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When it comes to Chromebooks, phrases like "high-end designs" and "top-tier internals" usually don't spring to mind. Known for their low prices and reliable builds, Chromebooks are the preferred choice in the educational market. Well, Google aims to redefine (or perhaps refine) the Chromebook.
With its zippy processor, lightweight frame, responsive touchscreen, and full Android app support, the Google Pixelbook (available at Amazon for $1,464.98) is about as futuristic as Chromebooks get. But while we love the long battery life, convertible design, and clicky keyboard, there were still a couple of minor nitpicks we had to grapple with.
The pen is a standalone accessory, which means you'll have to pay extra for it. In addition to the pen not being included, this 2-in-1 is wicked expensive for a Chromebook. In fact, the entry-level model is almost double the price of the Samsung Chromebook Pro. That said, if you've got the funds, the Pixelbook is the best Chromebook we've ever tested.
About the Google Pixelbook
The Pixelbook comes in three configurations. The entry-level model ($999) is armed with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD. The next option ($1,199) has more storage (256GB SSD). Our test unit is the maxed-out model, which features a 7th Gen Intel processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD. Here are the specs in detail:
CPU: 7th Gen Intel Core processor
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 615
Display: 12.3-inch (2400 x 1600) touchscreen display
Memory: 16GB RAM
Storage: 512GB SSD
Ports: 2 USB Type-C 3.1, headphone/mic jack
Weight: 2.4 lbs
The base configuration may be the most affordable option, but 128GB SSD isn't a lot of space, so we'd recommend the mid-tier model. The Intel Core i5 is fast enough for office work and 256GB SSD is plenty of room for photos, movies, and games. Though it's nice to have a speedy machine, we feel the 7th Gen Intel Core CPU is a little overkill for a Chromebook.
What We Like
The convertible design is useful
The Pixelbook is pretty versatile in what it can do. You can either prop it up like an easel or swing the screen around and use it like a tablet. This is great for watching Netflix, taking notes, surfing the web, sharing information, and so on. Oh and it's really thin, too!
Weighing a little over two pounds, you can easily slip this convertible inside your bag and take it with you anywhere. It's perfect for those who travel frequently. Not only is it really light, the minimalist aesthetic is beautiful as well.
Looks are definitely important, but what about the build? Since it's all aluminum and gorilla glass, the Pixelbook feels sturdy and reliable. I wouldn't go tossing it into the mouth of a volcano, but it can definitely take a few hits. The 360-degree hinge is also super tight and I heard zero creaking when I applied some weight to the keyboard.
You're getting full Android support
Back in the old days, Chromebooks were limited in what they could do. However, with Android support, you're getting a wider selection of apps and games. It really enhances the whole experience. So, if you prefer Word over Google Docs, you can actually download the Android version of Microsoft Office.
Battery life is amazing
When we put the Pixelbook through our WiFi browsing test, which continuously cycles through popular websites like Twitch and Amazon, it died in a little over nine hours. That's more than a full work day.
But if you consider yourself a power user, we'd recommend keeping your eyes peeled for an outlet. Intensive tasks are more of a power-suck. For example, photo editing will drain the machine faster than checking e-mail.
The keyboard is fantastic
The keyboard offers a really comfortable typing experience. Thanks to well-spaced keys, the layout doesn't feel cramped and typing is clicky and pleasant. The matte finish on the keys is nice as well.
It didn't take me long to get accustomed to it, either. After just a few hours with the convertible, I was clicking my way to 85 words-per-minute, which is close to my average of 90 WPM. Rarely did I strike the wrong key!
What We Didn't Like
Pen is sold separately
The Google Pixelbook Pen is cool because it doesn't require charging or Bluetooth. It's also comfortable enough for basic navigation and sketching. That said, it costs an extra $99 on top of the price of the laptop. Unless you're working with a flexible budget, it's not really a must-buy. Plus, there's nowhere to store the pen on the laptop itself.
It's expensive for a Chromebook
There's no point in beating around the bush. No matter which configuration you end up choosing, the Pixelbook is expensive for a Chromebook. Most Chromebooks will cost you anywhere from $200 - $500. But the Pixelbook's base configuration ($999) is almost double the price of the Samsung Chromebook Pro ($599.99). Sad face.
If you're looking for a budget-friendly alternative, we'd recommend the 14-inch HP Chromebook ($229) or the 11-inch Dell Chromebook ($179.99). They're less powerful and don't look as nice, but they're affordable and fast enough for basic tasks.
It's a smudge magnet
The lid attracts smudges like you wouldn't believe. In the photo below, you can see black marks on the lid of our test unit. One of our photographers stuck it in his camera bag for the journey home the other day and, well, next thing he knew it was smudge city. You can probably buff them out with a cloth, but at the end of the day it's still a smudge magnet.
Should You Buy It?
If you've got a taste for the future, absolutely
If you're in the market for a top-of-the-line Chromebook, you can't get much better than the Pixelbook. Between the long battery life and convertible design, it's an absolute pleasure to use. Plus, the powerful internals make it one of the fastest Chromebooks we've ever tested. While we love the full Android support and lightweight body, it's not without its flaws.
The pen is sold separately, meaning it's an additional $99 on top of the cost of the laptop. It's also expensive for a Chromebook. The entry-level model, which costs $999, is almost double the price of the Samsung Chromebook Pro. If it's a budget-friendly Chromebook you're after, we'd recommend opting for the 14-inch HP Chromebook or the 11-inch Dell Chromebook.
Shortcomings aside, if you've got the budget, the Pixelbook is one of the best Chromebooks money can buy.