My Chromebook Pixel 6 Years Later: A Review
March 31, 2023
Pixelbook, Google’s best attempt at the perfect Chromebook

Chromebook Pixel 6 years later

My first Chromebook was the Samsung Series 3. Released in October of 2012, I was drawn to this device as it used their Exynos 5 Dual processor (same used by the Nexus 10). Perhaps a sign of things to come, I wanted to see if this ARM processor would compete against the offerings from Intel. As it turned out, the processor was not the problem. The display was a 1366x768 11.6" LED HD with only 200 nits of brightness and it was only available with 2GB of DDR3L SRAM. The low retail price was not enough to make up for the poor user experience.

Lessons Learned

Price is important but purchasing decisions are made on value or perceived value. In this case, the price of $250 did not justify the value of the product.

My second Chromebook experience was the HP Chromebook 11.  This Chromebook could have been a huge success. It had a trendy design with an IPS screen, decent battery life and a focus on portability.  But at this point in time folks were looking for more power and using an aged Samsung Exynos processor with only 2GB of DDR3L SDRAM was a mistake.

Lessons Learned

The initial release of the Google Pixel was seven months earlier, and for this Chromebook to compete, it should have been a more premium product.

The Chromebook Pixel was released on February 21, 2013, and started shipping right away. Sundar Pichai, who was then the senior vice president of engineering overseeing Chrome and Android, explained that the aim of creating the high-end Pixel model was to push the limits and develop a premium device. The Google team of engineers embarked on this "labor of love" project two years prior, pondering the question, "What could we achieve if we truly wanted to design the ultimate computer at the most affordable price?"

I purchased my Chromebook Pixel early in 2014. I applauded their choice of a 12.85 inch, high resolution IPS (2560 x 1700, at 239 PPI) screen with 400 nits of brightness and a 3:2 aspect ratio. The aluminum body was sturdy and oozed quality. Offering a variety of processor, RAM, and storage options was a nice touch. 

In 2017, I upgraded to the Pixelbook I'm still using today.

Lessons Learned

Google got caught up in a one size fits all mentality which ultimately led to their departure from the market. While low cost Chromebooks worked well for education, other market segments were looking for something different. I would argue the other reason for their success in education is their class management software. The objective of the software is to streamline the process of generating, disseminating, and evaluating assignments, while also fostering student participation in online or remote learning. This worked particularly well during covid. 
They also did well with their general productivity applications like Docs and Sheets and for businesses they created a suite marketed as Workspace.
But for creative folks in the wild there was a great void. With the exception of Draw, there was no Google graphics solution. Also missing was a video and sound editor. It is hard to believe the company who runs YouTube would not find creating and editing video content important.
To a lesser extent the same senario was true for developers. If you wanted to use an editor like Visual Studio Code, Brackets, or Atom;  the hail Mary solution was to run it on Linux inside a container within Chrome OS. That solution required a powerful processor and more than the minimum memory often sold in Chromebooks. Even an Intel i5 with 16GB of RAM struggled. And to be honest, the Linux experience on a Chromebook fell short of what could be achieved by running Ubuntu or your favorite distro straight up on a similarly specced laptop.
While I enjoyed using the Pixelbook, there were features I wouldn't have selected and others I wished had been available.
The 2-in-1 solution was pure folly without software to support it and using a PixelBook in tablet mode was awkward at best. These resources should have been utilized elsewhere, as in a fingerprint reader, better screen, keyboard, or touchpad.

Final Comments

I have to express my disappointment with the Pixelbook Go. The design lacked innovation and forced me to choose a Mac alternative. My requirements are straightforward as I am always in search of the best possible viewing experience. Had the Pixelbook Go utilized a 3:2 Super AMOLED screen, I may have reconsidered my decision.

As a user who values a laptop's longevity, I look for products with powerful processors and ample RAM that can accommodate my changing use cases for the years to come. Unfortunately, the Pixelbook Go's i7 processor left a lot to be desired, and I suspect Google chose Intel because it was the simpler option, rather than the better one. In contrast, Apple recognized Intel's limitations and opted to move on to a more suitable alternative.

The irony is the Pixelbook, even with its shortcomings, is better now than when it was new due to improvements in Chrome OS and the fact developers have filled the software void. For example, there is a version of Microsoft Visual Code which operates from the cloud. There are also cloud versions of many of the Adobe products and Microsoft has a video editor that works well on the Chromebook.

It is uncertain if or when Google will re-enter the Chromebook market, but if they do, the product has to be better than running Chrome on a Mac or Windows alternative.