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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.

The new Pixels also weigh 3.3 pounds, measuring 11.7 inches by 8.8 inches x 0.6 inches — about a millimeter thinner than the last Pixel, and just slightly lighter, too. 

Google tosses in a terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage for three years, but you'll find no LTE option, as with the first Pixel. "We found users were tethering their Pixels to their phones," Bowers explained.

Dramatically improved battery life

As on the MacBook, the USB 3.1 technology running across the USB-C connector also provides power. The Pixel's new quick-charging technology provides about two hours of charge in 15 minutes. All told, the new Pixel should provide about 12 hours of battery life based on Google's own tests, with the display running at 40 percent of its rated 400 nits of luminance, Bowers said.

A few new technologies work to cut power, Bowers said. First, there's the processor itself. Second, the display power was reduced by panel self-refresh technology that reduces the power by caching information inside the display. Third, Google uses built-in, content-adaptive backlighting that adjusts the brightness to what's being shown on the screen. Finally, sensors in the trackpad and keyboard turn off the keyboard backlight if your hands move away for more than 30 seconds. You can also tap the light bar on top of the Pixel twice to see your estimated remaining battery life.

The same cable can also pump 5Gbits/s of data to an external monitor, capable of driving a 4K display at 60GHz, Bowers said. Google will sell two display adapters — a USB-C to DisplayPort, and a USB-C to HDMI — for $40 apiece. Additional USB-C to USB-A adapters will cost $12.99, while a backup 60-watt charger will cost $60.

Software and services

The first Pixel struggled for relevance in part because Google lacked showcase apps to justify the power of the Pixel. Its one attempt, the interesting 100,000 Stars, is part of what Google calls Chrome Experiments, which tap the 3D graphics capabilities of the Pixel and PCs using the WebGL language. Google recently said those Experiments now number 1,000.

Unfortunately, the Chrome Experiments are more curiosities than anything else. Today, the candidate for showcase Pixel app might be Adobe's streaming Photoshop app that the company showed last year, which can use the display to best advantage. At this point, though, it's still in testing. Last year, Google also showed off four Android apps that can run within Chrome — but a clever hack also lets you run pretty much any Android app, too.

What will push the Pixel to its limits? "Games," Bowers replied, naming Bastion — the only real big-name game ported to the platform — as the one candidate. But there's also the typical power user, who has 50 or so Chrome tabs opened, Adam Rodriguez, a Google product manager, noted.


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