Well, I sent my loaner Chromebook Pixel back to Google today. I did it with a heavy heart, simply because the device is such a pleasure to look at. The Pixel is named for its amazing screen, a 12.85 “, 2560 x 1700, 239 PPI, 400 nit brightness screen with 4.3 million pixels. It’s also a touchscreen, and proves very responsive. I thought today would be a perfect day to write a wrap-up of my weeks with the device and to compare it to the much cheaper (yet still amazing) Samsung Chromebook.
Before I get started, be sure to follow my All-In-One tags both on this site and on Massively.com. That tag sums up all of my experiences with the high and low end of the Chromebook spectrum. This site covers the techier side of things and Massively.com covers gaming — MMO gaming — on the Chromebook. Yes, I said gaming. There are a ton of wonderful browser-based games out there. So much so that I dedicate an entire column to them.
You have those bookmarked? Great. I’m going to go down the list of the good and bad of the Pixel and will also compare it to the Samsung Chromebook. For the record, I bought my Samsung Chromebook for 249$ US and the Pixel that was on loan to me was the 4G LTE model that goes for 1449.00$ US. I’ve compared these two before so some of this might be a repeat for you, but I knew I needed to write this up after spending more time with both.
Good golly, the Pixel’s screen is wonderful. So bright, so touchable, so… just nice. It really did spoil me to the point that I would open other devices and go “Ugh.. so DARK.” I imagine that the screen accounts for much of the cost of this device because it packs in so many pixels and responds so nicely to touch. It’s a glossy screen, however, and compared to the matte finish of the Samsung, I prefer the matte look and feel. However, there is no comparison between the Samsung’s screen and the Pixel’s. I’ll probably say this several times, but the Samsung is a wonderful device. The Pixel has just taken that device and ramped it waaaaay up.
The Pixel’s display is also squarish, having a 3:2 resolution. That might sound odd, but remember that the idea behind a Chromebook is “living on the web.” The boxier shape shows you to see more of that web in striking color and clarity. The Samsung has a typical 1366 x 768 resolution on a 11.6 ” display. Still not bad, but no Pixel.
The keyboard on both devices is awesome. I really didn’t feel much of a difference between the two devices, but that speaks more to the quality of the Samsung. Where the real difference comes in is in the quality of the touchpad. The Samsung’s is nice for the price, but the glass touchpad of the Pixel is smooth as silk. It’s large, very responsive and does not pick up dirt or fingerprints like you might think. That trackpad is another part of the Pixel where you can see where your money went. The Pixel’s keyboard is backlit, something I used way more than I thought I would. I don’t spent my time in the dark, but sitting on the couch while watching TV is not exactly a great situation for typing on a notebook, but the backlit keyboard made it easy.
There is no touchscreen on the Samsung, so I wasn’t sure how much I would use it on the Pixel. I have tablets and phones in this house and so my life is spent interacting with my devices through touch, but how much would I need to pinch and zoom on the web? A lot, actually. I found myself reaching to touch the screen as part as my normal web surfing or viewing videos. Although I would like to see some buttons increase in size, the Pixel felt almost magical in the way it knew which link I was going for or which button I wanted to press. (Must be a Chrome thing.) I used the touchscreen during gaming a ton, which could be expected. It really depends on the game and the website, but touch is surprisingly fun and useful. My only complaint is that the Pixel’s screen sort of bounced a bit as I touched it, so gaming or touching several times in a row was sometimes a bit… squishy. I’m not sure how to remedy the spring situation, but it would be nice to see a more solid screen when touching.
The Samsung does come with a 3G option but mine does not have it. I use a 3G connected Nexus 7 tablet constantly for directions or for on-the-road posting. I wasn’t sure how the 4G LTE option on the Pixel would work but when I could connect it absolutely flew through pages, videos and games. Sometimes I had to double-check to make sure I wasn’t on someone’s wifi because the connection felt as solid as my home network. (I have a 150/65 mbps Fios network.) In an example, I drove to Oklahoma to visit some friends overnight. The Nexus 7 tablet stayed connected constantly but I could not connect with the Pixel until I found my way into a pretty major town. Needless to say, I was rarely connected on the Pixel until I got into Norman, Oklahoma, a major city.
The Pixel is a beautiful machine, for sure. It’s heavier than the Samsung but remains light. There are no visible screws and no vents or fan outlets, so heat does become a bit of an issue. The device becomes downright hot (but not dangerously) when playing a lot of videos or games. I asked Google about this and was told that “the device was designed with heat sinks while balancing seamless exterior aesthetics.” It makes sense, really. The lack of joints and fan vents means that the actual aluminum body of the device helps to push off heat, acting as a heat sink. It’s odd but I can see what they were trying to do. At the same time, some vents or other heat saps might not have been that hideous to look at.
In all honesty, the Pixel is just a beefed-up Samsung. You get the exact same experience, essentially, between both devices. So, why get a Pixel? Well, that’s like asking why someone buys a sports car when they can drive a basic Honda. There is a lot to be said for the amazing screen, better processor (there’s a core i5 in the Pixel, as well as more RAM,) touchscreen and backlit keyboard. So, if you have the money and need the extra-beautiful web experience, go for the Pixel. You will get what you paid for: superior build quality and an amazing interface with the web.
The Samsung is still my favorite, however. It’s cheap enough to grab several for the whole family. It’s perfect for a college student (as long as they understand what a Chromebook is for) and is great for a Grandmother or father. I fantasize that Google will make the Samsung its flagship device and maybe beef its stats. Maybe a backlit keyboard, a slightly nicer screen or maybe a better processor? After using my Nexus 7 on the road, as well as the Pixel, I am sure that I want a 3G Samsung.
The Pixel is an amazing Chromebook, for sure. But it’s a luxury Chromebook. It’s a sports car. The whole experience has taught me what a wonderful, versatile device the Samsung model is, ironically, but don’t let that convince you to avoid the Pixel. It’s just a beautiful machine and makes the web even better.