When Google introduced the Chromebook Pixel back in 2013, it introduced the world to Google’s Pixel series of devices and that the company was capable of creating their own hardware. Unfortunately, the Chromebook Pixel nor the 2015 version of the laptop never made it to Canada.
Luckily, Google introduced a new laptop entry in their Pixel lineup back in October 2017 with the Pixelbook. I’ve been using the Pixelbook for a few weeks now and it’s easily one of the best laptops that Google has put out, apart from a few minor annoyances.
Design & Hardware
The Pixelbook is well-made, it has an aluminum design with some glass accents on the front. It has a 4-in-1 design with a 360-degree hinge so you can use it in traditional laptop mode, tablet, tent or entertainment mode.
On the left side of the device, you’ll find a USB-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack, volume buttons and a lock button. The right side of the device has another USB-C port.
The laptop is super thin, at just 10.3 mm and weighs under 1kg. The touchscreen display is 12.3-inches (with a resolution of 2400×1600 and 245ppi) which looks great from all angles. The keyboard on the Pixelbook is very comfortable to type on with a decent amount of travel. One thing that annoyed me was the backlit keyboard that was kind of dim when on in a well-lit room but worked well in complete darkness.
On either side of the trackpad has a soft-touch surface, which makes it easier to type on the keyboard for long periods of time. Another thing to note is that to turn on the backlit keyboard, you press the Alt key plus the brightness up or down buttons.
The Pixelbook is the first laptop with the Google Assistant built-in with a dedicated key, situated between the ctrl and alt keys on the left side. You can also use your voice to activate the Google Assistant on the Pixelbook.
On first use, the Pixelbook’s keyboard takes some getting used to especially since the caps lock button is replaced with a home button and some of the other buttons don’t really have labels, so you’re not too sure what they do exactly. On the top row, there’s the usual escape button, as well as a back button, refresh button and a full screen button (that key looks like a picture frame), next to that is the multitasking button followed by the brightness buttons, play/pause button, volume buttons and a button to access the menu.
In terms of battery life, Google claims you can get up to 10 hours but I got mostly around 8 hours. The Pixelbook does charge quick using the included charger, you can get up to two hours of battery life in just 15 minutes.
The device is running Chrome OS with support for the Google Play Store. So you can run most of your favourite Android apps and games on the Pixelbook.
The Pixelbook also has stylus support in the form of the Pixelbook Pen, it supports 2,000 pressure points and has 10 ms of latency. The Pixelbook Pen worked really well, there was virtually no lag when using the device to draw with. One thing to note is that the Pixelbook Pen is sold separately. The Google Assistant can be used with the Pixelbook Pen, the pen has a button that you can hold and circle images and text on screen and you’ll be able to get more information or take action.
The Pixelbook Pen worked really well, it’s just as smooth as the Apple Pencil and the Surface Pen. Below are some sketches I made using the Pixelbook Pen. I mainly used an Android app called Squid for most of my drawings done using the Pixelbook Pen on the laptop.
The Pixelbook is powered by the 7th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processor with either 8 or 16GB of RAM and 128, 256 or 512GB SSD.
The Canadian pricing for the Pixelbook is as follows:
- Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD – $1,299 CAD*
- Intel Core i5, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD – $1,599 CAD
- Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD – $2,099 CAD
*The model that I tested
The Pixelbook is running Chrome OS which has been mainly used on inexpensive laptops but with the Pixelbook, it’s running on a more premium device.
At first glance, the Chrome OS homescreen looks like a Windows homescreen with a home/start button on the bottom left, pinned apps next to it, and the time and other system functions on the bottom right.
Chrome OS is essentially Google’s Chrome browser but expanded to be an operating system. You can run the usual suite of Google apps like Google Calendar, Google Drive, Gmail, etc. But you can also run Android apps on the Pixelbook. The device is capable of running most Android apps and games, there was a few that I couldn’t run, mostly because they weren’t properly optimized.
Everything you run on Chrome OS is run from the cloud, so you’ll need an internet connection to take full advantage of the OS but there are some apps and services that you can run offline such as Google Docs and some Android apps you may have installed.
Stuff like light photo editing is still possible on the Pixelbook with apps like Adobe Lightroom or online photo editor, I used the Pixelbook as my dedicated laptop and didn’t feel much of a need to switch back to my Macbook Pro unless I really needed to.
Chrome OS has its own file manager, video player and easy access to your Google Drive. Google Assistant is nice to have on the Pixelbook but I didn’t find myself using it all that much.
When you to activate the Google Assistant on the Pixelbook, it appears in the small window and looks similar to how it appears on your smartphone.
Overall, I really liked using the Pixelbook, its super thin, gets good battery life, can run Android apps and has a stylus that works well. However, the Pixelbook is quite pricey, especially for a Chromebook, which come at a much lower cost.
- Beautiful design & well-built
- Fast performance
- Thin & light
- Good battery life
- Pixelbook Pen works well
- The ability to run Android apps is a nice addition
- Comfortable keyboard
- Expensive, especially by Chromebook standards
- Some Android apps still need to be updated to take advantage of the Pixelbook
- Pen sold separately
- Chrome OS can be somewhat limited