image provided by Google shows the company's
first high-end chromebook Pixel. According to a
review by the Associated Press, the Machine
feels light and comfortable in my hands and its
high-resolution display makes photos appear
REAP, Cambodia — Google's first high-end laptop, the
Chromebook Pixel, is an impressive machine. It feels
light and comfortable in my hands and on my lap. Its
high-resolution display makes photos look sharp and
video come to life. From a hardware standpoint, it's
everything I'd want a laptop to be.
the Pixel isn't very practical — at least not yet
— for most people. It works well when you have a
steady Internet connection, but can't do much once you
lose that connection. And because it uses Google's own
operating system, it doesn't run enough software yet
to replace your other machines.
brought the Pixel along for a nearly three-week trip
to Thailand and Cambodia, where I knew I wouldn't have
the type of round-the-clock access I'm used to in the
U.S. I was surprised by how much I could do, but
quickly got frustrated when I couldn't do more.
frustration doesn't come cheap. Prices for the Pixel
start at $1,299, just $200 less than a MacBook with a
comparable screen and the ability to do much more
offline. A higher-end Pixel with cellular access costs
$150 more than the basic model and is scheduled to
start shipping Monday.
those unfamiliar with Google's entry into the laptop
market — I guess that's many of you — the Pixel
and other Chromebooks run a Google operating system
called Chrome OS. Based on the Chrome Web browser
available for Windows and Mac computers, Chrome OS
underscores Google's vision of letting the Internet do
all the heavy lifting instead of your computer.
result, you can power up and start working on the
Chromebook right away. Boot time is minimal because
there's not a lot of software to load. Those functions
are pulled from the Internet as needed. That also
means updates come regularly and don't need any
installation on your part.
not a lot of storage on the machine either. The idea
is to keep as much as you can online, through a
storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
of the Chromebook as a gateway to the Internet. You
can download apps from Google and others to run on the
Chromebook, but many of those apps do little more than
access a website on your Chrome browser when you're
Chromebooks haven't been too powerful. They have
tended to be low-cost machines ideal for casual users
who mostly need computers for Internet tasks such as
email and Facebook.
is changing the dynamics with the Pixel. It's
targeting power users who are willing to pay more
money for the best features.
$1,299, you get a well-built machine sporting a
touch-sensitive display that measures nearly 13 inches
diagonally. The screen's resolution is among the best
out there. At 239 pixels per inch, it tops the 227
pixels per inch on the 13-inch MacBook Pro, though
your eyes might not be able to discern that small
basic Pixel model comes with 32 gigabytes of storage
and has a slot for external storage, such as a
camera's SD card. Each machine also comes with a
three-year subscription for 1 terabyte of online
storage through Google Drive. It's normally $50 a
also offers a $1,449 model that has double the
internal storage, at 64 GB, and 100 megabytes a month
of LTE cellular data access through Verizon Wireless
for two years. That's suitable for occasional use, but
if you'll be away from Wi-Fi a lot, you'll need a data
plan. Prices start at $10 a day.
LTE model isn't set to ship until Monday, but Google
lent me one to try out. I was impressed with the LTE
offering, as the cellular access would help cover some
of the gaps I'd have outside my home and office. But
it's of no use abroad.
is LTE of use on airplanes. Both models offer 12 free
sessions with Gogo's Wi-Fi service on airplanes, but
those are good only for flights that offer that
capability. Those tend to be domestic flights in the
found myself trying to use Chromebook without a steady
I left, I configured the Chromebook browser to enable
offline access to Google Docs, the company's set of
online tools such as word processing and spreadsheets.
With offline access, you're able to access and edit
documents. Changes get synced with the online versions
the next time you connect to the Internet.
able to do a fair amount of writing offline, but every
now and then, my document would disappear, replaced by
Google's "Aw, Snap" error message sporting a
sad face icon. That would be cute if hours of work
weren't at stake.
I was usually able to recover the file and never lost
more than a paragraph of writing, I got nervous with
every crash. Google Docs lets you save copies on your
computer as text files or in Microsoft's Word format.
But that function works only when you are online, even
for changes you are making offline.
without the crashes, I wasn't getting tools such as
spell-checking while offline. That's not an issue when
using Word or Apple's Pages on other machines.
text documents, the Chromebook is able to view photos,
PDFs and other files, just like any other computer. It
can also read files in Microsoft's Word and Excel
formats, though you must convert them to Google Docs
to make changes.
obviously, it can browse the Web. I successfully paid
credit card bills, bought magazines and watched Hulu
video on the Pixel. I was able to read an e-book on
Amazon's Web-based Kindle app, too.
there are limits, particular when sites require
plug-ins that aren't available for the Chromebook.
while I was able to write this story on a Chromebook,
our publishing system isn't compatible with it.
are ideal for those who have steady Internet access
and do most of their computing on Web browsers. But
those people may be fine with one of the other, much
cheaper Chromebooks. One is the $249 Samsung
Chromebook, which I have tried and like for simple
tasks when Internet access isn't an issue.
you need a machine as powerful as the Pixel, you might
also need an operating system that can do more,
especially when offline.
executive Caesar Sengupta admits that Chromebook
owners might still have to turn to a Windows or Mac
computer now and then. In many ways, it reminds me of
the early days of the Mac, when most software was
written only for Windows.
makes the Pixel expensive for a machine that can't
serve as your sole computer. At $1,299, I'd rather
spend another $200 for a MacBook with a
high-resolution display and four times the storage, at
128 gigabytes. You don't get a touch screen with the
MacBook, but frankly, I didn't use the Pixel's touch
controls even once during my Asia trip.
the other hand, Sengupta told me that selling Pixels
isn't Google's main goal with the machine. Rather, the
company made it to showcase Google's vision for the
future of computing. In that case, Google has
succeeded in producing a machine that is a pleasure to
use — as long as you're online.
the Chromebook Pixel:
device represents Google's entry into the high-end
laptop market. It runs Google's Chrome OS operating
system, which largely assumes you'll have
round-the-clock Internet access. You can still work
with the device offline, but functionality is limited.
basic model costs $1,299 and comes with 32 gigabytes
of storage. For $1,449, you get 64 gigabytes and LTE
connectivity through Verizon Wireless. Both models
come with a terabyte of online storage through Google
Drive for three years, a $1,800 value at $50 per
month. Not everyone will need as much storage, and
Google Drive offers free and cheaper plans.
pricier Pixel model also offers 100 megabytes a month
of LTE cellular data access through Verizon Wireless
for two years.
you need more, you can buy a day pass with unlimited
data for $10. Or you can buy 1 gigabyte of data for
$20, 3 GB for $35 or 5 GB for $50. Those are good for
a month. If you're a Verizon customer with a plan for
sharing data allotments over multiple devices, you can
add the Pixel for just $10 a month.
Pixel is sold through Google's online Play store and
Best Buy's website.