February 22, 2013, 8:30 AM —
For the past several weeks there've been rumors going around of a new Chromebook coming from Google; one with a high resolution touchscreen. I mis-judged this one; the rumors didn't seem solid and even if they were accurate, I figured it'd be something that launched at Google I/O. I had plenty of time!
So wasn't I surprised when Google formally announced the Chromebook Pixel yesterday. Not only did they announce it, but they started taking pre-orders with delivery expected in 3-5 business days. The Pixel has landed.
So let's get the bad news out of the way first: the price. This is a $1,299 Chromebook. That's the WiFi model with a 32 GB SSD. There's also a $1,449 version with LTE and a 64 GB SSD. Anyone still with me? Let's forge on.
That's a lot of money for a Chromebook, in my opinion. Consider that you can get an Acer Chromebook for $199. So what does an additional $1,100 get you?
Inside, the Chromebook Pixel has an Intel Core i5 CPU (dual core running at 1.8Ghz). The Acer has a Celeron 847. Pixel has 4 GB of RAM, Acer has 2 GB. So clearly we're talking more powerful hardware, but not enough so to justify the price.
What you're really paying for with the Pixel is the screen. It's a 12.85", 2560x1700 (239 PPI) touch-screen display. Compare that with the Acer's 11.6" 1,366 x 768 (135 PPI) non-touch screen and we're talking about a pretty remarkable difference. Google claims that the Pixel has the best screen ever built into a laptop and I can't think of any product that disputes that claim.
Some other high and low points. There's no HDMI out, and the 2 USB ports are USB 2 (though perhaps with cloud-based hardware that's not too much of an issue). It has several microphones that are used to handle noise canceling and an HD front facing camera, so you'll be ready to hit that Google+ Hangout in style. Battery life is rated at 5 hours. Oh, and you get a 1 TB of Google Drive storage free for 3 years.
I have a chromebook and I like it for light-weight stuff. I like how it's immediately on when I open it up and how simple it is. But I also like it because it was pretty cheap. I don't worry about it. I toss it onto the couch or the coffee table or even on the floor. It's borderline expendable tech for me.
I would love to own a Chromebook Pixel; I just am quite sure I don't want to buy one. I just find $1,300 to be a really hard sell for a cloud-based Chromebook that doesn't run native apps. It's just too much money no matter how lust-worthy that display is. I'm not ready to 100% convert to cloud and web-based apps, so any Chromebook I own is still going to be a 'second computer' and I'm not rich enough to spend over a grand on a second computer.
I think Google is deliberately going really high end so as not to antagonize their partners: Acer, Samsung and HP all offer relatively cheap chromebooks and if Google had offered the Pixel for anything but a premium price there may have been hard feelings.
Maybe the Pixel will become the trendy executive laptop to have...move over MacBook Air!
You can learn more about the Chromebook Pixel on Google's blog.
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