Channel 5

Google Chromebook Pixel

Friday 08 March 2013


Rating of 2

The basics

The Google Chromebook Pixel is nothing but ambitious. The search giant’s gone full throttle with its own in-house crafted Chrome OS-powered Chromebook, dishing out a lustworthy laptop that would make even the biggest Apple fans jealous. It’s made up of an anodised aluminium chassis with sleek and understated lines, a glass trackpad that wouldn’t look lost on a MacBook and a fast and responsive backlit keyboard, all topped off with a 12.85-inch super high-res touchscreen that makes even the Retina-display equipped MacBooks look old hat. Has Google got it all right on its Pixel or is it all just too much?

Read our review of the MacBook Pro with Retina Display here

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The good

The clue is in the name, as the Pixel’s display is jam-packed with them. Put simply, it’s the best we’ve ever seen on a laptop. Measuring in at 12.85-inches, and packing in a ludicrous 2560x1700 resolution screen that rivals even the Retina-equipped MacBook Pro, the Pixel’s screen takes an unconventional 3:2 aspect ratio, yet it makes perfect sense for the web.

Browsing sites is easy on the ultra high-res screen and everything looks perfect, even in out in the sunshine. The screen also has great, wide viewing angles and excellent colours. There’s also a 720p camera built into the screen, which is handy for video calls. While the glass trackpad is silky smooth, the Gorilla Glass multi-touch screen is also a nice addition that comes in handy during certain situations: reading comics online, say, or playing Cut The Rope. Don’t expect to rely on it all of the time though, as touching the screen creates a bit of wobble from the hinge and not everything on Chrome OS is optimized yet.

The Google Chromebook Pixel absolutely flies thanks to its blazing-fast Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a speedy 32GB SSD, bolstered by Google Drive’s online cloud storage. The hardware makes quick work of Chrome OS - true, since it’s little more than a web browser, it doesn’t require the quickest hardware around anyway, but it’s nice to zip around the OS without any lag. The built-in speakers won’t get any awards, but they’re perfectly adequate for jamming along on Spotify.

The backlit keyboard is satisfying to type on, as it’s fast and responsive, although the change of the caps lock key to a search key is annoying, but that’s across the board on all Chromebooks and can be changed by a quick switch in the settings. Another little easter egg: instead of a gaudy logo on the lid, or a lit-up fruit, Google’s included a sci-fi-esque and understated light bar. Punching in the classic Konami code kicks off a little light show that will entertain those on a nostalgia trip. Ports wise, there’s a couple of USB 2.0 slots, a headphone jack, a Mini DisplayPort for hooking up an external monitor and an unlabeled SD card slot that you might just miss out on - which also has the handy feature of grabbing your photos and automatically uploading them straight up to a Google+ account.

The bad

Unfortunately, all that horsepower the Google Chromebook Pixel is packing is essentially overkill for a browser-based OS. The hardware specs are something you’d more likely find on a decent Windows 8 machine, yet paying over £1200 for a gorgeous laptop that is severely limited by its operating system seems just too much - you can’t run any native apps, only web apps and games which will run in the browser.

The Pixel’s battery life isn’t much to write home about either, as a full charge will get you around four to five hours while using the screen on an acceptable brightness and with Wi-Fi on - a shame, as some of the other Chromebooks can keep on trucking for hours more.

And even though it runs a lightweight operating system with a fast boot time, we found the Pixel still got incredibly hot. Running 1080p videos from YouTube for a set time caused the body to heat up and was uncomfortable to touch. While it didn’t mar the overall typing experience, you wouldn’t expect the Pixel’s thermometer to shoot up quite like it did.

How to give your tablet extra storage space for free!

Check out our full iPad 4 review here!

The bottom line

Simply put, the Google Chromebook Pixel is a testament to what Google, a software company, can achieve when it tries its hand at hardware. It’s an attractive laptop with the best screen we’ve ever seen, plus super-fast innards. But ultimately, what lets it down is Chrome OS.

What Google has created is something that’s frankly needlessly good for Chrome OS’ web browser software, and at over a grand, it’s just far too expensive. It’s fitting to say that the Pixel is the best laptop that you just don’t need. But hey - if it prompts Samsung and Acer to bring super-high res Chromebooks down in price, then Google’s work here is done.

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Google Chromebook Pixel is tagged with chromebook, chromebook pixel, Google, Chrome OS and laptop. Select a tag (chromebook, for example) to find everything on The Gadget Show about the subject.

User comments (1)

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John Dennehy

It costs £1,049 not "over £1200" when purchased from google directly.

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