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Google Pixelbook review: Android and Google Assistant transform the Chromebook

The Pixelbook is Google’s latest attempt to make the Chromebook cool. Despite two prior generations of flagship Chromebook Pixels and a handful of high-end copycats from other manufacturers, the Chromebook category remains in a rut. Typecast as cheap, disposable browsing machines or easily locked-down classroom computers, Google hasn’t figured out how to make the Chromebook essential in the same way the smartphone is for most people. 

Google’s answer is to make the Pixelbook more like a smartphone. It joins the growing list of Chromebook models that support Android apps. It’s also the first Chromebook to support Google Assistant, formerly available only on Android devices (and via an iOS app).

As you might guess from the Pixelbook’s name, some of its features work specifically with Google’s flagship Android phones. In the absence of Wi-Fi, for instance, it’ll be able to tether automatically to your Pixel phone, a welcome convenience that should be ready, Google says, by the time the laptops start shipping October 31. We’ll add our experiences with tethering once it comes online. 

For this review, I’ve looked at both the hardware and the software experiences. The hardware is brand-new and the software we tried was still in beta, so not everything worked as planned. I can confirm the Pixelbook is a fast, capable device—just like its ancestors—but that’s no longer enough. Joining forces with Android is probably the best shot Chromebooks have at becoming desirable hardware to mainstream users. Whether this strategy will actually work for the Pixelbook (and be broadly adopted by other Chromebook manufacturers) is still unknown.  

The Pixelbook hardware: Thin is in

Pixelbook tablet mode Adam Patrick Murray

The 360-degree hinge lets the Pixelbook flip easily over to tablet mode for the closest thing to a full Android experience. 

Even if the Pixelbook didn’t have a bunch of Android tie-ins, it would still be the nicest Chromebook you can buy: thin, light, and full of forward-looking features. You can see the specs and prices for all the SKUs in our original Pixelbook news story, but below I have details on our particular review unit. 

Price: $1,199

Dimensions: 11.4 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches. This is a very thin laptop that slips easily into your bag or under your arm. 

Weight: 2.4 pounds. This is lighter than usual compared to popular Windows 360-degree laptops, such as the latest HP Spectre x360 (2.8 pounds).

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