The Chromebook Pixel project: final verdict.
In 30 days, we’ve covered a lot regarding the Chromebook Pixel. After the introduction, hardware was reviewed, and found to be terribly impressive. Chrome OS got the treatment, and proved itself admirable. We’ve even discussed the day-to-day capabilities, and just how productive one can be with a Chromebook.
It has, however, been 30 days. The honeymoon is over at this point, and it’s time to reflect as well as look forward. Is a Chromebook really considerable as a standalone device? Issues don’t escape Chrome OS, as I found recently, but they also don’t define it.
Why it works
In 30 days with any computer, there will have been issues you didn’t anticipate. Sometimes a button is not in a good place for you, or the trackpad doesn’t feel right. With a Pixel, the hardware simply doesn’t disappoint… at all. Ever. One month in, and I’m still impressed by it. I’ve not been able to say that for any other device I’ve owned, much less a computer. At every turn, the Pixel proves itself a sleek, sexy workhorse that can stand up to continued hours of use.
In discussing this project openly, the issue of software limitations persist. I was inundated with questions about why someone would want a device that won’t “do everything” a Windows or Apple device can. To be quite blunt, there is no answer to that. The lightweight Chrome OS doesn’t have any method to support software currently, so in that respect… you got me, naysayers.
However, if you approach the argument differently, Chrome OS makes a bit of sense by comparison. I’ve urged everyone throughout this project to be objective and critical of your use, and how you want to interact with your computer. In my case, what led me to a Chromebook (and thus Chrome OS) is that I don’t need software. I do everything inside of Chrome anyway, so having a “traditional” OS made no sense. Why would I want to navigate through an OS like Windows to get where I need to be? I work and play in Chrome, and the Chromebook delivers that best.
If you aren’t sure about a Chromebook… use the Chrome browser. Find a few apps in the Web Store you think are useful or fun, and give them a go. If you find yourself coming back to those Chrome apps more often than not, you’ll have a better idea of what direction you need to go for your next purchase. Perhaps, like I did, you’ll begin lamenting having to trudge through a clunky OS before getting to your desired location.
A persistent concern for many is cloud storage. The Pixel came with a full terabyte of storage for three years(seriously, if you have any idea what I could do with that much storage, help me out… I’m lost), so I don’t go wanting for storage space. Google’s cloud storage has a 99.99% up-time, so the inability to access it is rare. WiFi is so prevalent in this age that using that as an excuse to not adopt cloud storage seems like grasping at straws.
Local storage is limited… to your peripheral storage options. I have used a USB drive, an SD Card, and 250GB drive… all with instant success. No issues, no concerns, no hassles. While the storage may not be on the machine itself, the storage capability is unlimited, just like any other computer. The 32GB present on the Pixel is more than adequate for me, but some like more.
Where it needs improvement
The first concern for many is the software issue, and it’s valid. Again, remain objective when considering a Chromebook. Ask yourself what you need to use a computer for… and in terms of software, search for something in the Chrome Web Store. There may be a web app from the software manufacturer you’re fond of, or even a better option. For presentations, Prezi is a standout alternative to PowerPoint Google Drive has proven its merit, and Pixlr is a fine photo editing app. If no web app can take the place of your software, you just shouldn’t switch. Web apps are making big strides, but we should never compromise functionality when we rely on it. In a few years time, this software debate will be a relic.
Chrome OS is very young, and is constantly undergoing changes. Once every six weeks or so, the Chromebook updates itself with bug fixes and various other improvements. The bugs i’ve noticed don’t hinder performance or operation, but they’re obvious. I applaud the Chrome OS team for their diligence and timely updates, but some problems just simply don’t make sense. Why can I use a bluetooth mouse, but not bluetooth speakers? This is more an observation than a concern, but a curious one. Most issues are known, and being worked out, so a fix to these little head-scratchers is right around the corner.
An odd problem with an easy solution
I was bound to have issues with Chrome OS, and one reared its head a few days ago. I needed to scan something, and attach it to an email. My printer has software which makes that possible… but Chrome OS doesn’t support software. I could download it, but not install it. I hadn’t considered this situation when starting this project, as I scan documents so rarely.
The fix? I used the printer’s physical menu and scanned the document to an SD Card. Then, I simply took that SD Card and slipped it into my Chromebook, attaching the document straight from there. I had to change the way I normally handled that situation, but it wasn’t harder or cumbersome. It was a quiz for sure, but not one without a solution.
The Conclusion… and a confession.
This project may be about the Pixel, but it’s more to do with Chromebooks and Chrome OS. I may have the Cadillac of Chromebooks, but like any computer… it’s a means to an end. The choice is more about how you want to arrive there, and what you want to do. The Chromebook can’t do everything, but no device can. Any computer has its limitations, and the choice is about what’s right for you.
For me, Chrome provides solutions that work well. I work in Google Drive, and I’m not a PC gamer. I don’t need the MS Office desktop suite, and have no use for Photoshop. I was honest with myself, and found I simply had no need for a traditional OS.
After 30 days, I find myself comfortable with Chromebooks and Chrome OS. Keyboard shortcuts (and the shortcut keys at the top of the keyboard) are a welcome change from the “grab the mouse” routine, and the little things like the (literally) one second reboot are sublime. The communities for Chromebooks are stellar, saturated with really knowledgeable people that are eager to help.
This project was meant to inform, and give a more visceral understanding of the device and operating system. It won’t do everything, but I think if you really consider what you want, a Chromebook will be more than adequate. Decide what is right for you, not what everyone thinks is your best option.
At the beginning of this project, I told you all I would not touch my Windows 8 computer. I promised to not even acknowledge it, and I confess now that I did. About a week ago, I turned my Windows 8 computer on. A friend wanted to buy it, and I formatted it back to factory settings. I have officially shed the conventional operating system for Chrome, and without regret. Goodbye, tradition… hello, future!