Google Pixelbook

There are already an abundance of 2-in-1 laptops to choose from, the Google Pixelbook aims to stick out from the rest. How? By combining the learnings of its Google Chromebook Pixel (a Chrome OS machine) and Google Pixel C tablet (which runs Android Oreo). And not just in the sense of its sharp design and impressive specs, moreso by the fact that the Pixelbook is the best of both worlds – it runs both Chrome OS and tons of Android apps natively out of the box.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, Google has enabled Android app support on select Chromebook models. But, the Pixelbook is the first device released with more than enough built-in storage to actually realize the dream of installing any Android app that you desire to sit snugly within Chrome OS.

Also, to make using Android apps easier with a touchscreen, the Pixelbook’s optional (but shouldn’t be) intelligent pen works to combat the issue of Android apps not translating well to the keyboard and trackpad configuration. It also awakens the Google Assistant to chime in if you hold its button and circle something on the screen.

While Google was among the first manufacturers to make a premium Chromebook and Android tablet, the Pixelbook comes at a time when its competitors have already laid out the framework, at least on the hardware front. For instance, the Samsung Chromebook Pro is well-built, compatible with Android apps and along with purchase, includes an S Pen. Sure, it doesn’t have the smarts that the Pixelbook Pen does, but you’ll need to decide if Google Assistant smarts are worth the cost.

Now, let’s talk price. The Google Pixelbook, like the other members of the Pixel family (Google Pixel 2, Google Pixel 2 XL), isn’t the most affordable device within its category. Buying into the 2-in-1 from Google will cost $999 for the 128GB model stocked with 8GB of Ram and an Intel i5 processor, the lowest storage configuration. The top-of-the-line model features an Intel i7, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe SSD storage for $1,650. No exact release date has been shared, though pre-orders are open now.

We’ve only just had a brief look at the Pixelbook at Google’s big hardware event and what follows are our first impressions. You can expect our full review in the coming weeks.

Design

The Google Pixelbook is startlingly thin at 10mm in clamshell mode and it weighs just over two pounds. Not completely different in look from the Chromebook Pixel, this model carries along the company’s love for bold, angular design.

Google calls this a “4-in-1” device, though it’s a 2-in-1 as you know it, through and through. You can use the Pixelbook as a standard laptop, wrap the keyboard around almost 360-degrees to use in tablet mode or set it up in tent mode, the latter of which is great for watching a movie.

The laptop is compact, to put it simply. Starting with the wrist rest, it’s coated in a grippy material that feels comfortable, though it’s hard to tell how long it will maintain its pristine color – a worry we share with the Microsoft Surface Laptop’s fabric-covered keyboard. Otherwise, the keyboard and trackpad are a full offering, sans number keys. In addition to the usual suspects, Google has added in a Google Assistant key, which calls up the Assistant.

Around the laptop, you’ll find a USB-C port on each side and a 3.5mm headphone jack on its left. The controls for power and volume sit along the left-hand side as well.

Borrowed from the company’s smartphone lineup, the Pixelbook features a mixture of glass and aluminum here. Glass on the exterior of a laptop is definitely a bit worrying, especially given its high price.

Performance

During our hands-on testing, the units were locked to kiosk mode only, so we couldn’t test out the specs ourselves. That said, it’s easy to parse that we’re sure to get the best-ever Chromebook performance here, whether you need it or not.

The Pixelbook starts at 8GB of RAM and features an Intel i5 processor. As stated earlier, feeding Google an extra $650 will get you a big upgrade not just in processing speed (you’ll get an i7, though the specifics of the CPU weren’t stated), you will also nab a total of 16GB of RAM and 512GB of onboard storage.

Interestingly, this is just another Chromebook and doesn’t necessarily require the specs inside, but if you need them, it’ll likely be for the compatible suite of Android apps. The library is said to be expanding and Google mentioned that the likes of Adobe Lightroom and Snapchat are soon to be running in full-form, not just a beta version of the experience you’ll have on your phone.

The Pixelbook Pen was shown off, but demonstrations weren’t provided, so we’ll have to take Google’s word for it that it expands on the Pixelbook experience. Indeed, it does look interesting beyond its obvious drawing applications. You can circle anything at all on the screen and it will ping Google Assistant to see if it can provide more information. You’ll know if this is up your alley right away, but at $99, it’s worth considering if it’s crucial.

Early verdict

The Google Pixelbook is a gorgeous machine with a price tag to match. Its specs and Google Assistant integration seem promising and provide an experience beyond what other Chromebooks are capable of.

If you’re in need of a computer, and more specifically, a 2-in-1 computer, it’s worth checking out the Pixelbook. We can’t vouch for the performance just yet, and while the price is rather high, this could be a worthy option for Android and Chrome OS enthusiasts.

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