Pixel Perfect: Get to Know the Google Pixelbook 12in

Key Points

  • Although the Google Pixelbook 12in is discontinued, it's still worth purchasing if you prefer ChromeOS.

  • The 4-in-1 design and light weight make the Pixelbook easy to use and transport.

  • The Pixelbook Pen turns the Pixelbook into a functional drawing tablet, which is great for artists and for taking notes.

  • It has full Android compatibility and can support almost any application you use on your Android smartphone.

When purchasing a laptop, it's vital to know all you can about the many options out there. Are you going to use your computer for gaming or just watching movies and writing documents? The operating system you need will depend on the answer. If you've narrowed your interests to computers that run ChromeOS, chances are you use a Pixel phone — or another Google device — and want easy integration with your smartphone and other devices. In that case, the Google Pixelbook 12in might be the perfect fit for you.

This article will guide you through the specifics of the Google Pixelbook 12in to help you decide if it's the right laptop for your needs.

History of Google Pixelbooks

Google released its first laptop, the Chromebook, in 2011. It had low specs and was useful for students because it easily connected to many schools' computer systems. Google's attempt at a higher-quality Chromebook, called the Chromebook Pixel, came out in 2017. This device showcased premium hardware in a small package.

The Chromebook Pixel was discontinued, and soon after in 2017, Google released the next product in their Pixel line: the even more innovative Google Pixelbook 12in. It came with a 4-in-1 design, a new tethering feature, and a pressure-sensitive pen.

Google wanted to convince Chromebook manufacturers to lean into the convertible feature, which other companies were putting into practice: a laptop that turns into a tablet. Google hoped to exponentially grow Chromebook usage by staying up-to-date with new trends.

They also wanted to impress manufacturers with the pen's functionality, which was an answer to the trend already set by both Microsoft and Apple. Staying current with technology such as the 4-in-1 design and the use of a stylus or pen was vital to maintain consumer loyalty to ChromeOS products.

The success of the Pixelbook led to the creation of Google smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and software geared toward users who prefer the Pixel brand. But new Pixelbooks are no longer being manufactured. The device was succeeded by the Pixelbook Go in 2019 — a slightly cheaper laptop that still gives you the high-quality feel you'd expect from a Pixel product.

You can, however, still find Pixelbooks in 2022. This article will guide you through the computer's specs and whether it's worth the price.

Specifications

The Google Pixelbook 12in is a high-performance Chromebook designed for power users who require more than what a regular Chromebook offers. It has a much sharper and brighter display than its original Chromebook predecessor and a larger, more responsive touchpad. The CPU is more powerful, allowing it to handle heavier workloads so you can multitask with ease.

Read on to learn more about what this laptop has to offer.

Google Headquarters sign

Design and Display

The Pixelbook has a 4-in-1 design, allowing it to adjust to a laptop mode, a tablet mode, a tent mode, and an entertainment mode.

The 12.3" display is a 360-degree touchscreen and has a pixel count of 2400 x 1600 with nearly quad-HD capability. It also has varying brightness, with the highest brightness function at 421 nits, giving it a very vivid color. While this computer may not be extremely visible in brightly lit places, it is bright enough to use in average lighting. This laptop's refresh rate is 60 hertz.

It weighs about 2.45 lbs and has a thickness of 10.3 mm, making it very slim and light. It's great for traveling, and using it while on the go is even easier thanks to its four modes.

It features an aluminum frame that is glossy and reflective. The "G" logo on the cover announces to everyone that your computer is a high-end Google product. While it isn't incredibly customized or stylish, it matches the much sought-after minimalist style for which Apple MacBooks are known.

The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, a protective glass surface that prevents damage from scratching, cracking, and scuffing.

The keyboard is backlit and full-sized with even spacing and decent travel. What does decent travel mean? The keys are well-rounded and very easy to use. The trackpad is large and responsive, supporting all the gestures you'd expect from a high-quality Google laptop.

Processor, Memory, and Storage

The Pixelbook comes with a 7th Generation Intel Core i5 or i7 depending on which model you purchase, as well as either 8GB or 16 GB of RAM. The RAM and core processor allow you to use the laptop with an external monitor with very few delays in the display.

