Why spending $1000 on a Pixelbook was the right decision

"It's absurd to spend $1,000 on a web browser."

That's what I've been hearing a lot in relation to Google's new Pixelbook laptop. But calling Chrome OS "a web browser" is a plain wrong, though I do understand the sentiment. A Chromebook doesn't do all the same things a Windows or Mac laptop can do. That's fine when we're talking about a $200 machine, since Macs don't exist in that price range and Windows laptops in that range are an exercise in frustration.

But let's say you're the type of person who knows a Chromebook is the perfect fit for you. You may have used a Chromebook through high school or college, and you're already familiar with the strengths and limitations of the Chrome platform. You may also be like me and already have a desktop for all your heavy-duty needs, but want something lightweight and fool-proof for mobile use.

For the past few years, this mobile device may have been an iPad or Android tablet. That's perfectly sufficient for most people, but a Chromebook would allow access to Android applications and a full desktop browser on the same device. That may sound trivial, but it makes for a great all-round device that can go anywhere and do almost anything.

Enter Pixelbook.

The Pixelbook represents Google's tablet future.

There's also another angle from which to consider the Pixelbook: Android tablets have, by and large, failed. Android on tablets has been reduced to that $50 Amazon Fire tablet that's near the checkout aisle in Best Buy next to snacks, soda, and other crap nobody really wants or needs. Android's tablet-esque future isn't on "traditional" tablets; it's on Chromebooks. Manufacturers need a halo device for this context, and developers need a machine to build their applications for. In the past, we had the Nexus 7. Now have the Pixelbook.

The standout Chromebooks this year have been the Asus Chromebook C302 and the Samsung Chromebook Plus/Pro. I've used all of these at some point during the year, and they're great devices. However, they're not without compromises. Both of these feel like laptops first and tablets second. This is particularly true of the Asus Chromebook, which has a 16:9 aspect ratio screen. This aspect ratio is great when the device is used as a laptop, but it makes the device too tall as a tablet.

The Pixelbook is much more comfortable as a tablet than other convertible computers.

The Pixelbook is much more comfortable as a tablet than other convertible computers.

The Samsung Chromebooks are better in this regard, but not without their own issues. The 3:2 aspect ratio of the display makes them much better as a tablet, and the display is gorgeous, but the keyboard is awkwardly cramped and not backlit, and the trackpad always left me wanting. Are these huge issues? Not really, but the keyboard and trackpad are the elements you'll interact with most on a laptop.

The Pixelbook has two elements you want from a high-end laptop: a beautiful screen, and a fantastic keyboard.

I've been using the Pixelbook for at least three hours a day since purchasing it from Best Buy on release day. I already knew I liked Chrome as an operating system before buying it, and I would suggest anyone interested in the Pixelbook to at least try a less expensive Chromebook first.

What about the Pixelbook itself makes it worth trying? It's a lot of little things. The screen is drop-dead gorgeous (though using the same panel and tuning as the Samsung Chromebooks). The keyboard has just the right amount of firmness and travel. I use a mechanical keyboard with typist-friendly Cherry Blue switches at my desk at home. Whenever I used to write out a long-form article or review, I'd always write at home with my full keyboard. Now, I'm just as happy using the Pixelbook's keyboard as I am my mechanical keyboard, and that's no small feat. And the silicone wrist rest around the keyboard is dirt-free, though I'd expect that to change in the years to come.

The Pixelbook keyboard and trackpad are the best I've used on any laptop.

The Pixelbook keyboard and trackpad are the best I've used on any laptop.

Similarly, the trackpad is the best I've used on any device — Windows, Chrome or Mac. I used to bring a wireless mouse with me everywhere I went with my laptop, and I still have my Logitech M720 Triathlon paired to my Pixelbook. After the first time I paired it though, I never used it. The trackpad is that good. Gestures are effortless, scrolling is nice and smooth and the larger size of the trackpad makes it a joy to use.

The Pixelbook feels lighter than any other Chromebook I've used, and I've used a lot.

