I’ve owned 3 Chromebooks over the last decade, none of which I’ve kept long enough to review. And while I’ve only been writing reviews for 3 years, the point to be made is that I’ve never found a Chromebook worth keeping. From the original Samsung Chromebook heralded for its durability years ago, to HP’s top-of-the-line $1000 Chromebook 13, never has the performance of any Chromebook I’ve used been so good that I want to find a place for it in my life.
Full disclaimer, though: I never purchased any of Google’s Chromebooks, typically because they were just too expensive; although to be fair, $1000 cell phones and iPads are totally acceptable in my eyes, which is a bit of a contradiction. That is, not until Google’s announcement and release of the new Pixelbook Go. With a $650 starting price…for the base model, with an m3 processor, I had my doubts—but I couldn’t pass on the design, and the hopes of finally keeping a Chromebook.
Speaking of design; they were announced in only two colors–“just’ black and “not” pink, a name they must have given it so when asked what color your chromebook is, you can say, “it’s not pink.” The bottom of the unit has a fully ridged surface which helps with grip (but also looks kind of cool), and helps hide obvious smudges and oil spots from your hands. The touch screen, while perfect in size at 13.3″ sports a max resolution of 1920×1080, although with the high-end model can be upgraded to UHD. The bezels are a bit chunky for a more sleek, modern laptop, but aren’t anything to be too concerned about. The body is magnesium, and painted with a matte finish which might look real nice, but for those with clammy hands, be prepared to wipe this thing down regularly. Both USB-C ports (one on each side) can charge the machine. It weighs 2.3 pounds, is very, very thin and feels extremely sturdy. Aside from a slightly dated screen, it definitely plays the part of a $650 Chromebook.
Some more background about me: by day I’m an IT Project Manager for a small company near Cleveland, Ohio. Being an avid Mac user, my choice of preferred tech often leaves my coworkers scratching their heads: but I am an enthusiast at heart, and I love to try new things. So, ahead of receiving the new base model Pixelbook Go, I thought a good test to throw its way was, well, my regular, 9-to-5 job. Much of that job involves web applications, but I do my fair share of work utilizing some of the less-web-friendly features of the Microsoft suite, and some products (like Visio and Project) that, for me, rely on full desktop apps. Still, I quit my regular work laptop ‘cold turkey’ and switched over to the Pixelbook Go.
In a very short amount of time, I had all the tabs open I needed, multiple windows and desktops up and running, a couple of Android-native apps AND was pushing 4K with no noticable lag to a 32″ Dell Ultrasharp monitor. Shortly thereafter, I found myself with the lid closed and utilizing a Logitech keyboard and mouse, which connected easily thanks to the monitor’s included USB ports. It was literally plug and play…and I used it EXCLUSIVELY for work for about a week with NO issues, aside from some compatibility issues connecting wirelessly to displays in the office.
The only significant performance issue I’ve noticed to date has nothing at all to do with the hardware: I absolutely HATE the Android implementation of the Excel app as it runs on Pixelbook Go. To reiterate, though—this is the first Chromebook I’ve used that, in spite of being the base model, truly blew me away in terms of performance compared to what I was expecting. I cannot image the $1400 beast-mode version of this machine.
Most notable about this Pixelbook Go “experience” in my opinion is the keyboard and the trackpad, which are an absolute joy to use. The keys are squishy but still responsive, they sound great, and the trackpad is smooth as butter. In fact, as an avid Mac user, I think the Pixelbook Go’s trackpad is just as good as Mac’s defacto standard trackpad.
Another surprise for me were the speakers, which run on either side of the keyboard. They are NOT best in class for laptop speakers—but they are remarkably good considering the price tag, size and form factor. They’ll be plenty sufficient for sharing a movie on the couch with a friend, but in most cases you’ll probably find yourself connecting headphones, either by bluetooth or via the 3.5mm audio jack.
The screen is fine, and the battery is too (actually, the battery impressed me more than I thought it would, and while at my desk it was connected to a USB-C monitor pushing power to it, I was fine going a day without charge if I was offsite or working remote—in fact, I got into a wonderful habit of spending a half day at Starbucks because I never had to worry about battery.
Note that this review doesn’t mention much of anything about Chromium OS, at least not criticisms of it. Look, I get it, there are plenty of people out there who will say things like, “it’s never going to replace a real laptop.” But, consider a counterpoint: I work with plenty of small businesses on a regular basis, and I’m seeing more and more line of business applications move to a cloud model—so don’t count Chromebook out just yet. We already know it’s saturated the education market—in fact, during this pandemic when my kids were going to school 100% remotely, I sometimes handed the Pixelbook Go to my son or daughter who could easily log in to their school accounts and work just as they would if they were there in the building.
No, it’s not going to replace the CAD engineer’s high-end workstation, but that’s not the market for the Chromebook (at least not yet). For some people, the level of performance that the Go can provide (which is more than some of the ‘haters’ may realize) is going to be plenty, provided their lifestyle works with that ecosystem.
In the end, though, it will come down to price. I’ll admit the $649 starting price is a bit higher than I would have liked it. But I’ll also admit, I absolutely love this device and think it’s worth every penny I’ve spent on it. In fact, months later, I’m still using it, which for a guy who really likes to try new stuff, is saying something.