Google just showed off a dumb new thing: an expensive laptop that pairs the gorgeous screen, capable components, and design of a MacBook Pro with the diluted, web-based Chrome OS. It makes no sense. Don't buy one.
We haven't had much time to play with the thing, but—like sleeping with your roommate or buying seafood in Kansas—some things are just terrible on paper. The Chromebook Pixel is one of those things. Here is why this thing was a bad idea, and will make an even worse thing to own. Do not buy a Chromebook Pixel, under any circumstances short of the threat of physical violence, for these reasons:
The thing costs $1,300 (or $1,450 plus a data plan if you want LTE), which is a lot of money. It's enough money to buy a solid Windows 8 system or a very nice MacBook Air. It's just $50 short of enough to buy a MacBook Pro that has a similarly retina display. The nice thing about these other options is that they're real computers, as opposed to the Pixel, which is a ripoff.
The entire conceit of Chrome OS is that it's sort of a diet computer. It does the basics, and just the basics. Chrome OS will give you internet, basic word processing through Google Docs, video via YouTube, and the rest of Google's web services. You can stick in Chrome extensions for added "apps" if you'd like. But you're not going to get any full software here, because Chrome OS isn't compatible with anything outside of itself.
And that's been OK, because Chrome OS laptops have been very cheap: a few hundred bucks for the essentials is a good deal.
Thirteen hundred dollars for those same essentials is a very, very, hugely, wow-bad deal.
Google gave the Pixel a display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, claiming it suits the vertical nature of web browsing. Maybe that's true—but you're still left with a computer with a screen that's almost a square. The web goes up and down, I suppose, but our eyes go back and forth. Can you imagine watching a video on a 3:2 screen? Can you imagine the enormous letterboxes that will straddle the bar of moving image? Don't imagine it, because it is bad.
Bountiful pixel density is lovely—it means a screen won't have discernable pixels, and that the images it displays will be terrifically crisp. Things will look good. This is good. The Chromebook Pixel has such a screen. But this is also a waste, and will do nothing but chew battery. Anything that isn't optimized for the superboosted resolution will look like garbage. This is also a reason the retina MacBook Pro is dumb.
Don't expect to get any video benefit out of all those pixels per inch either, as the Pixel carries with it the same lackluster Intel HD Graphics 4000 that has hampered the 13-inch retina MacBook Pro. But conveniently, this thing can't run any games beyond the rigors of Angry Birds, so who cares, really.
The Pixel only comes with 32 GB of internal storage, which might have been all right sometime early in the last decade. You'll get a free terabyte of online cloud storage, but you can only use this if you've got a web connection, and after three years that free storage will start costing you $50/month. That's $600 a year just for the privilege of storing your own things.
LTE data baked into a laptop is a terrific idea, but the Pixel will only give you 100 MB free per month, and even that's only for the first two years. That's enough to read text, but if you try anything that makes the internet useful in the 21st century, you'll burn through it very, very quickly. So quickly that it may not even be there for anything beyond emergency purposes.
Your alternative is to put the Chromebook Pixel on a Verizon data plan, which is yet another monthly expense on top of this already too-expensive thing.
Unless you're getting something defective, odds are you'll be getting more for your money with any other laptop than you will with the Pixel. You'll be getting a computer that can run Photoshop, games, video without horrible giant letterboxing, photo editing software, Spotify—you know, the stuff you buy a computer for. Stuff that hasn't been pre-defined by Google. Stuff that's actually worth $1,300.
The Chromebook as an idea is a splendid idea: a cheap laptop that gives you exactly your money's worth. Affordable computing. Simple computing. These are all good ideas. But the Pixel is a self-contradiction, an absurdity, a Kia with rims, a waste of your time. To say nothing of money.