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Google's new Chromebook Pixel features excellent battery life, USB Type-C ports

Mark Hachman | March 12, 2015
Google's original Chromebook Pixel strode boldly toward a brighter, more Web-centric world--and left most of us behind, unfortunately. Google's new Pixel still tries to lead the way, but with apps and services to help justify its updated, premium hardware.

Google's original Chromebook Pixel strode boldly toward a brighter, more Web-centric world — and left most of us behind, unfortunately. Google's new Pixel still tries to lead the way, but with apps and services to help justify its updated, premium hardware.

Google launched two new Pixels — not the Pixel 2, but the "new Pixel" — on Wednesday, with a $999 base model and a $1,299 "Ludicrous Speed" (LS) version. You'd be hard pressed to tell the new Pixel from the original one; set side by side, the two clamshell notebooks look almost identical. Both go on sale today from the new online Google Store, together with a few accessories.

But the "new" Pixel improves on the older model in a few key ways. Google included two USB-C connectors, doing one better on the solo reversible USB connector that appears on the new Apple MacBook. And inside, thankfully, is a new fifth-generation Core i5 "Broadwell-U" chip, which will help extend the Pixel's battery life from a woeful five hours to a whopping twelve.

As before, the Pixel is powered by a combination of Google's Chrome OS and Google's cloud services, which include Gmail, Google Drive, and the Chrome browser, as well as something new: a small collection of apps, which can run on top of the Chrome OS and add functionality the original Pixel lacked. Hardware aside, it's these services that will make or break the new Pixel.

A showcase for new technology

Andrew Bowers, director of consumer hardware at Google, said the goal of both generations of Pixels remains the same: to provide a Chromebook for power users.

"They want a precision keyboard and trackpad, living in the cloud and wanting that premium laptop showcasing new technology," he said. "The second part is as a platform for new technology, to take it and roll it out to new Chromebooks."

In the original Pixel, that technology was the vast trackpad that eventually made its way to other Chromebooks. With the new Pixel, Bowers said, that will be the USB-C technology that will stand in as both a power and display connection.

The $999 basic model includes a 2.2GHz fifth-generation Core i5, 8GB of memory, and a 32GB SSD. The $1,299 "Ludicrous Speed" (LS) model packs a 2.4GHz Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD. Otherwise, both are identical: They include a lower-power version of the original Pixel's 12.85-inch, 2,560x1,700 (239 pixels per inch) 3:2 touch display, with an improved sRGB color gamut, and powered by an Intel HD Graphics 5500 chip. In addition to the dual USB-C connectors, the new Pixels offer two legacy USB-A ports and an SD card slot, with Wi-Fi 802.11ac inside.

 

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