Status

Let’s spend a minute talking about status symbols. In every culture, certain things become elevated as carrying value and importance above and beyond themselves. In more heroic times, a scar denoted meritorious service in battle. Being fat in the dark ages was as good a symbol of wealth as Gucci handbags are today. Fashionable accessories are status symbols today, which is as clear a sign as any that ours is a materialistic and wealth obsessed culture. Harsh, maybe, but not all status symbols are as vain. 
 
Gadgets have long been status symbols, as far back as the Motorola brick phones, and further back to color televisions and FM radios. Technology itself is insufficient to be a status symbol, though, because while a $1200 purse will remain unattainable for the masses, every technological bauble will eventually be mass produced and sold at Walmart. For a gadget to be a status symbol it needs more than just hardware and software, though missing on either of those can be crippling. Status symbols are sexy. They’re unique, though that quality is often short-lived. And, they’re expensive. The Motorola StarTac was a status symbol. The HP LaserJet 1200 was a status symbol. Sony’s earliest HDTVs were status symbols. And then, of course, there’s Apple. Apple breeds status symbols. Every category they’re involved in is trendsetting in style, provides a laudable user experience, and commands a premium over their competitors. 
 
Google, is almost utterly absent from the lengthy list of status symbols. To some degree, that has been part of the company’s ethos. Their goal has been to provide users with the best user experience possible, and at the best price possible, which is as often as not: free. Making something free can really boost early uptake, but it doesn’t make for a good status symbol. Even Google’s Nexus line has really only built status symbols for the gadget inclined, I doubt my wife could spot a Galaxy Nexus from across a room, let alone the Nexus 4. Google is a services company. They develop search tools, mail clients and cloud-based solutions. They help you keep your schedule, catalog your work and life, find a decent Chinese take-out near by, and play some Angry Birds while you wait for your order to be ready. They’re useful, essential even, but boring, and unlikely to sell something that you crave in an entirely illogical and excessive manner. Right? 

It ships in a typically minimalistic box. I don’t mean typical for Google, I mean typical for an industry that has learned that gaudy packaging is more likely to hinder than help sales. Though it looks like you’d push one recessed end of the package out to slide the box from its sleeve, entry is actually made by lifting a flap held in place by magnets. I’m a cheap date when it comes to packaging. Magnets will always win me over. Once revealed, the grey slab is irresistible. It wins you over before it does anything but sit there. The exposed hinges are masked by a silver barrel that runs the width of the device. The aluminum is cold to the touch, and the only flourish is the LED strip lower down the lid, dormant, but nonetheless exciting for its potential. It’s lighter than you expect when you lift it, and feels solid; not simply in the sense of its rigidity, it feels like a block of aluminum weighing just north of 3 pounds. Right angles abound but are softened with chamfered edges making it comfortable to hold and touch. Its meager thickness is uniform across its length, and the weight is similarly balanced, avoiding the rearward bias of other notebooks. Almost without thought I find myself torquing and flexing against the device; my hands struggling to elicit a single creak or bend from the frame. Setting it down and lifting the lid, it boots in a breath, and reveals an image so rich with detail I’m drawn closer to get a better look. Chromebook or not, the Pixel is a status symbol. And I want it.
Context and Design Why Not Android?
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  • cjb110 - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Excellent review, would be perfect for my intend usage...just need to be able to afford one:) Reply
  • Adhib - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Why don't you just get one of the Samsung Chromebooks? Reply
  • jeffkro - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    They're ok, but the screen resolution kind of stinks. Reply
  • xyzzy1 - Friday, June 14, 2013 - link

    I'd rather buy the mackbook and run windows on it. Overall better specs and better overall build quality. Reply
  • Belard - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Wow... I know I read it before... but still... the thing has far higher resolution than my 24" display.

    Even thou its a desktop and twice the distance away from my eyes... I can see the jaggy pixels on my 24" monitor that I cannot see with my Android phone or a modern tablet.

    Its good to see something going against the dead-end Windows platform.

    Interesting thou... and funny in a way, Dailytech is a malware site?
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    What? 'Dead-end windows platform'? Yeah ok.

    This might have a higher resolution than your 24" screen but which has more 'working' space...
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Saturday, June 01, 2013 - link

    This might compete with expensive Apple hardware, but it's not a direct competitor to Windows-based Ultrabooks/Ultrathins. Maybe if it was $500 cheaper. The display is awesome, the chassis is pretty, but that's it. The memory is on the low side, and is not upgradeable. The internal storage (fairly fast) is very limited and also not replaceable. The CPU is inferior even to the one in the Air. Etc.

    There's little chance anyone who has the word "affordable" in their vernacular would buy this over an Ultrabook. I don't personally think browserOS is all that great anyway, but if you're going to buy a Chromebook the cheap ones are the way to go. If Google was really out to help the open source community (like they pretend to be, meanwhile using them like any other tool), they would have built their own flavor of Linux with Google Happyware integrated and would use that instead.
    Reply
  • Selden - Saturday, June 01, 2013 - link

    Alexrvb: The CPU spec is identical to that in the 13" Macbook Air: 1.8 i5 @ 1.7gHz, with Intel® HD Graphics 4000. Reply
  • jeffkro - Monday, June 03, 2013 - link

    Have you used chrome OS? Its extremely lightweight and doesn't need much in the way of cpu and memory. Its even blazing fast on a celeron 847. Reply
  • JDG1980 - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    "So, how do you cope 4 million pixels and just 4GB RAM? In this case, the first step is to render all pages at 1280 x 800, unless HiDPI assets are available. The final product is upscaled to the full 2560 x 1600, but the memory doesn’t take nearly the punishing you might expect; unless, of course, every site you visit has HiDPI assets."

    So you're not even getting sharper text, just blurry low-res text upscaled? That sucks. What's the point of having a HiDPI display at all?

    I'm not at all impressed with the notion of a browser-only OS. It is not and never will be enough for serious users. And I don't want Google to be monitoring every single thing I do on my local PC. "The cloud" can go take a flying leap.
    Reply

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