When the Google Chrome OS laptop was first announced, the company seemed to have a clear vision of offering affordable alternatives to expensive Windows notebooks. Today, however, the company is taking a different approach with the introduction of the Chromebook Pixel.
The Chromebook Pixel is the first Chromebook designed by Google itself. It is unmistakably a premium product aimed to directly take on the Apple MacBook pro with Retina. Like Apple's notebook, the highlight of the Chromebook Pixel is in its screen: The 12.85 inch touch enabled display has a 2560 x 1700 pixel resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass protection. Google says it's the highest resolution display that's ever shipped on a laptop. In order to better fit web content, which often flows vertically down a page, the screen is nearly as tall as it is wide.
The inclusion of the touchscreen makes browsing web pages smooth and fluid. Google also sees this as an opportunity for developers to target a broader ecosystem for their apps by allowing their tablet and smartphone creations to have the same experience on the web.
While it's a hair thicker than the MacBook Air, it shares many of the design elements, including speakers built into the keyboard, vents hidden in the hinge, and a very thin yet responsive LED-backlit rack of keys custom-made for the machine.
But Google's also clearly trying to improve upon Apple machines, touting rounded edges that don't dig into your wrists, and a special dedicated microphone to cancel out keyboard noise during VoIP calls and video chats. There's also an etched glass touchpad, which is notably better than the competition.
For the first time in a Chromebook, specs have been seriously improved: with a Core i5 processor - rather than an ARM or Intel Atom chip - as well as Intel HD 4000 graphics and 4GB of RAM, this Chromebook should have a similar amount of performance to existing Windows ultrabooks. Google says it can play multiple 1080p videos simultaneously. Unfortunately, that processing power and the high-res screen means lower battery life: the company quotes a five-hour runtime. Like other Chromebooks, the Pixel still has a fairly sparse array of ports, with two USB 2.0 jacks, a Mini DisplayPort, a combo 3.5mm headset jack, and an SD card slot. There's dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, and a 720p webcam flanked by dual microphones up top.
While the Chromebook don't enjoy the immense software ecosystem as a Windows ultrabook, Google says developers are on board to bring their apps over to Chrome OS.
Google will ship two versions of the Chromebook Pixel, one with Wi-Fi only and one with an integrated Verizon LTE modem. You'll be able to purchase a unlimited day pass, or add the Pixel to a existing Verizon shared data plan for $10 a month.
The Wi-Fi model will come with 32GB of storage, and is on sale today for $1,299 in the United States and £1,049 in the UK. It will ship next week. The LTE model will have 64GB of storage for $1,449 in early April. Google's also including a full 1TB of Google Drive storage, per user, for three years, in the Chromebook Pixel's price.