Two years ago, Google launched a new device which caused some to believe that everyone at the company must have lost their minds.
That machine was the Chromebook Pixel, a high-end notebook running Google's Chrome OS - and the reason that so many eyebrows were raised following its launch is that every other Chromebook before it had been aimed squarely at the very cheapest end of the market. At $1300, the Pixel was a thousand bucks more than most other Chromebooks - and many observers were quick to ridicule the device as nothing more than a costly web browser.
But those who thought it would fade into obscurity as a one-off experiment have been proved wrong today, as Google has unveiled its second-generation Chromebook Pixel - and it's a good deal cheaper than its predecessor.
The new Pixel starts at $999, and it has some pretty decent specs to match its premium price tag, including:
- 12.85-inch multi-touch LCD with 3:2 aspect ratio at 2560x1700px resolution (identical to the first-gen Pixel)
- 2.2GHz Intel Core i5 / 2.4GHz Intel Core i7 processor options
- 8GB / 16GB RAM
- 32GB / 64GB onboard storage
720p front-facing camera
- 2 x USB Type-C ports
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- SD card slot
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Up to 12 hours' battery life
- 297.7 x 224.6 x 15.3mm; 1.5kg
As you may have spotted in the specs above, the Chromebook Pixel features two USB Type-C ports - twice as many as the new 12-inch MacBook which debuted this week - although the Google machine is also a bit chunkier than Apple's latest notebook. This multifunction port can handle video-out as well as charging the Pixel up (indeed, there is no standalone charging port).
Google claims that from a single 15-minute charge, you can squeeze out up to two hours of battery life, and with a full charge, it says that you should expect up to 12 hours of juice.
The $999 model comes with a 2.2GHz Core i5 CPU, 32GB storage and 8GB of RAM; but for those with even more expensive tastes, a $1299 "Ludicrous Speed" version will also be available with a 2.4GHz Core i7, 64GB of storage and a whopping 16GB of RAM.
As with the first Pixel, Google has opted for very limited onboard storage, on the basis that many, if not most, users will spend much of their time working online, connected to centralized cloud storage repositories; or streaming music and videos via digital services, rather than storing everything locally on the device. For those that need extra storage, the SD card slot provides the facility to expand this later.
If you weren't convinced by the original Chromebook Pixel, the new one probably won't win you over either - and for Google, that's not really a big deal. Last month, when Renee Niemi (Director of Android & Chrome, Google for Work) confirmed that a new Pixel was on the way, she said:
We will be selling it but I just have to set your expectations: this is a development platform. This is really a proof of concept. We don’t make very many of these — we really don’t. And […] our developers and our Googlers consume 85% of what we produce.
So even Google anticipates that the new Pixel won't exactly be a global best-seller, and that only around 15% of its production run will make it into the hands of those outside the company and its developer community. But for fans of the Chromebook platform, the arrival of the stylish new Pixel has been a long time coming.