Google Pixelbook Review

Google Pixelbook Review
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Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

The Google Pixelbook is a premium laptop with a premium price. Google has had a rough year and with the Pixelbook, they have thrown a lot of money at a premium laptop and hoped it would fix everything. The Pixelbook is a laptop with a Chrome OS that runs the full suite of Google apps.

Design

Google Pixelbook

Kudos to Google. In spite of its 3:2 aspect ratio, the Pixelbook is one of the most attractive machines I’ve ever seen. Aside from being insanely thin, its aluminum unibody design also features silicon wrist rests and accents.

In fact, the Pixelbook is so small that it doesn’t remind me of other tech gadgets, but rather of an actual notebook. The marvelously slender design of this laptop reminds me of the saddle-stitched notebooks you find in boutique stationery stores.

With a weight of 2.5 pounds and a thickness of 0.4 inches, the Pixelbook is lighter and thinner than the 13.9-inch Lenovo Yoga 920 (3.1 pounds, 0.6 inches) and thinner than the 12.5-inch Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA (2.6 pounds, 0.6 inches). If docked with the Smart Keyboard, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro weighs 2.3 pounds and is 0.7 inches thick.

There are two USB Type-C ports on either side of the Pixelbook, and a headphone jack on the left.

Durability and drop test

The Pixelbook isn’t technically rugged, but it’s the most durable Chromebook you can buy. On carpet and concrete, we dropped 11 of the most popular Chromebooks from heights of 2.5 feet and 4.5 feet, and the Pixelbook won. Even after our brutal drop from 4.5 feet, Google’s laptop looked like it had just been unpacked from the box for the first time.

Display

google pixelbook

Chromebooks are typically equipped with a 1080p display, but the Pixelbook’s bright, colorful (and nearly quad-HD) 2400 x 1600-pixel panel says otherwise. The vivid and colorful Pixelbook screen displayed plenty of detail on the Wakandan streets, blue and purple skies, and the dimpled texture of Erik Killmonger’s body.

In Google Docs and the iA Writer app, the 235-PPI resolution on the 12.3-inch screen looked crystal clear to me as a writer. I was able to see every scale and drop of water on a luxuriating snake in a 4K nature video I streamed on YouTube. To support 4K video, both Google’s video player and the VLC app need some tweaks.

Its display produces 117 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is plenty colorful. The Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA (76 percent) and Lenovo Yoga 920 (105 percent) have also rated higher than the 101-percent ultraportable-notebook average. A close race was won by the iPad Pro (122 percent) and Samsung Chromebook Pro (118 percent).

Featuring a maximum brightness of 421 nits, the Pixelbook provides strong colors up to 75 degrees to the left and right. There is a 290-nit category average, 284-nit Yoga 920, 376-nit Samsung Chromebook Pro, and 292-nit Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA. The iPad Pro (555 nits) is even brighter.

I noticed that the Pixelbook’s display offered solid touch recognition when I navigated desktop and Chrome apps. Both apps and TweetDeck scrolled smoothly and without a stutter.

Keyboard and Touchpad

In spite of its thin dimensions and shallow design, the Pixelbook’s backlit keyboard makes typing comfortable for extended periods. I clicked my way to 76 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, not too far from my 80-words per minute average. Though its keys only have 0.9 millimeters of travel (we hope for at least 1.5 mm), they feel more comfortable than those on the iPad Pro’s Smart Keyboard, which is louder to type on. As a result of this shallowness, Google seems to be compensating with key mechanisms that require 68 grams of force, beating our 60-gram minimum.

The palm rest of the Pixelbook was grippy and rubbery, making typing more comfortable. There is a 4 x 2.6-inch, edge-to-edge touchpad positioned between those wrist rests, which provides accurate tracking and a solid click every time. It’s easy to browse web pages with the touchpad, and the system lets you swipe down three fingers to see all the Chrome windows and Android apps you have open at once.

Pixelbook Pen

pixelbook

Google Assistant-enabled Pen is one of Pixelbook’s main features, but unfortunately, it is an additional $99 fee. When you circle an object, you can send images and text to the digital assistant, which can provide additional information.

You can circle something rather than copy and paste it into a new Google search with the Pen’s Google Assistant power. As it turns out, the swooping season in Australia isn’t quite as cute as it sounds.

In addition, the Pen supports pressure sensitivity and tilt, just like the $99 Apple Pencil, but it has latency issues depending on where you use it. When using drawing and writing apps for Android, such as Sketchbook, Squid, and Infinite Painter, the Pen is fast when you are circling content for Google Assistant searches or doodling in Google Keep. In the near future, I hope these apps will be optimized for the Pen.

The most serious complaint I have about the Pixelbook Pen is that it requires AAAA batteries. In local stores, they’re nearly impossible to find, so you have to order them online in advance.

The approaches of competitors differ. The Lenovo Yoga 920 comes with an Active Pen 2 stylus included in its $1,299 price, while the Asus Chromebook Flip comes without one.

Audio

However, the Pixelbook’s audio lacks clarity, so it can’t fill a large conference room. Listening to Keith Lee’s “Ground Zero” and Grandtheft & Keys N Krates’ “Keep It 100” via Google Play Music, I noticed the crisp drums but was puzzled by the flat vocals and the absence of bass.

Performance

pixelbook laptop

Finally, a Chromebook with real power. The Pixelbook we tested has a Core i5-7Y57 CPU and 8GB of RAM, which ensures smooth performance and good Android app compatibility. I noticed no lag or stutter when splitting my screen between a 1080p YouTube video and a dozen tabs (including Google Docs), all while using the apps for Slack, Twitter, and Outlook.

