The Chromebook Pixel project

by: Nate SwannerFebruary 25, 2013


The premium Chromebook Pixel was an exciting announcement for Google and Chrome OS lovers the world over. Long have we wanted a really good Chromebook, and been confused time and again by low-end, high cost devices. Once announced, I was giddy with excitement, and it showed. It was everything we had all hoped for, and also a bit more than we were hoping to spend. I weighed the pros and cons while clicking “Purchase” in the Play Store, which spoke volumes about my desire to be on board with this new monster of a Chromebook.

Rather than simply have a great device, we thought it seemed fair to run it through its paces and report back to all of you. At the end of this post, you’ll find news about our Chromebook Pixel project. For the next few weeks, we’ll be getting very in-depth about the Chromebook Pixel and Chrome OS, running them through a myriad of tests.

Chromebook Pixel hinge

Who is this for?

This device, as Google will readily admit, is suited for a very finite market, and it may not be you. For a consumer to take full advantage of this Chromebook, a few criteria should be met:

  • You do just about all of your work in the cloud
  • You are a dedicated Chrome user, and very familiar with Chrome OS
  • You utilize the services in Google Drive as your means of producing just about everything
  • You are in the market for a premium computer

If you met those requirements, the Chromebook Pixel is the computer for you, hands down. We should also be clear that this particular Chromebook isn’t for everyone, nor is Chrome OS. There are some very distinct give-and-take scenarios within Chrome OS, which we’ll get into throughout our project.

Google Chromebook Pixel

Why did Google make the Chromebook Pixel?

You know it, I know it, and Google knows it: Chrome OS is limited, but promising. Google wants Chrome OS to succeed, and is fully invested in making it shine. Like most things within the Google universe, Chrome OS is dependent on developer adoption and support. How do you get developers excited and working on your project? Give them the tools to succeed. Google makes no bones about it: Chromebook Pixel is a developers unit, first and foremost.

The Chromebook Pixel represents the future of the Chromebook, and Chrome OS. In my opinion, the premium price was meant to keep those not serious about Chrome OS from purchasing the device. A base price of $1,299 is not spent on a whim for most, so only those who are dedicated to growing the platform will jump at the device.


Why buy one?

To begin with, I met all of the requirements listed above (how convenient, right?). For me, there was much more to it, though. I’ve long been exhausted by Windows, with the constant updates and piecemeal spending for products. Microsoft Office runs $140 for one license, and then there is the cost of security software like Norton or Kaspersky. It just got tiresome having to be the gardener of my machine.

I’m also not an Apple fan. They make gorgeous products, and have a very loyal fan base, but I’m just not buying in. Their products across the board are terribly overpriced ($69 mouse?!), and while having the Apple store is nice, it can also be a convenient crutch.

I didn’t want to deal with Windows any longer, nor did I want to learn all the nuances of Apple’s OS. Some may yell “Linux!”, but that OS has further to go than Chrome OS. I do all of my work in Google Drive, and pretty much live inside of a Chrome browser. I survive on Android, and have actually come to enjoy Chrome OS a lot, so the real question is why wouldn’t I get a Chromebook Pixel?

Pundits love to comment on what Chrome OS is lacking, and they make good points. That line of commentary has its place, but is a bit off. What you’re paying for is not so much for what you’re getting, it’s for what you’re giving up. Security issues, a cumbersome OS, software that needs to be re-purchased on a regular basis, and poor battery life are just a few things I will not be missing with this move.

chromebook pixel (1)

First impressions

My initial reaction can be summed up in one word: wow. It looks amazing, it feels amazing, and it’s quick. The keyboard is a dream come true, and the choice to make the keys back-lit was a smart one. The Chromebook Pixel is definitely a step up from previous Chromebooks, that much is clear. Every instance on this machine is refined, from the build down to the design. Google meant for this to be the device that pushes Chrome OS into the future, and it very well could be.

The curious part of the Chromebook Pixel is that there is no visible… anything. The speakers are tucked under the keyboard, yet produce a vivid sound. The webcam and microphones above the screen are unobtrusive, and there is a third microphone tucked under the keys for noise cancellation. If you’ve ever done a Google+ hangout, and been bothered by typing, you’ll know why this is a really cool feature.

The screen is mind boggling in its brilliance. I was prepared for great, but this is just… stellar. My first impressions are pure awe, as 4.3 million pixels doesn’t really register in the mind until you see it first-hand. The touch interface is really snappy and smooth, but won’t work on everything just yet. Battery life seems to be right on par with the 5-hour promise, but we’ll try to annihilate that in testing. As we get through the project, we’ll be sure to carefully pace each aspect of Chrome OS and the Chromebook Pixel.

