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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.

Performance, stamina and storage

Let's make this part easy: The new Chromebook Pixel is ridiculously fast, with a level of performance unmatched in the Chrome OS realm. With a 5th-generation (Broadwell) Intel Core i5 processor clocked at 2.2GHz and a hearty 8GB of RAM, the Pixel is consistently snappy and ready to handle anything you throw its way.

The laptop boots up in about four to five seconds and -- once you've entered your password (or simply clicked through, if you have an Android phone configured to keep your Chromebook unlocked) -- has you online and ready to roll another second or two after that. I tend to do an abnormally high level of multitasking, with as many as 15 to 20 tabs open at a time, and the system still flies even in those admittedly extreme circumstances. I've been using the device for all of my day-to-day work and have yet to see a single stutter, slowdown or sign of lag.

Of course, the original Pixel was no slouch, either -- and even with its updated hardware, the new Pixel is really only a hair ahead of its predecessor in real-world use. When I've compared the devices side by side, the new model boots up about three to four seconds faster than the original and is typically a second or two speedier in page-loading time. The new Pixel's performance is stupendous, but the original version set a bar that's still difficult to surpass by much.

That being said, the new Pixel does blow its predecessor away in a couple of important performance-related areas. First, the second-gen system is consistently cool and quiet -- practically silent -- while running, whereas the first-gen model had a nasty habit of getting hot and loud. (You can thank a new dual-fan configuration under the hood for that improvement.)

Second, and perhaps most significant, the new Pixel has outstanding battery life -- up to 12 hours per charge, according to Google, compared to about five on the previous model. With heavy multitasking, I've been hitting closer to nine hours per charge, which is still perfectly respectable for resource-intensive use. When I've used the laptop in a more typical manner -- with a few tabs open at a time instead of 20 -- I've come much closer to reaching that 12-hour mark. The stamina would likely be even better if the display were dimmed down from its default level of about 63% (where I've left it for testing purposes).

The Chromebook Pixel includes a 32GB solid-state drive for local storage -- substantially less than what you'll find on most comparably priced Windows or Mac laptops, which isn't surprising given this system's cloud-centric focus. The Pixel does have an SD card slot for external storage expansion, however, and the device comes with a full terabyte of cloud-based Google Drive storage for three years. That level of Drive storage would typically cost you $9.99 a month, so almost $360 over the same three-year span. (After the three years have elapsed, any files you've stored will remain in your account and accessible, but your available free space will drop back down to the standard 15GB level.)


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