Chromebooks are basic but capable laptops. They generally cost $300 or less, with the more powerful $450 Samsung Chromebook Plus a rare exception. Google completely blows all of them out of the water with the $999 Pixelbook, a convertible 2-in-1 laptop loaded with high-end features.
A typical notebook running Chrome OS uses a Celeron chip, or maybe a Core M3. The Pixelbook, by contrast, uses much more powerful Intel Core i5 or i7 processors. There are actually three configurations: one i5 model comes with 8GB of RAM and a 128 GB solid state hard drive at $999, an i5/8GB/256GB version is $1199, while the single i7 iteration has 16 GB RAM and 512 GB storage at $1649.
The $999 version of the Pixelbook is scheduled to ship by the end of the month, but Google hasn’t yet announced when the other versions of this convertible notebook will be available.
Pixelbook Software, Display, and Design
Google is clearly taking on the Microsoft Surface Pro with this product, and one of the main differences will be Chrome OS vs. Windows 10. Google’s operating system is cloud based, and comes with the Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides suite of applications, as well as Google Drive. In addition, Android apps can be installed from the Play Store, and this 2-in-1 even supports the Google Assistant.
The Pixelbook’s 12.3-inch display has a 2,400 x 1,600 pixel resolution, giving it 235 pixels per inch. This is a capacitive touchscreen that also supports the optional Pixelbook Pen ($99.99). This active pen offers 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, 60 degrees of angular awareness, and latency of just 10 ms.
All of this goes into a formfactor that’s just 0.4 inches (10.3mm) thick and 2.4 pounds (1.1KG). The Pixelbook has a 360 degree hinge so the backlit keyboard/trackpad can be flipped around behind the display, which is what makes this a convertible 2-in-1 that can be used as either a laptop or tablet.
As with many ultra-slim notebooks, there are just two USB-C ports but no SD memory card slot. The front-facing can take 720p video at 60 fps. Google promises that the battery is good for up to 10 hours of use, and that 15 minutes of charging will net up to two hours of use.
What’s the Pixelbook Plan?
When Microsoft introduced Windows 8.1, the goal was to move the operating system into the burgeoning tablet market. However, laptop makers were more interested in producing traditional products, so Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro line of 2-in-1s to demonstrate what kind of hardware was now possible with Windows. Years later, Windows 2-in1s are a bright spot in the weak PC market.
It’s possible Google is pursing the same general strategy with the Pixelbook. A $1000 Chromebook is unlikely to be a runaway seller, but it could inspire device makers to produce more powerful Chromebook 2-in-1s that can challenge Windows notebooks for market dominance.