Then there's the flip side. Literally. The specs sheet for the Pixelbook and Samsung Chromebook Plus list them at the same 2.4 lbs, but the Pixelbook feels so much lighter. I don't know what voodoo Google did with the weight distribution of this device, but it doesn't feel anywhere near that heavy. That may sound like a minor detail, but it goes a long way when using the device as a tablet, or even just when carrying it around. It's hard to get this across in a review, and while this sounds like a cop-out, it really needs to be experienced to find out how dramatic of a difference it is compared to other devices.

In terms of general performance, there's nothing that stands out about the Pixelbook compared to other Chromebooks. An Intel Core i5 and 8GB of RAM is absolutely overkill for Chrome, and it doesn't start up or perform noticeably better than a $250 Acer Chromebook 14. The most intense Android game I've played so far has been Monument Valley 2. I'm sure a title like Asphalt 8 would be more smooth on the Pixelbook than a lower-end Chromebook, but I don't play games like that. Battery life is sufficient, but not earth shattering: I get an average of 10 hours of screen on-time with five or so tabs open at a time, or about eight hours of video watching.

As mentioned previously, I don't have any desire to use the Pixelbook pen. If it were included I'd probably give it a try, then put it back in the box. I also don't care that the Pixelbook is the first Chromebook with Google Assistant. It's great for Google, but Assistant is the kind of service that will come to other Chromebooks. For me, my phone is always close enough to use for Assistant. Other complaints include the lackluster front facing camera (which records at only 720p), and speakers. I can also understand some users wanting a USB Type A port for older flash drives and mice dongles, but that would have been too thick to include in such as svelte chassis.

The Pixelbook design mirrors that of the Pixel phones.

The Pixelbook design mirrors that of the Pixel phones.

One last note is that the Pixelbook will be Google's platform for new features for Chrome going forward. For those that like to tinker (and I'm one of them), this may be an important point. I don't think it should weigh into anyone's buying decision though. Buy a device for what it does today, then be happy with new features that get added in the future.

In the end, I can't recommend the Pixelbook to anyone. At least, not without them trying a less expensive Chromebook first. If that Chromebook meets that person's needs for a mobile device, and they're willing to spend the money for a fantastic keyboard and trackpad, the best Android tablet experience out there, and the great design, then I'd say go for it.

The Pixelbook is the perfect laptop for me, and if you're already a fan of Chrome it's probably the perfect laptop for you.