The Pixelbook scored 7,927 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, exceeding the average for ultraportable notebooks of 6,823. The iPad Pro (A10X Fusion processor, 4GB of RAM) scored 9,414 points higher than the Lenovo Yoga 920 (8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8550U, 8GB of RAM).

A JetStream JavaScript benchmark measuring web app performance gave the Pixelbook a score of 145. Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA (Core m3 6Y30, 4GB of RAM) had 127.32, while the Samsung Chromebook Pro had 126.6. Lenovo Yoga 920 had the highest mark (2779).

In the WebGL Aquarium test, the Pixelbook rendered 2,000 fish at 60 frames per second thanks to the integrated Intel HD 615 graphics chip. That’s faster than the Samsung Chromebook Pro’s (Intel HD Graphics 615) and the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA’s (Intel HD Graphics 515). The ultraportable-notebook average is 269 frames per second.

Battery Life

Although Chromebooks often provide great battery life, the Pixelbook isn’t like your average Chrome OS laptop. According to the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi), the notebook lasted only 7 hours and 43 minutes, which is shorter than the 8:34 category average, the iPad Pro (12:09), the Lenovo Yoga 920 (12:22), the Samsung Chromebook Pro (8:05) and the Asus Chromebook Flip (8:52).

According to Google’s claims about the Pixelbook’s fast-charging battery, I was unable to use the notebook for two hours after charging it for 15 minutes (when the notebook still had at least 5 percent battery life left). Despite my activity mixing Chrome web browsing with Android apps, I was able to squeeze 1 hour and 18 minutes out of the Pixelbook after charging it for 15 minutes.

Chrome OS

With decent apps, the Pixelbook is one of the few, the proud, and the fortunate among its brethren. Because Chromebooks are limited to the Chrome Web Store, which is about 95 percent junk, they were unable to compete with Windows or macOS machines.

The Chromebook now has a fighting chance after Google’s Play store and Android apps were finally added to the platform this year, including on the Samsung Chromebook Pro and the Asus Chromebook Flip. You can now get Microsoft Office apps (Outlook runs well), password managers (including my favorite, 1Password), games like PinOut, and even Instagram (with posting, which Macs and PCs cannot do).

Thanks to apps that save content for offline viewing, Chromebook buyers now have another reason to consider significantly larger storage options. These include Netflix’s ability to save TV shows and Spotify Premium’s ability to save playlists. I especially liked the option of storing my favorite podcasts (in Pocket Casts).

Due to the addition of the Google Play store, users can now edit photos using Android’s superior apps (instead of the junk drawer in the Chrome Web Store), including Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Due to Instagram’s integration with the Pixelbook, you can sync your images among devices (Google’s Photos app is a good alternative), edit and tweak images on the Pixelbook’s larger screen, and post your images to Instagram using its Android app. We won’t tell if you use the #NoFilters hashtag.

It is arguable that one of the benefits of Chrome OS is that Google handles all security updates. TPM technology is also available on the Pixelbook, so your most important data can be encrypted.

When the Pixelbook loses its Wi-Fi connection, the Nexus and Pixel phones become hotspots for the notebook, rewarding people ensconced in the Google hardware ecosystem. A Google account needs to be linked to each device, for security reasons.

However, some apps still need to be rewritten to be compatible with Chrome OS notebooks. Most (including Instagram and Facebook) do not support up and down arrows, and Snapchat needs to be adjusted so that it does not rotate the camera 90 degrees.

However, who has not dealt with unfinished touch interfaces? Users of iPads and 2-in-1s running Windows; have a great touch experience since both platforms have been optimized for tapping and stylus use for years. Windows 10 and iOS 11 only add more tricks to the mix.

Webcam

Apart from the Pixelbook’s pedestrian 0.9-megapixel webcam, everything about it feels premium. While the photo I took with the notebook captured greens in our office’s rooftop shrubbery and reds on my T-shirt in accurate detail, the leaves of those plants and most of the strands of my hair were lost in the blur.

Heat

There is one spot on the Pixelbook where it gets hot. Our heat gun measured 84 degrees on the touchpad, 89 degrees on the keyboard center, and 95 degrees on its underside after streaming 15 minutes of video. We measured 101 degrees when we picked it up by the edge of its hinges when it was closed.

Configuration Options and Accessories

A Core i5-7Y57 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage are included in the Pixelbook for $1,199. When the device is released at a to-be-determined date, a Core i7 model with 16GB of memory and 512GB of storage will cost $1,649, halving the storage to 128GB on the $999 model.

The $89 Sleeve case comes from a partnership with the wallet-maker Bellroy (I use and love its minimalist Card Sleeve wallet). When I first saw the sleeve, I was puzzled, as it’s too small to slide the Pixelbook out comfortably.

The Bellroy Sleeve also features a wedge mode that lets you elevate the screen closer to your eye level and let you type at an angle, making it more comfortable to type on. The wedge position requires you to fold a flap inside the sleeve to a position that does not feel natural or correct.

Pros Cons
Speedy performance Mediocre battery life
Brilliant display pricey
Exquisite thin design

Conclusion

The Pixelbook’s performance, display, and aesthetics make it an excellent Chromebook, but it also competes well with Windows and iOS rivals. Without its higher price and inferior battery life, the Pixelbook would be a great recommendation.

Although you can save $500 and gain more than an hour of battery life with the Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA, it’s not as fast or as sexy (but what Chromebook is?). At the same price as the $1,299 Pixelbook, you can get the much faster Lenovo Yoga 920 with Windows 10 (though if you want a Chromebook, you might prefer Google’s OS). In addition, the iPad Pro costs just $1,290 with its Keyboard Cover and Pencil and offers a brighter display and iOS 11, which is designed to increase productivity.

The Google Pixel offers a level of usability, performance, and style you won’t find on any other Chromebook even if you have no money to spare.