Google announces high-end Chromebook Pixel, we go hands-on

Google has revealed its anticipated high-end next-generation Chromebook, known as the Chromebook Pixel.

Sundar Pichai, senior vice-president of Chrome and apps at Google, introduced the new premium Google notebook, which is pitched at the premium Chrome user, with a premium price to match.

"For a user who lives in the cloud, what is the best computer we can design?" was the challenge that Pichai had set to the design team at Google. The result, two-years in the making, was the Chromebook Pixel.

When asked who had actually manufactured the Pixel, Pichai was reluctant to disclose who'd physically been involved in the process.

The display is the star of the show, with a high-resolution 2560 x 1700 pixel, 12.85-inch display with a 239ppi pixel resolution. Like Apple's Retina display, the Pixel's display has been designed, in the words of Pichai so that "you never see another pixel in your life".

High viewing angles of 178-degrees are offered, along with a 400nits brightness, so it should be perfect for viewing on the move. It's also touch-enabled, giving you the highest resolution touch display on a notebook.

In the flesh, it's stunning. The sharpness and colour reproduction is really good from what we've seen so far and the touch response is great too.

Steering away from the typical 16:9 display, it has a slightly unusual 3:2 aspect. Justifying the aspect, Pichai said that "the web needs more vertical height", giving you about 18 per cent extra vertical height over rival devices, meaning less scrolling in webpages, for example.

Within the industrial-designed body, which looks similar to the Apple MacBook Pro, the Pixel again boasts premium materials and attention to detail, hiding things like speaker grilles, cooling vents, and concealed screws for a sleek minimalist look. The Chromebook Pixel weighs 1.52kg and measures 297.7 x 224.6 x 16.2mm.


There's a neat hinge at the back subtly carrying the Chrome name and rather than being emblazoned with icons identifying the ports and connections, it's just clean and clear of fuss.

In terms of physical connections there are 2x USB 2.0, Mini DisplayPort and a 3.5mm headphone socket on the left, and an SD card reader on the right.

As well as the Gorilla Glass-protected touchscreen, there's a glass touchpad, which Google claims was perfectly engineered after an examination of the topography of the glass surface. Having written this news story on the Pixel, we can confirm that it's strokeably smooth and very nice to use.

There are two mics up next to the HD camera which are designed to cancel out the background noise when on a video call, along with a third mic under the keyboard, so it can cancel out the noise of you tapping away.

The third mic is currently a hardware solution and will be leveraged in software going forward - for example, to take out the background noise during things like Google+ Hangouts. The keyboard has a great typing action and is nicely backlit.

Sitting at the heart of the Pixel is a dual-core Intel Core i5 chipset clocked at 1.8GHz and 4GB of DDR3 RAM. In terms of graphics, the new Chromebook doesn't have a discrete solution, instead using the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.

There will be two versions of the Chromebook Pixel available, a Wi-Fi version and a 4G LTE version.

The Wi-Fi version of the Chromebook Pixel will have 32GB of SSD storage, the LTE version will have 64GB. Initially the LTE version, in collaboration with Verizon, will be available only in the US. Currently there are no details for bringing the LTE version to the UK.

However, as the Chromebook is designed for those living in the cloud, you'll get 1TB of Google Drive storage for three years, which Pichai said was the expected lifetime of the Pixel. Once that three years is up, however, you'll then have to pay for that storage or, we guess, buy another Chromebook. In the US Google offers 1TB of cloud storage for $50 a month if you buy it separately. Over three years, you'd spend $1,800, giving you an actual saving comparatively. 

The battery life is documented as 5+ hours, according to Google's testing.

The Chromebook Pixel will cost $1449 (from April) for the LTE version. The Wi-Fi only Pixel will set you back $1,299 in the US, or £1,049 in the UK.

The Chromebook Pixel will be available to buy from Google Play today, or in Best Buy and PC World stores.



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