Pixel

Impressive — that’s the overall feeling early reviewers seem to have of the new Chromebook Pixel 2, which was officially announced by Google on March 11. 

Journalists at a number of major online publications were given some exclusive hands-on time — in some cases a full week — with the latest, possibly greatest, Chromebook ahead of its official unveiling.

In this article we’ll round up some of the early reports from those who’ve spent time with the $999 device.

This list is in no way exhaustive. If you run into a hands-on review you feel deserves some extra clicks feel free to share it in the comment section.

TechCrunch — ‘A Great Chromebook’

Kicking off what will be an oft-repeated phrase in this rundown is TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois who starts his review of the new Pixel by calling it “the best Chromebook money can buy”.

‘Google has kept the best from the original Pixel and improved all of [its] issues’

“Google has kept the best from the original Pixel and improved all of the issues we found with the first one — battery life being the most important of those,” he writes.

Battery life truly is crucial for laptops in general but more so Chromebooks given their heavy reliance on the cloud (i.e., continually eating away with Wi-Fi on) and their distinction of having an OS more tailored to the hardware it runs on.

Back to review where praise is given to the keyboard (which has been marginally improved since the first generation), the overall design of the device (now a shade lighter, in both senses) and the Chrome operating systems itself.

Wrapping up his review Lardinois is aware that while “…a high-end Chromebook has limited market appeal […] it is a great ChromeBook and a price that (now) seems pretty fair for the hardware quality you get.“

USA Today — ‘Darn Sweet Hardware’

Although USA Today is not a publication normally thrown about in Chromebook circles the famed American paper’s resident tech columnist Edward C. Baig has nothing but praise for the updated Pixel.

chromebook pixel 2
The New Pixel 

That won’t be much of a surprise to anyone who can recall his review of the first-generation device.

“Let me come straight to the point: Google makes pretty darn sweet hardware,” he opens in his latest column.

“I reached that conclusion two years ago, when I reviewed Google’s original Chromebook Pixel. It’s an opinion that has only hardened now that I have tested the improved Pixel I used to write this column.”

The rest of his column is largely spent recapping the Chromebook’s specs, tweaks and other changes, most of which seem to meet with approval.

The Verge — ‘A Conundrum’

“The new Chromebook Pixel is a conundrum,” writes Dieter Bohn of The Verge, explaining that while he can’t quite work out who the Pixel is for, he knows he wants one.

Don’t we all.

‘The review finds the Pixel’s 3.3 pound weight a little ‘unwieldy’

Digging into Bohn’s review and we start to see a few negatives emerge. The first is the weight. While not a heavy Chromebook per se the review finds the 3.3 pound weight a little ‘unwieldy’, largely owing to the weighted hi-res touchscreen display.

The reviewer also suggests that, for some, Chrome OS is “too limiting” in what it can do and much of the article seems to wrestle with the decision to pair high end, well spec’d and almost luxury hardware with a simple, light and nascent OS feature set.

It’s not all negatives though. The addition of an Broadwell-based Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM is clearly felt:

“The new Pixel is fast. While reviewing, I’ve never had fewer than 10 open at any time, and many of those were fairly heavy web apps. And even with all those tabs, loading web pages is still stupid fast. The only thing I’ve seen that compares is Safari on a top-of-the-line Mac.”

Mashable — ‘Would Recommend’

The Chromebook Pixel 2 gets off to a great start at news website Mashable who award it their ‘Mashable Choice’ badge (used to highlight products they’ve used and ‘would recommend to others’).

Pete Pachal is on review duties for the site and puts the $1000 machine through its paces during a typical work day at the site. In between breaking news and writing like a champ he threw together some slick gifs and Vines — *new media fist bump* — to illustrate the device better.

Overall Pachal seems to have coped okay, even managing to put the Adobe Photoshop (Streaming) app through its paces. Like a lot of other reviews the bulk of complaints stem from Chrome OS and its features, apps and/or lack thereof.

He wraps up his review on a positive though, stating that: “…the Chromebook Pixel 2 is a joy to use. I’ve honestly never had a faster Chrome experience, even with half a dozen windows — some with well over 20 tabs — spread across two monitors.”

‘As someone whose Samsung Chromebook struggles to cope with Gmail open …I’m a little envious.’

As someone whose Samsung Chromebook struggles to cope with Gmail open, much less 20 tabs, I’m a little envious. If anyone feels like donating a shiny new Chromebook Pixel 2 to me, don’t be shy about it!

Ars Technica — ‘Drastic Leap In Performance’

Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham calls the Pixel “lovely hardware with limited appeal” and highlights the device’s ‘first rate’ build quality, great keyboard and high resolution display.

His favourite thing though? Why, that’s Googles use of the two new USB Type-C ports on either side of the device for charging, data transfer and attaching displays.

Like others the “drastic” leap in performance offered by the switch to Broadwell is also touched on and is credited as being a move that “…brings the Pixel in line with other similarly priced and spec’d hardware from competitor laptop makers.”

To back up the performance gains Ars conducted a suite of browser-based benchmarks on the device. The Octane score alone beats out the older Chromebook Pixel and the Haswell chips found in some of the older “consumer” Chromebooks, like the Toshiba Chromebook.

Chromebook Pixel 2 Benchmarks
Chromebook Pixel 2 Benchmarks (Ars Technica)

Peppered through many of these initial Chromebook Pixel 2015 reviews was a consistent thread: confusion. Negatives didn’t focus so much on the device, or its OS alone, but the combination of the two. The notion of a premium device for an OS that normally ships on hardware once described as disposable just seems to…niggle away.

Chrome OS is a specific kind of computing experience for a specific kind of user. Depending on your needs a Chromebook can accentuate and fit in alongside a more traditional OS (as in my case) or replace it entirely (as in many of our readers’ cases).

It’s not for everyone. The idea of hawking — some may say lumbering — premium hardware with an OS that is not as universally appealing as a full-blown Windows install is therefore understandable.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do these reviews have you clamouring to buy a Chromebook Pixel 2? Or do you feel Chrome OS works best on more accessible hardware?

Let us know your take on the Chromebook everyone wants in the comments below. 

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