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Google’s Chromebook Pixel: glimpse of the future, or bizarre mishmash?

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February 21, 2013

Google has unveiled the Chromebook Pixel, a curious blend of high-end hardware and browser...

Google has unveiled the Chromebook Pixel, a curious blend of high-end hardware and browser-based software

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Not long ago, Chromebooks – laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS – looked like a doomed product category. With the rise of the tablet, who needed a laptop with a glorified web browser for an operating system? Well, as the Chrome Web Store has evolved and Chromebook prices have dropped, the machines appear to be doing quite well ... So well that Google is now releasing its own high-end model, the Chromebook Pixel.

High-end hardware, budget software

The Chromebook sports a high-end design

The Chromebook Pixel is an odd blend of professional-grade hardware and entry-level consumer software. It still runs Chrome OS, which shuns the traditional desktop operating system and relies on the cloud. The Chrome OS experience revolves around an offshoot of the Chrome web browser.

Chrome OS does, however, offer many browser-based apps. Popular mobile apps like Angry Birds, Google Maps, and Cut the Rope are all supported. But you can forget about Microsoft Office (Google hopes you’ll use their Docs service), Photoshop, and anything even resembling hardcore gaming. Its software selection is similar to – but distinct from – what you might expect from an Android tablet.

However, the Chromebook Pixel’s hardware competes more with premium laptops like Apple’s MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The Chromebook Pixel sports a high-res display (2,560 x 1,700 squeezed into 12.85 inches), an Intel Core i5 chip, and 4 GB of RAM. The Pixel’s display actually has a slightly higher pixel density than Apple’s Retina MacBook Pros.

The Chromebook Pixel only offers 32 GB of flash memory in its solid-state drive (SSD), but one of Chrome OS’ hallmarks is that it doesn’t require much storage. The search giant also throws in 1 TB of Google Drive cloud storage (it’s free for three years).

Who is it for?

The Pixel is 16.2 mm thick, and weighs 1.52 kg

Google’s marketing pitches it as “a laptop that brings together the best in hardware, software, and design to inspire future innovation.” This positions it as a laptop equivalent to Google’s Nexus phones and tablets: a guidepost for manufacturers to signify Google’s intentions for the platform.

But – apart from Chromebook manufacturers – who is the Pixel for right now? That’s a tougher call. It costs a pretty penny (it starts at US$1,300), so it’s competing squarely with Apple’s MacBooks and various Windows Ultrabooks. But Mac OS X and Windows are infinitely more evolved (and professional-friendly) than Chrome OS. At its current price, it’s hard to see huge numbers of consumers choosing the Pixel – despite its terrific display.

Perhaps Google isn't looking for huge numbers right now, and is more concerned with lighting a beacon for the future of Chrome OS.

A new direction?

The Chromebook Pixel's screen supports multitouch

Chromebooks have done well lately, but those are 100 percent budget laptops (like Samsung’s $250 11.6-inch Chromebook, listed as Amazon’s best-selling PC). With the Pixel, Google is catering to an entirely different crowd. It will be interesting to see how Google evolves Chrome OS alongside this bold hardware move.

The Wi-Fi-only, 32 GB Chromebook Pixel is available starting today from Google Play. It’s also available in an LTE-enabled 64 GB model, which ships in 6-7 weeks.

Source: Google via AllThingsD

About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica.
  All articles by Will Shanklin
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8 Comments

I always thought of Google collectively as a rational group but $1300 for a chromebook shows they've lost their minds! Besides what could you possibly need all the horse power for in a chrome book since as the article points out you aren't going to be gaming on it, or any other clock cycle intensive activity?

Jon Smith
21st February, 2013 @ 01:20 pm PST

Strangely, I like this new Pixel! The concept of Chrome OS is a solid one and likely where most of the players in the industry will be heading. Granted, the Pixel is a leap of faith in today's tech, but I still like it. This is something I would recommend to my niece who is in high school and planning on college.

Funny thing is that if Jobs were alive and had announced this concept the legions of Apple sheeples would be yelling its praises and likely standing in line to acquire one. (Before a commenter flies off the handle on me, I've been a Mac user for twenty-nine years and I ceased being platform-centric about three years ago. And, I don't wait in line for any product.)

Fahrenheit 451
21st February, 2013 @ 03:38 pm PST

Needs Haswell i5, would bump the battery life close to 8 hours. Would find this more interesting if it also ran android.

