The Chromebook Pixel project: final verdict.

by: Nate SwannerMarch 28, 2013

Chromebook PIxel logo AA

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.

Chromebook Pixel keyboard AA

Chrome OS

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.

Chromebook Pixel Screen AA

The cloud

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.

Chromebook Pixel esc key AA

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.

Chromebook Pixel Hinge AA

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!


  • sorry but i didnt really understood… you kept the windows 8 future or the chrome future?

    • Karl

      He said he was shedding the conventional operating system, Windows, for the future. ‘The cloud” is the future, therefore he got rid of Windows.

      • thks firiend sorry for looking so dumb but english is actually my 3rd language and sometimes i get dumb :)

      • cloud is the future only in some very limited countries :)

        • Frank

          I agree. Its the proverbial “straw” that breaks the camels back. The author of this article is living in an urban bubble where he thinks an internet connect is like plumbing and that’s a whole lot of crap. Even there, I’d like to see him save a large file to his terabyte cloud at 3:00pm when all the kids get home and start downloading porn at the same time!!!

          • Some people just use external storage.

          • Nate Swanner

            I uploaded Guy Kawasaki’s book on Google+ while streaming Netflix. It didn’t lag at all.
            Was that a use-case scenario you were looking for?

  • Ignacio Martín

    Bluetooth speaker functionality must be supported by the sound server, but while Chrome OS uses the standard linux stack for input devices, it doesn’t use the same sound stack as other linux distributions (PulseAudio). They’re developing their own, and that’s probably the reason bluetooth audio devices are not yet supported

  • that is kind of cool, ditched the win 8 machine

  • SoWhat

    Meanwhile I have a WIN7 laptop with almost no software. I’m working completely in the cloud with Chrome. When I need Photoshop I go RDP to my Desktop that is running anyway.. For the time being the best solution for me.

  • MasterMuffin

    I’d get the Pixel even just for fun if it didn’t cost so much. YES, it’s ment for devs/serious “chromers”, not for regular customers, but cut the damn price to half Google!

    • YusufIslam

      I would buy it after a year or two lol if it’s still available and cheap and cheerful.

      • John Koetsier poyo

        hey lame swanner

        • YusufIslam

          Sorry I didn’t quite understand what you said. Can you rephrase it more bluntly? Looks negative

    • It actually costs nearly that much to make.

      If you want cheap, buy the samsung or acer options.

      • MasterMuffin

        Can’t be true!

        • Do you have any idea how much a large extremely high quality touchscreen costs? Not moderate quality, but like a really good one?

          • MasterMuffin

            I now a lot, but don’t know any exact numbers. So how much? Have to believe in you because you have such a great username :D

    • Nate Swanner

      Soon enough, friend…soon enough.

      • MasterMuffin

        Hope so!

    • Johnny Lin

      What do you mean by “not for regular customers”?

  • Scanning?
    Buy a scanner with scan to email – everything else is now obsolete. This used to be limited to high end printers/scanners in the past, but no more. Scan to email and cloud printing via WiFi are so cheap so easy and functional to buying that anything else is buying into obsolescence. I mean having to install a different driver for each device you may need to print on, and having to physically plug your laptop or smart phone is just soooo Victorian.

  • Julie Caouette

    Great article confirming what I already thought, my next machine will be a Chromebook. I already do everything through Chrome.

  • Gary Wake

    What about networking? I’ve got some shared folders at home, recipes, pics, etc.,. that I’d like to be able to access, but I’ve not seen much on how that works with Chrome OS.

    • Nate Swanner

      The best method is to use Drive storage. Without being familiar with your home network setup, it’s hard to offer a solution.
      Chrome OS does have RDP and the like.

  • And what does it cost after your 3 years of drive storage is up?

    • Dang Ren Bo

      Nothing. You get to keep the 1TB, but you can not longer add files to it. They don’t go away, however, and you don’t get charged anything. It basically becomes read-only media.

      • dogulas

        For this reason, I added my (merely 100GB that came with a cheaper Chromebook) to a secondary Google account. So when the three years are up, I can just have all those stored files available, but still have my primary Drive account be not-full and still useable.

  • Fievel

    Any AA insight into the Haswell-equipped Chromebooks being rumored?

    • Nate Swanner

      I have plenty of insight, but you’ll have to wait, my friend…

  • As of now I use a lightweight lapto (samsung series 9) with limited on board storage and mostly use google docs. So I have the best of both worlds. There is a lot more google can do to drive adoption by bringing in services that are not available on the cloud now such as statistical analysis, reference manager etc

    • Nate Swanner

      I agree, Drive has a long way to go, but the work is accelerating.

  • I’ve considered doing this experience with android.

  • Gary Lai

    Congrats! I also ditched Windows computer 14 months ago and have been 100% Chrome OS since then.

  • np413121

    can you scan your music to Google play with a chromebook? b only thing keeping Mr from buying one

    • Nate Swanner

      Not right now, but that feature is coming soon.

  • ” I do everything inside of Chrome anyway”
    That sounds very hopeless, unless you need Chrome based aps only. Besides, price comparison leaves no chance to this absolutely nonsence device!
    I don`t ever need that high resolution display for ONLY web apps and therefore touchscreen plus hard keyboard.
    Regardless this useless device thank you for your work!

  • anon

    Everything that runs on a Chromebook is software. Since when do we say an application somehow magically isn’t software because it was written in X language? If JavaScript isn’t a real language to you, I might point out that Native Client allows “native” code to be executed.