It has a solid-state drive with 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of space. You can always add extra storage with a microSD card.

The Pixelbook uses Intel HD Graphics 615, which is an integrated graphics card, launched in August 2016. The GPU operates at a frequency of 300 MHz and can be boosted to 850MHz. This device supports DirectX 12, so all modern games will run with this GPU. However, games may require a higher-quality GPU to run smoothly.

Sensors

The Pixelbook comes equipped with a three-axis gyroscope/accelerometer, a magnetometer, an ambient light sensor, and a magnetic sensor.

The three-axis gyroscope/accelerometer measures angular rates and is often integrated as one computer part. This part allows protects your computer from damage to the hard drive. If you drop the laptop, the gyroscope/accelerometer will sense that the device is traveling at too high of a speed and turns the HDD off. If the HDD is off before it hits the ground, it's less likely to incur irreparable damage.

The magnet sensor serves as a magnetic lock that tells your computer that you have shut the lid. It then goes into hibernation or sleep mode and renders the screen dark.

The magnetometer helps your Pixelbook determine location, and more specifically, the orientation when used with a compass or map application.

The ambient light sensor adjusts the brightness of the LCD panel based on the amount of light in the room around you.

Google Pixelbook 12in top down view

Connectivity

The Pixelbook has impressive charging capabilities. Plug it in for 15 minutes and you get up to two hours of use. That's fast!

There are two USB-C ports, one 3.5mm audio jack, and a microSD card reader. The laptop is missing the standard USB-A port, so you'll need an adapter to use a device requiring the USB-A connection.

Operating System and Security

The Pixelbook comes equipped with ChromeOS, giving you automatic access to Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail, and YouTube.

The operating system updates automatically, ensuring your system is always equipped with the latest software technology and protected from viruses.

Battery Life

The Pixelbook's main selling point is its battery life. Google advertises that this laptop has around ten hours of battery life when used for browsing, movies, or working on documents.

While you can't take everything the company advertises at face value, you can expect ten hours of battery life or longer if your brightness is low and you're simply browsing the internet. However, if you have the brightness set high and are gaming or working in intensive applications such as Photoshop, then your battery life will be less than ten hours.

Audio

The Pixelbook's audio quality doesn't measure up to some of its competitors. Because the speakers are located in front of the keyboard, the sound gets easily muffled when the laptop is in tablet or entertainment mode.

Speed and Simplicity

Thanks to this computer's processing power, it's very fast. It's a great tool for browsing, multitasking, and even video or photo editing.

The laptop is extremely simple to use. The operating system might not be familiar to everyone, but if you've used Android devices, Windows devices, or Chromebooks before, you will know enough to hit the ground running.

Google Pixelbook 12in overview

ChromeOS

ChromeOS is an energy-efficient operating system with built-in antivirus protection and security. With ChromeOS, you work in the browser or by using applications from the Google Store.

Computers that run ChromeOS don't have complex installations thanks to the Google Store's ease of use and user familiarity.

You'll need a Google account to access the Pixelbook 12in so you can automatically access Google Maps, Google Drive, and Google Docs.

Pricing

The Pixelbook is available only at select retailers, and as of 2022, has been discontinued. However, if you manage to find it, a new model will cost either $849 for an Intel Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage, or $999 for an Intel Core i7, 16 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.

Extra Features

Extra features are always welcome in a laptop that costs you a pretty penny. Below are features that come with the Pixelbook or that can be easily added to or paired with it.

Google Pixelbook keyboard

Google Assistant

The Google Assistant is the linchpin of all things Google. It allows for voice-command accessibility of your devices. Need to set a reminder to pick up your dry cleaning? Need to play a certain song to set the mood? With the "OK Google" command, you can accomplish anything.

While Google phones have the Assistant built-in, on the Pixelbook, you activate it with an easily accessible key.

Keep in mind that if your Pixelbook is set up with an email address ending in .edu or was set up through a non-profit group or school, you may lose some of the Assistant functionality. These organizations tend to put restriction settings on Chromebooks that can only be removed with administrative permission.

