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Google Pixelbook, 3 months later: Still the best, still frustrating

It's been three months since we saw Google's latest in the line of Chromebook Pixels, which brought a pretty major shake-up to Google's high-end and expensive as ever line of Chromebooks. The Pixelbook is less of a laptop and more of an all-in-one mobile device that is ready to take on the wild world of Android tablets.

Fancy looks and new features aside, it's still the halo product for Chromebook developers and needs to be a bulletproof way to showcase everything Chrome has to offer. In that regard, it has some very big shoes to fill as its predecessors may not have had the same svelte and futuristic look but were easily some of the best laptops you could buy from a hardware and design angle.

Let's see how that's working out after using it for three months.

Lovely to see, beautiful to use

The Google Pixelbook What's still great

It's only been three months, but the hardware is living up to its full potential in every way. I'm still using the same base model Pixelbook I used when I wrote the review, so that means packed inside you'll find a 7th generation Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 128GB SSD. All this sits under a 12.3-inch 2400x1600 LCD that's bright and beautiful. That's the same type of hardware you would find in a high-end laptop from any company, though getting it all inside a razor-thin body (0.4 inches closed) isn't nearly as common.

You can't help but love the way this hardware runs, or the way it looks.

This level of hardware is absolute and without a doubt overkill for Chrome OS, whether you're using Android apps or not, but it's fun to know you have it ready and wanting to do something.

Having zero performance hit or software slowdowns after just three months is pretty standard for a Chromebook, though. Things are almost always responsive like they were when new until you fill the storage past 80% or so but it's always remarkable how snappy everything is when I'm on my Pixelbook.

I'm also still very happy with the way Android apps perform when compared to any other Chromebook. When Google first put Android inside Chrome, Intel processors could get weird. Really weird. There were no repeatable symptoms from a user standpoint, but they were a lot jankier than ARM Chromebooks. Google seems to have that sorted, and while the Pixelbook is the only Intel Chromebook I'm using with Android apps, I think this is an OS thing and not specific to the Pixelbook. Either way, I'm happy with how things have aged here so far.

The software runs well on the hardware, but just as importantly, the hardware has held up in the looks department. I was worried when I saw a white silicone wrist rest on the Pixelbook because I like to use it in the same room that an ancient Franklin-style wood stove lives in and nothing white can escape what I like to call "the sootening." As predicted, I've touched the wrong thing and put a soot-covered hand on the Pixelbook once or twice, but a damp cloth has always done the job and the white silicone wrist rest is still white.

My fears of how well the white silicone would age have disappeared.

Some things are better than they were when the review was written, most notably the support for multiple Chrome browser windows in tablet mode that came from an OS update. Chrome has never really offered much in the way of window management, but when a device designed to be used as a tablet as much as it is used as a laptop comes into the picture, something needed to be done. Changes to the Chromium source code suggest the same treatment is on the way for Android apps. Let's hope it arrives soon because it's sorely needed.

How soon is now?

The Google Pixelbook What's not as great

Nothing is perfect, but for the most part, the Pixelbook has lived up to my lofty expectations. There are a few things that haven't fulfilled their promise though.

I'll start with Google Assistant. It works just as well as it did when I first tried it, but so far nothing that makes it a must-have has been added to the software. Maybe we are missing the Google of old that would throw features out left and right, only to get rid of all the bad ones, but I had hoped there would be some fancy updating in the months since release. It's obvious that something's changed in the way the Pixelbook Pen can trigger assistant because several developer builds have broken it, which is the norm for early testing.

Android apps just work on the Pixelbook; I want them to just work well.

Now let's move on to the biggest single disappointment, which would be Android app support. It may seem strange to see Android app support listed and both good and bad, but there's a difference between supporting a thing and supporting it well.

Android apps, for the most part, just work. That's true of almost every Chromebook with Google Play support. But here we are, two years later, and that's as far as things have moved. Getting the ability to run over one million apps on any platform with one small user-facing change is great, and I can see why Google says Android apps and Google Play for Chromebooks is a big deal. In fact, I agree. But three things are lacking: developers supporting a bigger screen layout efficiently and beautifully, tools for Android developers to do that easily, and tools for end-users to run the apps they need all at once effectively.

I'm able to find apps that work for anything I need to do, but I'd much rather be able to find apps that work a little bit better. This isn't a Pixelbook problem as much as a Chrome problem, but I'm here using the device I expected to change things for the better and so far it hasn't. Google I/O 2018 is coming up soon and, hopefully, I won't leave as disappointed in this space as I was when it started.

I'm still looking for a reason to use a Pen when I'm not doodling.

