We wouldn’t be surprised if there was renewed interest in the Google Pixelbook, what with everything it can do these days. A true hybrid in every way, the Google Pixelbook has a lot to offer, both in compatibility and performance, that the similarly priced Chromebook Pixel never could.
It’s not just one of the best Chromebooks on the market, but it may just be one of the best 2-in-1 laptops period, because it gives you something that Windows 10 products simply can’t – the Google Pixelbook gives you a taste of Android, while still keeping the design and features of Chrome OS. Google has managed to pack in a ton of modern flair into a maturing form factor, something that’s mirrored in the upcoming Google Pixel Slate.
The sold-separately stylus makes the Pixelbook experience much better, too, as it removes much of the hassle you’d expect from using Android apps on a laptop. Coupled with the ability to switch the Pixelbook into a tablet – there are plenty of compelling reasons to opt for this gorgeous Chromebook.
On the surface, the Pixelbook looks like a Chromebook mixed with a Google Pixel C tablet, but the Google Pixelbook’s specs are seriously impressive. With a 2,400 x 1,600 pixel display and 7th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, the Google Pixelbook is nothing to shake a stick at. And, as you’ll soon see for yourself, it’s backed by a modest price tag that puts Apple’s similarly specced offerings to shame.
Here is the Google Pixelbook configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 1.2GHz Intel Core i5-7Y57 (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.3GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615
RAM: 8GB LPDDR3 (1,866MHz)
Screen: 12.3-inch QHD (2,400 x 1,600, 235 ppi) LCD touchscreen (400 nits, 72% NTSC color, 3:2 aspect ratio)
Storage: 256GB SSD (eMMC)
Ports: 2x USB-C 3.1, headphone/mic jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2 x 2 MIMO), Bluetooth 4.2
Cameras: 720p webcam (60fps)
Weight: 2.4 pounds (1.1kg)
Size: 11.4 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches (290.4 x 220.8 x 10.3mm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
There’s no denying it – the Google Pixelbook is absolutely an expensive Chromebook. Starting at $999 or £999 and capping out at $1,649 or £1,649 – even without counting the $99 (£99, about AU$130) Pixelbook Pen, though Google is generously throwing in a pen loop for those in need of a place to store the pen.
For that premium, you’re also getting 7th generation Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 processors on both the entry-level 128GB option and $1,199 (£1,199, about AU$1,555) mid-range 256GB option, each paired with 8GB of memory. However, the top-end 512GB option comes packing a Core i7 processor with 16GB of memory. All of these processor options are Intel’s low-power, low-heat Y series chips, which means all of the Pixelbook models are fanless.
In Australia, things are a bit different. You’ll have only two options are far as spec configurations are concerned. The first will set you back $1,522, and it comes with a Intel Core i5 processor and 128GB of SSD space. The most capacious version of the Google Pixelbook in Australia, unfortunately, includes an Intel Core i7 CPU and 256GB of SSD storage. The latter model is priced at $1,804.26. And, unfortunately, because it doesn’t seem like Google has released the Pixelbook officially in Australia, you’ll have to deal with importing it from the US. Which will come with some hefty import fees.
Now that the Google Pixelbook has been out for around a year, we’re expecting to see plenty of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals for the premium Chromebook – especially with the Google Pixel Slate right around the corner.
Now, let’s talk about how this holds up against this year’s Samsung Chromebook Pro and Asus Chromebook Flip, both of which were designed in close conjunction with Google to jump start the firm’s Android app push on Chrome OS. Both of these laptops are considerably less expensive, with Samsung and Asus’ currently selling for $499 (about £375, AU$647) and $459 (£675, AU$899), respectively.
However, they’re both markedly less powerful, containing the same 6th-generation Intel Core m3 processor that’s similarly created for low power, and thus low heat, which allows it to take advantage of fanless chassis designs. That said, they’re both beautiful Chromebooks in their own right, even if they offer considerably less memory and local storage.
When the dst settles, these two Chromebooks are a better deal for the Chrome OS platform as it exists today, but that’s not what the Google Pixelbook is about – it’s a forward-looking device. The Google Pixelbook is to Chromebooks of the future what Microsoft’s Surface was to the best 2-in-1 Windows 10 laptops that followed it. And, once the Black Friday laptop deals roll around, more people than ever will be a part of it.
