Here's what you thought you knew about Google's Chromebook laptops: They're designed for Internet computing and are known for plain designs and bargain-basement prices.
The former is still true. You're supposed to be connected to the Internet when using a Chromebook, at least a good chunk of the time. But the latter two are now only partially the case. You can still purchase an Acer Chromebook in the Google Play store for $199, or a Samsung for $249.
However, the Chromebook Pixel laptop that began shipping this week is not only beautiful, it fetches $1,299 for a Wi-Fi -only model. The Pixel that I tested is even pricier, a $1,449 model that complements Wi-Fi with fast LTE cellular service from Verizon Wireless. It ships in April.
With Pixel, Google is now competing in the high-rent computing district against Apple's MacBook Air and entry-level MacBook Pros, as well as some of the more expensive Windows 8 Ultrabooks.
My test unit was an immense pleasure to use, but I'm still hesitant to recommend the machine to everybody. Aside from its high price, Pixel has puny onboard storage, so-so battery life, and perhaps most important, is diminished when you're offline, since the Web-based Chrome operating system at its core mostly depends on a pipeline to the cloud . Sadly, you cannot watch a movie you buy or rent from the Google Play store when you lack an Internet connection.
There's certainly no mistaking Pixel's premium pedigree. The premium hardware is crafted from anodized aluminum. Pixel is a handsome, solidly built gray 3.35-pound machine with a high-resolution 12.85-inch Gorilla Glass touch-screen that is something to behold.
The computer is so named because of the stunning screen, which rivals the Retina displays on some MacBook Pros. It packs 4.3 million pixels -- more than twice as many, Google emphasizes, as a standard HDTV. In techie terms, it has a pixel density of 239 pixels per inch, a measure of sharpness that tops its laptop rivals.
An LED on the back cover lights up in different colors to add a nice aesthetic. A sturdy piano hinge lets you open and close it with a thumb. Google says the hinge dissipates heat and augments Wi-Fi antennas. (continued...)
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