To say that the Google Pixelbook is a strong performer isn’t going to surprise anyone, but that is exactly the case. Honestly, we wouldn’t accept anything less from such an expensive Chromebook, especially considering how lightweight of an operating system Chrome is.
Here’s how the Google Pixelbook performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Mozilla Kraken: 1,202ms
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 7 hours, 40 minutes
The laptop handles our entire workload through the Chrome browser – from Google documents and spreadsheets to Slack chat and now even Lightroom photo editing – with nary a hiccup. It’s impressive given how traditionally RAM-hungry the browser is, but in Chrome OS there seems to be far more headroom in that regard than with, say, Windows 10 or macOS.
Naturally, the Pixelbook is going to outperform Samsung and Asus’s latest premium Chromebooks on browser benchmarks, but that’s neither here nor there. Frankly, you’re not going to see much of a performance difference between the three in real-world use – perhaps that’s testament to just how well Chrome OS works with low-power hardware.
As for how long this Chromebook can last, expect shorter longevity numbers than you’re used to seeing on even lower-power Chromebooks. Google promises up to 10 hours on a single charge, a number that was reached based on “a mix of standby, web browsing and other use,” according to its product page for the Pixelbook.
In our TechRadar battery test, which sees the device loop a locally-stored 1080p movie at 50% screen brightness and volume with the keyboard backlight and Bluetooth disabled, the Pixelbook lasted for 7 hours and 40 minutes. That’s impressive in its own right, but the Samsung Chromebook Pro lasted 8 hours and 43 minutes on the same test, while the Asus Chromebook Flip lasted a whopping 10 hours and 46 minutes.
We chalk up the difference to both devices running lower-power Intel Core m3 processors that consume battery life more slowly, as well as the Chromebook Flip’s lower-resolution display. Regardless, we expect the Pixelbook to last a bit longer on a charge during real-world use – plus, it outlasted the Surface Pro and 13-inch MacBook Pro by 50 minutes and over an hour, respectively. Not to mention that just 15 minutes hooked up to an outlet gets you up to 2 hours of use, thanks to USB-C fast charging.
Full-blown Android on a Chromebook
Perhaps the most marquee feature of the Pixelbook is its wholecloth support of Android apps and the Google Play store, not to mention the brand new launcher interface to access these apps. That’s right, after several public attempts through none other than Samsung and Asus, we finally have the promised Chromebook that can run Android apps.
The result is, frankly, impressive and testament to Android’s vast versatility. Every Android app we’ve downloaded, from Sonic the Hedgehog to the VLC video player, works without issue and looks beautiful beneath the pixel-dense display. Of course, there are some compatibility quirks in that some configuration windows render as if they were on a smartphone, but that’s more dependent on the app developers than Google.
This is where the masses of local storage start to make much more sense than they ever did on previous Chromebook Pixel models: you’re going to need a place to store all of these apps and the files they’ll interact with.
Naturally, Google also needed a new interface through which to access all of these apps, and that’s where the new Chrome launcher comes in. Accessible through a key that has replaced what would otherwise be ‘Caps Lock’ as well as a circular button on the taskbar-like ‘shelf’, this tool allows you to search through all installed apps as well open apps with a screen tap.
(Don’t worry, the ‘Caps Lock’ function can be accessed by holding the ‘Alt’ key and pressing the launcher button.)
Ultimately, this level of Android app support stands to blow Chrome OS wide open, effectively eliminating its dependence on the Chrome web store for app-like experiences. It brings the operating system far closer in capability and versatility to that of Windows 10 and macOS, essentially making what was a thick line between much, much thinner.
Most importantly, we’re now at last at the point where there are little to no compromises for almost anyone to switch from a Windows or Mac machine to a Chromebook, thanks to Android. That possibility starts with the Pixelbook.
The Pixelbook is arguably the most gorgeous Chromebook to date, and indisputably the most versatile. We’re huge fans of the vibrant, responsive display as well as the slick trackpad and sublime keyboard. Plus, the rubberized segments of the frame make using the Pixelbook in its tablet orientation much easier. Finally, Android app support massively upgrades Chrome OS.
For one, this isn’t just an expensive Chromebook, but it’s an expensive laptop – period – especially considering the low-power processor inside compared against similarly-priced competitors in the Windows and Mac camps. On a related note, we take issue with the Pixelbook Pen being sold separately, given how crucial it is to the experience and how easy it is to lose. Also, the audio takes a nosedive in the name of thinness and lightness. Finally, for the price, we would’ve liked a biometric login option, like all high-end laptops offer today.
While we’ve compared the Google Pixelbook here to rivaling premium Chromebooks for what should be obvious reasons, we could have just as easily put it up against the Surface Pro or even MacBook Pro. That should speak volumes as to how impressed we are by the Pixelbook, and how far Google has taken the Chromebook platform since its inception.
The Google Pixelbook is the first Chromebook worthy of consideration alongside the most high-end Windows and Mac laptops and 2-in-1 devices. That alone should tell you everything you need to know about the Pixelbook: this is the best Chromebook to date, bar none.
That said, this is definitely not the Chromebook you’re likely used to. If you were expecting an affordable laptop that the Chromebook name has become synonymous with, there are plenty of places to look elsewhere. If you want to get in on ground level of what very well may be the future of Chromebooks in the premium space, look no further – you won’t be disappointed.