Commentary
3/12/2015
11:05 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary

Google Chromebook Pixel Turns To USB Type-C

The second generation of Google's Chromebook Pixel laptop series keeps the aluminum design, improves battery life, and adopts USB Type-C for fast charging.



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The latest Chromebook from Google is a revamped version of its high-end Pixel.

Google retained the original's pleasing aluminum design, but was sure to give this Chromebook a significant boost under the hood with new processors, more memory, and improved wireless. The Pixel may be the pinnacle of Google's Chromebook line, but it comes with the same limitations inherent to all Chromebooks.

The Chromebook Pixel is an attractive laptop with a clean design and solid specifications. It is relatively thin at 15.1-mm thick and light at 3.3 pounds. Google bestowed the "Pixel" name on this device due to the high-resolution screen, which measures 12.85 inches on the diagonal. It packs 2560 x 1700 pixels, giving it a 3:2 aspect ratio. The screen's brightness rates 400 nit, and it boasts 178-degree viewing angles. Notably, the display supports touch input for those times you want to use your fingers. Speaking of fingers, the Pixel sports a full-size, backlit keyboard and a glass touchpad.

Google turned to Intel's Core i5 and Core i7 processors to give the Pixel some oomph. The Core i5 processor is clocked at 2.2 GHz and has 8 GB of RAM, while the Core i7 is clocked at 2.4GHz and has 16 GB of RAM. It's a shame Google didn't pick Intel's Core M chips, which are in the new MacBook from Apple. The Pixel's processors are paired with Intel HD Graphics 5500, which supports up to 4K video output. Storage options are limited to either 32 GB or 64 GB, but the laptop supports SD memory cards and comes with 1TB of Google Drive storage for a period of three years (same as the original Pixel).

Google's second-generation Chromebook Pixel

Google's second-generation Chromebook Pixel

Wireless is essential to Google's Chromebooks, and Google took care to update the WiFi radio in the new Pixel. It supports dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) 802.11ac WiFi, in addition to Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy with a Smart Ready controller. The new pixel drops LTE, however, which was available in the first-generation model for keeping users connected when on the go. Google apparently believes WiFi will suffice.

Battery life lasts an impressive 12 hours. Moreover, the battery supports quick-charge technology. Plugging it in for just 15 minutes will give it enough juice to last for another two hours.

Like Apple, Google sees USB Type-C as the future when it comes to plugging things into the Pixel. Google published a lengthy blog post touting the benefits of Type-C over other connectors.

[Read about Google's London store opening.]

The Pixel comes with two Type-C ports (unlike the MacBook's single port), which can be used for charging the laptop, connecting accessories, or transferring data at quick rates. Google said we'll see a lot more of Type-C this year, including on Chromebooks and Android smartphones and tablets. Google knows the industry is moving to the new, reversible connector, but (unlike Apple) it didn't abandon legacy devices. The Pixel comes with two, standard USB 3.0 ports, as well as support for memory cards. The Pixel has a combo headphone/microphone jack, stereo speakers, and a built-in microphone for those times you feel like talking to Google Now.

The Chromebook Pixel runs Google Chrome, which is its browser-based operating system. Google has done a commendable job of convincing developers to support Chrome with browser-based apps, but much of the Pixel's functionality relies on a hearty Web connection.

The i5-equipped Chromebook costs a pretty penny at $999. The i7-equipped Chromebook jumps to $1,299. That's a lot of scratch. Both are available for order from Google's new Web store.

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Eric is a freelance writer for InformationWeek specializing in mobile technologies. View Full Bio
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