WTF Google?

Introducing the Chromebook…Pixel edition?

Today marked another confusing moment in the Google saga. Most of the internet is currently up in arms about the Chromebook Pixel, but not because it’s amazing. It’s because it’s confusing. I’m not really sure what Google is trying to do with this laptop, and if anything, it’s clear that Google may not even know where its Chrome OS stands in the market. But this isn’t really all that surprising.

You see, Chrome OS has always been a strange experiment for Google. An OS that runs nothing but a web browser. Sure, Chrome has an app store and enough extensions to compete with the leader in customization, Firefox, but Google has had a hard time convincing people that Chrome is good enough to run a whole computer. Chromebooks have only started selling well now that they have basically replaced netbooks. Samsung’s 11.6″ Chromebook is currently the top selling laptop on Amazon.com, but at $249.99, it’s a pretty good deal. Heck, these machines can easily and quite nicely replace the awful experiments that were Windows 7 netbooks. But no one tries to claim that these are “premium” notebooks. Samsung’s Chromebook is certainly nice, but not that nice.

Well, Google is now trying to change that with the Chromebook Pixel. This is a $1299 laptop that runs Chrome OS. Say what? Yes, and $1299 is the starting price. Should you want the always-on connectivity (and wallet-raping carrier costs) of an LTE version, you’ll have to pay a staggering $1449. So, what do you get for your money?

Lots of Pixels

This is honestly the main feature that Google is pitching. A crap ton of pixels. 2560 x 1700 to be specific. On a weird 12.85″ screen. It’s also Gorilla Glass and has a touchscreen. So yes, I’m sure that’ll be a very nice pretty screen for your web browsing. Or will it?

Well first of all, 2560 x 1700 is a really odd screen resolution. Unlike Apple’s Retina Displays, this resolution does not really divide down into any discernable web-based screen resolution. As a result, there will probably be a lot of white space when you look at web pages, which will make you want to reach out and pinch to zoom or whatever to zoom in. So then you’re looking at 2560 x 1700 pixels rendering size 26 font. I’m not sure that makes any sense. In addition to this, there are normally resolution standards for a reason. Web videos are all typically 480p, 720p, or 1080p. That normally refers to 16:9 resolutions like 800×480, 1280×720, or 1920×1080, but even 16:10 resolutions like 1280×800 or 1920×1200 or 2560×1600 can have some advantages, but mainly for graphics production, CAD work, or looking at long spreadsheets and documents, but this aspect ratio ends up being a poor one for entertainment because you’ll have black bars on HD movies and these resolutions tend to look odd for gaming. 2560×1700, on the other hand, appears to have no real benefits. Normally I’m a big fan of high resolution displays on laptops, but only laptops that can do production work like I mentioned above. Chromebooks can’t. Sure, you can read and edit docs and spreadsheets in Google’s terrible Google docs apps, but you can’t run Photoshop, Movie editing tools, full versions of Adobe Acrobat, or any sort of real production work. Google is trying to reach for a fad. Today that fad is uber-resolution displays, and as I’m starting to realize these days, resolution doesn’t really matter that much.

Apple’s MacBook Retina Displays make sense because they take normal screen resolutions and double the amount of pixels rendered. This allows the screen to function in the same way as older screens, but look better. When Microsoft looked at screens for the Surface RT, they wisely chose one of the most common screen resolutions on the planet, 1366×768. The reason this is the most common resolution is because the vast majority of cheap Windows laptops that are sold are given that resolution. Most modern web pages are actually built to be optimized for 1366×768 because of laptops dominating pc sales for the last several years. What they did instead is work on the quality of the screen and its technology. When building the Surface Pro, 1080p makes sense as a production machine that would make more use of more pixels. But even then, at least it utilizes a screen resolution that makes sense.

2560×1700 makes no sense for a laptop that’s designed to do nothing but run the internet.

Oh and that touchscreen. Why? Chrome OS has never been built for touch. So why now? Because touchscreens are popular? At least Apple doesn’t even pretend to think that a touchscreen on a MacBook is a good idea. Even Windows OEMs are starting to learn that to make a touchscreen really work, you need the notebook to have a swivel screen, hinges on crack (a la Lenovo Yoga), or just be a tablet. Reaching out to touch a laptop monitor doesn’t sound appealing. Tapping web links with something as blunt as a finger on such a high resolution screen just doesn’t sound appealing. To me, this feature just got thrown in to meet a checkbox on the spec sheet.

