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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?

Despite its cloud-centric nature, the vast majority of Chrome OS functionality does work fine with or without an active Internet connection. It's not a locked-down or nonfunctional type of computing environment; it's just a very different approach to computing than what most of us are used to.

The benefit of the cloud-centric system is that everything -- your data, applications, and entire environment -- is always synced and consistent from one device to the next. Chrome OS also eliminates many of the hassles of traditional computing, such as cumbersome setups and installation procedures, annoying and time-consuming software upgrades, the need to mess with complicated drivers and the need to worry about virus infections and protection.

The platform is constantly updated, too, with fresh updates arriving on your system seamlessly and indefinitely -- without any interaction on your behalf -- every few weeks. That, combined with the cloud-centric nature of the system, means a Chromebook generally gets faster over time instead of becoming bogged down and poky like traditional computers tend to do.

At a Glance

Chromebook Pixel

GooglePrice: $1,299Pros: Beautiful, high-quality hardware; stunning touchscreen display; outstanding keyboard and trackpad; excellent speakers; includes 1TB of Google Drive storageCons: Relatively short battery life; no native HDMI port; "discards" background tabs with heavy multitasking; no USB 3.0; limited local storage

I've covered Chrome OS in great depth elsewhere, so I'll refer you to my previous coverage for a more thorough look at what the software's actually like to use. In short, I'll say this: Chrome OS isn't for everyone. If you need specific local programs for your work or aren't comfortable with the concept of cloud storage, it probably isn't the right fit for you.

If you find yourself spending most of your time on the Web and in Web-based apps, though -- as a growing number of users do -- you may find Chrome OS to be a refreshing change that gives you the parts of computing you like without the annoyances that usually accompany them.

(It's also possible, by the way, to configure a dual-boot setup with Linux and Chrome OS on the Chromebook Pixel -- though it's something only advanced users should attempt.)

Bottom line

With the Chromebook Pixel, Google set out to build a premium laptop experience -- and in most respects, it succeeded. The Chromebook Pixel is a beautifully designed laptop with outstanding hardware, a phenomenal display and an interesting form of touch support that promises to open new possibilities for the way you use a laptop.

That experience, however, doesn't come cheap. The Pixel's starting price of $1,300 puts it in the same league as systems like the $1,500 MacBook Pro with Retina display, which are far more versatile in the types of programs they can run and functions they can perform.

 

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