In my testing, using it as a work machine with screen brightness at about 60%, with around 15 Chrome tabs open, listening to four hours of music over Bluetooth headphones, and using Evernote, iA Writer, Wire and Gmail with notifications – plus an hour of Netflix on the commute home – I managed just under 10 hours of usage, which was impressive.
The battery life was long enough I would feel confident about leaving my charger at home to go to work. But the beauty of USB-C is that the Pixelbook will charge from almost any other USB-C power delivery charger.
Chrome OS’s strength is that it provides a great, low-maintenance browsing experience, even on low-end hardware. When you put it on high-end hardware it absolutely flies. The Pixelbook is without a doubt, the fastest and best browsing experience money can buy.
Beyond the browser, Chrome OS now has more of a traditional desktop feel. There’s a file browser and other various system bits and pieces. You now have access to Android apps alongside Chrome apps, which vastly increases the utility of Chrome OS.
Almost every Android app available on the Play Store works in some capacity. Media apps such as Netflix and Marvel’s Unlimited work brilliantly. As do productivity apps such as Evernote, Microsoft Office, iA Writer and others, really adding capabilities that were missing on Chrome OS.
Where Chrome OS used to do 90% of what people needed to do 90% of the time. With Android app support Chrome OS is a real rival to a low-end Windows experience, perhaps even the mid-range. Many of the media apps that are lacking on Windows are available for Chrome OS, particularly for offline viewing.
The Pixelbook also comes with Google Assistant baked in with its own dedicated key. It behaves similarly to Google Assistant on other platforms, answering questions, providing information and controlling smart home devices. It pops up in a little chat-style windowin the bottom left and you can simply type what you’re after or speak to it. It’ll even do “OK, Google” detection if the screen is on.
The Pixelbook also supports an optional stylus called the Pen, which works like most other styluses, with pressure and tilt sensitivity. It works in most apps, with some supporting tilt and pressure and others not. There was noticeable lag in some apps and less in others. It didn’t feel quite as fast as Microsoft’s combo of stylus and Surface Pro.
The Pixelbook Pen does have one neat trick up its sleeve. Press the button, circle something on the screen and Google Assistant will try and find out some information about whatever was highlighted. It’s surprisingly useful. You can also capture screenshots, create notes in Google Keep, use it as a magnifying glass or a laser pointer from a little status bar menu.
But might be handy if you fancy sketching in Autodesk’s SketchBook or similar. There’s no way to store it attached to the tablet or similar, though.