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MMObility: The Chromebook 'All In One' project - The Pixel


If you caught my first Chromebook All In One project, you'll be familiar with the details of the series. If not, allow me to fill you in. Essentially I took a wonderful little device, the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, which utilizes an Exynos-based processor, and I used it for most of my work-related activities for weeks. It proved a capable device but couldn't play everything or do everything as easily as I would have liked. For $249 US, however, it's not a bad deal. I still use the light notebook every single day. It's easily my favorite device in the house alongside my Nexus 7 tablet.

But now, it's time for an upgrade. This time I will be looking at the Google Pixel, a hotrod of a Chromebook that Google is using to show just how the OS can work on a premium build. It boasts a core i5 processor, 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM, a 32 or 64 gig SSD and an incredible screen. At 2560 x 1700, 239 PPI, 400 nit brightness, and 4.3 million pixels, it is the best-looking thing I've ever computed on. The touchscreen is great for some gaming, and the build quality is top-notch.

So why does it matter? Why would an MMO fan want or need a device that cost at least $1,299.00 and that runs only the Chrome OS? I'll try to figure that out over the next few weeks.

[Update: The loaner model is actually the 4G LTE model, not the $1299 US WiFi-only.]

Google Pixel hinge image
If you want to catch up on my last Chromebook project, be sure to follow the All In One tag. It will link you to all of the articles, including these. The point of the project is to test just how successful someone can be in using one device to do everything. Communication, working, writing, playing and utilizing social networks are all part of so many people's lives these days; my life is no different. I am always around one of several screens when I am at home. I work from home, so these screens have got to work in the way I want them to, and that includes letting me play the games I need to in order to do my job.

Luckily, a Chromebook -- even the cheapest one -- can run many different MMOs. The browser is not used just for checking email and streaming videos. Recent developments like HTML5 have ensured that the browser is used for more things than we ever thought possible. I pretty much live in my browser, but my gaming PC is always ready to go to stream games and to play those games that are not yet available in the browser or that require a download or powerful PCs to support them.

The Pixel offers a more powerful Core i5 processor and four gigs of ram, which is plenty to run the Chrome OS, but that doesn't guarantee that the laptop will perform nearly at the level of a gaming PC. Luckily, the Chromebook is not trying to be a gaming PC, and you rarely hear about gaming being associated with a Chromebook other than mentions of Angry Birds or Flash-based social titles. With this project, I want to show just how much is available within just a browser, and my first series highlighted 30 titles that worked on the Samsung Chromebook mostly just fine.

So will I be able to play more demanding games with this new Pixel? Well, yes and no. Despite the nicer processor, the only graphics assistance comes from the integrated HD 4000. It's capable enough to stream video and to load web pages wonderfully and smoothly. In fact, if you are using the web for surfing, watching videos, writing blogs, and using social networks, the Pixel is an amazing experience for the most part. Gaming can be touchy, though. I can successfully play the 30 games that I listed in the original All In One series, but this time around I wanted to push things to see if the extra computing power could allow me to play even more MMOs.

For example, Doctor Who: Worlds in Time was not a game I would have recommended for play on the Samsung model. It runs, sure, but I left games off the original list that lagged heavily or performed in strange ways. On the Pixel, these leftovers run great and look nice, so I will be adding them to next week's list. There are plenty of pseudo-MMOs that work pretty well, games like The Grinns Tale and others.

"It's important to remember that although the Pixel's Intel-based processor will allow the use of services that the Samsung cannot offer (like Netflix, for example), no Chromebook allows the user to download plugins like Java or Unity."

Browser gaming is still growing like crazy. China offers one of the largest browser markets in the world, and many of those games make their way over here. Many of the titles are grindy and boring, but there are quite a few that provide wonderful content and lovely gameplay. It's important to remember that although the Pixel's Intel-based processor will allow the use of services that the Samsung cannot offer (like Netflix, for example), no Chromebook allows the user to download plugins like Java or Unity.

That cuts down the offerings quite a bit, but as we can see from browser giants like Jagex, HTML5 is finally making its way into common use. That means we might start to see such open worlds as RuneScape running on Chrome-based devices. But for now, most of the gaming you'll be doing will be through Flash-based or standard HTML sites.

I'll also be looking at using Google's free screen-share and streaming services that will allow you to stream your more-powerful desktop to your Chromebook, opening up your experience quite a bit more, but it's important to remember the advantages of using the Chrome OS other than streaming desktops or movies. It's an instant-on system, doesn't require powerful hardware, keeps itself automatically up to date, and remains safe from viruses and malware because it does not allow downloading that might cause harm. Of course, it easily integrates across all of your devices that use Chrome.

But most of this is possible within a premium desktop or laptop, isn't it? True, but over the next few articles, I aim to show why I prefer a Chromebook and why the Chrome environment is my favorite. Next week I will cover 10 new games that cannot be played on the Samsung Chromebook, and I will close out the series the week after that by looking at the possible future of browser-based MMO gaming.

Keep an eye on the All-In-One project tag to keep up with everything, and be sure to check out my personal website for more tech-related Chromebook coverage including an interview with Google and "the wife test." Wish me luck!

Each week in MMObility, Beau Hindman dives into the murky waters of the most accessible and travel-friendly games around, including browser-based and smartphone MMOs. Join him as he investigates the best, worst, and most daring games to hit the smallest devices! Email him suggestions, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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