Google has reset the laptop experience with the Pixelbook. So, what’s the next reset?
Pixelbook Gen 1: an excellent start
The first Pixelbook* is a 12.3-inch mobile-device/laptop-hybrid wonder that falls roughly between the 12.5-inch HP EliteBook x360 and 12-inch MacBook. Like those laptops, it pushes the boundaries of extreme portability.
Similar to the 12-inch MacBook, the Pixelbook is as close to a tablet as a clamshell laptop can get (at a mere 0.4-inches thick and 2.4 pounds). And that’s its defining hardware feature: the remarkable thinness (0.4 inches) and weight (2.4 pounds). That combined with almost-perfect weight distribution make for a very tablet-like laptop. But it also manages to keep the laptop faith — like any old laptop it has a pointing device/trackpad and a keyboard.
It also sports a 360-degree hinge and a touchscreen that can fold into different modes including tablet, tent, and stand.
But what really sets it apart from the rest of the laptop pack is Chrome OS, essentially a mobile OS platform (think: iOS) running on a laptop.
I’ve been using Chromebooks for a few years. In the beginning, Chromebooks were a sketchy proposition (unstable and unrefined) and I used them very intermittently. But everything changed with the Pixelbook. In addition to being a very stable Chrome Browser-based platform, it runs Android apps and is very capable at running popular applications like Microsoft Office.
In short, I use my Pixelbook every day now and often all day as my main laptop.
(See my Pixelbook review here.)
Pixelbook Gen 2: a better second act?
The next Pixelbook (or series, if there’s more than one) may include a tablet with a detachable keyboard, according to reports at About Chromebooks.
I asked Kevin C. Tofel of About Chromebooks what his best guess is for the Google October 9 event where the company is expected to announce a new Pixelbook(s) along with new Pixel phones.
“I think it’s a lock that we see Google debut [a] Chrome OS tablet, along with a few detachable keyboard options, and although the current Pixelbook is only a year old, it would not surprise me to see a refreshed [Pixelbook] model with smaller bezels and newer Intel processors,” he said in an email.
And he wrote about the upcoming Google event recently:
Google is holding a hardware event in New York City on October 9. And yes, it is expected to launch an updated Pixelbook Chromebook, the Nocturne Chrome tablet and new Pixel 3 and 3XL phones that day. And in the US, you’ll likely be able to order at least some of the new devices that day.
–“Google Store link shows Pixelbook, Chrome tablet and Pixel 3 orders start on October 9” About Chromebooks, September 22, 2018
Nocturne (code name) is expected to have a 2,400-by-1,600 resolution detachable display and a fingerprint sensor. Atlas (another code name) is rumored to have a 4K detachable display and a Sony IMX 208 front camera supporting 1080p video, among other features, according to About Chromebooks.
“The keyboard base for both should have a dedicated Google Assistant key and of course, being newer devices, they’ll run both Android apps as well as Linux apps, via Project Crostini, right out of the box,” About Chromebooks said.
Chrome OS/Pixelbook points to the future of laptops more than any other platform. Chrome feels like a mobile OS and the (current) Pixelbook is featherweight and tablet-like with modest hardware requirements but, at the same time, offers snappy performance.
I’m betting on a robust upgrade to the Pixelbook and an even better Chrome OS experience — which may include (at some point) a dual-boot to Windows option.
*The entry-level Google Pixelbook almost qualifies as a sub-$85o laptop because of consistent discounts despite its list price of $999. The entry-level model comes with 1.2-GHz Intel Core i5-7Y57 (7th Generation) 8GB of memory, and 128GB of storage (a robust config for a Chromebook).