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.
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.