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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.

The only downside to the Pixel's design is that it doesn't make for the lightest laptop around. The device measures 11.7 x 8.8 x 0.6 in. and weighs 3.3 lb. -- about the same dimensions as the last model. For perspective, that's slightly smaller -- yet about a third of a pound heavier -- than Apple's 13-in. MacBook Air. The Pixel is quite comfortable to use and doesn't feel at all clunky, but it's more aptly described as solid than svelte.

That screen -- oh my, that screen

Inside the metal exterior sits the Pixel's stunning 12.85-in. 2560 x 1700 IPS touchscreen display. The screen maintains the first model's 239-pixel-per-inch density, which is no less impressive today than it was when it debuted two years ago. Images on the Pixel are impossibly detailed and sharp, with brilliant colors and clarity that borders on being surreal. Even viewing something as mundane as a document is delightful, given how crisp and smooth the text appears.

The new Pixel's display is actually a slight upgrade over the first model's: Google says the new device's screen has a broader color range for even more vivid imaging. When I closely examine the two side-by-side, I can see that some images in the new model do appear marginally more brilliant, while whites appear a bit more pure -- but realistically speaking, the difference is incredibly subtle. Perhaps more significant is the fact that the new Pixel's screen consumes less power than the original's -- something that has a very apparent benefit when it comes to battery life (which we'll get to in a moment).

The fact that the Pixel's screen is touch-enabled is (pardon the pun) a nice touch that warrants a mention. While touch-based interaction is by no means something you need on a laptop, I've found it to be a welcome addition -- especially given how accustomed I've grown to interacting with a screen on smartphones and tablets. Whether it's reaching up and scrolling through a page while I'm reading, pinching the screen when I want to zoom into something or simply tapping the display to move through photos in a gallery, having that option is a helpful bonus that feels right at home with my modern-day gadget habits.

And with Google slowly but surely making Android apps available to run on Chrome OS, it's not hard to see how having a touchscreen on a Chromebook could become increasingly beneficial over time. (If you're using a Chromebook right now, you can see a list of the Android apps currently available on Chrome OS by visiting the Android app page of the Chrome Web Store. That link won't work properly from a Windows or Mac system, however, since those apps can't be installed on those platforms.)


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