I want to say that the Pixelbook Pen hasn't wowed me, but I think that comes down to two things that aren't really a problem — I'm not sure how a Pen can change the way I use a Chromebook for the better, and Google hasn't given me any ideas. It works just as well as it did when I first started using it, and things like doodling (which is basically all I use it for) are fun and easy. It just seems a shame that a piece of hardware that works so well rarely comes out of the sleeve I'm using to carry the Pixelbook around.

See Pixelbook Pen at Best Buy (opens in new tab)

These issues may seem small, and they aren't really problems that have appeared since I reviewed the Pixelbook. But they are just as important for the user experience, and they need to be addressed by Google.

That's a lot of money

Three months later Has anything changed?

Writing an entire section about things I don't like very much sounds as if I'm not happy with the Pixelbook. Nothing could be further from the truth and after using it every day for three months I have the same impression of it as I did in the beginning: The Pixelbook is fan-f***ing-tastic if you are a Chromebook user.

Nothing has changed as far as my recommendation here and I still think that most people would be happier if they bought a Samsung Chromebook Plus because it's almost $700 cheaper and delivers 90% of the same experience.

There's a very distinct market for the Pixelbook — someone who uses a Chromebook to do everything and is willing to spend too much money to get Google's best product. There is value in being the thinnest or having the best tablet experience or getting a better keyboard and trackpad. This is what sells MacBook Pros and SurfaceBooks, and why the Pixelbook exists.

If you can walk away feeling that it's worth spending the extra money for this, then I can still recommend the Pixelbook as one of the best purchases you could make, even if you're ready for more from the software like I am.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