The Pixelbook is clearly the beautiful result of years of work on Google’s part in refining a unified design across its hardware offerings. But, the Pixelbook could also be seen as a sort of coming of age for Google’s Chromebook design philosophy.
It’s easy to say that this is the most attractive and well-designed computing product from Google yet. From the brushed aluminum frame with flush edges to the rubberized palm rest and underside, every design element has achieved style and substance in equal measure.
For sure, anyone that hasn’t bought a notebook in the last couple of years might need to adjust to only having two USB-C 3.1 ports. But, at least it’s future-proof. Speaking of which, the webcam is just as prepared for an increasingly video-centric future with a 720p resolution and 60 frames per second capture rate.
Sadly, the same can’t be said of the audio performance. As has become the growing trend in the thinnest and lightest laptops, Google has crammed the speakers underneath the keyboard, and the result is awfully tinny sound. Fortunately, there’s a 3.5mm audio jack that lets you use the best headphones with the Pixelbook.
On the upside, the glass trackpad is a delight to use, tracking super smoothly and accurately both with single- and-multi-touch gestures. However, we found that the trackpad doesn’t like us resting our thumb on the trackpad to click while tracking with our index finger – a common use case, but not this editor’s personal preference.
Likewise, the Pixelbook keyboard is among the best we’ve ever tested. The backlit keyboard’s keys are well-spaced, and the 0.8mm travel is a delight with forceful feedback. We also appreciate the subtle, deeply satisfying clicking sound the keys make – it’s distinct from every laptop keyboard we’ve tested, and now we’re going to expect it everywhere.
The ‘Pixel’ in Google’s eponymous laptop earns its name when it comes to the 3:2 Pixelbook display. At 235 pixels-per-inch (ppi) and accurate color reproduction, this display rivals some of the best around, Chromebook or not, like the 267-ppi Surface Pro and 227-ppi MacBook Pro (13-inch).
The panel works well for movies and photos, not to mention photo editing. The 400 nits of brightness help hugely with this, but it’s still a glossy screen and as such doesn’t stand up to direct sunlight all that well. At any rate, the display is also sharply accurate to the touch, especially when underneath the Pixelbook Pen.
Pixelbook Pen and Google Assistant
First off, we’ll just say that it’s a damn shame that the Pixelbook Pen isn’t included in the price of the laptop, as it’s arguably crucial to the experience. However, we’re not about the say that the stylus isn’t worth the price of admission, because it 100% is worth it – if you can spare it.
The Pixelbook Pen works excellently as a stylus, offering plenty of pressure response as well as tilt support, making drawing on the display a pleasure. The display’s snappy response helps the digital ink follow close enough behind the pen that any delay is imperceivable.
On the Pixelbook Pen sits a single button which is essentially a Google Assistant button, but also seems to incorporate some of the new Google Lens technology found in smartphones, like the Google Pixel 2. Pressing the button while inking turns that ink into a thick blue, but doesn’t actually draw anything.
Instead, anything captured inside this blue ink is sent to Google Assistant for analysis, which in turn presents anything and everything Google’s servers can muster about whatever you encircled. Circle a picture of a hippopotamus, and Google Assistant will hit you with a Wikipedia page on the animal. In fact, Google’s knowledge graph runs so deep that we circled a picture of Office Space’s Ron Livingston, and Google Assistant spat back his character’s name – Peter Gibbons – before telling us more about the actor.
This will be an incredibly powerful tool for students, particularly, but users in general will benefit.
Another plus regarding the Pixelbook Pen is that it’s opened up Google Keep to support pen input, even from the lock screen, making note-taking that much easier. There are even apps that can transcribe the Pixelbook Pen’s scrawlings into traditional text.
However, one huge flaw in the Pixelbook Pen is that it doesn’t attach to the laptop in any way, not even via magnets, like the Surface Pro. This oversight makes it that much easier to lose this stylus that cost you so much money. Plus, it runs on AAAA batteries, whereas a rechargeable solution would’ve been much more worthy of the price tag.
As for Google Assistant, the service can be accessed either through a dedicated keyboard button or via your voice, if you don’t invest in the Pixelbook Pen. Though, the latter only works when the laptop is logged into – waking the Pixelbook with a ‘Hey, Google’ command is in the works, we’re told.
In general, Google Assistant is just as helpful as it is on smartphones and renders in the exact same way, with an OS-level chat record as well as a voice response.
First reviewed October 2017