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Google launches $1300 Chromebook Pixel. Does it stack up against the Surface Pro?

Google, like Microsoft, is a company in transition. This can be evidenced today by their entering into the “high end” Ultrabook market with their new Chromebook Pixel. It’s an odd move not because the hardware is not nice (it is) but the pricing: $1299 (32GB) $1449 (LTE, 64GB).

For a company that prides itself on 'free' it’s a different approach from the previous Chromebook strategy of low-cost devices.. To quote iMore’s Rene Ritchie “When did Google become Apple?”.

The other question is how does it stack up against Microsoft’s Surface Pro? We’ll take a look to see how things stand and if Google is making the right move here.

The Chromebook Pixel on paper is impressive. The name is derived from the device’s main selling point: resolution. It sports a crazy 12.85" display with a 3:2 aspect ratio at an astonishing 2560 x 1700 (239 PPI). We just started to get used to our 1920x1080P 13.3” display on our Acer S7. There’s little doubt in our mind that the Chromebook Pixel will look quite amazing for watching movies or viewing photos.

The problem though is the operating system. It runs Chrome OS, which for those of you unfamiliar is Google’s “web application based” OS. It’s not Android and it’s certainly not Windows, which makes it an odd sell. You can’t run Photoshop on it or any standard applications that most folks are used to, instead you are locked to Google’s web apps: Gmail, YouTube, Google+, Hangouts, Play, Drive, etc.

For those who are completely enveloped in Google’s services and don’t mind limited off-line support, it could be an ideal sell.

Chromebook Pixel Specifications

  • 12.85-inch, 400 nit display at 2560 x 1700 resolution (239 PPI)
  • Gorilla Glass multi-touch screen
  • 32 GB storage
  • Backlit Chrome keyboard
  • HD Webcam
  • 2 x USB 2.0 ports
  • Mini display port
  • 2-in-1 card reader supporting: SD, MMC
  • Intel Core i5 Processor (Dual Core 1.8GHz)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 4 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 59 Wh battery

For all intents and purposes, this is just a standard Intel Ultrabook with a higher resolution display and less memory. Same i5 processor, same weight (3.35 lbs), 4GB of RAM, HD Graphics 4000. They do step down on storage (32GB or 64GB) whereas a Windows 8 device will come with 128GB or 256GB of storage on board. The also only opt for 2x USB 2.0 whereas at least one USB 3.0 port is common these days, if not two. (Because of the spec similarities, we may give a bounty to the first person who throws Windows 8 on a Chromebook Pixel.)

Surface Pro specs

  • 10.6" ClearType Full HD Display, 1920x1080 pixels, 16:9 (widescreen)
  • 10-point multi-touch
  • 3rd Gen Intel Core i5 Processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 4GB RAM—Dual Channel Memory
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology
  • Battery 42 W-h
  • Two 720p HD LifeCams, front- and rear-facing with True Color
  • Full-size USB 3.0
  • microSDXC card slot
  • Headset jack
  • Mini DisplayPort

But it’s that price thing that keeps getting in the way:

  1. Chromebook Pixel: $1299 (32GB) or $1449 (64GB + 4G)
  2. Surface Pro: $899 (64GB) or $999 (128GB) + $120 for keyboard
  3. Lenovo Yoga: $999 (128GB), Windows 8 (convertible laptop/tablet)
  4. Acer S7: $1299 (128GB), Windows 8, 1920x1080P display

Of course not one of those Windows 8 devices has such a high resolution display but then again, they do run a full desktop OS that can be used offline with no limitations. And for all the bad press the Surface Pro’s battery gets, the Chromebook Pixel is rated “up to 5 hours” which we understand as PR speak for “a lot less in the real world”. In other words, that high resolution, 400 nit display comes at a cost: battery life.

We get the fact that not everyone like Microsoft (Surface) or wants Windows 8 but considering you could literally buy a solid Ultrabook and load up Chrome OS yourself, we’re not sure what the real advantage of the Chromebook Pixel. While photos and media will look stunning on such a display, with such a short battery life and the inability to run desktop class apps, it just seems very limited.

