Summary and Conclusion
It's actually quite difficult to sum up the Chromebook Pixel. From a design and build quality standpoint, there is no other notebook on the market that can top it. The machined aluminum, brilliant keyboard, responsive trackpad, and class-leading touch-enabled, super-high-resolution display panel leave precious little room for improvement. There's effectively nothing negative to say about anything dealing with design. It's the most stunning display we've seen to date on a laptop, and the trackpad is more responsive than the majority of Windows notebooks shipping right now. However, unfortunately for Google, build quality is just part of the equation.
On the software side, Chrome OS has matured in a meaningful way. Google has added a file browser, tight Google Drive integration, and multi-window support. The Chrome Web Store as a whole now hosts an impressive array of top-tier apps that actually fare quite well when ran in a browser environment. But this fact remains: Chrome OS is a cloud-based OS. It really only shines when you're connected, and that's just not always feasible. Moreover, you cannot install apps outside of the browser, so many who rely on specific programs that don't yet have a web-based alternative are going to be left out in the cold. There's also no escaping the fact that the learning curve will be steep for the average user. Most users will have at least a handful of workflows that simply do not handle well with such a limited operating system; and it's up to you to scour the Chrome Web Store for apps that can stand in as replacements. If you're looking for a machine that just lets you handle your web-based business, be that social networking, e-mail, documents, etc., you'll find a lot to love here. But every so often you'll hit a snag that can only be overcome with a bonafide OS and its various levels of support.
Despite the fact that we actually enjoyed using the Pixel more than a two-year old MacBook Pro and Dell Latitude notebook, we actually used those two machines to build this review. Why not write it and assemble it completely on the Pixel? It's just too difficult. We need specialized photo editing and resizing tools that aren't yet on the Web. We have scripts that move and swap file folders that can't easily be replicated within a Chrome browser. For as much as we loved using the Pixel, in many ways it's like a tablet: excellent for certain scenarios, but in no way ready to be your primary mobile machine.
For a $199 Nexus 7, that's perfectly understandable. For a laptop with a $1299 starting price tag, it's not. Chrome OS still isn't ready for the masses -- at least not at this price point -- and the lackluster battery life keeps it from being a serious contender even for those with ample amounts of disposable income. But for what the Pixel lacks, it stands as a beacon in engineering prowess. We can only hope that Google reaches out to OEMs and licenses its design elegance. A Windows-based Ultrabook that was machined like the Pixel would instantly gain our highest recommendations. Even the MacBook Air could stand to learn a thing or two from the Pixel.
If you appreciate art and design, and have plenty of disposable cash, buy a Chromebook Pixel. It's a joy to use and an even greater joy to handle. For everyone else, let's just hope that the design chops displayed here can trickle down to a machine that's more affordable and accessible in due time.