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Chromebook Pixel review: A luxury laptop for life in the cloud

JR Raphael | Feb. 28, 2013
A deep-dive review of Google's new Chromebook Pixel laptop, which has high-quality hardware and an amazing touch-based display -- and a few limitations. So at $1,300, is it the laptop for you?

If you're considering Google's new Chromebook Pixel computer, there's something you should know: It isn't your typical laptop. And depending on your perspective, that could feel like a revelation or a travesty.

The Chromebook Pixel, introduced on February 21st, is the latest hardware to run Google's Chrome OS operating system. It's also the first laptop designed by Google itself as opposed to a third-party partner. The Pixel is available now in Wi-Fi-only form for $1,299; an LTE-enabled edition is expected to ship in April for $1,449. (The LTE version will also include 100MB of data per month from Verizon for two years with the option to purchase additional monthly or day-based passes).

Google's Chromebook Pixel offers a clean, lightweight design, a touch screen and Google's Chrome OS.

Compared to other Chrome OS devices, like the popular $249 Samsung Chromebook, the Pixel's price is eye-catchingly high. And that's a large part of what's inspiring some impassioned debates over the laptop's true value.

So what's the Chromebook Pixel actually like to use -- and is it worth the cost? I've been using the device in place of my own personal computer for the past several days. Here's what I've found.

Beautiful, high-quality hardware

It's hard to find much to complain about with the Chromebook Pixel's body. It's a beautifully designed laptop; the level of thought put into its construction is immediately apparent the moment you pick it up.

The Pixel feels substantial in your hands, and it's no surprise: The laptop is made from anodized aluminum, giving it a high-end, luxurious vibe. The Pixel is 11.7 x 8.8 x 0.64 in. and weighs 3.4 lb. It's noticeably heavier than the aforementioned Samsung Chromebook, which weighs 2.5 lb., but that's what happens when you trade a plasticky construction for a more metal-based build. The Pixel doesn't feel bulky or uncomfortable to hold; it just feels solid and well-constructed.

The computer has a sleek and minimalist design, with no visible vents or screws anywhere on its surface. Even the printing is kept to a minimum, with a simple text "Chrome" logo on the spine being the only marking on the entire exterior.

There is one design-related indulgence: a multicolored light bar that sits on the device's outer lid. The bar lights up with Google colors when the system powers up and when you close the lid; during regular use, it glows a blueish color, with an occasional lighter-colored flare passing through. Functional? Nah. But it's a distinctive visual touch that adds to the system's appeal.

The left side of the laptop has a charging port, a Mini DisplayPort, two USB ports (USB 2.0, unfortunately -- a minor chink in the Pixel's armor), and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The right side, meanwhile, houses an SD/MMC memory card slot and a SIM card slot for the LTE-enabled model. Curiously absent is a dedicated HDMI port; if you need that functionality, you'll have to pick up a generic Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter -- available for about $5 to $10 -- to fill the void.

 

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