The Ultimate Chromebook Revival for 2024: Enter Pixelbook

17 Jun 2024

I fell in love with the Pixelbook about two months ago. I saw a coworker at Google using one, and I was immediately impressed by its extreme thinness. The Pixelbook is as thin as two USB-C ports stacked. Why hadn’t I paid any attention to such a beautiful device until now?

The Forgotten Chromebook

Chromebooks were first announced in 2011, and I admit I ignorantly dismissed them as cheap laptops that constantly relied on internet connectivity. This sentiment made me ignore most of the updates released by Google for years. Also, as a Windows Phone user, and later as an iPhone user, my laptop aspirations were better covered by the ecosystem integrations that a Surface or an iPad could offer.

The last time I owned a laptop was in summer 2018. Back then, I owned a Surface Book, but it was chunky and not very easy to travel with. My needs for a personal laptop were also very simple –they still are–, which made me wonder if I could survive with just a tablet.

When I switched to an iPad Pro as my main computer in late 2018, I wrote: “A vast majority of customers have simple needs when it comes to technology, and they expect equally simple solutions to their problems. Most users want a computer for editing or creating text documents, browsing the web, responding to emails, watching movies,” and I still think that’s true today.

For years, I used the iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard Folio as my only personal device, even after switching from iPhone to Pixel! I’d use the iPad to write blog posts on Google Docs, stream movies during flights, read articles on the web, watch YouTube videos, etc.

Unlike a traditional laptop, the iPad felt limited at times, particularly when browsing the web. Many websites, especially those from financial institutions and airlines, default to the mobile version even when I specifically request the desktop site. Some other websites directly force me to open the mobile app, preventing me from using the browser at all.

This constant struggle for a full desktop experience ultimately led me back to wanting a laptop.

Enter Pixelbook

Last April, when my coworker took his Pixelbook out of his bag, my first thought was: “Wow, that’s a thin laptop.” I dimly recall Google announcing it in 2017, but I did not pay much attention to it.

At 10.3 mm, the Pixelbook is one of the thinnest Chromebooks ever. Image credit: Google

Looking at it now, I couldn’t avoid thinking that I hadn’t seen such a portable laptop that also looked this good in a while. The combination of aluminum and glass accents, the symmetry in its squared body, and its consistent thickness throughout the whole fanless chassis, all make the Pixelbook the sexiest Chromebook ever made, even seven years after its release.

Trying to get over the attractive looks, I remember thinking that ChromeOS was not a really good fit for me when it came out. But what about now? I felt very ignorant, not knowing what changes ChromeOS had announced in the past few years, so I did some research.

It turns out that ChromeOS has changed a lot since its debut, and Chromebooks can be very capable laptops. Especially after last year’s Chromebook Plus program, which introduced a new generation of laptops with cutting-edge hardware, ready for the AI era.

But what about the Pixelbook? Can it still handle the latest ChromeOS version? After all, Google introduced the Pixelbook as a premium device with beefed-up 2017 specs: a 7th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD, for a whooping retail price of $1,649.

I pleasantly discovered that the Pixelbook went through a program that Google introduced to extend software updates for certain Chromebooks. As a result, it expanded its “Auto Update Expiration” date until August 2027. That’s a full decade after its announcement; three more years to go!

Let’s just say I was eager to find a reason to get one. Then I discovered that Android phones integrate seamlessly with ChromeOS: the Pixelbook can stream apps from my Pixel onto a floating window, without having to install the app on the laptop, and it can access recent pictures that I took, or Chrome tabs that I have opened on my Pixel.

I was convinced. But since Google stopped selling the product in 2020, I had to figure out how to get one.

A Seven-Year-Old Jewel

Getting a discontinued laptop is easy if you don’t mind scuffs, marks, scratches, or poorly-removed stickers. Fortunately, I found a seller on Amazon that sells renewed top-of-the-line Pixelbooks in “excellent” condition for $335.

When mine arrived a few days later, I could not believe my luck. I got a Pixelbook that had been barely used, with 95% battery health and only 38 charging cycles.

The Pixelbook has a backlit keyboard with a dedicated Google Assistant button. Image credit: Google

Setting it up was easy, even as a newbie in the ChromeOS world. After logging in with my Google Account, the Pixelbook has quickly become a familiar laptop, giving me immediate access to all my files, pictures, contacts, emails, calendar, bookmarks, and basically everything I need.

It feels like the Google equivalent of logging in on a Surface with a Microsoft Account, or on a MacBook with an Apple ID: seamless access to all your services.

Streaming apps on the Pixelbook is as easy and intuitive as it sounds. I don’t have to think about which apps should be installed; I already have access to all the apps from my Pixel.

ChromeOS can stream apps directly from your Android phone. Image credit: Google

I nonetheless love being able to use the Google Play Store. I installed video apps like Netflix, Prime Video, or Plex so that I can download content for offline viewing.

To sweeten the deal, I also bought a Pixelbook Pen, which originally sold for $99. I was curious to see how the 10 ms drawing latency felt using 2017 technology, and I found a new Pen for $25, in a sealed box! I don’t expect to use it too frequently, but it’s nice to know that I can use it to sketch or hand-write when I flip the Pixelbook into tablet mode.

ChromeOS also includes a built-in Linux environment, allowing users to run desktop applications, command line tools, and code editors. I enabled it to install GIMP, a free and open-source graphics editor used for image manipulation and editing.

But not everything is great. The Pixelbook’s screen bezels are so big that they look out of place even among other 2017 laptops. Even with all its then-top-tier specs, the Pixelbook won’t be getting some of the exclusive AI features reserved for Chromebook Plus devices, automatically making it fall behind the competition. If we take into account that the Pixelbook will stop updating in a little over three years, one could argue that the laptop cannot even compete anymore.

The Pixelbook can be used in many different positions, as a laptop or a tablet. Image credit: Google

Hope for the Future

The improvements of the past seven years have focused on updating internal hardware specs to support new software features without any hiccups. But product design hasn’t been a priority for most Chromebook manufacturers.

I tried looking for any other Chromebook that could rival the Pixelbook’s design, and I found nothing as elegant, timeless, and well-built. Even today’s most expensive Chromebook Plus laptops seem to fall behind my Pixelbook’s unique looks.

The versatility, up-to-date smarts, and premium feeling of the Pixelbook, coupled with its current low price point, make it an amazing low-cost Chromebook in 2024. I’m truly enjoying using the Pixelbook. It has brought back the joy of writing on a laptop, without missing the tablet experience. But I’m sad that there isn’t a clear successor.

Is there space for premium Chromebooks in such a competitive market? Will we ever see a Pixelbook 2? I hope we get an answer within the three years of life left in this beauty.

Did you like this article? Subscribe to get new posts by email.