The Pixelbook brings you to Chromebook heaven

Highs

  • Excellent thin and light design
  • Very good perceived performance
  • Great power usage / battery capacity ratio
  • Can run Android apps

Lows

  • Sound could be better
  • Android apps are mostly for small screens

Rating and Price

  • Rating: 8/10

Pitched as the high-performance Chromebook, the Google Pixelbook is Google’s way to take leadership for how Chromebooks should be built and even thought about. By having a custom design that embodies the chest of its Chrome OS platform, it can inspire the industry, entertain and serve its users with the most advanced Chromebook experience. How does it feel to use a high-end Chromebook, let’s take a closer look.

Important: I’ll assume that you know what a Chromebook is, if not, I highly recommend following the link and reading. This is not a Windows computer, but it can run Websites / Web apps and a vast number of Android apps since 2016.

Usually, Chromebooks are bought and thought out as simple-to-use and value-oriented computers. This is why there is nearly no competition for the Pixelbook (2017). Most Chromebooks cost $200-$400, but HP has a business Chromebook : the HP Chromebook 13 G1 with configurations going from $520 to $1100. We will also throw in the Dell XPS 13 (9370) and the Lenovo X1 Carbon (2018) because they land in the price-range of the Core i7 Pixelbook.

Industrial Design

With 290.4 x 220.8 x 10.3 mm dimensions and a weight of 1100g (2.43 lbs), the Pixelbook (2017) is an ultra-thin / ultra-light laptop. The weight in itself is common with Chromebook laptops, however, keep in mind that most of them are 11.6” computers instead of 12.3” here. The ASUS Chromebook Flip and the Samsung Chromebook Pro (model XE510C24-K01US) have 12.5” and 12.3” displays.

The primary chassis material is Aluminum. Aluminum is often liked for its robust metallic feel. This metal can be challenging to work with, but its price is less than Magnesium or Carbon composites, that is why it is an excellent option for premium, high-volume products. Aluminum is relatively easy to scratch, especially when exposed raw, without any protective layer

This laptop adds a white glass accent in the back, which makes it look extra-classy. Using glass on the back-cover of a laptop can happen, but it is very uncommon. The other laptop we can think about is the Lenovo Yoga 920 Star Wars edition with a Gorilla Glass panel at the top (screen’s back-cover).

At the bottom, Google is using two anti-slip rubber area to secure the laptop in place. You will particularly appreciate this if you use the computer on a glass table. We know this well because hotels often have these for ease of maintenance.

This computer feels very sturdy, and doubt that something would break if you were to drop it from a coffee table, especially when closed. However, the glass accent could crack, although there is an aluminum rim around it. There is no flex, and the chassis is entirely rigid.

This laptop is sealed and the user should not try opening it. Only certified technicians to attempt to do so.

Keyboard and trackpad

The computer input system is used every time, all the time, so comfort is a critical thing to consider when evaluating a laptop.

This keyboard has keys that are 270.6 mm² (~0.42 sq in) big, which is considered to be broad (it’s comfortable). The key-travel is 1.0 mm, and that is slightly shallow by laptop standards (~1.3 mm average?) but the MacBook Pro is ridiculously shallow at 0.5mm, so 1.0mm feels relatively normal.

The actuation force of the square keys is 67g, while the rest is 60g. The conventional wisdom is that the higher the actuation force, and the more “crisp” the stroke is. Believe it or not, but 60g is actually in the upper-range, even for desktop mechanical keyboards. For instance, the Cherry Max Green switch has an actuation force of 70g. This keyboard has a first-class tactile feedback.

"THIS KEYBOARD HAS A FIRST-CLASS TACTILE FEEDBACK"

The keys are flat and seem to be coated with an anti-slip/anti-fingerprint surface. Certain laptops have slightly curved keys (towards the bottom), while others stick to a flat design. The keys switches have an agreeable “clicky” feel, and if it wasn’t for the slightly shallow travel-distance, it would remind me of the old MacBook Pros, before the super-thin new keyboards.

The key size, layout, and shapes are critical factors in making the keyboard more or less comfortable. Most of it is a matter of personal preferences, so it is important to try, if possible at all.

This keyboard is backlit with a monochrome light, which is very handy at night, in bed (you should not) or in the plane. The light is set to come up automatically in very dim lighting.

The trackpad surface material is Glass. Glass is usually found in high-end laptop trackpads that emphasize comfort over durability. Glass feels exceptionally smooth and allows extensive use of the trackpad without the fingertips becoming bothered/painful.

With a trackpad surface of ~10.59 Square-inches, the trackpad is comfortable. When compared to the competition, this particular size is hefty, but there are bigger ones: the Matebook X Pro has a 13.21 SI trackpad (+24.7%).

Like any other touch-interface, the size of the trackpad in relation to the gestures matters. On laptops, most people use scroll and pinch & zoom motions. More advanced usages require up to four fingers, and circular gestures tend to be more comfortable with a larger surface. You might want to look at the Chromebook available gestures.

Ports

  • 2x USB-C Gen 3.1 (both can charge the laptop)
  • 1x 3.5mm audio

We love USB-C ports since they can be used for both data and laptop charging. They are also compatible with other chargers and are a great thing overall. However, not having a full-size USB could lead to situations in which you need a USB-A to USB-C for a simple file copy. There isn’t one in the box, but they are cheap. It’s just of matter of having it on hand when needed.

That said, let’s not forget that Chromebooks are built around the philosophy of being connected nearly all the time, so instead of using USB keys, users are probably using cloud services such as Google Drive, but also OneDrive, Dropbox, Box and other such services.The Pixelbook’s size might have allowed for an SD/MicroSD port, but unfortunately, there isn’t one.

Speakers & sound quality

Google has hidden the speakers inside the hinges of the display. The sound quality of the Pixelbook was quite decent, and you can easily watch TV shows and movies. We found the sound to be loud enough, but there is a little bit of distortion at maximum volume.

Other than that the audio is clear but could also use a little more “body” as it seems that the bass is a bit lacking in power. To be fair, it is complicated to have outstanding laptop audio with such a small internal volume and without user-facing speakers. The Huawei Matebook X Pro remains our laptop sound reference, for now.

Overall product rating: 8/10

Filed in Computers >Reviews. Read more about Chromebook, Editorspick, Google, Laptop Reviews, Laptops, Pixelbook.

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