Putting the polish on chrome

Google Chromebook Pixel

Tech : Electronics By Photo by Google
We've taken a shine to the Pixel's design -- but not its price.

If the new breed of “convertible” Windows 8 laptops hasn’t left you more confused than a barber with Troy Polamalu in his seat, then Google’s latest venture into the hardware world should do the trick. The Google Chromebook Pixel ($1,299) is a high-end laptop running Google’s own Chrome OS. Not familiar with the software? It’s a browser on steroids, optimized for web content along with a growing number of browser-based applications — and that’s about it.

Unlike other disposable members of the Chromebook family designed to keep hardware costs at a minimum, the Pixel spares no expense and is the first of its kind to be designed directly by Google. The search giant claims its 12.85-inch, 2560 x 1700 Gorilla Glass touchscreen panel has the highest pixel density of any existing display. Interestingly enough, it also features a 3:2 photographic aspect ratio (meaning it’s nearly as tall as it is wide) to better suit the taller, vertical content layout that dominates the web. Beyond the screen, key internals look similar to most Ultrabooks and include a Core i5 processor, Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, two USB 2.0 ports, a MiniDisplayPort, SD card slot, Bluetooth 3.0 and a 720p webcam. That’s all packed into a sleek, machined aluminum body boasting an etched glass trackpad and a thin backlit keyboard (which hides speakers underneath), as well as a finely tuned piano hinge that can open with the push of a single finger and even a microphone dedicated to canceling out keyboard typing sounds for the conference-calling multi-tasker. If some of that sounds like another laptop you know, good work, Sherlock.

No matter how much thought went into every detail of the Google Chromebook Pixel’s design, though, at $1,300 for a wi-fi only 32GB version or $1,449 for a 64GB LTE upgrade, it’s hard to see who would choose this over other offerings from today’s leading laptop sellers, which are compatible with vast libraries of traditional computer applications and can also handle all that the web has to offer. This is especially puzzling when you consider that the Chromebook’s pixel-rich screen limits battery life to a paltry 5 hours. It seems in agonizing over pixels, Google may have lost sight of the immediate big picture.

Then again, what exactly is the big picture here? You don’t need to lure the world’s greatest minds with promises of free gourmet food and primary colored furniture to surmise that the Google Chromebook Pixel probably wasn’t built to magnetize the Blackcards of today’s demanding premium tech buyer — though we’re sure it’ll look great in front of Larry Page during board meetings. Instead, like the Nexus line of Android phones before it, this is a beacon built to goad the market down a new Google-paved path in mobile computing. So there’s no telling just how long this shine will last.