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February 21st 2013 3:10 pm

Google announces the Chromebook Pixel. But who's it for?

Today, Google announced their first homegrown Chrome OS laptop, the Chromebook Pixel. Lauded for its stark industrial design and high-resolution display, Google is aiming to capture a section of the high-class PC market currently dominated by Apple's MacBooks.

With this goal in mind, Google has spruced up the idea of a traditional Chromebook with niceties like a 2560 x 1700 touchscreen display (with an odd 3:2 aspect ratio), backlit keyboard, glass touchpad, and a trio of microphones that work in tandem to supposedly cancel all noise during video recording. Non-traditional innards for a Chromebook are present, including an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, and either 32 or 64 gigabytes of solid state storage depending on the chosen model (WiFi only, or LTE-enabled, respectively). That storage is in addition to the 1TB allotment of Google Drive space provided (for 3 years) to everyone who purchases a Pixel.

It's not all glamorous though. Google wants $1,299 for the WiFi model, or $1,449 for the model with LTE. These are steep prices to pay for a laptop that only features USB 2.0, no HDMI, and Bluetooth 3.0. It's almost as if Google focused so much on design and the display, that they used older connectivity options hoping the consumer wouldn't notice.

So, ultimately, what section of the market is Google trying to secure with a product like this? When Chrome OS was announced, Google said that Chromebooks would be disposable PCs that could be easily replaced. Yet, Google is pushing the opposite direction here.

In the blog post announcing the Pixel, Google's Vice President of Engineering, Linus Upson, wrote, "With the Pixel, we set out to rethink all elements of a computer in order to design the best laptop possible, especially for power users who have fully embraced the cloud." (http://chrome.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-chromebook... This seems like an incredibly niche market that Google is trying to penetrate for no apparent reason. I think the innovation here is good, they're pushing specs forward for the industry as a whole, but I think the sales numbers of these a year from now are going to tell a different story.

Check out some comparisons between the Chromebook and other hi-res laptops, and against other Chromebooks here:

Would you spend $1300+ on a Chromebook?

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23 replies

Let me start by saying this: I love the look of this laptop. If I had gobs of money, I'd pick this up in a second. Keep in mind, however, that I'm a Google fanatic, and I live my life in Google already, so it's not a big leap to love a Chromebook.

But that price is a problem. I just don't see it selling much at that price, especially if the touch screen is as "non-fluid" as that hands on at the Verge showed.

If anything, the Pixel is probably a device that demands a much-rumored Google Store so that people can see it in person and get sold on it that way.
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After weighing the pros and cons I've decided to get one.

I own a Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook and have used it extensively.

Review here: http://goo.gl/X4tvd

My only hardware gripe was the screen, which clearly has been more than addressed in the case of the Pixel.

On a software side the major pain-point is that our company runs Microsoft Exchange and the Outlook Web App that runs in Chrome is vastly inferior to the one that runs in IE.

And there's no access to Spotify.

Otherwise pretty much everything else that I need to do I either already do in the browser or there are solid alternatives available.

I've seen many concerns about file management in Drive and for me it has been a question of habit and discipline - rarely is there an occasion where I don't have the right file available when and where I need it, in a format that me or someone else can handle.

Microsoft's Skydrive and associated Web App versions of Office (especially One Note) have also greatly enhanced what can be done on a Chromebook - previous hardware sometimes struggled with the demands of the Web Apps but as long as one has a decent connection that shouldn't be a problem with the Pixel.

Battery life on the aforementioned 550 is excellent and that's my one concern about the Pixel - 5 hours is just about OK. But with the instant suspend/resume function that Chromebooks offer it will hopefully be manageable.

So what's prompted me to go ahead and get one?

Like pretty much everyone I appreciate Apple's hardware and industrial design choices - however I'm not fond of the direction that Mac OS has taken since Lion and there are too many compromises involved in running Windows on a Mac.

There are some nice hardware options when it comes to Windows laptops (such as the Dell XPS 13 or the Lenovo Carbon X1) but Windows 8 is a bizarre OS and if quality Windows 8 "Metro" apps don't start coming out soon then the whole new start screen environment will be utterly pointless - at least on non-touch enable laptops - it definitely offers utility in tablets and hybrid devices but the dearth of quality native apps remains an issue.

Speaking of touch, while this isn't a must have on the Pixel it is definitely a nice-to-have and there has been a lot of discussion in the UI/UX field about the impact of touch interfaces on the web in general that has led to trend in overall more touch friendly site design and this will likely continue making this a good decision by Google.

It's really ultimately a choice about having what is among the best hardware available, especially the screen, which is the single most important element as it is how we interact with the web and the fact that the keyboard and trackpad are great too (which is the case on the 550 as well) sweetens the deal irresistibly .
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njashanmal, I see a Spotify Beta on the Chrome browser web store. Dunno if that means it's also available on Chrome OS. Chrome browser also has an excellent MOG player that I use all the time, FWIW. I'm a bit mystified by the touchscreen, as Chrome OS isn't all that touch-friendly. But maybe they're planning on a Windows 8-type swipe interface.
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@kingofkats, thanks for the tip on Spotify - will check it out and report back.

Good to know about MOG - the issue with it as a service is that I travel a lot and unlike Spotify Premium, which works everywhere in the world, MOG is limited, I believe, to US IP addresses.

