Google’s newest computer offering is an exquisite piece of hardware running a limited but improving operating system.
With the Pixelbook, Google is asking whether a Chromebook with high-end laptop features, which runs Android apps and can become a tablet by folding in two.
The answer is complicated.
The Pixelbook is the successor to Google’s first own-brand hardware, the Chromebook Pixel Chrome OS machines. It takes Google’s light and fast Chrome OS – an operating system built around the Chrome browser now with added Android apps – and puts it on high-end convertible laptop hardware to see what it can really do.
Part Chrome laptop, part Android tablet
It feels like a combo of the Chromebook Pixel and Google’s Pixel C Android tablet. Like many other convertible PCs, the screen can fold all the way round on to the back. It will also stand on its end like a tent with the screen facing out, or screen out with the keyboard resting on a table. On a desk, the hinge will hold the screen at any angle without overbalancing the laptop, which is quite impressive.
Build-quality and design are exquisite, with a solid-feeling hinge and smooth lines. A white glass panel on the lid breaks up the otherwise all-aluminium body. At 10.3mm thick the Pixelbook is noticeably thin for a laptop and not much thicker than some tablets. It weighs 1.1kg, which is light for a laptop, but a bit heavy for a tablet.
The screen looks great, with good brightness, colour and a high pixel density matching top-end competitors, but it is also pretty reflective. It has relatively large bezels around the outside, which makes it look a little dated compared to the likes of the MacBook Pro or Dell XPS 13.
At times I wished the screen was a little bigger – without the bezels I suspect you’d be able to fit a 13in screen, perhaps larger, in the same body.
Both the keyboard and trackpad are great. The keys are solid, have a good feel and are well spaced for a top-class typing experience. The glass trackpad is accurate, large and well positioned enough to avoid getting in the way while typing.
Either side of the trackpad are white silicon wrist rests, which are unusual for a laptop. They feel quite nice and padded under the heel of your palms when typing, but they also aid in keeping the Pixelbook planted when used in tablet mode or various other configurations.
- Screen: 12.3in 2400×1600 (235 ppi)
- Processor: Intel Core i5 or i7 (7th generation)
- RAM: 8 or 16GB
- Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB
- Operating system: Chrome OS
- Camera: 720p webcam
- Connectivity: Wi-Fiac, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C, headphone
- Dimensions: 220.8 x 290.4 x 10.3mm
- Weight: 1.1kg