And limited is fine. That’s why we have the Surface RT ($499). But despite people calling that price too high, it’s at least in the ballpark of being reasonable (at least by comparison).

In short, this one is a bit of a head scratcher. It’s certainly exciting to see what looks to be solid, quality hardware coming to the Ultrabook market and we can’t blame Google for trying their hand at hardware (they’re even rumored to be opening “stores” in 2013). At least they throw in 1TB of cloud storage (for 3 years), which is a nice gesture.

We just can’t help but think this makes the Surface Pro look like a much better deal now (and we're doubtful if that was Google's intention).

Source: Google, Google Play (opens in new tab); via Android Central

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • That is one expensive browser laptop :) ...
  • Agreed.  Funny how people complain about the Surface Pro's price (let alone the RT), but this can't do 1/2 of what the Pro can do and costs more to boot. 
  • Yet it will sell more because people hate Microsoft for no reason and jerk off google
  • That's the sucky thing about this. Mindset is anything apple google "AMAZING" anything Microsoft "EW" its that mindset that's hurting the pro.
  • Marketing department at Microsoft should be fired, Microsoft doesnt know how to advertise their products, none of their advertisements show how user interface of their producst have changed, APPLE knows how to advertise their products the best. Instead of that crappy add for Surface RT they should have shown how simple it is to use and what kind of functionality it has.
  • I agree
  • I don't think this will sell more.  I doubt they are expecting to sell many of them either, this looks like a halo device.
  • The Nexus Q didn't sell well and this won't either.
  • 1/2?  I might argue it can't even do 1/10th of what I would expect a $1,300 laptop to do.
  • Agreed.
  • Well, to be fair, I didn't want to get into a comment pissing match with someone on how little it can do. 
    Bottom line, it's way to overpriced to ever be a mainstream product. 
  • Heck, my laptop is twice the price, which should mean that the chromebook should be able to do 1/4 by this discussion. I'm confident that it can't do 1/100th of what my Alienware m17x r4 can do.
  • I;m sure, It can't do 1/1000th of what my Amstrad 1512 could do 20 years ago, cause amstrad was a computer, not a browser.
  • In other news the Surface Pro 128 is now out of stock again on the Microsoft web site.
  • In this case I don't think any pro-Google feeling is helping. Judging from the comments on The Verge, everyone is incredulous that Google would release such a ridiculous product.
  • It cant even do as much as thr RT tablet.
  • Haha! Is this a joke? $1300? I just bought the Samsung Ativ tablet with windows 8 for $549.. Yeah.. Full blown OS that can do everything including browsing the web.
  • I read the article and immediately thought Google was making the case for Microsoft and the Surface. That and the first bonehead that shows up to an ISO meeting with one of these things is gonna get slapped up side his head.
    This, in the end has got to be a vanity product for Google as I can't really see any OEMs clamoring to build and market this thing.
  • Looks like a very expensive digital internet connected picture frame to me.
  • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Thank you! I was looking for a good way to describe this. If it wasn't Google, I'd be saying this thing is going to cost somebody their job. But Google will figure a way to celebrate this thing successful or not.
  • +10000000
  • I guess now its the google who smoke the weed. I mean really? I guess I'll choose surface RT over chromebook you can buy 2 of those with that price and you have an offline MS office too.
  • I smoke plenty of weed and have never thought that buying something like this POS is a good idea.
  • Dude, what they're smoking is MUCH stronger than weed. Looks to me like they're smoking ceasium mixed with uranium...
  • Chrome book is nice concept, nice to browse internet, i am sure most of the people use laptops at home to browse the net, i have CR48, the initial chrome book that Google gave it for free, the problem with the one i have is i can't watch 720P videos, its choppy like playing a slide show, if Google can figure out how to play 1080P videos on the cheaper (200 to 300$) chrome books that would be great. if you want to play 1080P videos then you need to beef up the hardware then it gets expensive, then i start thinking why can't i get a windows laptop for the same price.
