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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 Pixel's trackpad, meanwhile, is as good as it gets: Made of etched glass, the rectangular pad feels soft and smooth and is wonderfully accurate and responsive. It's similar to the trackpad on the previous Pixel model, only slightly more recessed in the laptop's surface and without the darkened tint that made it stand out from the rest of the system.

A smarter approach to ports and charging

One significant upgrade in the 2015 Chromebook Pixel is the fact that the laptop has two reversible USB Type-C ports -- one on either side of the device. Either port can be used for charging or for connecting the display to an external monitor (and yes, you can do both at the same time). Google tells me USB Type-C will be making its way to Android devices soon as well, which means the same charger you'll have for a future phone or tablet will also work with this laptop.

USB-C, if you aren't familiar with it, is the up-and-coming new standard for mobile device connectivity being adopted even by Apple. USB-C connectors are the same size as the micro-USB standard used on Android devices now, but they're more durable and fully reversible -- so you don't have to futz around to figure out which way the cable fits (and boy, is that a pleasant surprise every time you plug something in!). The cables transmit ten times the power of their micro-USB equivalents, too, and they automatically detect how much power is needed from one device to the next.

On top of that, the new Pixel uses "fast-charging algorithms" that allow it to gain two hours of battery life with just 15 minutes of being plugged in or a complete charge with only about an hour and a half in an outlet. Being able to power up that quickly can be a formidable perk, especially when you're pressed for time and need to juice up fast. Equally handy is the fact that you can charge the Pixel from either side, since there's a USB-C port on both the left and right of the laptop.

The Pixel's USB-C ports support DisplayPort natively and can send video out via HDMI with an adapter. Google is selling all the cables and adapters you might need -- $40 for a USB-C-to-DisplayPort cable, $40 for a USB-C-to-HDMI adapter and $13 for a USB-C-to-USB-A cable or adapter (with which you could charge the Pixel via any other device with a traditional USB connector). Extra universal USB-C chargers are available for $60, meanwhile, though each Pixel ships with one in its box.

In addition to the two USB-C ports, the new Pixel has two USB 3.0 ports for "legacy" peripheral connections.


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