Chromebook Pixel Jellyfish

The project

You’ve probably heard a lot of reaction to the Chromebook Pixel, but not a lot of reporting. For the next few weeks, I will be using the Chromebook Pixel as my only computer. I will not be touching my Windows 8 machine. If I run into a problem, I’ll just have to figure a way around it. I fully understand the limitations of Chrome OS, and as a lifelong Windows user, the change to Chrome OS full-time will be difficult. Welcome, but difficult.

We’re also going to open it up to our readers to ask questions during the process. If there is something you want us to address specifically, please comment below or on our Google+ page when we post the articles there. We’ll do our best to check the comments section often, and will try to answer every question we can. The goal is to leave no stone unturned, and put Chrome OS and the Chromebook Pixel through its paces. We do it all for our readers and fans, so you deserve to be part of this process!

Be sure to keep an eye on Android Authority for all the Chromebook Pixel news, and tune into Android Authority On Air! I’ll be using the Chromebook Pixel for those hangouts, which will really test the machine’s hardware. So far, the Pixel is a pretty amazing machine, but nothing is perfect. At the end of this process, we’ll all have a better idea of what Chrome OS and the Chromebook Pixel are, and maybe should be.

  • Jake Edmonds

    Like you, I do most everything in the cloud (Docs, Pictures, Music, etc.). The only thing I haven’t been able to efficiently do with Chrome OS is photo editing. Sure Google+ has its own photo editing and there’s always Pixlr and other programs, but nothing has convinced me to go all out with Chrome OS just yet.

    • Nate Swanner

      Jake, what are your photo editing needs? I use Pixlr or Aviary with success, but I agree those aren’t as robust as they could be.

  • Android Mom

    Great review Nate!

    • Nate Swanner

      Thanks, somebody’s mom!

  • My biggest problem with running only Chrome OS is the lack of being able to programming with it. Once Google and other developers make IDEs available on Chrome OS’s I’ll jump ship 100%. I know that most user won’t care about that but to make sure this OS can survive on it’s on feet without the need of other computer OS’s then making IDEs available only makes sense.

    • limepie

      there’s lot of cloud -based IDE out there.
      mostly produce web-apps only, though it might suffice for web-based os like chrome.
      for c++ like compiler in chrome store you can try sourceLair.

      • Thanks for the information, since I am trying to finish up my degree still I am at the mercy of what IDE the school wants us to use. I would really like if Eclipse was available I have gotten quite attached to it.

        • There are several Cloud IDEs. If you need Git support plus web based development you can try Orion. It’s open source, and is under the Eclipse License – – Anyone can create an account at or you can download it, run it wherever you want. It’s a community effort so if there’s something missing we welcome contributors ;-)

    • Nate Swanner

      I feel that a large part of why this machine exists is to get Googlers using it. How many Macs do you see while watching a Google presentation like I/O?
      I agree with you wholeheartedly. They need to embrace development on Chrome, and that’s a big reason this exists.
      If you can, get on Google+ and search for Francis Beaufort. He is a Chrome developer, and uses a Chromebook for his development. :)

  • mike

    So is chrome virus free?

    • No operating system is virus free, ask Apple how that worked. But chrome OS does have a few advantages over their competitors:
      1. Google updates the OS automatically, so it will have the newest version available making it harder to get viruses.
      2. Chromebooks are below the magical 15% market share, because once you hit roughly 15% market share hackers start to take notice and see attacking the OS more appealing.
      3. Each tab are sandbox so lets say your Youtube tab got a virus and you had Android Authority opened in another tab. So far the worse that has happen is the Youtube tab would crash and close. But usually the virus is isolated and dealt with (If I explain this one wrong I am sorry it is how I understood it)

  • Tony Raffini

    I have a question. I have a lot of movies that I’ve downloaded over the years. I use windows media player to stream the movies I own to either my XBOX, Google TV or my other computers. Does Google have some sort of solution for this? Maybe a TB is enough to store all those movies online but it would make sense for an app (maybe Google Play Movies and TV) to be able to access movies stored on drive and play them.

    • Nate Swanner

      Good question! I’ll do my best to exhaust that one for you in an upcoming article.

  • This idea is retarded; I love Google, but Linux is way further than chrome OS.

    • Steve Rodrigue

      ChromeOS is built a consumption OS. For me, the idea behing it is very clear. Google never sais ChromeOS would replace Windows/Linux/MacOS, but it can be very useful for the average.

      I consider buying a Chromebook for my family. There is 3 young girls at home, and the only thing they know about a computer is the browser. The only thing they do on a PC is clicking the Chrome browser icon. All the computing they do is through the browser.

      And personally, beside some coding/programming and media managing (music, photos, videos), I don’t use “Windows”, I’m also always doing things in the browser.

