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The Chromebook Pixel: Do we need an expensive, browser-based notebook?

Laptops & PCsFeatures
by Sebastian Anthony, 08 Feb 2013Features
The Chromebook Pixel: Do we need an expensive, browser-based notebook?

Early this week, a video of the Chromebook Pixel leaked onto the internet. This video (embedded below), which was leaked by an ad agency that seemingly works with Google, shows a Chromebook with an aluminium chassis and a 2560 x 1700 touchscreen display. The exact dimensions of the Pixel (and thus its screen) aren’t known, but it looks very similar to the 13in MacBook Pro.

According to Francis Beaufort, who is well-connected when it comes to all things Chrome, the Pixel is currently being tested at Google. We don’t know how much the device will cost, but with an aluminium chassis, backlit keyboard, and high resolution touchscreen, this won’t be a £230 Chromebook. Timing-wise, we wouldn’t be surprised if Google launches the Pixel at Google I/O on May 13. Given Google’s historical generosity — it gave attendees a smartphone, tablet, and a Chromebook last year — it would make sense if the Pixel is given away to I/O attendees.

The big question, though – despite Beaufort’s report – is whether the video is actually real. There are all sorts of tell-tale signs that indicate fraudulence: The laptop looks like a render, the Chromebook Pixel font is wrong, and the voiceover feels distinctly un-Googlesque. Rather than being a fake, though, what if it’s just a concept video?

For almost as long as Chrome OS has existed, touch and tablet-oriented features have existed in the codebase. Many years ago, in fact, the first Chrome OS device render was actually a tablet (pictured right). As we now know, of course, Android ended up being Google’s tablet OS and Chrome OS found its way to laptops (Chromebooks) and the desktop Chromebox.

Even so, Google hasn’t stopped adding touch-oriented features to Chrome OS – in recent months it has added bezel gestures, touch-and-hold-to-drag, and more. In short, it isn’t all that surprising that Google is finally releasing a touchscreen Chromebook.

Perhaps a better question to ask, though, is whether anyone actually wants a premium Chromebook. If we assume that the Chromebook Pixel has a decent CPU – an Intel Core i5, probably – then it will probably cost upwards of £500.

If Google decides to actually make a profit on the Pixel, then £700+ is a more likely figure. There’s always a chance that the Pixel could be powered by a next-gen ARM chip – the Tegra 4 has plenty of pixel-pushing power for that 2560 x 1700 display – which would drive the cost down. The news that Google’s Native Client is being ported to ARM definitely adds credence to this possibility.

Ultimately, though, we are talking about spending £500 odd, or more, on a device that only runs Chrome and is of limited use when disconnected from the web. There is definitely some uncertainty surrounding Windows 8 when it comes to laptops, which Google could capitalise on, but it’s a stretch. If the Pixel comes bundled with some kind of fancy data plan, screaming performance, and has absolutely amazing battery life, then Google might just be onto something.

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