On Wednesday, Google launched a new iteration of its own Chrome OS-based laptops. The new notebook has a different form-factor and can be transformed into a tablet. It has a new name in the Pixelbook. And, it has received a hardware upgrade when compared to the previous-gen Chromebook Pixel. The price of Google’s Pixelbook is higher compared to other Chromebooks, but being a flagship model, it has a number of advantages over its brethren, including up to a 512 GB SSD, its own stylus, and Google Assistant support.

Google entered the market of PCs with its own Chromebook Pixel laptop in early 2013, more than 1.5 years after Acer and Samsung launched the first Chromebook notebooks. Neither of the PC makers addressed the high-end of the market with Chrome OS-powered systems, so Google wanted to create a flagship that would show all of the advantages of its OS. For its first-gen Pixel Chromebook, Google chose a 12.85” display with a 2560×1700 resolution and a 3:2 aspect ratio, which offered a very high pixel density at the time, used an aluminum chassis, along with Intel’s high-end Core i5-3427U (Ivy Bridge) CPU to ensure smooth performance. The company released its second-gen Chromebook Pixel in early 2015. The laptop used the same premium display, but was made a bit thinner, integrated Intel’s Core i5-5200U/5500U (Broadwell) CPU with a considerably more powerful iGPU, and 8, or even 16 GB of DDR3 RAM. Neither the first, nor the second generation Google Pixel has ever had much success in the market. The systems were criticized for miniscule 32 or 64 GB SSDs, their reliance on Internet connection, and limitations of the Google Chrome OS in general. They were also only available from Google, and carried a hefty price premium over the other Chromebooks in the market. Conceptually, the Google Pixelbook is still a flagship Chromebook designed to show what an ideal PC based on the Chrome OS should be like, and Google is hoping the new unit addresses multiple drawbacks of its predecessors.

The Pixelbook is a convertible PC that comes in an aluminum unibody chassis with 360° hinges, which enables it to be used in laptop, tablet, tent, and entertainment modes. The convertible form-factor ensures that it will be easy for consumers to use Android apps optimized for larger screens, and Google says the number of apps that support this is growing. The Pixelbook is also considerably thinner and lighter than its predecessors were. It is 10.3 mm thick and weighs around 1.1 kilograms (2.4 lbs). It is still not a tablet from the iPad’s point of view, but it is lighter and thinner than most, or maybe all, Chromebooks on the market.

With the Pixelbook, Google stays true to 3:2 aspect ratio, but the new 12.3” display has a bit lower resolution than its predecessors, coming in at 2400×1600. The company says that 3:2 aspect is better suited for web surfing and recently it gained traction with the launch of various products, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro. Just like the latter, the Pixelbook supports Google’s Pixelbook Pen (sold separately), enabling artists to draw and the rest to use it as a stylus or a pen. At present, the Pixelbook Pen is supported by six apps: Evernote, Google Keep, Infinite Painter, Nebo, SketchBook and Squid. Google hopes that eventually the number of programs supporting the Pen will grow. Another important feature of the Google Pixelbook is support for Google Assistant. Now that all Apple’s Macs are equipped with Siri and Microsoft Windows has Cortana, an AI-based assistant was a must for the new Chromebook. At present Google has not discussed if there are differences in implementation between the PC and phone, but expect support for usual features already supported by Android based devices.

As for internal hardware, Google has launched three configurations of Pixelbook based on Intel’s Core i5 or i7 ‘Kaby Lake’ processors. The systems are to be equipped with 8 or 16 GB of RAM and 128 GB, 256 GB or 512 GB SSDs, indicating that the new Pixelbook is not going to rely the Internet as its primary source data storage. Decent amount of RAM and a high-capacity drive will enable Pixelbook to run demanding programs even in offline mode, and have plenty of room left over for locally stored data and documents. As for connectivity, the system is equipped with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 720p webcam, speakers, a microphone and a headphone jack. There are two USB Type-C ports, which are used for data, charging and display output. Unlike the Chromebook Pixel, the Pixelbook will not come with an optional 4G/LTE modem, but will use smartphones for connectivity when no Wi-Fi is present. This seems like a step back for the idea of Chrome OS though. In addition, the Pixelbook has a TPM chip, a 3-axis gyroscope, a magnetometer and a Hall Effect sensor, which are a typical set of sensors for Android-powered devices and an indicator that Google expects Android apps to play an important role for its PCs going forward. As for battery life, Google says that the Pixelbook can work for 10 hours on one charge and needs only 15 minutes of charging to last for two hours.

