Everything You’ve Heard About Google’s Chromebook Pixel Is Wrong

The Pixel is neither overpriced, nor limited in the ways people think it is. Here’s what you need to know.
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You’ve heard about Google’s Chromebook Pixel, the high-end, cloud-centric laptop.

It’s far better than the cheap, plastic Chromebooks that shipped two years ago. At that time, I slammed the Chromebook as the “Computer for the Rest of Them”—the computer nobody would buy for themselves, but would buy for other people under some circumstances. But the Chromebook Pixel is a different beast. After using the Pixel full-time for a week, I’m shocked to discover that almost everything said about the laptop is dead-wrong. Here are the seven biggest myths about the Chromebook Pixel—and the truth.

Myth: The Pixel Is Overpriced.

The Chromebook Pixel costs $1,299 for the Wi-Fi only version and $1,449 for the addition of LTE 4G connectivity.

This is almost universally considered an outrageously high price to pay for a “hobbled” or “limited” machine that does nothing but run a Web browser.

So the obvious question is "Compared to what?"

You can buy a low-quality junk laptop with crapware, stickers, spinning-platter hard drives, horrible screens and graphics, shoddy plastic construction and which requires constant maintenance and expensive software and pay only $500, sure.

But on the high end of the laptop market, prices go up.

The Pixel has a Retina-quality screen. (Retina is the branding Apple uses for its ultra-high-resolution screen products.) This one fact alone immediately sends the Pixel to the head of the class with the highest-end Apple laptops and new entrants like the Toshiba KIRAbook, which like the Pixel sports a 13-inch Retina-quality screen, according to the company.

In fact, the Pixel has the highest-resolution (highest pixel density) screen in the industry. The introduction of the Pixel forced Apple to change its advertising claim of the highest-resolution screen.

I recently had to use my (non-Retina) MacBook Pro for five minutes to check on something, and I could barely stand to look at the screen. I had grown so accustomed to the Pixel’s much higher-resolution screen that I found it hard to go back. The quality of the screen is a huge deal. (And if you don’t think screen quality matters, I’ve got a 90s-era 17-inch Gateway CRT in my garage you might like to buy.)

The very cheapest KIRAbook costs $1,599.99, which is more expensive than the most expensive Pixel.

The cheapest Apple laptop you can buy with a Retina display costs $1,499, which is more than the most expensive Pixel. (The most expensive MacBook with Retina, which has a 15-inch screen and lots of memory and processor power, starts at $2,799.)

So to say the Pixel is over-priced because it costs more than machines that are in a different class is disingenuous.

As you can see from the difference in price between Apple’s Retina and non-Retina laptops, screen quality is a deciding factor on price. And it should be—the super high-quality screens transform the experience.

Among laptops with Retina-quality screen, the Pixel is both the highest-resolution screen and costs the least, to the best of my knowledge.

Sure, the Pixel has a less powerful processor than the other Retina-quality laptops. But it also comes with some features and freebies that can save you a lot of money.

For example, the HD camera is superior to most you’ll find on laptops, more on par with USB cameras you have to pay extra for. Ditto for the sound system—the Pixel’s speakers are louder than your average laptop's and obviate the need to buy external speakers.

The Pixel comes with one terabyte of free cloud storage for three years, plus twelve free sessions of Gogo’s Internet service on airplanes.

The LTE version comes with 100 MB of free LTE bandwidth per month for two years. This sounds like a small amount, but it’s plenty for occasional backup connectivity when you’re between WiFi networks. More to the point, the value of this connectivity has to be factored in when judging the price of the Pixel.

There’s also an argument to be made about total cost of ownership. You can buy a cheap Windows laptop. But after a couple of years, you’re likely to have spent more overall on the Windows laptop and almost nothing on the Pixel. You’re going to use free Google apps, like Google Docs, instead of Word for Windows. You don’t need anti-malware because it can’t be installed on a Pixel.

Your mileage may vary, of course—and anyone can choose to use a conventional laptop only for free software or cloud computing—but I would bet that any total cost of ownership analysis between average Windows, Mac and Pixel users would bring the Pixel users in spending far less overall.

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Tags: cloud computing, Google, PC, laptop, hardware, Chromebook Pixel

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