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Chromebook Reviews #1: The Cream of the Crop- Chromebook Pixel

     Around 1995, my Dad purchased the family our first computer. It was a Compaq and it was amazing. I could play games like Warcraft, write papers at home, and surf the internet using AOL. The internet opened up all kinds of new possibilities for me. In fact, I used the internet to purchase a new processor and additional RAM for the Compaq so I could play better games and do things faster. I didn't tell my Dad what I had done until afterwards. Thank goodness it worked!

The Internet has opened up new roads for me throughout my life and I am grateful for it. You might wonder what this has to do with this review of the Chromebook Pixel. Chromebooks are personal computers that use only ChromeOS. This means it's a internet browser based operating system and therefore using the Internet opens up all kinds of new worlds for the user just like it did on my first computer back in 1995. Using a Chromebook offline limits what can be done, but I would argue that this is true of all computers today.  

The Internet is what really makes computing what it is today. Please keep this in mind as you read these reviews about Chromebooks and in you decision to purchase one or not. A Chromebook will satisfy the needs the majority of people in the world for a computer. Further, it will complete internet based tasks more quickly than any other computer in it's price range. That brings us to the Creme del a Creme of the Chromebook world and Google's own Pixel.

For those who prefer video reviews, click and enjoy!

The Pixel-Hardware

Google created the Pixel as a reference device for what you could do with ChromeOS, also created by Google. Pixels are most often used by Google's own employees, and the major reason for that is the Price. The Pixel starts at $999 with an option of upgrading to $1299. This price point is in Mac territory, and if you are considering a Mac, you should consider a Pixel.  

The Pixel runs on either an i5 or i7 Intel processor with either 8 or 16 GB of RAM. For those who have used a Chromebook before that seems insane at first, until you use it. Below you can see the full specs of both Apple's new Macbook and the Chromebook Pixel 2015. While Apple's Macbook is all about slimness and portability, Google's Chromebook is about getting things done quickly.  

The Pixel has Apple worthy hardware complete with a backlit buttery smooth keyboard, a gorgeous, super high resolution, 13in touch screen, excellent track pad, and durable metal exterior. The Pixel is square in its presentation, but it still looks great. If you are a fan of Apple hardware, you will love this as well.

The Pixel comes with a couple of new USB Type-C connectors. These are the future of USB and you will start seeing them everywhere. What is great about them is that they can transfer data at up to 10 mps, though the connectors on the Pixel are only rated for 5 mbs. Further, they allow you to charge your device, connect to external drives and displays, and the are reversible.  This means it doesn't matter what direction you plug them in!  It's super awesome and I cannot wait for Type-C to be everywhere. The other great part about the Pixel is that there are two of these connectors so you can charge from either side.  You also get to regular USB 3.0 connectors and a SD card slot.

The Pixels speakers are just fine. They lack bass, as most laptop speakers do, but I typically use headphones if I'm doing any important listening.  The Pixel's microphone array is solid and people have said I sound clear on the other end. The webcam worked well for me and was plenty clear for the Hangouts I do.  It's only 720p, but you could always hook up a better one if you needed to. 

For this review I purchased the LS or Ludicrous Speed $1299 model. However, I believe that the $999 model would be more than capable for anyone for several years to come. One of the huge benefits of a Chromebook is that the continue to get free and quick updates for years. Because the hardware is so great on the Pixel you are likely not have to worry at all about getting a new computer for 4+ years, which is seldom the case anymore.

The Pixel- Experience

If you have ever used a Chromebook before, then you will be right at home on the Pixel. The biggest difference between using the Pixel and any other Chromebook is the speed. Everything is lightning fast. Of course if you have a slow connection to the Internet, your speed will be slower, but that is the case with any computer. The other difference between the Pixel and most other Chromebooks and computers in general is the screen.  

If you are someone who loves speed tests, here is one done by ArsTechnica:

The Pixel's screen is gorgeous and much higher resolution than other Chromebooks, but it has 2 other differences. First, the aspect ratio is 3:2 which makes it a little taller than most other computers today. This does mean that videos typically have bars on the top and bottom. However, the PIxel's screen is perfect for all other web content and something that I had no issues with at all. It's also incredibly bright. I often turned it down because it was too bright at times. This also saves on battery life.  

The second difference with the screen on the Pixel is that it is touchscreen. To be honest, it took me some time to get used to the touch screen and I don't use it all of the time. When I do use it, it makes perfect sense and works very well.  The Pixel supports pinching to zoom, scrolling, and touching.  

Battery life on the Pixel is superb. I usually get around 10 hours on a charge. This is far better than I get using my Macbook Pro from 2014 using Chrome. That computer is supposed to get 8-10 hours of battery life, but as Chrome can never be fully optimized for Mac OSX battery will always be an issue. Battery life is not an issue on the Pixel. 

Overall, I absolutely love the experience of using the Pixel, and you will too. The software is quick to update and it takes about 5 seconds to boot up. I also have been using some of the really awesome features built into ChromeOS. One of my favorites is Smart Unlock. Where I can use my phone to unlock my Chromebook by just having it next to the Pixel. This works on all Chromebooks, but I feel it's an amazing feature. I have a really long password for my Google Account and I that feature really saves me time and frustration. You should use it too. It does require an Android Phone running Android 5.0 Lollipop, but it's worth it.

The Pixel Bottom Line

This is hands down the best Chromebook you can buy. For regular people if you don't need any special software like Final Cut Pro or very specific Software Development Tools, the PIxel is an excellent choice if you have the money to spend. You will be happy you purchased it. I am in the beginning stages of learning to code and develop apps. However, I have found lots of choices to be able to do most of what I need to do so far online. I do have some offline Developer Tools, but since I have gotten the Pixel I haven't really needed to use them yet. I really see more IDE's (Integrated Developer Environments) going web based in the future as well. Once this happens there really won't be anything that you cannot do on a Chromebook. 

For teachers, if you are someone who usually looks at Macbooks, and you use Google for your Personal and Professional life, I say pull the trigger. Even if you need to use Microsoft, you can still do that with Office 365. If you need to use Adobe, there apps are now cloud based as well. There are products for nearly everything to counter the offline products. Many teachers don't' want to spend this kind of money on a computer. In that case there are a few other great options in the Chromebook world. They won't be nearly as nice, but they will still work. If you have a chance to use another person's Pixel, give it a try.  Just be warned that it might make you want to buy one!

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