So What’s Left to Bitch About

Screen 12.85″ IPS LCD screen w/ LED backlight and capacitive multi-touch
Resolution 2560×1700 / 239 PPI
CPU Intel “Ivy Bridge” Core i5 ULV dual-core @ 1.8Ghz
GPU Intel Integrated HD Graphics 4000
RAM 4 GB
Storage 32GB (WiFi) or 128GB (LTE) w/ 1TB Google Drive Storage for 3 years
Ext. Storage 2x USB 2.0, SD-card, MMC card
Ext. Display 1x Mini Display Port
WiFi 802.11n/g/b WiFi
Connectivity LTE (in $1449.99 version)
Bluetooth v. 3.0
Webcam 720p resolution
Audio 2 speakers + 3.5mm headphone/mic port
Battery 59 Wh battery @ up to 5 hours of life
Keyboard Backlit Chiclet-style w/ no numpad
Mouse Glass clickpad
Wid/Dep/Thi 11.72″ x 8.84″ x .64″
Weight 3.35 lbs.

The only thing about this laptop that sounds nice is the aluminum casing and general build quality. I’m sure it will feel wonderful. Or at least it’ll feel like a MacBook Pro. But everything else seems to scream comprise. A $1299 laptop without USB 3.0? 5-hour battery life?

Okay, lets focus on that battery life a bit. The spec sheet says up to 5 hours of battery life. For all the teeth-gnashing about the Surface Pro’s 4-5 hour battery life, which is accurate by the way, Google’s premium Chromebook, which is $400 more than Microsoft’s Surface and $300 more that Apple’s MacBook Air, has 5-hours of battery life. Keep in mind, this is also a laptop that is built for the web, has an OS that I honestly believe was never meant for anything more than a portable computer, can’t even claim to have “all-day battery life.” That’s just a kick in the nuts for anyone that ever dared to drool over this thing.

Oh and that storage. Ooh that storage. 32 GB of flash memory in the $1299 model. What? Now you can argue that since Chrome OS is a very lean OS, you’ll get considerably more storage than the 64 GB Surface Pro, but that doesn’t matter much when the Surface Pro with 128GB is still $300 less. If you count the touch keyboard, $200 less. Oh and by the way, you can install Chrome on your Surface Pro and take advantage of everything Chrome OS has plus the giant software library that doesn’t exist for Chrome OS. Heck, you can get a 13-inch MacBook Air with twice as much storage for $300 less. Or, for $200 more, you can even get a 13-inch MacBook Pro with an even higher resolution display with twice the memory, four times the storage, at least 2-hours more of battery life, a faster processor (2.5Ghz vs. 1.8), and still a bigger app catalog. Sure, Google throws in 1TB of Google Drive storage for 3 years, but I can honestly imagine that this is built into the cost of the machine and even further, free cloud storage for x-amount of years is never anything more than a selling tool to get people to renew.

Please Google, tell me how this thing makes sense.

Just Another Day in Delusional Google Land

There’s one thing I’ve been realizing about Google over the last year or so. Google operates under the philosophy of “build it and they will come.” Google TV was a disaster because Google decided to build it and release it without actually pulling in the support of the entertainment industry that they would be leeching off of for content. Android has only been a success story because of Google’s passive stroking of the Open Source movement and because it was the only decent alternative to iOS. In fact, the amount of Google services that are and will probably always remain in “Beta” status is staggering. The wild chaos of Google’s experimental culture is certainly exciting and has brought forth a whole lot of innovation, but it doesn’t hide the fact that Google scatters their technological efforts into the wind and reels in whatever gets picked up. Google has a hard time creating a cohesive vision, seeing a product from beginning to end, and actually releasing a finished product. The Chromebook is only the latest in Google’s scattershot tactics. It’s so confusing and makes so little sense that one has to wonder what the designers at Google were thinking. All that I can think of is that they threw together all the popular tech trends of today (high res screen, touch screens, MacBook-like exteriors) and decided to throw Google on it. I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it and I’m such that not many others will, either.

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