  • Dan

    It looks like an old MacBook Pro. :-/ Still not convinced by a browser-based OS.

    • Chromebooks are for people who:
      1. Only surf the web or Facebook
      2. Light/casual online gaming
      3. People who already use Google Drive for 90% or more of there work
      4. People who don’t need all the power of a pc/laptop but needs to be able to email and read/write documents, spreadsheets, etc.
      5. Also for people who want to try a new OS but don’t have the technical skills to set up a linux computer (although buy a linux computer straight from an OEM is an option)

      Chromebooks are not for people:
      1. Who need resource intensive programs like graphic intensive gaming.
      2. People who need to use CAD or IDE’s or other similar programs
      3. The few people who need to be able to use Microsoft programs because of work requirements.
      4. Apple, Linux, or Microsoft die hard fans.
      5. People who do not have a good or constant internet connect and still need to be able to use their computer

      So no, Chromebooks are not for everyone but I do believe they are a valid option for the majority of people.

      • fatyss

        than whats problem with ipad and nexus 10 they do all aboveand isnot complicated specially ipad 4 and is less costly.

  • raindog469

    “Some may yell “Linux!”, but that OS has further to go than Chrome OS.”

    You do know Chrome OS is literally just a Linux distribution with Chrome as the main UI, right?

    I’ll take Chrome plus Pidgin, Libreoffice, VLC, Openshot, Eclipse and yes, even the Gimp over just Chrome any day, myself. Especially on a laptop that costs $1300. But at least you know going in that a less incomplete distro can be installed on it.

    • Nate Swanner

      You’re right, and Linux has been loaded on this machine. My comments were more geared at the average consumer who would like a more reliable OS. Linux, in all its distro’s, has diversified quite a bit… a bit too much for most.
      I found a good article that explains better than I can about this issue. Please get hold of me on Google+ if you’d like me to share it with you :)

  • Dino Buljubasic

    would be nice to put windows or linux on a laptop with such great screen resolution

    • Nate Swanner

      You can sideload Linux, but not Windows, unfortunately.

  • Lord Voldemort

    If Chromebooks could run Steam, I’m sold.

  • QuanahHarjo

    Just want to know all about Quickoffice in this format. I think what Google’s done with integrating it is a real indicator of what they want to do with Chrome OS in the future, and I find it fascinating at the moment.

    • Nate Swanner

      I’ll do my best to check QuickOffice out for you!

  • Elder

    jeez! stop copying apple!

  • Hmm… I’m very curious to hear how this experience turns out. I wish the price was lower. I could probably get by with a chrome book now that I think about it. Music playback is my biggest concern and I would rather not stream every song.

    • Nate Swanner

      How do you access music, Charles?
      I agree, the price is a bit high, but I feel my speculation on that is accurate after speaking with a few people who may have more insight than myself.

  • You lucky guy. I want one. I fit the criteria except I don’t have the money to how on it.

    • Nate Swanner

      I am very fortunate to have had this opportunity, no doubt. After a few days of use, I’m blown away.

  • Bone

    As I previously posted, this is not really a profit device but one that gives SW developers a look just how ready Chrome OS is for professional programs, not a year from now, not tomorrow, but TODAY. Not much sense for Adobe to port Illustrator for a slow ARM Chromebook, but here’s one that not only teases a working OS but delivers the juice, so it doesn’t matter if it will sell, what matters is the companies that matter know about it and it’s certainly an all-around winner in that department. Now bring out the apps!

  • Mike Helms

    Can you link the Pixel to a BlueTooth speaker or headphones?

    • Nate Swanner

      It has Bluetooth capabilities, and it worked with my Bluetooth headset. I don’t see why speakers or more traditional headphones wouldn’t work :)

  • Matthew Fiori

    You lost me here: “Their products across the board are terribly overpriced”. For exactly the same money as you will pay for the PIXEL you get a machine from Apple with a very very similar size and quality display (no touchy) twice the ram, four times the on device storage, double the battery life and a full suite of on device software.
    And you can install the Chrome OS on that device.
    Now I am writing this on an ARM Chromebook and have four Apple devices in my house so don’t think that I don’t appreciate Apple or the Chrome OS. But when you say that Apple devices are overpriced and you are even remotely entertaining the possibility of putting down exactly the same money for this device, I stop reading.
    Get yourself two ARM Chromebooks and with the nine hundred dollars you have left over get more of whatever it is you are smoking and take yourself and a few friends out to a really nice dinner where you forget that bad idea.

    • Ammon Rhett

      “the premium price was meant to keep those not serious about Chrome OS from purchasing the device”

      This is supposed to be priced so people won’t buy it. It is overpriced by definition.