Google Pixelbook
  Entry Mid-Range High-End
Display Diagonal 12.3"
Resolution 2400×1600
Brightness 400 cd/m²
CPU Core i5 Core i5 Core i7
Graphics Intel, integrated    
RAM 8 GB 8 GB 16 GB
Storage 128 GB SSD 256 GB SSD 512 GB NVMe SSD
Wi-Fi 802.11ac Wi-Fi module
Bluetooth supported
USB 2 × USB Type-C (5 Gbps?) for data, charging, display output
Other I/O 720p webcam, TRRS connector for audio, speakers, microphone
Dimensions (H × W × D) 290.4 mm × 220.8 mm × 10.3 mm
11.4" × 8.7" × 0.84"
Weight 1.1 kilograms / 2.4 pounds
Battery Life 10 hours
Price $999 $1249 $1649

Wrapping things up, it look like Google wants to address broader audiences with its Pixelbook. The company equipped its laptop with a relatively large integrated storage, thus lowering its reliance on the cloud storage and services. It introduced the Pixelbook Pen (sold separately for $99) for creative professionals and worked with various software makers to develop productivity, creativity and entertainment apps for the Chrome OS. Finally, Google has learnt from its past mistakes and the Pixelbook will be available not only directly from the company, but also from retailers like Best Buy, Abt and B&H. As for pricing, the entry-level Pixelbook will cost $999, whereas the most advanced model will retail for $1649. It's still a lot for a Chromebook, but Google has stuck to its goal of offering an aspirational Chrome OS laptop.

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Source: Google

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  • damianrobertjones - Thursday, October 5, 2017 - link

    Nail hit firmly on the head there.
  • philehidiot - Thursday, October 5, 2017 - link

    I think they may also be trying to allow devs to justify developing high end applications for the Chrombook. Once they make the hardware, there's a chance Adobe, et al will develop for it. They won't bother otherwise. I suspect this is their plan and they know they're going to lose money on the R&D and so on for this early model as few will buy it but their plan is probably long term and combined with early talks with software companies who have said they'll develop if the hardware exists and gains some traction.

    But yeh, at the moment it's totally a cult status symbol and of no practical use.
  • BrokenCrayons - Thursday, October 5, 2017 - link

    Cult status symbol you say? Good, I'll buy 3 of them so I can arrange them around me on a table at Starbucks while I sip an iced venti mint mocha frappe (non-fat milk, of course). Doing so will make me look and feel more important than anyone else there regardless of their computing platform and don't even get me started on the lesser mortals that only take their phone out with them to drink overpriced coffee. They're beneath my notice.
  • shabby - Thursday, October 5, 2017 - link

    Problem is this is even less useful than a macbook.
  • Jumangi - Thursday, October 5, 2017 - link

    This is to give Google employees something better than the $250 basic stuff. Google just sells it to the public on the side.
  • rahvin - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    More than 50% of all educational sales are now Chromebooks (It would be higher but they don't have to replace them every 3 years). The majority of Kids that entered middle school after 2008 have chromebooks and have used nothing else (most probably couldn't even use a windows computer). The vast majority of people using computers have no need for anything other than a chromebook. They are secure, safe, automatically updated. Most are lightweight with long battery lives and look better than apple computers.

    From what I've seen of the market the high end chromebooks are purchased by developers, they install Linux via Crouton on top of the Chrome install, they get all the security of Chrome, a full Linux workspace and development tools and one of the lightest, longest battery laptops in the market that isn't fully locked to Microsoft or paying the MS/Apple Tax.

    The vast majority of the computer market needs nothing more than a Chromebook for personal use. Fact is if you don't game or aren't one of the 1% doing heavy computational tasks in your free time you really shouldn't be using anything other than a chromebook and the market has been shifting toward that reality.

    What's humorous to me is every time a chromebook is released you see all the comments like in this thread, but at the same time somewhere around 1/3 of all laptop format computers in use are now chromebooks. Chromebooks dominate the educational market and in 10 years it's going to be even more dominant due to that. Microsoft laughed at these things when they came out but they now sell so many of them it's the second most popular operating system for laptop format and still growing in popularity every quarter while overall windows sales as a percent of total sales is falling in the non-business market. You might not get chromebook, but that's likely because you've anchored yourself to Microsoft.
  • UtilityMax - Saturday, October 7, 2017 - link

    Fact is if you don't game or aren't one of the 1% doing heavy computational tasks in your free time you really shouldn't be using anything other than a chromebook and the market has been shifting toward that reality.

    No wonder I have noticed recently that there are crazy number of deals for buying "gaming laptops" with quad-core Intel CPUs, latest GPUs, and FHD screens for something like 600-800USD. The truth is that most people don't need that any more.
  • peevee - Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - link

    "but at the same time somewhere around 1/3 of all laptop format computers in use are now chromebooks"

    97.9% of all stats though are invented on the spot.
  • leo_sk - Thursday, October 5, 2017 - link

    Now just release something similar with atom processor at half the price
  • name99 - Friday, October 6, 2017 - link

    Why? It's not like there aren't plenty of cheap Chromebooks available rom other vendors.

    If you want to establish your brand as premium, you DON'T SELL CRAP. Not ever. Not in any form factor. The reason people are willing to pay an extra 20% or so for premium brands is that they trust that they are not being abused, that whatever they buy is basically a good product at that price point.

    As soon as you split the line into "the good stuff" and "the crap stuff", there's no longer any point in paying that 20% premium because the brand, by itself, no longer guarantees anything. Sony went down this path, Samsung is going down it as we speak (with the sane 10% of the company trying desperately to keep the Galaxy S sub-brand as premium, and the insane 90% trying to slap Galaxy onto any random PoS they can ship).

    Google APPEARS to want to be in the business of establishing a brand premium. This probably makes sense, for the same reason that MS had to make laptops --- because no-one else is going to ship Google-OS devices that aren't GUARANTEED not to suck.
    Listening to you and destroying that brand premium would be the stupidest thing they could do.

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