  • wait when I saw this I thought it was aboslute joke?  who would actually buy this?  Then I found out it was real....someone at google is really going off the deep end.
  • USB 2.0?
  • 2.0 is the future man 3.0 is for sissies.
  • Google has lost his mind... this is a crap thing... please...
  • my thoughts gone cray
  • Google has lost their minds with this.  They are trying to out Apple Apple on prices.  Go to any of the apple centric sites right now and you will see Apple fanboys arguing that the Macbooks have better specs, better price, and run more programs than this Chromebook.  Seriously, the irony is hilarious.
  • The iSheep are probably pissed off that their stuff isn't more costly than the pixel... Probably really pissed them off that there is a better product out there now, since price clearly dictates quality and cool/hip ness.
  • One has amazing resolution and LTE, other is crap.
  • I think this guy is a troll everything he writes is negative. Why is surface pro crap?
  • Because for a tablet not to have lte / 3g or any kind of carrier connection is the stupidiest decision MSFT ever made
  • Fact: Most people don't use embedded 3G/4G in tablets. It was researched by Microsoft (and they explained this on Reddit). Only 1/3 of tablets sold have 3G/4G and out of those only about 1/3 were used regularly. You need to realize that your needs don't necessarily represent the market's, hence why most tablets don't have this feature.
  • Thank you for this comment you saved me the time and effort :)
  • You dont think even for one second that maybe your opinion is just... Your opinion? I have a surface rt and never need a cell connection lol
  • The vast majority of people need to realize that about their opinions. ;-)
  • I could understand that point of view for the surface rt but surface pro is a work machine hybrid or not how many laptops you know come with lte on board. That's a nonsensical statement if you already have a mifi or a 4g stick just plug it in....
  • Maybe some of us do not want to pay for yet another overpriced data plan.  Especially with tablets/laptops, WiFi is perfectly good enough for more users.
  • Oh we get how such a feature can be useful for some, no argument there. None of us are saying it's useless or stupid. But when mass producing a device and keeping costs in check comes into the equation, you either (1) Add 2 more SKUs (with and without 3G) or (2) keep just two SKUs and raise the cost for everyone, even though the majority won't use that feature. The thing is, basically no one is calling the Surface Pro a "failure" because of this one missing feature. It's hyperbole.
  • With the amount of money your dropping on this I think a mifi is in your price range... Get a cheap winrt tablet and it can still do more than this thing.
  • Most of us have real jobs the provide us with mifi, etc by default as a part of our corporate agreement with cellular carriers. GET A REAL JOB! MY COMPANY PROVIDE ME WITH ONE EVEN THOUGH I ONLY USE IT A FEW TIME A YEAR. GET WITH THE PROGRAM DUDE
  • Is your job hiring? Should i forward my resume my job doesnt give me shit but a crappy dell laptop that shits out so often me and i.t guy crack jokes about the ancient tech... Pretty bad when my strictly work laptop is older then my mothers desktop...
  • And no mifi or 4g sticks either... We have wifi in office and i have wifi home
  • You have a cell? Just do internet sharing. Its just as good and cheaper, at least with my carrier (bell) and relatively very few times I don't have wifi
  • Unlimited data with tethering for the win!! :P
  • I have an iPad retina and I just your internet sharing on my 4g phone. This way I don't have to buy an extra plan for a device that isn't always on like my phone. Also there are so many free WiFi hotspots in my area I don't even have to tether that much.
  • 3g/4g is worthless to me. Not a stupid decision in the slightest. My only gripe was screen size. Needed to be a bit bigger...steps in yoga 13. :D. Just wish screen resolution was the same as the surface
  • Well you can buy a USB device from any 3g or 4g provided and plug it in.. it will work... none of the android tablets can do that i think.
  • Maybe he likes the Leapfrog kid computer aka the chrome thingy.
  • Hiiiiiiiii = Troll
  • Wow, you really are a troll.