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49 Comments
  • It's a clever move on Google's part following the tobacco industries "hook em young" strategy, but an old 80s/90s kid like me who grew up when chrome didn't exist and having access to any computer at home was a rarity (crazy, eh kids? We had to write with PENS! and if you're thinking it was horrible, you're correct.) Getting a £1000 Chromebook seems ridiculous when windows exists. Microsoft/Windows is gonna have a serious problem in a decade or two when my generation is winding down and yours is in full swing... Not that they're doing terrifically well now lol.
  • No one is hooked on these POS. You are kidding yourself.
  • Whoa, I can't imagine! But I guess as long as you can access the internet on your smartphone and tablet, you don't really need a computer.
    Now if you didn't have access to a smartphone or a computer... Now that would be scary
  • Actually, all I see is Google taking a little bit more of the pie of the laptop and desktop market compared to Apple. As long as MS holds the majority of the gaming market there is no way that they'll lose their lead. Unfortunately that is what most people don't recognize when they say that MS will lose the laptop and desktop war.
  • Thin out those Bezels and you got yourself a new customer
  • I don't mind the bezels too much. I was just hoping for an overall bigger display. 13.5 was my magic number. Those things likely go hand in hand though.
  • I'll pass... Products with more feature are available, don't need to be an expensive Google beta tester
  • Incredible waste of money no matter how you try to justify it. This is the Chromebook equivalent of Monster HDMI cables.
  • I would literally buy an iPhone X (would never willingly do that) instead of this.
  • I bought one on Best Buy on launch day and use it my main device at home and at work. ChromeOS works for me. It's not for everybody.
  • Google is making strange pricing decisions this year. Everything they release from the second gen daydream headset to the Pixel 2 XL is more expensive than it should be, and a little more expensive than anyone would have guessed it would be prior to the price being revealed. It's as if they are trying to sell the public on the quality of the product via the inflated price they place upon it. It feels like an experiment done at the behest of investors to see if they can price things more like Apple does without negatively affecting sales volume.
  • How much is your phone? Shouldn't a laptop or tablet be in the same price range or maybe a little more?
  • Nah, not worth it for a grand. And the bezels make it look hideous.
  • The bezels make it easy to hold when it's used as a tablet.
  • I love my Pixelbook. It's a suitable Pixel C replacement (which I still do love as well) in that is a significant upgrade in almost everything except weight. Better battery life, brighter screen, more comfortable (lighted!) keyboard. HDMI out. Faster performance. The hardware is, bar none, an improvement in terms of the whole package (if you can deal with the weight and I can) and this is considering the Pixel C still holds up beautifully. Chrome OS with Android Apps does everything the Pixel C did, but the desktop class browser makes this device a real all-in-one for my mobile needs. It bridges the gap between my Pixel phone and my Windows 10 desktop tower. My issues with the Pixelbook are with specifically with Chrome OS itself... I don't like the launcher and I miss widgets. My god do I miss widgets. But this is a required trade-off; Google has no plans to support custom launchers or widgets in Chrome OS. There are other incongruities when jumping between Chrome OS and Android. Which means, really, Google needs one OS to rule them all. I hope Fuchsia is much more than a fantasy.
  • I REALLY want this, but I just don't think I can justify double the price of a CB Pro. If google ends up having something of a black friday then maybe. $200 or more off and I'm in. No mater how much I want to, I just can't justify it.
  • Just don't write about anything that violates the TOS. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/31/a-mysteriou... You're insane to spend more than $200 on a product like this. Just buy a real computer.
  • Very fair and accurate review. Not for all, but if you buy it, you will love it. I did and felt in love. This is real competitor for all those iPads Pro!
  • What's wrong with the price point? How much is your phone? Shouldn't a laptop or tablet be in the same price range or maybe a little more? Aluminum instead of plastic. Back-lit keyboard. Crazy display.
  • Accurate review... Great for some people, including me.... Not for everyone. Along with my Dell XPS tower and my Nexus 6p (being replaced) I'm a happy camper.
  • Sorry...was a waste of $1000.
  • Mission, No, A real waste of money is a MacBook. No touch screen, last years spec components....wonky backwards OS, etc. That's the real waste of money.
  • I'm not arguing that....but these Chromebooks are also a joke at best.
  • No...they actually aren't a joke. even more so now they run android apps. If you have not used one for a while you really do owe it to yourself.
  • A well substantiated view.
  • Since I am a tech NUT, I am in for one of these, if I like using chrome. I am buying a CB plus first. If I enjoy it, I will plunk down for a top spec Pixelbook.
  • That's the way to go. Don't jump into Chrome OS with the Pixelbook.
