Written by (DAVID PIERCE GEAR 10.04.1701:06 PM)
LAST TIME GOOGLE made the best Chromebook ever, it was the Chromebook Pixel. The boxy, beautiful £1,000 laptop wasn’t designed to go everywhere with you so much as to be so outrageously impressive that it might prompt someone to ask, “Wait, that’s a Chromebook?” Google made it to prove a point, not take over the market.
This time, Google went a different way. For the Pixelbook, which the company announced today at an event in San Francisco, Google tried instead to build a thoroughly modern laptop, one that you’ll hardly even notice in your bag. It has a 12.3-inch screen that rotates a full 360 degrees, so you can use the Pixelbook like either a laptop or a tablet. Google even made a stylus for the device called the Pixelbook Pen, though for some reason it’s not included in the box. The pen costs £99, and the laptop itself starts at £999
Call the Assistant with the Push of a Button
The laptop weighs about two pounds, roughly the same as Apple’s super-thin MacBook. It matches the overall aesthetic of the Pixel phones, including the two-part back, with metal on the bottom and glass on top, that Google has taken to calling “the visor.”
Other than the software, there’s nothing particularly Chromebook-y about the Pixelbook. This thing is a beast. You can get it with a Core i5 or Core i7 processor, as much as 16 gigs of RAM, and up to 512 gigs of memory. It charges over USB-C, and the same cable can charge your phone.
The Pixelbook’s flagship feature is, of course, Google Assistant. The virtual assistant is every Google product’s flagship feature. The Pixelbook marks the first time Assistant has been available on a laptop. You can invoke it by saying “OK Google,” or by pressing the button in the keyboard’s bottom row, where the Cmd key might be on a Mac, that displays the Assistant logo.
Another first for the Pixelbook: it’s the debut of non-beta Android apps on Chromebooks. After more than a year of testing and adapting, Google’s finally confident that the implementation is done. You can run any Android app on the Pixelbook, either in a window about the size of a phone or full-screen on the laptop.
As with any Chromebook, the Pixelbook runs Chrome OS, which means you get Google’s latest security features, and all the browsing goodness you’re used to. Chrome OS (and Android apps) haven’t always worked so well on larger touchscreens, but Google’s clearly committed to the idea of making all your stuff work everywhere.
This laptop is pretty much exactly what you’d get if you attempted to turn a Pixel into a laptop, changing as little as possible. That’s sort of the point. Google’s view of hardware is that you should have software, apps, and services that work everywhere, and the only decision you ever have to make is which screen size and input you want. The Pixelbook won’t replace your phone, but it does a lot of the things your phone does, and that’s a good start.