Technologizer

Google’s Chromebook Pixel: The Chromebook Goes High-End

The Chromebook Pixel is an extremely high-end laptop -- by far the fanciest Chromebook to date, with specs that would be impressive if it were a Windows Ultrabook or a Mac.

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Harry McCracken / TIME.com

Google's Sundar Pichai introduces the Chromebook Pixel at a San Francisco press event on Feb. 21, 2013

Earlier this month, there were strange rumors that Google was getting ready to launch a high-end Chromebook called the Chromebook Pixel. The man behind the scuttlebutt didn’t sound like a reliable source, so I wrote the Pixel off as an entertaining fantasy.

But this morning in San Francisco, I attended a press event at which Google unveiled…the Chromebook Pixel.

And it is, indeed, an extremely high-end laptop — by far the fanciest Chromebook to date, with specs that would be impressive if it were a Windows Ultrabook or a Mac. The knockout spec is the screen resolution: it has a 12.85″ screen with 2560-by-1700 pixels, for a density of 239 pixels per inch — the highest of any laptop ever, says Google. That’s high enough that it’s in the territory that Apple calls “retina” — Google’s Chrome honcho, Sundar Pichai, says that users will “never, ever see another pixel.”

Chromebook Pixel

Google

The screen’s aspect ratio is 3:2 — tall rather than wide. That used to be typical for laptops, but wide-screen aspect ratios have become standard in recent years. Pichai says that Google went against the current grain because the web needs height, for scrolling lengthy pages, more than it needs width.

Oh, and the display is a touchscreen, too. Google is providing some web apps which are designed with touch in mind, including a Google+-centric photo-sharing service; it also says it’s working with third parties to encourage them to create touch-friendly web services and sites. In two to three months, it also plans to provide a new web-based version of Quickoffice, the venerable office suite Google acquired last year; it’ll complement Google Docs and will be aimed at business users who prize Microsoft Office file compatibility above all else.

As a piece of industrial design, the 3.35-lb, aluminum-clad Pixel, like nearly all modern thin notebooks, draws plentiful inspiration from Apple’s MacBook Air — though it has a textured finish and isn’t tapered, so it doesn’t come off as a shameless knockoff. Working with partners in Asia, Google designed the machine itself: it has hidden screws, vents and speakers, and the various ports are unlabeled. (Google found that consumers have no idea what the standard icons mean.)

The system packs an Intel Core i5 processor, which Google says packs enough oomph to permit smooth scrolling using the glass touchpad. It comes in two versions, a Wi-Fi-only model with 32GB of flash storage and one with Verizon LTE and 64GB of storage.

Of course, in theory you shouldn’t care too deeply about how much storage the Chromebook Pixel has. Like all Chromebooks, it runs Chrome OS and is designed to be used with web-based services, mostly with an active Internet connection. Google is throwing in 1TB of Google Drive space for the first three years — a pretty spectacular amount by web-storage standards. (After the first three years, anything you’ve stored will continue to be available for free, but any additional storage you use will fall under current Google Drive pricing at that time.)

Other recent Chromebooks, such as Samsung’s $249 model, have been aimed at consumers who want something that’s affordable as well as simple. The Pixel keeps the simplicity pitch, but nobody’s going to buy it because it’s cheap — it’s priced like a MacBook Air or one of the more posh Ultrabooks. The Wi-Fi model is $1299 and is available today from Google and tomorrow at BestBuy.com; the LTE one goes for $1449 and will be available in April. (They’ll also be available for in-person inspection at ten Best Buy stores.)

At those prices, the Pixel is aimed at a market that’s nascent and small: folks who like deluxe laptops and who are so committed to the idea of living their digital lives in the cloud that they’re O.K. with the concept of a serious piece of computing hardware which isn’t designed to run conventional local software at all.

It’s been nearly four years since Google announced Chrome OS. I’ve tended to be skeptical about it, and even though Google has some success stories to boast about — Chromebooks are the top-selling laptop on Amazon — its post-PC vision hasn’t yet made a dent in the universe. Considering Android’s vast popularity, I’ve sometimes wondered if Google would scrap Chrome OS or somehow merge it into Android.

It hasn’t — instead, it seems to be working at least as hard as ever at making Chromebooks into a success. I plan to live with a review unit for a while; more thoughts to come.

Chromebook Pixel [Google.com]

18 comments
Liquid_Level_Indicator
Liquid_Level_Indicator

The reviews are totally great everywhere I read them. I can't wait to get my hands on one of these chromebooks. Google is all geared up to revolutionize our future. 