  • Yeah Tom. I really have only used a chormebook in the store....and that was the pixelbook last week or the week before. It is IMPRESSIVE! I am all about premium hardware. I am either getting a dell XPS or surface book 2 to replace my less expensive dell 2 in 1 I am using now. Just the feel of premium hardware is worth the cost. I will never be without a windows based device, but I can tell you I would use it alot less if the Chromebook does what I think it does.
  • It IS impressive. Pixelbook is my first CB and it rocks! My XPS 13 stays in my office. For travel, weekeds, home I use Pixelbook. To be fair enough - this machine needs to be compared with iPad Pro 12.9 - and than there is clear winner. I left my iPad on bookshelf from very first day!
  • 1k? Ridiclous! I built my comp with liquid cooling chrome fans and far better specs for $700
  • And it fits in your backpack?
  • Tom, Haters gonna Hate.
  • I've had mine since Oct 30 and I like it a lot. The pen makes selection and even scrolling a breeze. I use Google Docs, Sheets, and Drive so I am going days without turning my PC on. Very pleased with my purchase.
  • Phone to carry round, galaxy tab s3 as a tablet that gets used a lot, including stylus. Windows laptop for real use.
  • Take gameing out of the scenario...what is "REAL USE"?
  • This should be a subsided computer from Google. While this is clearly the future, charging customers $1k for this is not the way to go.
  • But there are already plenty of cheaper Chromebooks available for consumers.
  • Insanity.
  • Insanity that people are getting so bent out of shape over the price. If you can't or won't buy it. DON'T. But it's not insanity. I can buy a 2 in 1 for much cheaper than the surface book 2....but is it insane for me to buy one? NO. Its what I want and can afford. If you can't, don't call me or anyone else who buys one insane.
  • Funny - I feel completely opposite... I've got absolutely no need for a browser-based laptop, but find pretty much all OS'es adequate for tablet media consumption.
  • Is it worth getting one of the older Pixelbooks?
  • Not really. If you want to save some money, there are plenty of less expensive but still great Chromebooks. If you want a convertible, my recommendation is either the Samsung Chromebook Plus, the Samsung Chromebook Pro or the Asus Chromebook Flip C302. If you don't want a convertible, the Acer Chromebook 14 has been a solid performer for everyone I know who has one.
  • Get a Samsung Chromebook instead. This thing is ridiculously overpriced for a webbrowser and a million hacks to do anything remotely useful for it's price tag. If you want a Chromebook (and many people can use one instead of a "real" computer) spend $300-400 on a Samsung that does almost everything this thing does and comes with a pen. Google seems determined to fail this year, between this and the Pixel fiascos.
  • That being said Kodos, The pen experience in the Chromebook plus and pro is no where near what you get with the pixelbook. Yes it has a pen and yes it sort of writes on the screen, but it's NOT the pen you use with the pixel.
  • Cloud computing is supposed to be inexpensive. The device is too heavily loaded with stuff for a cloud based platform. I have an Acer r11, Acer Chromebook 14, and a Samsung Chromebook 3 and spent less than $650.00 and the family is all online.
  • Is keyboard backlighting and a better mousepad worth $600 over the Samsung Chromebook Pro/Plus worth it? I don't think so... Sure you get the faster processor but it's pointless in a Chromebook unless you watch 4K videos regularly.
  • I vehemently disagree with the opening thesis that Android is done on tablets. The Amazon Fire is indeed the only thing that's left, but that's not Android's fault. They (Google) absolutely failed and providing a proper tablet alternative to the iPad or the Surface. The Nexus 7 tablets were halfbaked ideas but hey were cheap, then Google just stopped doing them. The Nvidia Shield tablet was absolutely neat, then they stopped doing them right about the time I was ready to buy one. I'm now seriously considering getting an iPad for Christmas, maybe even 2 because I know the kids will want to play with it and will break at least one. With the price of the Pixels I'm now also really tempted to get an iPhone too, at least for my wife. This Chromebook is ridiculously overpriced, it's a toy for rich people, cool but not for me. My laptop is an Acer Aspire E 15 with an SSD from an older machine that died, and extra stick of RAM, and linux (currently Ubuntu 17.10) and does absolutely everything I need my laptop to do for a third of the price of this. Sure it's not as pretty, that's ok.
  • Perhaps I wasn't being clear. Android appears to be done with tablets because the business strategy failed, mostly from Google, not because there's a problem with Android on a tablet. The future isn't in tablets or chromebook-like devices. The future is in cell phones still, the new phones are now getting the level of processing power desktop processors have (example, the iPhone 8 chip has the same throughput as a core i5 mobile). The future entails a reasonably sized phone, that if one needs a desktop for they plop it down into a docking station and the OS recognizes it's now functioning as a desktop and chugs way. Attempts at this were made in the past, but we're now much closer to this reality and that is the end game. Ironically, this threshold might allow Microsoft to make a big comeback into phones, that's just my guess though remember you heard it here first.
  • i bought mine on launch day from Best Buy and I use it for everything. I am a teacher and do everything in Chrome so the Pixelbook allows me to do everything that I need to do. It is so smooth and fast. I opened my old computer and it took a few minutes to start up, the Pixelbook took 3 seconds.