Design and Build Quality
It all starts with the gorgeous machined aluminum body. At 3.35 pounds, this isn't the lightest 13" machine you'll find though. You could suggest that it's actually too heavy for its size, and there's certainly a debate to be had there. But if the price we pay for an extra pound is this kind of craftsmanship, we'll take the extra pound. Here's a snippet of the design language from Google's own site: "Vents are hidden, screws invisible, and the speakers seamlessly tucked away behind the backlit keyboard. Open and close the lid with a single finger thanks to a finely tuned piano hinge that’s engineered to augment the range of the two Wi-Fi antennas and as a heatsink to help keep the machine cool." That all makes sense to us and we'd agreed Google hit the mark on those points.
The amount of detail here is stunning. The engineers tasked with dreaming this machine up went to extreme lengths to ensure that it would remain beautiful. It honestly doesn't feel or look so much like a computer; it's more like modern, useable art. Even the LED strip atop the outer lid streams a variety of colors as the machine wakes from sleep. Hardly anyone would actually pause to notice that, but it's trimmings like this indicate that no detail was overlooked.
While the machine was designed by Google, it was actually manufactured by Compal, and that company deserves a lot of credit. The fit and finish of the Pixel is unlike any other machine we've ever used, regardless of price. Everything is finely tuned and it truly is a joy to use and hold. Open up the lid, and there sits a backlit, chiclet-style keyboard that has now become our favorite laptop keyboard -- trumping the excellent one that sits in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Beneath that is an etched-glass trackpad. It's wide, it's smooth, and it's highly responsive. Much like Apple, Google has opted to leave the interior devoid of palm rest stickers, which we wish all laptop makers would do.
Along the right edge, you'll find an SD card slot as well as a slot for a Verizon LTE SIM if you opt for the pricier $1499 model. The rear is home to a stylish hinge and nothing else, while the left edge hosts the 3.5mm combo jack, two USB 2.0 ports, a mini-DisplayPort and the AC power input. The power brick itself looks like a black version of Apple's own MacBook charger, but Google uses a more conventional power plug compared to Apple's break-away style MagSafe connector.
When you fire this thing up, you can't help but drool at the 2560 x 1700 display. Unlike many notebooks these days, the Pixel (hence its namesake) boasts a 3:2 aspect ratio, meaning that it's quite a bit taller than the 16:9 machines you're probably used to seeing. We actually love the 3:2 style, as the Web is generally built using pages that scroll down, not side-to-side. This way, you see more of each page. It's a clever and useful design choice. The panel is also touch-enabled, allowing users to touch to scroll or activate. While the LCD is glossy, the coating does a decent job of resisting fingerprints and mitigating glare. The viewing angles, colors, sharpness and brightness are all exemplary. If you were impressed with the panel on Apple's 13" Retina MacBook Pro or Toshiba's Kirabook, just wait until you see this. It's the most awe-inspiring panel we've seen on any notebook to date.
It's rare that we close a design section without any significant niggles, but yet, here we are. Aside from the smallish SSD storage capacity of the Google's new high-end notebook, the Pixel is as close to mobile design perfection, from a hardware standpoint, as we have ever seen.