HoochHighland
HoochHighland

"Tall rather than wide" reads like a personals section entry.

R.EkoPermonoJati
R.EkoPermonoJati

Just imagine how useless these device runs without internet connection :( :( . why we throw a gigabyte data to interenet traffic when it can run localy????  

fallinsfree
fallinsfree

chromebook is a brilliant idea for when you have to replace an old device, and don't want to have to transfer all your data. this is only apparent to those who replace devices often enough to know that such cloud storage is a gift from heaven! x) imagine access to all your stored data, with a new device, without having to had transferred it painstakingly. worth the annual storage fee, no doubt.

donmotobike
donmotobike

if $200 chrome book is not selling well - why on earth would you create a similar laptop with higher pixel for $1000 more??? besides what use is higher pixel screen if you can't even use it to view high definition movie or edit high mega-pixel picture??   can you run adobe photoshop on this?  don't think so...

EpeenNinja
EpeenNinja

no....just no. if i'm going to spend this amount of money, i'm NOT going to get a google chrome book. is this serious or is google trolling the internet again? 

johnwbaxter
johnwbaxter

I agree with Google on one thing: I need screen height for what I do, not width.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

I don't know about many places but where I live the internet remains a huge bottleneck. A computer without a local hard drive simply ISN"T a computer at all..


S.Gupta
S.Gupta

3:2  ratio finally some common sense prevails.

ZainiChia
ZainiChia

For 200 dollars more, the 13-inch Retina Macbook Pro comes with 128GB of space (4 times more), better I/O (two thunderbolt, two USB 3.0) has a better battery (7hrs, instead of Google's 5 hours). And of course free software like iLife, etc.

And, the Macbook can, you know...work locally, without internet.

I don't know what the hell Google is thinking, I really don't. At price points around 250usd, it made sense; as a second additional computer. But 1299, for a computer that cannot run local apps...??

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

Chrome OS has matured considerably in the past 2 years, and continues to evolve rapidly. Chrome OS is closer to being a maintenance-free operating system than anything else out there; it takes me more time to set up a brand new Windows computer than I have spent on Chrome OS maintenance in the past 26 months. 

Some will say the Chromebook Pixel is too expensive, but its nearest direct counterpart is probably the Dell XPS13 laptop with Ubuntu, which has an asking price of $1549, a lower resolution screen, and no touch. I'm not a big fan of touch on anything but a tablet, but it will probably come into its own with a few more years of development. 

Can't wait to get my hands on one of these things!

mikethefisherman
mikethefisherman

@R.EkoPermonoJati Is it going to have 3G like the iPad does?

worleyeoe
worleyeoe

@ZainiChia You have heard of Native Client, right? Basically, it's going to allow desktop applications to be ported over to become web apps and allow them to run at nearly the same speed as the comparable desktop app. I'm not a guru, but this technology, while immature today, will gain traction over the next few years, allowing Google to transform the Chromebook into a more compelling device. But for today, I agree that there's a strong argument to be made over the value proposition. $1,300 is a lot of money for any type of laptop.

ezekielpr
ezekielpr

@ZainiChia The Chromebook Pixel has magic, the Macbook Pro no longer  does.... 


You might not love a Chromebook but  there are enough people who do and would love to own a top of the line laptop design to run ChromeOS. 

philip.courtois
philip.courtois

@S_Deemer Finally someone speaks sense. I've owned a Cr-48 for years now and the only maintenance I've spent on it was when I played with installing Ubuntu as a dual-boot option. Chrome is extremely refreshing and without a doubt the wave of the future. Most people can't envision the future of the cloud - but that's okay. Keep bitching while Google and more and more visionaries work on improving the future and soon every application possible will be offered in a web-version for online and offline use. Then the rest of you can join the boat.

ZainiChia
ZainiChia

@worleyeoe Yup, i totally agree. If this is the next paradigm shift for computers, then Google's early forays into this arena would pay off later.

But yeap, It just really isn't worth it currently, now. Because other computers can give so much more functionality for around the same price.

ZainiChia
ZainiChia

@ezekielpr er...magic...?

I'm just talking about the value proposition. For 200 more, you really do get a whole ton more value than what the chromebook pixel offers.

But i guess, if there ever comes a day when devices running totally in the cloud become mainstream, then Google's foray into chrome OS could really pay off