21 Comments
  • I've been intrigued by chrome books for a while now. I wish Google didn't lock Android app installs and play store access to Chrome OS only. We used to be able to use ARC Welder to install on W10/W7 PC's, which much like this article states, was hit or miss on x86 hardware, but it was possible. Bottom line, without access to professional software from Autodesk, Adobe, etc. I cannot have a chrome only pc, it's just not there yet. Maybe things will change as 5g and virtual software becomes better optimized. Until then, I have to stick with my Surface, and Galaxy S8 - which Samsung has provided mirroring capabilities should I need our want to run Android on a larger screen. I just wish they (Samsung) would give us the DEX version, and not require the dock.
  • You missed a great feature, photos are automatically uploaded to the Chrome's Google Photos. No need for wires or SD cards, and if you allow Assist will organize, edit and produce a slideshow or movie w/sound automatically. You need to experience the total Google Ecosystem to appreciate the Pixelbook! This is my fourth PB. I've been working with computers for 50+ years. This is by far the most cultural creative intellectual tool I have experienced. ...Sam
  • How are you getting your photos onto the Chromebook without an SD card or wire? Or are you referring to accessing photos taken with an Android smartphone via Photos on the Chromebook? In which case, you can do that with any laptop by going to the Google Photos web page.
  • I'm on my 2nd chromebook, pixel is getting there, can't wait for the day it all works, it's close... The game of exclusively still exists.
  • I like the idea of the '2 in 1' hybrid tablet/laptop unit and would love to get my hands on a Pixelbook. But here in Canada, you are looking at $1299 for the 128 gb base model. Best Buy has a promo that includes the Pixel Pen, but still that is way too pricey in my opinion. I doubt we will see a price drop in the foreseeable future. I would like to upgrade my current Asus 11" Chromebook and like the flip style 2 in 1 hybrid model. Would you recommend the Acer R 13 Chromebook as a good (and less expensive) alternate to the Pixelbook? I have read mostly positive reviews about the R 13. Especially when it comes to battery life. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
  • If I had the cash, I'd buy it fur sure; but, I'm still happy with my ACER Chromebook Flip - a great all-purpose travel companion.
  • How is this any better than Samsung's Chromebook Plus for half the price. Same screen, pen included, same premium all aluminum design. You don't need the latest, highest specs to run a Chromebook. It's insultingly expensive and provides ZERO additional benefits. Nothing but "bragging" rights... "Look, I spent $1,000 on Google's Pixelbook!"
  • Agreed, but he addresses all of this in his article. He says his recommendation remains the Samsung, but if anyone absolutely has to have the best available Chromebook regardless of price, this is it.
  • Myain issue with this is the price. It's just absurd for the amount of money.
  • The price is just flat out ridiculous for what the machine is. Buy a decent laptop for a few hundred or even a less functional chromebook (compared to a laptop)from another maker. Or a Surface. Really don't get who the hell google is trying to market to, it is not a big segment.
  • If the parity is with the $300 Chromebook, there's no reason to get the luxury version unless it's on a 70% discount
  • I have been desperately waiting for this piece of hardware in Quebec Canada. Albeit notes sent to google, I still have no clue on when this will be available over here. The language of the OD might be the reason. However at a time when you want an ecosystem based on the same platform, I fail to see how Google can expect to gain ground is such a small number of geographies. Thanks for the review.
  • I truly can't fathom a reason, other than aesthetics, that anyone would buy one of these over a similarly priced and equally capable Windows laptop. In fact, I just spent $550 on a Dell laptop that matches this spec for spec, with the exception of having an i3 processor instead of the i5. And the build quality is excellent, far better than I expected for the price.
  • I've been a Macbook Pro user for many years, but have always wanted to try Chrome OS. I travel quite a bit for work, and wanted something thin and versatile to use in the evenings other than my work laptop or a tablet. The build quality and thinness of the Pixelbook is amazing. Yes, it may be somewhat overpriced, but when compared to all the other Chromebooks including the models made by Samsung, the PIxelbook build quality was far better. I've owned the device for about 6 weeks and have been nothing but impressed. Sure, it's not perfect, but in the last few weeks, I've seen several improvements made to the OS that make the Chromebook even more enjoyable. Google is doing some great things, give the Pixelbook a try, you won't be disappointed.
  • While I can certainly understand the sentiment that Chromebook users generally share regarding the price point of the Pixelbook as Jerry points out in his review is true, this is a halo device. It's targeted at a specific group of users who want the highest quality experience and future proofing. The hardware is certainly overkill for now but as chrome os continues to grow the hardware will certainly keep up for a while. Luxury certainly costs money, there's little doubt that this is a luxury more than a necessity so I judge it by that. I would buy one if I were looking to get into chrome os.
  • Google should either create their own video editing and photo editing software for Chromebooks, or pay Adobe to support Chromebooks.. this is the only reason I would ever buy an expensive Chromebook.. If Google really wants to be taken seriously they need this! I am running Photoshop cs5 on my Asus chromebook c302 through crossover without any problems.. also android video editing apps work great with HD video, just none are very good.. It isn't like Google don't have the extra cash laying around.. I almost have went back to windows machines for this very reason.. Google, it's your turn to make this happen.. throw a couple mil at Adobe, and you will see Chromebooks go through the roof!
  • I bought my Pixelbook to replace a stolen iPad Pro with Logitech keyboard case. I like the device, but I don't quite love it. Both the iPad Pro and Pixelbook have their compromises, but they both are able to complete 85% of what I need to do. I still need better photo and video support, but basic photo editing with Adobe android apps is pretty good. Microsoft Office apps are also sufficient.
  • I have the high-end PixelBook, and it is ridiculously fast. I agree with the points made in the article for the most part. This machine is so fast, however, that you might need to be careful when you first start to use it. I, for example, was whizzing around the screen "doin' stuff" and accidentally changed the language from English to Turkish. Seriously.
    I put it down to one of the very few things that could be worked on a little bit...the trackpad. It is a very good trackpad and works fine for the most part. Two things, though: it's fast but not quite as connected to my finger as it should be. Also, tapping the trackpad with one finger with easily enough force to have it select something does not always register.
    I have a lot of tech. The MacBook Pro has the best trackpad in the world. It's better than the trackpad for my iMac, and in fact, that trackpad (iMac) reminds me of the Pixelbook's. I set my Pixelbook aside for a week or so, just using other tech, and picked it up again today. I immediately liked being back on it, and as I went along doing 3-4 different things at once, I thought, "Hey, this thing is sweet. I'm liking it a lot." Most important thing the article said: "Get control of the Android apps....like, right effing now!" Otherwise, it's fantastic.
  • I've had my Pixelbook for about a week now, and since getting it neither my Surface Pro 4 nor Pixel C tablet has been turned on. Apparently, much of what I do can be accomplished on the Pixelbook. I have the original Samsung Chromebook, but the Pixelbook is WORLDS better. Sure, Chrome OS has come a long way, but it's the addition of Android apps that seems to make the difference for me. So far, I've been able to find an Android or Chrome app to fulfill every need. And when it comes to build quality and raw speed, the Pixelbook is in a class all its own. If the trend continues, I'll probably sell the Surface Pro 4 and Pixel C, since the Pixelbook seems to have it all covered. If I need to do any really heavy lifting, like video editing, I have a slightly older MacBook Pro that can handle it. At the end of the day, the Pixelbook is a better 2-in-1 than the Surface, and a better laptop than the Pixelbook.
  • How does the pen work with OneNote?
  • I picked up a pixel book the other day and I am super impressed it does everything I need and more. My son broke my Mac book so I decided to try the Pixel book and I am glad I did much cheaper and runs better IMO.
    I use it daily for work and its made my life easier don't have to surf for best internet connection the pixel book does it for you no waiting anymore.