An easy way for me to see whether or not I like a device is whether I use it all the time.
The Pixelbook is Google’s new Chromebook that runs Chrome OS, and I’m not usually a fan of Chromebooks. However, I found myself using the Pixelbook more than my 2016 MacBook Pro during my testing.
I was surprised that I liked it so much. I genuinely love this device.
But that’s largely because I was using a review unit, and I didn’t shell out for its $1,800 price tag. Once I considered the Pixelbook’s asking price, I realised that no matter how much I love the Pixelbook, it’s not for everyone.
Check out the Pixelbook:
I love almost everything about Google's new Pixelbook, which is surprising because I'm not usually a fan of Chromebooks.
The Pixebook is only 10.3mm thick, which is pretty slim. It's also incredibly light at 2.4 pounds. Combined with its thin design and light weight, the Pixelbook is a veritable portable device.
The rubber palm rests help to grip my palms to either side of the trackpad, and it's a really nice touch. I also like the look and feel of the rubber palm rests.
Under the Pixelbook is a rubber strip that spans the same area as the palm rest and trackpad. It gives me more grip when I close the Pixelbook and carry it around, and it helps keep the Pixelbook gripped to a flat surface like a desk.
The Pixelbook has a 12.3-inch quad-HD 1600p display with vibrant colours and great contrast between light and dark areas. Videos and websites look great on this thing.
The keyboard on the Pixelbook is surprisingly good. It offers a more comfortable typing experience than the new MacBook Pros, which have almost no travel and feel hard on your fingers after long periods of typing. The Pixelbook's keys, by comparison, are softer and have more travel. They also have great feedback that gives you the confidence that you've actually pressed the key.
The Pixelbook's trackpad reminded me of Apple's MacBook laptop trackpads, which are undeniably the best in the business. With that said, the Pixelbook's trackpad is a little small.
In my experience, the Pixelbook charges a little faster than regular laptops, and Google touts that you can get up to two hours of mixed usage from just a 15-minute charge. That's a truly meaningful feature. Google also touts a 10-hour battery life, which isn't stellar, but it's good and comparable to many modern laptops.
The Pixelbook's 360-degree hinge gives it a foldable design. It lets me use the keyboard to keep the screen propped up, much like my iPad Mini's case. And because the display is a touch screen, I could navigate Netflix without the Pixelbook's keyboard or trackpad.
I mainly use my iPad Mini to watch Netflix in bed, and the Pixelbook is light and portable enough that I felt comfortable using it for the same purpose. The Pixelbook's larger screen was also great for watching videos.
Inside our Pixelbook review unit is:
- A recent 7th-generation Core i5 processor (8th generation Intel processors are on their way to new laptops soon, but the Pixelbook won't be outdated by any means)
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB of storage
Those specs easily give the Pixelbook enough power for pretty much everything I did on the device. Admittedly, that only includes the Chrome web browser and some Android mobile apps, because that's largely all the Pixelbook can run.
Google offers more powerful and expensive models with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and more storage, but I feel like those models are overkill for what most people would be doing on the Pixelbook.
You can run Android mobile apps, and some of the more useful apps are optimised for the Pixelbook's screen.
A recent Chrome OS update allows Chromebooks to run Android mobile apps, which greatly expands the versatility of Chromebooks. With that said, the apps you're installing are still designed for mobile, and most don't come with the full features and functionality of their desktop counterparts.
You can, however, expand the Android mobile apps to fill up the Pixelbook's display, like the Microsoft Word app above. Other apps, like Spotify, will simply be expanded vertically, and they look the same way as they would on an Android smartphone.
The Spotify app does eventually fill up the entire screen, however, so there's some inconsistency there. With simpler apps like Spotify, it was totally fine that it ran the mobile app because it's familiar and I get all the functionality of Spotify.
The Pixelbook will start to bother those who use more complex apps. Some apps, like Adobe's Lightroom, are optimised for the Pixelbook, but they're still not as comprehensive as the full version. In fact, I ended up returning to my MacBook Pro with the full Photoshop app to make simple edits to the photos in this review. Google says it's working with app developers to get more apps optimised for the Pixelbook.
You do get access to Android games, which is great. I loved playing Sonic on the Pixelbook's large touchscreen.
Google's smart AI assistant, called Google Assistant, gets its own shortcut key, or you can summon it with your voice by saying 'OK Google.' It's a nice little feature to have on a laptop that's similar to Google Assistant on an Android Phone. You can ask it to tell you what calendar events you have coming up, play a song on Spotify, ask about the weather, do a Google search, or control your smart-home devices.
You can also search for links to articles and information about things that are on the display, like the robot citizen article that I have on the screen above.
I used the Pixelbook over my 2016 MacBook Pro about 90% of the time, which made me realise that I mostly use my computer as a web browser.
I found myself using the Pixelbook more often than my 2016 MacBook Pro for its small form factor, light weight, battery life, and power. It also helped me realise that most of what I do on computers is based on a web browser, like Google's own Chrome.
For me, though, the Pixelbook can't be my primary laptop because I still need extra apps that I can't use on Google's Chrome OS.
I'm probably not the target Chrome OS user because I often use full desktop apps and software that either I won't find in Google's Play Store, and the Android mobile apps available here simply aren't as fully featured or easy to use.
For example, to edit the photos in this review, I had to move to my MacBook Pro. There are Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom apps available in Google's Play Store, but they just weren't as easy to use as the full apps on my MacBook Pro.
In this case, I'd gladly use the Pixelbook as a secondary laptop, or a replacement for a tablet. But the Pixelbook costs $US1,000, and that's a high price tag for a secondary device. At that price, I'd rather spend a little more on a laptop that can do everything I need it to do.
For people who mainly use their computers for web browsing, the Pixelbook is a tempting device, but you can get more versatile Windows 10 devices for less than the Pixelbook's asking price.
If you're confident that everything you do on a computer is on the Chrome web browser, then Google's new Pixelbook could be a viable option as a primary laptop. Just be wary that if you need to use a different app, Google's Play Store may not have it.
With that said, you can get cheaper 2-in-1 laptops with 360-degree hinges or removable keyboards with similar specs that run the full version of Windows 10 and full desktop apps. Specifically, the Lenovo Miix 510 comes to mind, which costs $1300. It's even cheaper on Newegg.com, at around $US700.
I love the Pixelbook and I want to fully recommend it, but it just can't be a primary device for some people. I always needed my MacBook Pro on hand for more complex apps. And even if a web browser is all you need, you can get cheaper Windows 10 machines with similar specs for those rare times when you might need an app that doesn't exist on the Google Play Store.