Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Google Pixelbook is still a great experience

In lieu of the latest sale, I thought it would be an excellent time to write about my experiences with Google's quirky little laptop. I've actually owned every iteration of Google's laptops: the original Chromebook Pixel, Chromebook Pixel LS, and now a Pixelbook. I own the Intel Core i7 version of the Pixelbook, which I picked up at launch. I've been using it as my primary couch-surfing and XDA-writing device. I find Chrome OS to be a breath of fresh air after working in OSX or Windows all day. Of course, at times, there will be limitations to working with Chrome OS, but Google has steadily, since October, filled the gaps and tightened up the experience on Chromebooks. Let's have a look at some things that make the Pixelbook such a unique device.

Google maintains the glass window design from their phone line

Bezels could be smaller, but they help in tablet mode

Android Apps and Progressive Web Apps

Android App support in Chrome OS has been around for a while now and is certainly not unique to the Pixelbook or even Google hardware. Android app support has reached a maturity level to where it can plug some of the productivity holes in Chrome OS. I often use the Microsoft Office Android suite and find them to work well. Apps can be resized and moved around and they tend to remember their position. Android support is not perfect, and indeed there are often issues like duplicate notifications from the web and the app for something like Hangouts, but once one settles into a workflow and a preferred app or web solution, things get easier.

Android and Chrome Together

Still yet to come, but on the way, with Android support is split screen functionality for multiple apps and supporting Android app storage in the Chrome OS file browser.

Progressive Web Apps, Android Apps, and Chrome Tabs

Following the discontinuation of the Chrome OS web store that happened last year, Progressive Web Apps are starting to emerge. Google Photos is the latest website to support the functionality. PWAs are pseudo-apps that install to the home screen, work offline, and should be more responsive. Twitter, AliExpress, Spotify, and others are available as PWAs.

Pixelbook Ergonomics

I have used a lot of keyboards and a lot of laptops. It's not a stretch to say that the Pixelbook keyboard is one of, if not my favorite typing experiences around. When typing, the palms rest on some nice silicon material. The touchpad is similarly high-quality with excellent tracking and feel. Being a 2-in-1 device, the Pixelbook can fold flat and act as a tablet, complete with tablet mode and full-screen applications. When folded, the back is a keyboard so it's not the most wonderful of feelings, but it works.

It acts much like a normal tablet

Everything else on the laptop is similarly top-notch. There are 2 USB C ports, either of which can charge the device quickly. A headphone jack is also present thankfully.

The display is a bright touch screen with great colors and a high-resolution.

To round out the experience, Google sells a pen for use with the Pixelbook as well. The pen has a handful of useful features, but it's a steep $99 here in the US. If taking notes is a big part of the workflow it can be worth it. The new low latency APIs work in a handful of apps and feel great. However, when the low latency is missing it's not a great inking experience.

The pen can be useful, but expensive

Stylus Options after connecting the pen

Complete Package

It's safe to say I'm a huge fan of the Pixelbook. It's not for everyone, and the price tag at launch was pretty off-putting to some. I have no problem paying for premium hardware, but I understand the hesitation to drop $1,000 on a Chromebook. With the rapid updates to Chrome OS since launch, and Google actively adding features and polish to the Pixelbook experience, it is well worth the (temporarily) lowered price of admission.



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