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The year of the Chromebook

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My new year's resolution was to give Google's Chromebook Pixel a fair shot at being my one and only daily computer. This is an attempt to live exclusively within Google's Chrome OS for work and for play. If the machine lives up to its billing, I'll be switching FOR GOOD! Will it change the way I work for the better, or will this be another resolution unfulfilled? I'll be posting monthly updates throughout the process. I'll detail the ins and outs as they come, and eventually I'll make the big decision. Microsoft and Apple have both had their moments, let's see if Google's ready to compete!

Click here to see Google's 1 minute pitch for the Chromebook Pixel

Main advantage: Beautifully minimal machined aluminum body, extremely well designed piano hinge allows one handed opening and a steady viewing experience, touchscreen, ChromeOS, the best screen I've seen to date

Main concern: small screen, high priced, Chrome OS has clear limitations and is underdeveloped in places, processor and ram are low for the price and the machine routinely slows to a crawl

Unique features: hidden vents and invisible screws, etched glass trackpad, 1TB of Google Drive storage included for 3 years along with 100mb of data/month for 2 years from Verizon if you purchase the LTE model

People are noticing the newest “not quite a laptop” laptops from Google. Many are quick to dismiss this bold attempt at something new, but Microsoft was threatened enough to devote a recent ad campaign to bashing the lowly Chromebook – so Google must be doing something right. The idea of a Chromebook seems like a winner on paper; extremely aggressive pricing (try as low as $149 for a brand new machine at some retailers), constant automatic backups, cross device syncing within Google’s ecosystem, and a simple interface that speaks to kids, computer smarties, and even grandma. However you feel about this new middle ground, Google has made a strong push to own the space between a traditional laptop and a tablet.

Though they’ve built a range of devices at this point, for this review series we’ll be focusing on Google’s flagship Chromebook Pixel. The Pixel was released at Google’s annual developer conference a few years ago to much acclaim. It had a build quality and an impressive HD screen that outshined anything on the market at the time – including anything made by a certain fruit themed company. A built-in touchscreen, backlit keyboard, and a smooth as anything glass trackpad covered just about any premium input option you could want in a modern portable. The only clearly missed opportunity with the Pixel’s gorgeous screen is that one available configuration is only 12.85”. That just isn’t big enough for me personally considering the $1,300+ price tag. You do have the option of a built in LTE modem for a slightly larger price. It’s a nice option for some, but I wish the expansion option for this gorgeously simple machine had to do with screen size.

As far as operation, the truth is that you can get a much better performing machine for the price. You can’t get a fit and finish to beat the Pixel, but the core i5 processor and basic integrated graphics are a huge let down in a machine that puts it in line with some of the nicest machines on the market today. The 64GB SSD allows instant-on functionality and is tolerable considering the Chromebook's cloud focused storage model. What I can't tolerate is a gut-wrenching 4GB of RAM which will almost immediately let any user down. The 5 hours of battery life on a single charge isn't that impressive at first glance, but considering that the screen is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen, I’ll allow it. The final extra bits of swag (1 TB of Google Drive storage for 3 years, 12 free in-flight internet sessions, and a Google Music trial) are fun, but the online storage should be permanent considering the premium price tag and aforementioned lack of built-in storage.

This article is a very gentle introduction to the world of Chromebooks. If you’re considering one for yourself, be sure to slow down and think this choice through backwards and forwards. For each strength that I’ve noticed so far, there is a frustratingly obvious weakness to match. Some features are omitted by design and some are yet to be addressed, but there are clear issues with a Chromebook as your one and only device. I’ll detail the successes and challenges of my experience in this year of Chromebook series.

The great news is that Google is a company that continues to innovate. They are constantly trying to be more and that’s why I’m committed to giving the Pixel this extended trial. Between now and the end of the year we’ll break down a different aspect of the ChromeOS experience every month. Check in with me for features on document/office work, email and calendar use, photo and music management, limitations/benefits of cloud storage, things that only ChromeOS can do, and finally whatever remaining things ChromeOS cannot yet do when we’re through with the series.

Thank you again to Google for supplying their product for review.

Chromebook Pixel LTE by Google

Manufacturer – $1449.00

Amazon - $1899.00

Google Pricing

Alternatives: Chromebook Pixel Wifi, Acer C720, Samsung Chromebook, and the HP Chromebook 11

Is it worth buying: I only suggest that the thoroughly educated user purchase this or any Chromebook. Do NOT buy this as a gift unless the recipient knows that they are an early adopter and will need to be patient as they navigate the inevitable learning curve of a new OS.

If you haven’t already, click here to see a video slideshow of the Chromebook Pixel

ENJOY YOUR GADGETS!

@ExaminerPhil

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