Should you spend $999 on Google’s Pixelbook? For most people, the answer is a resounding “no.” Others might consider it for the potential of Google’s Chrome OS. Me? Forget the price, I’m too enamored with the hardware to care how much it costs.
I was firmly in the camp who believed spending $999 was entirely too much for a Chromebook, especially when there are models for as little as $199. Compared to macOS and Windows 10, what you get is a glorified vehicle for Chrome, plus a few Android apps.
You can get an iPhone X for that price, or a plane ticket to finally go on that trip to Europe.
But once you see the Pixelbook for yourself, you’ll begin to question if $999 is actually a fair price. You’ll convince yourself it’s worth it, and not something you’ll immediately regret. Maybe I should ditch my MacBook Air for this, you’ll say.
That’s because the hardware is so well-designed. At just 0.4 inches thick and 2.4 pounds, the Pixelbook is a minimal marvel; it makes Microsoft’s Surface Book, another impressive example of engineering brilliance, seem pedestrian, almost boring, like it’s a washed up distant relative.
The Pixelbook’s aluminum chassis is marvelously crafted, cool and rigid, working in harmony with the hinge, which is firm yet smooth. Google’s designers have created a work of art, plain and simple. It’s a design that’s wholly modern, accentuated beautifully by a glass panel on the lid, matching the larger Pixel design ethos.
And it’s not just nice to gawk at. The beauty of the Pixelbook’s design is in how easy it is to switch between its different modes. Because of the hinge, you can flip it back to convert into a tablet, or prop it up like a tent. It makes for a more dynamic experience over a traditional laptop.
When flipped open, the Pixelbook features a comfortable silicone palm rest, which is soft and a curiously fun to prod. Little things like that show Google’s designers cared about the small details. The palm rest also serves to protect the screen from your greasy keyboard when the device is closed shut.
Speaking of the keyboard, it’s fantastic to type on. The keys have plenty of travel without feeling shallow and unresponsive, and there’s comfortable spacing while keeping everything compact. I only briefly used the original Chromebook Pixel, but I’m left with a better impression using the Pixelbook’s keyboard, which is surprising given the device’s size.
Conveniently, Google includes a dedicated button for Google Assistant; press it, and a popup will appear, to which you can verbally instruct Assistant or simply type something in. The dedicated button is essentially the equivalent of a Windows key, so it’s nothing too groundbreaking. Just convenient and helpful.
Below the keyboard is a glass trackpad that’s spacious and works surprisingly very well. It’s not quite as elegant as using the trackpad on a MacBook, but it’s serviceable enough and responds well to touch.
Crammed inside of the 0.4-inch thick body is an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. As far as ChromeOS is concerned, that’s overkill. But who’s going to complain? The machine is fast, especially when opening multiple tabs and apps. And there’s no fan to speak of, making the Pixelbook silent under heavy workload.
Of course, the device’s design isn’t perfect (nothing ever is). The display is very reflective under bright lights and the trackpad can feel cramped thanks to its placement at the very bottom edge of the device. Those are minor gripes in the grand scheme of things. Rarely do I use my laptop in the afternoon sun.
As for whether $999 is a fair price to pay for a Chromebook, the answer is still a resounding “no”—at least for most people. But based on the merits of its hardware, I can’t fault people for falling in love, because I sure did. We’ve seen some truly wonderful laptop designs over the past few years, and the Pixelbook tops them all.
Don’t agree? Do yourself a favor and try one out in person. You might not be fully convinced to buy one. But you’ll understand what an engineering achievement the Pixelbook is. It’s just too bad ChromeOS isn’t yet up to a par.