Anytime anyone other than Apple makes a laptop, I’ve gotta admit I’m intrigued. Call it a permanent underdog complex, but I’d love nothing more than for someone to unseat the current king of mobile computing.
Google’s Chromebook platform has been available to the public for years now, but the other day at the launch of their Google Photos cloud software I was introduced to the Pixel: a 12-inch laptop with a remarkably solid build quality and what has to be the highest resolution touch display I’ve ever seen.
“Would you like to try it for a month?” asked the Google Representative.
Heck yeah I would.
For Googlers Only
I have a pretty straightforward maxim: Apple for hardware, Google for software, Amazon for content. My entire digital life is in Google’s cloud. I depend on Gmail for business. So any Chromebook is a turnkey set up for me, but I have to imagine that this would emphatically not be the case for others.
If you’re a diehard Googler like me, read on.
Build Quality This is, without question, the first time I’ve used a device outside the Apple sphere that holds a candle. The thing is solid. Rock solid. The keyboard has remarkable depth for its size, the spacing is where it should be, and the action on the keys is rewarding. However, coming from my Macbook Pro, it was frustrating that the CTRL and ALT keys are reversed—a little user behavior to realign, but nothing too crazy.
Small quirks aside, I found myself eschewing the keystrokes I’m so accustomed to on the MBP and embracing my newfound ability to blast through my stack of emails with a tap of the screen. Google’s new Inbox software rewards this behavior, unsurprisingly, as it’s a key tenet of their latest design language.
Working on a machine tailored to run Google Chrome at its highest possible efficiency is, as expected, a dream. Load times are negligible, and each Google product loads cleaner than the last. Other sites and apps perform in line with what you’d expect from Chrome on a speedy Macbook. The only difference is that, with the Pixel, I never found myself wondering what the specs were. I can’t describe it much better than that—you just sort of never have to think about it.
Of course, this being a Chromebook, there’s practically zero local storage. 32GB, not counting the Chrome OS size. Depending on your subscription and comfort with the Google universe, this is a non-issue as you essentially get an infinite amount of space in their cloud to store files, photos, hopes and dreams.
Chrome OS will strongly argue that it’s an almost perfect desktop replacement, and these arguments are largely sound...until you start craving the tweakability of Photoshop or the frustratingly outdated standard of Microsoft Excel. Photo uploading from an SD card was slightly less intuitive than it is on my MBP, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means.
I think the question everyone’s asking is, can this thing replace my Macbook? The honest answer is that it depends.
Are you someone who relies on software that’s not available within the Chrome OS universe? Are you someone who hates using Chrome for whatever reason? Is your entire life in the Apple universe (iCloud, iTunes, etc.)?
Then definitely no.
But if you're someone like me who’s gone all in on Google’s software and eager to try something new, the Google Chromebook Pixel is a worthy adversary to your old Macbook. Available from the Google Store, starting at $999.00.