  • One has more functionality and a better price. Take the money you save and get a hotspot and still be ahead of the Google Pixel or whatever they decide to call it. The only advantage is the insane screen but that's it. Don't you got anything better to do?
  • One has very high resolution Google Docs, the other has software.
  • Don't forget the other still has the ability to use Google docs, if for some reason you wanted to use it over skydrives web apps
  • One is a computer, the other less than an oversized phone Dumb products for dumb people, indeed
  • AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH did they legalize weed in California? Google is smoking a sh8 load of it.
    ChromeOS is not a touch centric OS; they will need to add a touchscreen UI for this to work, and then they will have a hybrid OS like Windows 8 is. But at this point it makes ZERO sense when you can buy a real laptop for that price that does infinitely more.
    ChromeOS should pander to the netbook crowd - low priced machines for basic tasks like browsing, doing emails, a few games.
    I don't see anyone paying this much for a device that is limited in capability.
    Maybe if ChromeOS could do more locally and allows client side application installation that would make sense but it would need a pretty large library of software.
    This competes with ipad (ios), surface (windows rt) so the price should be around that market $500 or less. But they overspec'd the resolution so the price is going to be high, unfortunately they think it can compete with $1000 high end laptop market where it simply will be a huge failure.
  • Looks like shit, probably is shit.
    Gonna buy a new laptop this summr with W8, i want a touch screen! Good solutions ?
  • im waiting for samsung series 7 ultra. Light, thin, powerful ultrabook with a better gpu than intel 4000. If you dont play games, i would go for Yoga. Best ultrabook available atm. If you really need portability or tablet form, surface Pro. Just make sure anything you buy comes with touchscreen. it´s another level of experience with win8.
  • I couldn't agree more on the portability point. I'm in and out of meetings all day, and am anxiously awaiting my March 1st Surface Pro. It'll replace the HP EliteBook I've been using for two years. I just wish the Wedge had gesture support. They'll hopefully add it soon. A dock would be nice as well.
  • The Dell XPS 12 convertible is nice too. Has a 1080p touch screen, carbon fiber body, and great battery life. I checked it out the other day. I though the hinge would be kind of flimsy but it's actually quite sturdy.
  • I'm a proud owner of the XPS 12, and am tickled pink with it.  I use it as a laptop at work, a tablet around the house, flip it back and forth during school (because it looks cool, and Amazon Kindle & websites work great in portrait tablet) and "tent" it in bed to watch Netflix.  Very sturdy hinge, beautiful screen.
  • Two of my friends have the Lenovo Yoga and they like it so far. Personally, if I weren't going for the Surface Pro then I would probably go for the Dell XPS 12. I like its conversion method the best. The Yoga is nice but it feels weird to have the keys on the back when its in tablet mode.
  • Same thing the type keyboard feels like, except you can remove the type cover
  • It has been pointed out that you can reverse the attachement of the keyboard so, whilst the keyboard is still atached, your fingers will actually be in contact withthe back of the keyboard!
  • I just bought the yoga after I played with all of the devices. Came down to surface and yoga. Yoga won. Costco has one for 999. Comes with 1 yr accidental warranty, folio cover, and kasperky software. Best deal I found
  • Also Best Buy has them on clearance. One store was trying to sell their last one (display unit) for 820 and the manager mentioned he was willing to take off more off that price! I told my sister but she passed on it and I don't have the money :(
  • This only exists because Google execs didn't want to walk around with a cheap looking Chromebook.
  • Prolly
  • Lol
  • LOL!!!!!!!!!! GOOGLE IS AN IDIOT!!!! LMFAO!!!
  • I was gonna comment then I realized you Daniel, covered everything lol
  • Well no . . . you actually did comment . .
  • Not sure why Google is doing this... Their OS is no where near as good as Win 8 Pro...
  • It is essentially a browser with apps
  • I think they are aiming to win the worst gadget of the year for the second year in a row. Last year it was the Nexus Q, and this overpriced gizmo is a strong candidate for 2013.
  • they are kidding right?
  • I bet Google will be sending out quite a few RMAs.
