Google Chromebook Pixel: Brilliant touch screen, hefty price

The slick-looking, Intel-powered Google Chromebook Pixel combines the touch screen support of Windows 8 with the MacBook Pro's high-res Retina display. It also includes three years of free 1TB cloud storage, and has a 4G LTE option.

Pricing starts at a lofty $1,299; Web-based Chrome OS requires you to be online to do most tasks; Web apps can't yet compare to most Windows or Mac software, especially for media-centric activities like video.

Despite impressive hardware specs and solid industrial design, the Chromebook Pixel’s high price and cloud OS limitations make it impossible to recommend for the vast majority of users.

Google seems to approach the laptop segment from two different perspectives. On one end, there’s the Samsung Chromebook Series 3. At this time it’s the best-selling laptop on Perhaps not surprising, given its $249 price tag -- it’s basically filling the low-end gap left by the collapse of the netbook and the rise of the 7-inch tablet.

At the other end of is Google’s new Chromebook Pixel. This is the first Google-designed laptop -- not one that was farmed out to a partner like Acer or Samsung. And Google has upped the ante, adding a high-res touch-screen -- with a pixel density greater than that of Apple’s vaunted Retina screens -- and a real Intel Core i5 processor. But the 3.3-pound Pixel also has a high-end sticker price: it starts at a whopping $1,299. That goes to $1,449 for the step-up model, which adds a built-in 4G LTE cellular modem (and won’t ship until early April of 2013).

With an attractive design and some nice “equipment” under the hood, the Chromebook Pixel still has a long way to go. Issues are still fixed through OS updates, and as we have seen in the past with major success and improvement like in the trackpad history of Chromebooks, but with lots of miles to go.

The screen, the cameras, the microphones included, yes they make a positive impact, but Should you buy the Pixel?

In a word, no.

While the Pixel makes manifest our subconscious expectations of the Chromebook when it first launched two years ago, the expensive, high-end, touch screen laptop still falls short in some key areas. Yes, there's a lot to like about the hardware, but the Web-based Chrome OS just has far too many caveats and compromises to justify its exorbitant price tag.

At $1,300 to $1,500, every other PC -- Mac or Windows -- will give the vast majority of users far more options for the money, though right now they’ll have to choose between a high-res Retina screen (MacBook Pro, starting at $1,349) or a touch screen (many, many Windows models).

The Chromebook Pixel is an interesting "halo product," and the design chops Google has shown bode well for future models. But for now, this is laptop is targeted at a niche of a niche. The vast majority of people who use Google services would be better served by sticking with the Samsung Chromebook Series 3. It lacks the high-res touch screen and zippy Intel processor, but at $249, it’s a lot easier to overlook its flaws.

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