Pixelbook Pen

The Pixelbook Pen, which is not sold with the laptop, helps you fully utilize everything this computer has to offer. The stylus has great pressure response and tilt support which makes the tablet mode easy to use for drawing, taking notes, and even coloring pictures.

Not only does the Pixelbook Pen have a handy Google Assistant button, it also incorporates Google Lens technology which is most often found in Google Pixel smartphones. The Google Assistant and Google Lens technology work hand in hand. For example, if you click the Assistant button and circle a photo of a Nike shoe, Google will present you with the Nike Wikipedia page or various resources about that shoe.

The pen can even be voice-activated by using the familiar "Hey, Google" command. It's sleek, stylish, and makes using the tablet mode much easier than simply using your fingers.

There are a few downsides to consider. The pen does not attach to the laptop in any way, so it requires a pen loop or a carrying case. It is also not rechargeable and runs on AAAA batteries which you must periodically replace.

Apps

Pixelbook makes it easy to install Android apps through the Google Play Store. This is especially helpful if you have an Android phone with games that you like to transfer to a larger screen.

Google Pixelbook edge

Why Pixelbook Is Preferred by Schools

Schools prefer laptops that have ChromeOS, like the Pixelbook, due to how well-equipped they are for distance learning. Chromebooks were updated during the COVID-19 pandemic so that screen recording is built into the operating system, which allows students and teachers to record their learning sessions.

Schools also use Google Classroom and Google Workspace for Education, which works natively on the Pixelbook's ChromeOS.

All Chromebooks have built-in settings that make them accessible, such as the ChromeVox screen reader, high-contrast theme choices, audio customization options, and even dictation features.

Built-in security means that students won't need to worry about viruses or keeping an antivirus program up-to-date. Better yet, because this security is native to the operating system, schools don't need to pay extra for it, making the Pixelbook more cost-effective.

Because Pixelbooks have special censorship settings that schools can set, they increase students' productivity. Computers that run ChromeOS boot up faster, so even if a student's computer crashes, they can very quickly return to work.

Product Review

Understanding the pros and cons of the device you're thinking of buying can ensure you choose the right one for you. Never buy a laptop without researching it, lest you wind up with something that can't do what you need it to.

How does the Pixelbook measure? Here is a handy list of pros and cons to help you make your decision.

Pros:

  • Sleek, stylish design that gives you a big bang for your buck

  • Has full Android support for applications

  • Highly functional, quiet, and easy-to-use keyboard

  • Excellent stylus support

Cons:

  • No biometric login or lock, leaving the computer vulnerable

  • Pen, which makes tablet mode easier to use, is sold separately

Pixelbook Go

If you're still having trouble deciding whether the Pixelbook is right for you, get to know its successor, the Pixelbook Go. It has 12 hours of battery life to the Pixelbook's 10. According to Ben Janofsky, Senior Product Manager of Hardware at Google, "[W]hether you’re running to a class or a meeting, the grippable [sic] design of Pixelbook Go makes it easy to carry, and up to 12 hours of battery life keeps the laptop running as long as you are."

This laptop also has two colors, pink and black, and an even bigger screen sizing up at 13.3". If budget is your main concern, the price tag of the Pixelbook Go is slightly more affordable than the Pixelbook 12in (MSRP: $649).

Google Pixelbook and Play Store on mobile device

Final Thoughts

The Google Pixelbook was the first high-performance Chromebook worth its salt. It is up to par with most high-end Windows and Mac laptops and 2-in-1 devices.

It's a great tool for students, photo or video editors, and artists who need more functionality than a regular drawing tablet gives them. The Pixelbook Pen has impressive pressure sensitivity and feels just like a real pen.

Multi-taskers and power users who enjoy ChromeOS will love this laptop thanks to its speed, 4-in-1 design, and built-in Google Assistant.

The Google Pixelbook was discontinued, as was the entire Pixelbook line, in 2022. However, if you do find a Pixelbook available for purchase, it will offer you an innovative design and superior performance. You won't be disappointed.