  • Ahahahahah!!! WTF! 1300$ to browse the Internet!!!
  • Nicely written Daniel. Google glass intrigues me, this however, does not. If i went ultrabook/tab MS will get my $
  • Google, if you are reading this, fire your project manager that gave you the idea of making this heap of shit. You seriously think you will sell a $1,300 web-based 'sandboxed' toy? Seriously? You guys are fu**ing retarded.
  • LMAO! Google is retarded they think people are dumb.
  • In America, people ARE dumb. That's why apple is still selling the feature-less iPhone here and almost nowhere else.People in other countries simply wont shell out significant amounts of cash for a status symbol. They have common sense over there.
  • True but look at how much Apple markets their products. Specifications isn't everything. Look at the amount of advertising Samsung does as well and look at the amount of phones (or products in general) they move just because they have become a household name...
  • I disagree somewhat as, I have not once owned an iPhone. That said you are mostly correct :D
  • Apple ha craze all over world.... 5 of my friends use iPhone jus bcoz its iPhone from Apple... This is in India
  • Well, it does come with 1 TB of Google Drive storage which normally costs $50/month for 3 years.  So if we do the math, 50 x 36 it comes out to 1800 so this might actually be a tempting buy for something who already was planning on using that much cloud storage.  That being said, there aren't many people who were planning on paying $50/month for 1 TB of cloud service.
  • So why wouldn't someone just buy a 1TB hardrive, hook it up to a server, and be done with all that cloud crap??
  • This way, Google can go sifting through your data to provide you with relevant ads! Hooray!!! I hate Google...
  • And when your free time period is up, have fun transferring that TB of data somewhere else. That should only take several days to download.
  • So this leaves Windows as the only OS that has no laptop with a 'Retina' level of display.
  • So? That does not merit $1300 for a damn browser.
  • Yes it's overpriced, but it's got an incredible screen. And no 1080p is no longer industry leading. If you've actually used a Retina MacBook Pro you'd never say 1080p is enough for you. You should check it out and see how Apple makes OS X handle the incredible resolution whilst keeping everything perfectly visible and not at all tiny. 
  • Eh, I'll be honest: I have the Acer S7 (1920x1080P) and the Yoga (1600x900). Sure there's a difference, but is it night and day for everyday tasks? I honestly can't say that it is.
  • You're confusing straight up high resolution with what Apple does with Retina. If you're keen on learning about it I suggest you read this highly informative piece from Anandtech on the software side of Retina display on a MacBook.
  • If it is good enough for my television which has much more screen realestate then it is good enough for my laptop. How crisp are they trying to get, real life crisp??
  • "Retina" is a term that was made up by Apple.  There are plenty of Windows tablets/laptops with 1080p screens.  The only way I can see a pixel is if I stick the screen up to my face.  Seems like "retina" to me.
  • Either way this is a browser with web apps lol not a real PC.
  • By Retina I mean over ~220PPI display without shrinking everything down so much that you need a microscope. It's how the OS handles the resolution. Currently Windows 8 sucks at handling high DPI.
  • Panasonic made a 4k tablet with Windows 8 on sporting an i5. That's like "Retina" on steroids lol.
  • It'll be interesting to see how Windows 8 handles that resolution.
  • Yes it will be indeed. I was a bit surprised when they released it at the CES show.
  • Think the chrome is peeling off...
  • Lol
  • This is really funny and perplexing stuff. Google is off their rockers if they think people who aren't Google fanatics are going to buy this. People complaining about the price of the Surface Pro better tear this one apart becasue $1300 is astronomical for what is neutered computer, and an ugly one at that. Its a big grey brick.
  • Lol
  • Watch as the tech press collectively wet their pants and proclaim this the best Ultrabook ever invented.
  • I don't doubt it
  • ^This.
  • Help us all. I bet this sells well and people will still complain about the price of the Surface RT and Pro.
  • Eww (not the device, but Google and the OS)
  • $1,299+,...GTFOH!!!
  • Definitely interesting, however, it is really over priced! The most it