Until now, Chromebooks hadn't been much more than glorified netbooks; underpowered curios best suited for technological novices. The 13-inch, touchscreen, retina-displayed, full-powered Chromebook Pixel, though, appears to be anything but. And it should be enough to make Apple at least a little nervous. At least until you get to the price.
Built by Lenovo, the anodized aluminum Pixel is purpose-built for working in the cloud. Rather than the standard 16:9 resolution, the Pixel is optimized for viewing Internet-based content with a 2560x1700 resolution on a 3:2 aspect ratio—which provides 18 percent more vertical space than the conventional 16:9 layout. That's 4.3 million pixels total, 239 per inch—appreciably more than the 13-inch retina MacBook Pro's 227 ppi. What's more, the display is Gorilla Glass and doubles as a capacitive touch screen.
In terms of inputs, the Pixel features a full-sized keyboard, an SD slot, dual USB ports and a trio of integrated mics which not only cancel out background noise when videoconferencing on the 720p webcam but also mitigates the noise generated when you're pecking away at the keyboard. Like other modern etched glass trackpads, the Pixel's can handle natural scrolling and multi-finger gestures.
The Pixel runs on a speedy Intel core i5 processor and utilises a 32 GB internal SSD. If that's not enough space for you, Google includes a full terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage for three years. Finding a web connection will require hooking up to a Wi-Fi network, since although the US is getting a 64GB 4G-enabled model, the UK is stuck with the 32GB Wi-Fi only one for now.
The Pixel ships with Google's app suite pre-installed with another couple of thousand available on the Google Web Store. It also boasts in-browser text and spreadsheet editing capabilities thanks to its Quick Office integration, seamless background updating and built-in security services—take that Kaspersky.
While a full-powered laptop is untested waters for Google, the company's recent hardware successes—the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 are all excellently built—give us high expectations for the Chromebook Pixel. If nothing else, Google's shown that it knows how to pick the right partners to build its dream machines. Then again, that's a lot of money to pay for something that only runs Chrome OS, and all the limitations that carries with it.
The 32GB, Wi-Fi only edition retails for £1049 and ships next week, while there's no news on the 4G version in the UK. We've just gotten our hands on a review unit, so you can check out our hands-on here -- stay tuned for a review in the near future.