Re the touchscreen, per my point on a generally more touch friendly internet experience - this is an emerging trend and I'd say that over the course of the next year we're going to see it proliferate: bigger targets for things like check-boxes, more and bigger image based navigation, better text layouts, more white space, bigger buttons.

So the inclusion of a touchscreen is a forward looking move.
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I can confirm that Spotify does indeed work in Chrome OS via this implementation of the Spotify Web Player Beta: http://goo.gl/OhNc6

This is great as it addresses what for me had been a major issue in the past and adds just that much more utility to the platform.

Thanks to @kingofkats again for the tip.
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I'll buy this just because I love the form factor and I'd love to have 1TB of cloud storage. I'll probably install ubuntu on it.
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I would rather spend the $200 on a rMBP or spend slightly less to get a Surface Pro. Maybe I'm overlooking it but I just don't see the value in this high of a spec for essentially a browser. I know the 1TB of storage is nice but A. it's only 3 years B. managing in Drive is nightmare IMO and C. 1TB is an excessive amount of space that I would never end up using.
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I agree 100% with you.

Also, If my area got something akin to Google Fiber, I may be all over this, but as it sits I have a slow-ish capped data plan. 32Gb on the ssd does not leave too much room for caching, and I wouldn't be comfortable streaming all my media at this point.

The 13" retina mbp is soo close in price and can do a bunch more
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I have a 35/35 connection at home and I still don't think I'd rely on Drive.
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I disagree. I'd love to have a TB of cloud storage. It's just too expensive right now. But I agree that it shouldn't be for just 3 years.

Managing in Drive isn't very difficult. Especially if you install the Drive sync app on your computer. It's really easy to move stuff around just like any other folder on your computer.
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I was just thinking about this from a different perspective: in addition to getting a 3-year discount, Google is also throwing in a free laptop with your Drive subscription. It's a haphazard way of looking at it but it's very reminiscent of the stuff Verizon and Comcast do to get new subscribers.
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Yes. On the windows or mac drive sync app

But on a chromebook you use the drive app built into chrome I believe which is quite different. So having a second PC to manage drive possibly negates the idea of spending 1300 on this
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If that's indeed how you manage it on a Chromebook, then fair enough. I don't really know, though, as I've never used one :)
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Chrome OS has a built-in folder that syncs with Drive.
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It's true that document management in Drive leaves something to be desired.

However, let's see if the QuickOffice integration (http://goo.gl/MhEGA) improves matters.
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i wouldn't on a chrome book but i may for the Pixel.

with the Core i5 and the touch screen i would consider buying this and swapping out the HD (if possible) with another one running windows 8.

Also the 1GB of cloud storage is also appealing.
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I can't afford to spend $1300 on any machine for any purpose, and I wouldn't spend this much of my workplace's money a pretty browser window either. Is it possible that this is just some Google employee's secret, cynical attempt to troll hipsters the way the Q was meant to troll audio buffs?
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If this was the Nexus Q they would have come up with some ridiculous rule like only files created in Drive will work, but I guess it's a cruel enough joke you get 1TB but only via Drive.
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Ok, I've read the spec sheets, and seen the hand-on. Personally I've never thought Chrome OS was a viable option for me, and I've read a few reviews on the Verge where the reviewer actually owns ands uses a Chromebook, and he even says he's never seen another person using one out in the wild.

They were cheap before, so maybe they could grab some tiny bit of the market, but now that Google's new Pixel is more expensive than a MacBook Air, and around the same price as a "13 MacBook Pro with Retina Display it just makes me wonder who the hell would buy one of these things??

If I worked mostly on the web or in the cloud then I'd prob use and iPad, and maybe buy a keyboard attachment if I really needed to type. Doing this brings the price closer to a MacBook Air, So I'd prob consider that. If I needed a high resolution display then I'd go for the MacBook. The MacBook bests this thing in specs, and seems to be capable of doing everything the Pixel can do, as well as more.
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What I truly love about this strange beast is the 2560x1700 touchscreen. If it ran Windows 8, carried 8gb RAM and had an 512GB SSD, I'd pony up $1500 -- but the fact it runs Chrome is a disconnect. So I've listed myself as wanting it, but I'd never pay so much for a one-trick-pony. I guess Google thinks they'll compete with the MacBook Air, but I expect they'll discover...dream on.

P.S. I suspect this machine is the product of a Chrome faction within Google. If they could actually make Chrome OS popular, I see big benefits for Google -- because, unlike Android, Chrome is a perfectly fine platform for the desktop search ads that pay Google's bills. I have argued elsewhere that Android is a revenue nightmare for Google, diverting people from the desktop to devices that generate very little ad money. Chrome, OTOH, keeps folks ON the desktop.
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I find the Chromebook Pixel to be a sexy device. However, it is also the most impractical device to come around in a long time. While it does give us a sneak peek into the future, it is too far ahead of its time and most people won't be able to find a use case to warrant dropping that much on it.
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"Would you spend $1300+ on a Chromebook?"

Personally? No. But, I can see how some might, due to getting 1TB of cloud storage free for 3 years (that comes out to $1799.64 if you were just to buy the storage with out the pixel. It's essentially a great deal for those who need that much cloud storage, and you get a free device to boot).
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Hardware wise this laptop looks amazing if not for just the 32 gb of internal storage. Yes I know that you get the 1 TB of google drive but after 3 years what are you going to do? Are you going to start paying for the storage? Also are you able to upgrade the Memory? In my opinion when you get to that price range... wouldn't you be better off getting a Mac... just a thought
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