[Pixel]book report


I converted to being primarily a Macbook user several years ago but when it came to replacing my current Air last year I was horrified by the current costs and to be honest not wildly enamoured of recent updates since the move to MacOS. So I went with a Dell XPS13 running Ubuntu 16.04LTS. I used that for a year and it is a wonderful piece of hardware. It has a TARDIS quality — the screen somehow bigger than it ever seems but its footprint is tiny. That said Ubuntu was a consistent cause of minor irritations to me and bit by bit they wore me down over the year. I never quite had the command line chops to bend it to my will! So when I left mySociety I sold it — in something of a fit of pique at my latest headache I’ll admit — and decided to try something new.

I’d seen Andy’s Pixelbook just days earlier and have to be honest the idea of a machine (over) optimised for browsing with next to nothing else going on kind of appealed. Even if it is far too expensive.

So here I am a week and a bit into owning Google’s flagship Chromebook. Generally speaking I am really pleased with it and it has achieved something the Dell never did — I have actually genuinely retired my Macbook.

The good:

  • The keyboard is amazing — writing on this is a genuine treat — even for someone who isn’t a great typist like myself.
  • Browsing really is a treat (as you’d expect). This machine is like a Formula One car speeding around the web — and even my tab habit hasn’t slowed it (yet).
  • The touchpad is great. Accurate, smooth and just feels right. The slight padding either side of it is a nice touch as well.
  • The build quality in general is just really great — like Macs of old. It feels solid and looks lovely. The hinge that allows it to convert to a tablet and a presentation ‘tent’ just feels reassuring.
  • The Evernote and iA Writer Android apps work perfectly which really helps my workflow around blogging etc — which was one of the big risks.
  • Netflix works a treat.
  • Obviously all the GSuite apps work perfectly but also so do the Office365 apps and to be honest Excel and Powerpoint are still useful to access.

The not so good:

  • The screen bevel is really big compared to other modern machines — makes it feel a big old fashioned somehow.
  • Also while the screen certainly seems sharp and clear to me I’m not sure it is truly HD — certainly Amazon Video nor Netflix recognise it as such.
  • Slack, Spotify and many other Android apps don’t quite work right on the Pixelbook — they are usable enough but each brings some quirks to the device that are a bit off putting.
  • There is some weirdness with cookies and the ChromeOS that is regularly logging me out of services — Medium in particular but also my hotel wifi which was a pain (I might have gotten to the bottom of this.)
  • It is probably a bit too heavy to use as a tablet. Certainly for very long (despite my press-ups programme!).
  • It costs too much.

The undecided:

  • I bought the pen and am still not sure I have a real use case for it but going to try and do some sketchnotes using it to see how that goes.

I certainly don’t regret the purchase so far. I’m really enjoying the experience and not really missing any other functionality (yet).