Pixelbook Go Specs & Price Review – In 2019’s Made by Google event in New York City. I expected to come away entranced by the smartphones and apathetic about everything else. But it turns out that a Chromebook aimed at those who stay mobile. Well, that’s right up my alley. This is the Pixelbook Go, and while it’s not the best deal you can get in the Google Store, it is the Chromebook that I would buy.
Chromebooks have come a long way since that budget model I covered a couple of years back. They’re still designed mainly for browsing, writing, and other light work. But that also means they’re faster to boot, more straightforward to use and last longer on a charge than full PCs. And the fact that they can now run almost every app that an Android phone can, that makes ’em a lot more versatile than they once were. A lot of vendors make Chromebooks, but Google has only made a handful of its’ own. 2017’s Pixelbook was a triumphant blend of aesthetics and power that you had to pay at least 1,000 bucks to own.
And last year’s Pixel Slate was a disaster. It tried to be tablet and laptop and pretty much failed at both. The Pixelbook Go is more limited in its ambitions, and as a consequence, it’s much more focused. This is a purebred laptop. You can’t pop the screen off or fold it behind the keyboard, you open it to use it and close it when you’re done. That makes it less exciting, and in the opinion of Android Central’s Ara Wagoner, less practical than other Chromebooks.
We’ll come back to that, but first, I gotta give Google props for the hardware here. This is one of the most comfortable laptops I’ve used. It’s all pillowy curves. The bottom plate is scalloped in this way I’ve never seen before, and the keyboard is soft and quiet without falling into the trap of being mushy.
I could type on this all day. Matter of fact I have, for five days. The Pixelbook Go passes the one-handed opening test, thank you for that. And the casing is painted magnesium, but in the same way, the Pixel 4 doesn’t feel like glass, this feels too soft to be metal. Speaking of the Pixel 4, if you pair it to the Pixelbook Go, you can use Smart Lock to bypass your password. Just unlock your phone, and then you can tap right in on the touchscreen. You can also turn on your phone’s wifi hotspot right from Chrome OS, rather than fish your phone out of your bag.
You don’t need a Pixel 4 or a Pixelbook Go to take advantage of these features in a Chromebook. But after not using Chrome OS for a while and forgetting about these features, I was thrilled to have them back. For the past five days, I’ve used the Pixelbook Go for the writing and research part of my workflow. This means juggling an average of eight to 10 Chrome tabs, Slack, Evernote, Spotify, and Pocket Casts. Which by the way, absolutely rocks on these speakers.
They’re not quite as spacious and crisp as my MacBook Pros, but they are just as loud. And with that typical workflow, I’ve averaged about eight hours of continuous use between charges. Far short of the 12 hours Google promises. But every manufacturer overstates battery claims. And more to the point, eight hours is far better than the four to five I’ve come to expect from my MacBook and most PCs.
Google says the included 45-watt adapter can replenish it quickly. And here, the company delivers like Dominoes. After my review unit died, I plugged it in for 20 minutes. Then I unplugged it and set my watch. And got precisely the promised two hours of use from that 20-minute top-up. Between this and the new Microsoft Surfaces, I love that fast charging is finally becoming common on laptops.
A quick word on the trim level, this is the mid-tier Pixelbook Go. So it’s powered by an Intel Core i5 backed up by eight gigs of ram. Now, if you want, you can spend more to get double the memory in the next higher tier, Chrome OS loves its’ ram. But I’ve had no performance complaints even with my mid-range unit. If you’re gonna upgrade, do it to get a higher resolution screen, if anything. This full HD panel is beautiful, but I wish it were sharper and brighter. As we approach the critical point where I tell you whether I think it’s a good buy or not.
Okay, now Ara’s point. The thing that kills the Pixelbook Go for a lot of folks is value. Go to the Chromebook part of the Google Store yourself and set the price slider to the middle. You’ll quickly find that you can get a Samsung Chromebook Plus with a stylus, tablet mode, and a built-in 4G connection. And that Chromebook is $50 cheaper than this one. You could even use the difference in price to buy yourself a microSD card to expand your storage on that Samsung, which the Pixelbook Go cannot do.
I don’t want a generic machine, some mass-market laptop that a manufacturer pulled off the Windows budget production line to flash Chrome OS on. I’m willing to pay more for a thoughtfully designed, narrowly tailored product. If that product has a great battery life and a chassis that I can still call comfortable. Even after having worked five days straight on it, so much better.
Do I wish it had built-in LTE? Absolutely. Or some of Chrome OS’s pain points overdue for a correction? Absolutely. I want Android apps to be more responsive to this platform. I want the trackpad to be more comfortable. And I want a display that doesn’t disappear completely when I wear polarized sunglasses. Seriously, that’s crazy.
Do I think it’s too expensive? Absolutely. But it’s also absolutely the laptop that I would buy if I were shopping for a Chromebook.
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