So, the Google event finally came to an end, with the search engine giant announcing multiple devices. There’s the new Google Home Mini, the Google Home Max, the Pixelbook & Pixelbook Pen, Google Clips, Daydream View, Google Pixel Buds and finally, the Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL. While clearly, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were the stars of the show, let us not forget about the successor to Google’s premium Chromebooks, the Pixelbook. Sadly, the Chrome OS on the Pixelbook has had a long unsuccessful past. But with all the new changes announced to the hardware as well as the software, many people are wondering whether the device can actually replace their existing Windows and macOS, and hold its place as their daily driver.
Before we get into talking whether the new Pixelbook can hold its worth against its competitors, let us first see what the Chrome OS exactly is. All the Chromebooks are powered by the Chrome OS, which is Google’s take on building their own full-fledged desktop OS. Basically a Web OS that’s based on the Linux kernel, Chrome OS uses Google Chrome as its main user interface. It inherits all the capabilities of Google’s powerful web browser, along with the functionalities of the Linux system. Also, with the launch of Pixelbook, Chrome OS has finally gained full native support to the Google Play Store, thus enabling the system to easily run full-fledged Android apps seamlessly.
Google’s Chrome OS has always been associated with budget-friendly Chromebooks. Even though Google did bring out premium Chromebooks, the last one was the Chromebook Pixel LS, launched in 2015. Now, Google has revived the entire premium Chromebook market with the launch of the Google Pixelbook, and boy, does it look good. At a price tag of $999, the Pixelbook goes head-to-head with the Microsoft Surface 4 and the Apple MacBook Air. Now, if you’ll ask me whether the Pixelbook can replace your Windows or macOS laptop, the short answer is yes, it can. If you wanna know the long answer, read on and let me explain my statement.
Starting off with the build quality, the Google Pixelbook is one of the slimmest yet sturdiest laptops out there. The device comes with an aluminum unibody with unique glass detailing using Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which also bears the signature touch of the Pixel smartphone lineup. The entire laptop is just soo pleasing and appealing to the eye. Now while design and build quality arguably do not have a major impact on the productivity, they still do affect it somehow.
The entire design on the Pixelbook has been crafted with pixel-perfection (pun intended) to ensure a comfortable user experience. The keyboard on the device is well positioned, with sufficient space between the keys. While the key travel of 0.8mm is still a tad bit higher as compared the Surface or the MacBook Air, it does feel just about right. The laptop also features wrist-rests made of advanced silicon. They provide a comfortable pad for those long typing hours and even double up as anti-skid feet when using the device in tablet mode. The edge-to-edge trackpad is made out of etched glass surface and feels quite comfortable to use as well. In my opinion, it also helps give the laptop the same color contrast signature tone as that of the main surface panel.
The aforementioned signature glass shade of the Pixelbook also helps the device achieve better WiFi signals thanks to the embedded WiFi antennas. The Google Pixelbook has just 2 USB Type-C ports, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and, oh wait, that’s all. It is kind of sad to see that the premium Chromebook does not feature an SD card reader, but to be honest, I’ve always boarded the higher internal storage train. The base model has a 128 GB SSD storage capacity and it goes all the way up to 512 GB. For me, this is a great improvement, and I don’t even miss the SD card adapter.
Now let’s be honest, a premium device isn’t premium until it has the perfect balance of the build quality along with the hardware. While the build quality is great, the hardware on previous gen Chromebooks has never been top-class. This all changes, thanks to the Google Pixelbook. The base variant of the Pixelbook comes with a 7th gen Core i5 processor coupled with 8 gigs of RAM, and it can all be bumped up to the top version featuring a 7th gen Core i7 processor and 16 gigs of RAM. Now that’s an overkill, especially if you’re considering that the device runs Chrome OS, which is, still, in the end, a web operating system. Oh, and battery life you ask? The Pixelbook features a 41 Whr battery that should hold up for about 10 hours with mixed usage. That puts the Chromebook comfortably between the Surface 4 and the MacBook Air, with the Apple device still just edging out the Pixelbook.
The Pixelbook features a 720p camera that’s powerful enough to shoot videos at 60fps. While the overall camera quality is still to be tested, it should suffice for normal video calls and stable use in the implementation of Android apps that I’ll be addressing later on. The keyboard also features backlit lighting, and might I add, that it looks relatively better as compared to the MacBook Air. The 12.3″ display has a resolution of 2400×1600, which works to an aspect ratio of 3:2, which is similar to Google’s traditional Chromebooks. While this does seem like an unusual ratio, it actually works out quite well, especially for the Chrome OS. The screen also has touchscreen support, and can easily be paired with the Google Pixelbook Pen for easier interaction.
