Even without the crashes, I wasn’t getting tools such as spell-checking while offline. That’s not an issue when using Word or Apple’s Pages on other machines.
Beyond text documents, the Chromebook is able to view photos, PDFs and other files, just like any other computer. It can also read files in Microsoft’s Word and Excel formats, though you must convert them to Google Docs to make changes.
And obviously, it can browse the Web. I successfully paid credit card bills, bought magazines and watched Hulu video on the Pixel. I was able to read an e-book on Amazon’s Web-based Kindle app, too.
But there are limits, particular when sites require plug-ins that aren’t available for the Chromebook.
And while I was able to write this story on a Chromebook, our publishing system isn’t compatible with it.
Chromebooks are ideal for those who have steady Internet access and do most of their computing on Web browsers. But those people may be fine with one of the other, much cheaper Chromebooks. One is the $249 Samsung Chromebook, which I have tried and like for simple tasks when Internet access isn’t an issue.
If you need a machine as powerful as the Pixel, you might also need an operating system that can do more, especially when offline.
Google executive Caesar Sengupta admits that Chromebook owners might still have to turn to a Windows or Mac computer now and then. In many ways, it reminds me of the early days of the Mac, when most software was written only for Windows.
That makes the Pixel expensive for a machine that can’t serve as your sole computer. At $1,299, I'd rather spend another $200 for a MacBook with a high-resolution display and four times the storage, at 128 gigabytes. You don’t get a touch screen with the MacBook, but frankly, I didn’t use the Pixel’s touch controls even once during my Asia trip.
On the other hand, Sengupta told me that selling Pixels isn’t Google’s main goal with the machine. Rather, the company made it to showcase Google’s vision for the future of computing. In that case, Google has succeeded in producing a machine that is a pleasure to use — as long as you’re online.
About the Chromebook Pixel:
The device represents Google’s entry into the high-end laptop market. It runs Google’s Chrome OS operating system, which largely assumes you'll have round-the-clock Internet access. You can still work with the device offline, but functionality is limited.
The basic model costs $1,299 and comes with 32 gigabytes of storage. For $1,449, you get 64 gigabytes and LTE connectivity through Verizon Wireless. Both models come with a terabyte of online storage through Google Drive for three years, a $1,800 value at $50 per month. Not everyone will need as much storage, and Google Drive offers free and cheaper plans.
The pricier Pixel model also offers 100 megabytes a month of LTE cellular data access through Verizon Wireless for two years.
If you need more, you can buy a day pass with unlimited data for $10. Or you can buy 1 gigabyte of data for $20, 3 GB for $35 or 5 GB for $50. Those are good for a month. If you’re a Verizon customer with a plan for sharing data allotments over multiple devices, you can add the Pixel for just $10 a month.
The Pixel is sold through Google’s online Play store and Best Buy’s website.
Anick Jesdanun, deputy technology editor for The Associated Press, can be reached at njesdanun(at)ap.org.