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Chromebook Pixel (2015) review: A cloud dweller's dream machine

JR Raphael | March 17, 2015
MSI's has a real mechanical keyboard, and enough graphics power to tempt even the most committed desktop gamers.

chromebook pixel black med

Chrome OS enthusiasts are always clamoring for high-quality hardware -- cloud-centric laptops with solid construction, snappy performance and stunning displays. But the vast majority of Chromebooks cater to the budget end of the market.

Google set out to change that with its Chromebook Pixel, which launched just over two years ago. The Pixel was a luxury laptop for life in the cloud, designed to show off just how good of an experience Chrome OS could provide. But for all of its positives -- and boy, were there a lot of them -- the Pixel came with some serious compromises. Not least was its cost: The system sold for a cool $1,300, or $1,450 if you wanted a higher-end model with built-in LTE support.

Now Google is looking to one-up itself with its new second-generation Chromebook Pixel, on sale now in the company's online store. The new Pixel addresses nearly every weak point the original model had, including its price: Even with its many enhancements, the updated laptop costs $300 less than its predecessor, with a price of $999 for the base model.

That still isn't cheap, of course -- especially when you can get a perfectly decent midrange Chromebook for around $300. So is the high-end system worth the elevated cost? I've spent the past several days living with it to find out.

A beautiful and familiar form

The new Pixel looks almost identical to the original model -- and that's a good thing. Like its predecessor (which I've personally used for the past two years), the new Pixel sports a gorgeous design, premium materials and top-notch build quality that screams "high-end" from edge to edge. It has an anodized aluminum body with no visible vents, screws or branding beyond an understated text Chrome logo above the keyboard and an even subtler logo on its hinge.

The hinge is the same high-quality "piano hinge" introduced on the first Pixel. It feels strong and sturdy and allows the laptop to open smoothly -- so much so that you can easily pop the lid up with a single finger.

The laptop's lid is minimalist as can be, with a smooth silver finish (just slightly lighter in color than the first-gen model) that is interrupted only by a thin lightbar at the top. The lightbar serves mainly as a decoration, illuminating in different colors while you use the device, but it also has a neat new function: You can tap on it twice when the lid is closed to turn it into a quick-glance battery indicator to see how much power your system has remaining.

 

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