One of the strong points of the Google Pixelbook is that it can be used in multiple ways. While Apple’s MacBook Air can only function as a laptop, the Surface 4 can be used both as a tablet or as a laptop with the add-on keyboard accessory. With the Pixelbook, switching the different modes is as simple as it gets. Yes, it has the keyboard always attached, but at a thickness of just 10mm and a weight of just 1.1kgs, tablet use is quite easy. Also, the keyboard acts as a stand to help use the device in a rested tablet mode. For me, this brings out the best of both worlds. It gives me the ability to use the device the way I want to, rather than the other way around.
Security is another primary area of concern in the current world. And let’s be honest, the Windows OS is plagued with the majority of viruses. That being said, macOS itself isn’t that far behind. With the growing trend of macOS, the number of vulnerabilities for Apple’s OS is also high. On the other hand, Chrome OS is essentially a distro of Linux, which has practically the best security system overall. It has the ability to run Android apps, whilst maintaining the security standards of Linux. Now, I did previously try the Windows 10S, which is supposedly Microsoft’s attempt at creating a secure environment. While it does promise enhanced levels of security, it basically locks you down into Microsoft’s environment. In short, a Windows PC without the ability to install third party apps is just a big no, especially when the Windows Store is light years behind when compared to the Google Play Store.
In the ever-evolving world of technology, new changes roll out every day. This is a place where all three operating systems work well. Apple was the first to arrive at the scene, providing simple bug fixes as well as seamless upgrades to the newer OS version, as long as the hardware supported it. Microsoft also boarded the seamless update train with Windows 10, making it the last official Windows. All future upgrades will be added on as updates to the OS. Lastly, we have Chrome OS, that happens to be the best in this case, providing timely updates to all of its users. Also, while Stable builds are common, dev builds are a different story altogether. While Apple only releases beta builds a couple of months before the official launch, Microsoft has an Insider Preview program that allows the user to try the new features before anyone else. Google takes things one step further, by having a Stable, Beta, and a Developer channel for its builds.
While the Stable channel is self-explanatory, the Developer channel is the first to receive any new updates. These updates, when reported to be even slightly successful are then pushed onto the Beta channel to receive mass feedback. Finally, the stable versions are pushed onto the Stable channel. Oh, and don’t forget that all this takes place seamlessly. In this manner, Google ensures that you always stay on the bleeding edge of latest technology. For me, Chrome OS is way ahead of the curve in terms of updates.
The Pixelbook is the first Chromebook to ship with the Google Assistant. While both its competing devices to feature their own assistants, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri, none of them even come close to the powerful beast that is Google Assistant. With years of development behind it, the Google Assistant has proven itself to be the best assistant overall out there. The Google Assistant has the most advanced voice recognition, to begin with. Add to that the search engine’s powerful capabilities to be able to answer any query you throw its way. The assistant also features device-specific features, so if the keyboard and touchpad AND the touch-screen weren’t enough, I now have the ability to use the device with my voice as well. I’ve been using the Google Assistant on my smartphone, and I absolutely love it. To know that an even advanced version is available onto the Pixelbook makes it all the more tempting.
Building onto the functionality part, Google also announced the Pixelbook Pen ($99) which will be sold separately as an add-on accessory to the Pixelbook. Apple’s MacBook has no product in this field, and even if you brought out the iPad Pro along with the Apple Pencil, it still won’t be able to match the level of productivity of the Pixelbook Pen. The Pixelbook Pen goes head-to-head with Microsoft’s Surface Pen, and for me, while the Surface Pen certainly is more powerful in some ways, I would still have to give the winning edge to the Pixelbook Pen.
To start off, the Pixelbook Pen is designed in partnership with Wacom and is an inductive stylus with pressure sensitivity. While previously, the Apple pencil’s 20ms latency was able to beat Surface Pen’s latency of 21ms, Google has beaten them both out of the park. The Pixelbook Pen features a latency of merely 10ms, making it the fastest stylus out there. Oh, and the Pixelbook Pen has seamless compatibility with the Google Assistant. You can use the pen to draw on the screen and simultaneously trigger the Google Assistant to help you out. Clearly, Google wasn’t kidding when they said their focus was going to be on Software + Hardware + AI. Also, the Pixelbook Pen has 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity and 60 degrees of angular awareness. Now that is something that really enhances the overall user experience, making the use of a stylus almost natural. While the Pixelbook Pen lacks the ability to attach itself to the laptop as exhibited by the Surface Pen, it still stands its ground and makes itself a worthy and affordable accessory.
