The Google Chromebook line got a bit of a surprise update – the Chromebook Pixel, which claims to have the highest pixel density of any laptop on the market.
It appears that’s correct. The Chromebook Pixel features a 13”, 2560 x 1700 resolution 239 ppi touchscreen display, compared to the 227 ppi 13” MacBook Pro Retina. But, let’s not play the numbers game – that’s not nearly a big enough difference to matter to anyone. That’s problematic for the Chromebook Pixel.
Like a lot of other notebooks, the Pixel has a quality processor – 3rd generation Intel Core i5 – and 32 GB of solid state Flash memory. For the most part, storage is going to come from the cloud – purchasing a Chromebok Pixel gets you 1 TB of Google Drive storage for free for three years. Graphics are handled by the Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset, and there are 4 GB of RAM on-board. There’s also a backlit keyboard and a glass touchpad.
That’s nice, but there’s a big problem with the Chromebook Pixel. The problem is that it’s a Chromebook. Not to say that Chromebooks are bad – they’re terrific for schools, or for people who only need to use a notebook for things they need to do online, in the cloud. In those cases, the limits of Chromebooks don’t matter so much. It doesn’t matter because Chromebooks are usually extremely cheap.
The Chromebook Pixel is not cheap. It is $1,300. It runs the Chrome OS, which means you can use Chrome to surf the Internet, and you can use Google web apps from the cloud, and that is pretty much it. You will not be able to run third party software on the Chromebook Pixel. Sure, you have remote access to Windows, Mac, or Linux PCs, but you could just buy one of those PCs for less money and save yourself the hassle. I get that Google’s all-cloud OS is appealing to some, but there’s really nothing on the Chromebook that you can’t access with a fully-featured PC.
Flash memory, touch capability, and a display that impressive are all going to guarantee a high price, but you can even get those for cheaper in many other notebooks, with a step down in display quality. The 1 TB of storage seems awfully excessive, especially for a machine that can’t run anything third-party. And, the Pixel’s 3:2 aspect ratio doesn’t make sense for entertainment purposes, so why have a display that nice? I’d suggest media-heavy work, but most people will want to use their own favorite software for that, and that’s not happening on a Chromebook. I’m not really clear on what point there is in having a display this good on a Chromebook. It doesn’t make sense from a utility perspective, when you consider the cost. I can’t figure out how to argue that this isn’t anything but paying more for less. Faster boot-up times aren’t that important, and with the new MacBooks and Windows 8, boot-up times for other notebooks aren’t really that bad anymore, anyway.
The lack of functionality really makes $1,300 a stretch. Google’s host of web apps is good, but it’s not robust enough to make up for what you’re losing. Sure, that might change in the future, but we don’t live in the future. In the present, this is going to be a limited notebook. Once we get to the point where the Chrome OS can make up for what you lose by not having a fully-fledged OS, maybe buy a fancy Chromebook then? They’ll probably be less expensive and feature even more advanced models by that time, too.
But, it’s there if you want it. The Chromebook Pixel ships next week – you can order one now on Google Play for $1,300. Eventually, you’ll be able to find it at Best Buy, too. That’s the Wi-Fi only version – there’s also an LTE model coming in April for $1,450.