Why I hate the Chromebook Pixel

February 22, 2013 | By Joe | Filed in: tech.

Back in 2010, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt laid out his vision for the Chromebook in two words: cheap and disposable. Today, going against that mantra, Google has announced the Chromebook Pixel, a $1,299 (yes, you read that right) web-browser,I mean…laptop. So why the high price tag? Google believes that this is a premium product that can compete with the retina MacBook Pro and Windows 8 ultrabooks. Looking at the specs, you would believe so too: it packs a 12.85-inch, 2560×1700 touchscreen display (239 PPI), an Intel Core i5 processor, and 4 gigabytes of RAM. Google says it’s the highest resolution display that’s ever shipped on a laptop. “You’ll never ever see another pixel in your life,” says Chrome VP Sundar Pichai. The screen is at a 3:2 aspect ratio in order to fit web content better. Sounds nice, right? That is, until you realize that it can only surf the web, and nothing else. 

It’s quite apparent that Google really struggles when it comes to hardware. The Nexus Q, a $300 orb that plays a limited selection of music and videos from the cloud, flopped miserably. The Nexus 4 in partnership with LG, is a terrific phone, but lacks 4G LTE and has had manufacture delays since launch. It almost feels like Google doesn’t want the Chromebook Pixel to succeed and I guess they won’t make many of them. Perhaps they are trying to make a statement. Something along the lines of: “We have no idea what we’re doing”. I like high quality hardware, and Apple has shown that people will pay for well made devices. On the other hand, a $1300 internet only laptop with very limited functionality… is just bananas, no thanks.

To make things even more disappointing, Google crams in a measly 32 GB of on-board flash storage. My phone has more storage. To get 64 GB of storage, you have to buy the LTE model (which Google will sell later-on for $1449). To compensate for this insanity, every Pixel customer is provided with 1 TB of Google Drive storage, good for three years. Reading some of the Android forums, I stumbled across some ‘brilliant’ logic from Google’s finest fanboys:

If you consider the normal price of the 1TB of Google Drive for 3 years, that’s $1,800. So essentially Google is giving you a $500 discount on the storage plan and giving you the Pixel for free. The pricing is justified.

The problem with this statement, is that a 1 TB hard drive costs Google virtually nothing. Secondly, my interaction with the Chromebook is severely limited to my internet speed. If you want to watch The Avengers HD on a 512 kbps internet connection, you need to plan beforehand to store it internally or on an external drive. Perhaps the 1 TB of Drive storage would be justified if 4G LTE came standard in the base model, and Google covered your monthly fees for 3 years as well. When the base config is at a ridiculous price, Google decides to charge an additional $150 for LTE and 64 GB.

chromebook pixel design versus retina MacBook pro

What really just irritated me was how Google just carbon-copied the retina MacBook Pro’s aesthetic. Aluminum unibody, backlit chicklet keyboard, glass trackpad, and high-resolution display. Hmm.. where have I seen that before? Even the “Pixel” moniker seems like a rip-off to Apple’s “retina” terminology for their HDPI displays. It seems that Google is trying to confuse customers by implying that this is equivalent to a 13″ rMBP for cheaper. It’s not.

The Chromebook also has a touchscreen, which is laggy as hell. Touch-screen aren’t meant to be vertical. The issue with the touch screen is pretty severe. There are huge input latencies, and the scrolling physics are all wrong. I’m not sure why you’d use the touch screen at all.

Furthermore, just like with cell phones, it’s all about: ecosystem, ecosystem, ecosystem. Mac OS X took decades of refinement to become what it is now. With tens of thousands of incredible applications: Photoshop, Day One, Garageband, Final Cut Pro X, Aperture, etc. the Mac is a content-creation device. That’s where the retina display shines. For $1500,the 13″ MacBook Pro is a capable, light, and beautiful machine, oh… and you can download Chrome on it for free. The Chromebook Pixel is a content consumption device. For just simple web-browsing, and ocassional documents on Google Docs, it seems that a $499 retina iPad with a keyboard attachment is just as capable.

To conclude, here’s why I hate the Chromebook Pixel

5 hours battery
No real OS
No USB 3
32GB storage
Web isnt made for high density displays
Knockoff design
Knockoff marketing
No way to put the Core i5 power to use
Poor touchscreen performance
I want one, but not at that price. Google should stick to the ~$250 cheap and disposable Chromebook model. Google is only good at making cheap products that are an impulse buy – the equivalent of $0.99 phone apps. Who the hell pays $1300 just to browse internet?

I really don’t understand why Google even made this. I hate it.

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