Chromebook Pixel: What the Pixel 2 needs

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.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor
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.

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