to use, and no "fixing" anything, waiting for updates, getting told to virus scan, or optimize.

        You just use it
        Boothy_p
        • Still not seeing it

          Let's just take apple and Microsoft right out of the equation and stick with Linux systems.

          "Just so easy and smooth to use, and no "fixing" anything, waiting for updates, getting told to virus scan, or optimize."

          In what way is a $1,000 Chromebook like the Pixel better than a $500 Android tablet with keyboard? After all, Android tablets are:
          "Just so easy and smooth to use, and no "fixing" anything, waiting for updates, getting told to virus scan, or optimize."

          At $200, Chromebooks make sense. At $1,000, they make absolutely no sense. Everything you could ever possibly accomplish on a $1,000 Chromebook could be accomplished better on a $500 Android tablet.
          toddbottom3
          • Well

            To be fair, I wouldn't buy a pixel for a grand. Just couldn't reconcile the cost, hence my Sammy arm Chromebook. But the article was on the Pixel, so thought I would try and keep on topic a bit.
            I find browsing faster on the CB than an android tablet, and still use the keyboard quite a lot so the CB works well for me there.
            And TBH the daily app updates are a bit annoying (but that could just be me with too many apps, and too many android devices).
            And if you want to run an android tablet without an anti-virus, well, your choice...... :)
            Boothy_p
          • Agreed

            I could easily justify spending $200 on a Chromebook.

            There is absolutely no way a $1,000 Chromebook makes any sense.
            toddbottom3
          • It's hard to justify, but not for different reasons

            People have different ideas, income, cultural backgrounds, ... Products and stuff in general are not just about what they can do or not.... but that is not easy to understand by many...
            AleMartin
          • You're missing something..

            My how you are a comedian.
            As if one can find an i5 based computer for $200.
            As if one can find a computer with a screen like that, for anywhere close to that price. Yes, the Pixel could be much better, similar to how Macs could be better if they'd improve on something other than just the screens.
            Sadly, the Pixel and the Macbook are not the only cases of this.
            Samsung recently released a new line of laptops that are very high resolution touchscreen laptops with a 128GB SSD, 4GBs RAM, integrated graphics, i5 CPU, and a useless OS known as Windows 8. It's $1400. Put simply, the prices may sound steep, and to an extent are, but you cannot really fault the pixel individually for making the same mistake that everyone seems to be making, and you cannot fault them for not selling a product that does at least deserve a much higher price tag than $200, for much more than $200.
            MicahMischief
    • Look to the future my friend..

      You're just being seriously short sighted. This laptop was produced so that developers have some good hardware on which to run web apps that push the current boundaries, think film/music editing or 3d cad modelling etc..

      Do you really think that in 5 years time you will still be using a computer with locally stored files/apps?

      The increase in broadband speeds means that in a few years it will be just as fast to run software on a massive server farm somewhere in the arctic and pipe it to your laptop than it would be to run software on you local machine. This, coupled with the fact that these types of computers boot in seconds, don't need anti virus software and can essentially be virtually moved anywhere i.e. you can log in to any chromebook and it will be setup exactly the same as your personal one, will mean that slow booting, virus prone, backup requiring laptops such as those produced today will be entirely obsolete.
      Tulang Dinreed
      • Chrome OS and Firefox OS represent *a* future for users

        I don't believe that it will happen as quickly as 5 years for everyone on the planet (Earth). And it's not just broadband speed that's important, but also broadband availability and reliability. Not to mention security and privacy.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
        • wall of text

          Well yes of course it's not going to be everyone on the planet (and I'm glad you clarified that you meant earth as I was going to say that the aliens on nibiru have been on cloud services for at least 500 years). There are people in the world that haven't even seen a computer so to think that I was suggesting that it applies to everyone on the planet is ridiculous.

          What I'm talking about is the mainstream consumer that currently has a good connection to the internet. It seems that the majority of people that are casual users of computers will be content with using a smartphone or a tablet since they mainly just browse the internet, send emails, use facebook etc. But the people who require better word processors, graphics software etc. will be the ones that are using what we today would call a computer.

          Just look at teenagers, what's the percentage that keep things like photos on a hard drive? I would bet that the majority have their photos hosted on a cloud service such as facebook. This isn't going to reverse. More and more of your digital data will be stored in the cloud.

          And this is why google has made this device. They can see services moving - and are actively pushing them - into the cloud. And for this to be viable for people who require not just basic web browsing etc, but need the other things like graphics editing, then both the hardware and web apps have to be there, hence giving developers the pixel on which to create these services.

          Yes, again, of course it will depend on availability and reliability of broadband. Hence why google is investing serious amounts into their fibre programme. They know that if these services are to be viable then they need a solid broadband infrastructure on which to run them.

          I would say that for the causal user data on a server farm is more secure to outside attack than their personal computer. Whether or not you trust the server farm provider is another question.

          So, I'd say that in five years there will be a significant number of people that will be using web services for all of their software based needs, but then again some other system could come along and change everything. We'll just have to wait and see.
          Tulang Dinreed
    • Don't Forget, It has 1 TB of Google Drive

      Don't Forget, It has 1 TB of Google Drive. It has a Gorgeous display that a Windows notebook can't touch at this time. And most importantly, it's not running Windows; removing the clutter. Chrome OS leverages the power of Google's servers to get the job done in the cloud, with a layer of security unmatched by any other OS. This is very much unlike the Microsoft environment where you have to install Malware Security, Spyware Security, Adware Security, Anti-virus Security . . . shall i keep going?

      It doesn't have MS Office, but you can purchase Office 365, and use your SkyDrive if you didn't want to use Google Docs.

      And then there is linux.

      Point being it's much, much better than a typical PC set up for people that aren't gamers or power users. If you are developing video games, you are probably gonna need a different kind of rig.

      Check out this video on the future being Chromebooks + Android: http://www.j-baer.com/dualboot-chromebook
      jiggskc
    • windows machine

      Can your windows machine boot up and get you on the web in 8 seconds? Maybe out of the box an ultrabook can boot up that quick, but give it a few months. It'll slow down. They always do. Chromebooks do not.

      Does your windows machine have free built in virus protection that never needs to be paid for or manually updated?

      When windows 9 comes out will your windows machine automatically update itself for free?
      James Welbes