Interesting to note that 1tb of gdrive is a 600$ value retail per year. This is offering 1800$ value for three years of service plus the pixel chrome book as a cool toy. That increases the value in a MacBook comparison. Sammy chrome book and 3 years of that service would still be quite a bit more expensive than this or an air, almost as must as rmbp 15"

Personally I would give this serious consideration at the 1500 price point with an international sim based cellular option and honest 8+ hours of battery life. Still tempted by the gdrive value alone... For anyone interested in 1tb gdrive service for the next 3 years this is a bargain whether they use the device or not... Sell it on eBay.

Hugh Cowart
21st February, 2013 @ 05:09 pm PST

Why in the world would I spend that much money for that thing? I don't see a single reason. Get this thing away from WiFi and it's practically useless. If a MacBook Air cost a lot more than this, maybe it would be worthwhile. But it doesn't. So it isn't.

P.S. @ Hugh Cowart: No, that's $1800 of cost, not $1800 worth of "value". Two different things. 1TB of LOCAL storage easily fits in your pocket, costs less than $100 today, and lasts longer than 3 years.

Anne Ominous
21st February, 2013 @ 08:57 pm PST

I disagree with Anne Ominous on 1TB of storage.

There's a couple of differences between 1TB local storage and 1TB of cloud storage.

For one it's not just 1TB of storage, it's 1TB of BACKED UP storage , and it will be near omnipresent for you considering you find a device that can access the Internet.

You could buy 1TB of local storage instead at a fraction of the price but you if it needs to be backed up you might find that the Google offer suddenly makes sense. Especially if you need to carry that local storage around with you all the time.

On the flip side : 1TB of cloud storage will probably be cheaper in a couple of years time so the "1800$ over 3 years" may not be a totally fair

equation. But I don't think it will be less than 1300$ either.

Either way, if you are in need of 1TB of not-very-fast Cloud storage than this Chromebook is an offer you should seriously consider, even if you're not going to use the Chromebook.

kleykenb
22nd February, 2013 @ 03:54 am PST

Joe Btfsplk carried his own little cloud of doom and gloom

around with him, much like the nay-sayers here; A local

Cloud, for a building, a block, or a borough, is a beautiful

silver lining to this concept, which will not be appreciated

until the world suffers its first large-scale long-duration

interruption of the existing WWW.

M. Report
22nd February, 2013 @ 06:20 pm PST

I've been using an Arm Samsung Chromebook since October 2012, and it's been the most easiest use of a Laptop type device I've had so far since using computers from 1972!!, but often I see people making criticisms of this device unfairly and somewhat ineptly because the Chrome OS is "NOT!" like traditional Laptop devices!..Just like the Pixel "CONCEPT!" device! as far as the offline use of Chrome OS?, I've had no problems so far using this device offline with my work in an Office setting, even reading mt RSS News is easy as pie!, in reality you only need to be connected to Internet when getting latest News?, and even if you take in to consideration most people frequent the same web-sites as we are creatures of habit, so it's not Rocket Science to have your frequented sites to automatically download and update to latest info!

So Google's philosophy of how Chrome OS works for the mainstream Internet user is very efficient compared to most Big Bloated OS's of the Windows & OSX types!

I have a Android Smartphone, Android Tablet, a i7 Desktop, a i7 Laptop and my Samsung Chromebook, and guess which gets 95% of my time?

I think the psychology that we are creatures of habit that makes some of us fight to change how we do things.

I have found the teenager Internet user priorities are Gaming first so the mindset is to go against the Chrome devices, but that will change as more developer make Gaming on HTML5 more common, as I remember the Change from teenagers using Game consoles to portable Laptops as Game devices in the 1980's & 90's! and then going to Tablets and portables like the Nintendo & Sony Vita type devices as mainstream, of course PlayStation & Xbox still will be there when at home.

The Laptop has transitioned as technology advanced to many flavors depending on what the consumer was looking for?

So for those critics of emotion rather than technology logic, all I can say is those criticism leave me empty! and lacking in information I would need to make a proper judgement on what is best for my Internet use and needs.

Sam Joy
23rd February, 2013 @ 04:01 pm PST

Sorry, maybe YOU can't word process online, but I can and do. Chrome OS needs SSH though, or the rest of us really will just duel boot. If anything, though, this article just serves to point out how to rediculously overpriced Mac products are.

Adobe is interested in the cloud, and office has never been a great way to get good formatting. With MS also busy hiding all useful aspects of office in each new version, I migrated away from everything but excel (which will still give a nice graph in a few seconds) years ago. Likewise music and video editing have good existing web interfaces and promise to go even more in that direction. 3d, math modeling and publishing aren't there yet, but that's probably a matter of time and money - and again these would make sense as something a massive server does while sending paired down data to a remote computer. Look at Onlive if don't believe me.

Charles Bosse
23rd February, 2013 @ 11:22 pm PST
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