Google's midrange premium Pixelbook Go: How it compares to other Chromebooks

Google's new Pixelbook Go is a representation of what Google's vision of hardware and software is together, but other Chromebooks are competitive on features and price.

Google announces new Pixel 4, Pixelbook Go, Nest Mini and Pixel Buds At its October event Tuesday, Google announced several new devices including Pixel Buds, Pixelbook Go, and the new flagship smartphone: the Pixel 4.

Google unveiled the Pixelbook Go, its internally-developed premium Chromebook, alongside the Pixel 4 at a hardware event in New York on October 15. Compared to the quite steep price of the 2017 Pixelbook, and the two models of Chromebook Pixel before it, Google is positioning the Pixelbook Go for the mid-market, with an introductory model priced at $649, rather than the $999 starting price of the original Pixelbook. 

SEE: 16 top laptops for business users in 2019 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Reaching that price point requires a significant rethink of the design, relying on more off-the-shelf parts, rather than the custom components that characterized previous models. There is quite a lot less to the Pixelbook Go generally, as the device lacks any type of expandable storage, as well as support for the Pixelbook Stylus.  

Pixelbook Go technical specifications

Display: 13.3'' touchscreen
Resolution: 1080p (166 ppi) or 4K "Ultra HD Molecular Display" (331 ppi) (for Core i7 SKU)
Processor: 8th Generation Intel Core m3, i5, or i7
RAM: 8 GB or 16 GB
SSD: 64, 128, or 256 GB
Camera: Front 1080p Duo Cam
Battery: Up to 12 hours
Height: 13.4mm (.5")
Weight: 2.3 lbs (1061g), 2.4 lbs (1090g) (on 4K-capable models)
Ports: 2 USB-C, 3.5 mm headphone jack

The Pixelbook Go is available in four configurations:

  • Intel Core m3, 8 GB RAM, 64 GB SSD, 1080p, $649

  • Intel Core i5, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD, 1080p, $849

  • Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD, 1080p, $999

  • Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, 4K, $1,399

What's missing from the Pixelbook Go?

Google's three previous Pixel-branded Chromebooks, as well as the Pixel C and Pixelbook Slate tablets, were heralded for including unique displays, with the Chromebook Pixel using a 2560×1700, 12.85" display, and the Pixelbook using a slightly smaller 12.3" display with a 2400×1600 resolution, and the Pixelbook Slate using a 12.3" 2000x3000 display, all of which are 2:3 aspect ratio displays. The Pixel C had a 10.2" 2560x1800 display, with a 1:√2 aspect ratio. These are, essentially custom parts, which characterized the Pixel brand, though added to the bill of materials for the devices.

The Pixelbook Go, for comparison, uses an off-the-shelf 13.3" 1080p display panel, with a 4K panel on the Intel Core i7-powered model. The 360° hinge of the Pixelbook is gone as well, making it in form, if not function, strikingly similar to the MacBook Air. Fortunately, the Pixelbook Go retains the touchscreen of previous Pixel devices.

Following the poor reception of the Celeron-powered Pixelbook Slate SKU, Google is offering only Intel Core m3, i5, and i7-powered versions for the Pixelbook Go. While other m3-powered Chromebooks perform admirably—the ASUS Chromebook Flip C434TA, for example, made CNET's Best Chromebooks for 2019 list—the processor is a trifle weak for using Chrome OS's Android app capabilities.

Should I buy the Pixelbook Go?

There are more than a few Chromebooks that deliver a better or equivalent experience for the $649 price point of the Pixelbook Go. Given that Google controls the Chrome OS experience, limiting the potential for OEMs to introduce bloatware to devices, these are perfectly equivalent options, there's less here to differentiate the Pixelbook Go from third-party devices compared to the added features on Pixel phones compared to Android as a while.

As is always the case when it comes to Chromebooks, this comes down to the utility of Chrome OS. If your workloads are mostly online—as is the case for most users—then Chrome OS is a workable option. If you rely on specific Windows or Mac programs, such as Photoshop or Lightroom, then the Pixelbook Go is probably not for you.

For more, check out "Google's Pixel 4, Pixel 4, Nest more about software, ambient system strategy over hardware" and "Google announces new Pixel 4, Pixelbook Go, Nest Mini, and Pixel Buds" at ZDNet.

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Image: James Martin/CNET