Even though all this sounds great, which market does it really affect the most? While the above specs are great, the OS is what actually proves to be the deciding factor for most consumers. If you were to compare the Pixel Chromebook (2015) to its generation’s Windows and macOS devices, clearly the Chromebook never stood a chance. But things have clearly changed now. The Android system now has over 80% of the market share, which directly translates into 80% of the users using Android apps. Now, in the Pixelbook, for the first time ever, you have the ability to run Android apps natively. What’s more is that thanks to the great hardware under-the-hood, the apps run better than ever. Furthermore, Google personally reached out to developers to further enhance the applications for better compatibility with the laptop. Majority of the users are comfortable with using a smartphone for their daily tasks, and with the cheap yet vast availability of the internet, everyone relies on the web. In such a scenario, bringing forth a device that is powered by a web OS with the ability to run smartphone apps actually makes sense, something that makes the Pixelbook a worthy choice.
Now if you intend to use your laptop for office work, the Google Pixelbook should work just fine. The Pixelbook comes integrated with Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides, which are more than enough for your office needs. Coming in from Apple’s suite and Microsoft Office, the interface might just seem a bit different to use, but it’s quite easy to adapt to. In my fair usage of all three office suites, while Microsoft Office still reigns as the undisputed king, thanks to all the added features, Google’s office suite should work well for users who wish to get work done quickly. The same should apply for students, whether it be creating presentations or searching for content online. Also, the enhanced compatibility with Android apps is great, as showcased by Google itself with the use of Adobe Lightroom and instant sharing on Instagram. Google’s search comes integrated within the device, and the assistant rather makes things much easier as compared to other operating systems out there.
But who wants all work and no play? We all want our devices to satisfy our entertainment needs, and well, the Pixelbook stands strong there as well. Be it watching movies or streaming web shows online, the Pixelbook can do it all. Oh, and might I add that in most cases, it can do it better than others. For example, the web version of Amazon Prime Video doesn’t allow you to download the videos for offline viewing. Well, with the Pixelbook, thanks to the ability to run Android apps, you can actually save those videos. And with at least 128GB of storage on board, you won’t be running out of space anytime soon.
But what about gaming, you ask? Well, if you’re a fan of the millions of games available to play on the Google Play Store, then you’re gonna love the Pixelbook. The device can run all of those games, and thanks to the powerful specs underneath, better than any Android smartphone out there. Thanks to the onboard 3-axis Gyroscope/Accelerometer and a Magnetometer, using your Pixelbook to control your games with sensors has never been this easier.
So who is the Pixelbook not for? Well, if you’re a power user that relies on a ton of computational power along with your selected software, the Pixelbook is most likely to disappoint. Power apps such as the Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere are not available on the Play Store, and most likely never will. Also, if you’re a hardcore PC gamer, the Pixelbook is going to be a big no. It’s not made for extensive PC gaming, and despite being built on the Linux kernel, it does not support Steam either.
But is that really the market the Google is actually targeting? Not really. Instead, Google is targeting the $1000 price bracket where students and office employees would like to purchase a device that should be fast, secure, and just get work done. Even Sundar Pichai, the now CEO of Google, who previously worked as the senior vice president of engineering in charge of Chrome and Android, had stated, “… the goal behind the high-end Pixel model was to push the boundary and build something premium. Google’s engineers set out on the ‘labor of love’ project asking themselves, ‘What could we do if we really wanted to design the best computer possible at the best price possible?'”. What started out as a web browser, has over the years, evolved as a full fletched desktop browser whilst technically still being a Web OS. For the majority of the users out there, the Pixelbook offers a premium device at a very competitive price, with exclusive features that make it stand ahead of the curve.
The Pixelbook is also a part of the entire Google ecosystem that the company has been trying to build. The series of Google Home devices, Google Pixel Buds, and last but certainly not the least, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, along with the Pixelbook make up the Google ecosystem. And to be very honest, it works quite well. Being powered by the beast that is Google Assistant, all devices can work seamlessly with one another. The Pixelbook and the Pixel 2 feature a unique relationship as well. The laptop actually comes with a feature dubbed as “Instant Tethering” that allows the Chromebook to automatically connect to your Pixel’s mobile data when there is no WiFi available. Now that is a neat trick and certainly helps a lot if you’re on the go.
So yes, the final conclusion, as I said above, is that the Pixelbook can indeed replace your existing laptop, provided you’re a user who wants the make the most out of the web. The web is certainly the most advanced area out there, and it’s definitely not going anywhere. With the adoption of internet every day, the Pixelbook with a powerful Chrome OS seems to be the fitting choice for most normal consumers out there. It combines the best of build quality, hardware, software, and performance. And let’s not forget the ever-powerful Google Assistant. For me, the ($999+$99) price tag of the Google Pixelbook along with the Pixelbook Pen seems to be a bang for the budget deal, and I am certainly in for it.
But what about you? Are you impressed with the latest premium Chromebook that is Pixelbook, or are you gonna stick with your Windows or macOS device? We’d love to hear your take on this amazing device. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.