There’s no question that the Pixelbook Go is an impressive-looking device. Multiple reviewers have praised the product’s sleek build quality and carefully considered design, in addition to its unusual twelve-hour battery life. But for a laptop that starts at $650, it offers little in the way of features. Instead of the traditional, more powerful Windows or macOS operating systems, the Pixelbook Go runs Chrome OS, a platform designed to handle Google’s Chrome web browser and do little more. To its credit, the Pixelbook Go has the hardware chops to perform this task excellently, but its constrained featureset may leave prospective buyers skeptical of its practicality, particularly considering the expansive spate of options available at this price point.
Though the company is often praised for the build quality and design of its products, including its flagship Pixel line of smartphones, Google has been known to introduce consumer products that fail to take off in the competitive personal electronics market. Take, for instance, last year’s Pixel Slate, a ChromeOS tablet starting at $599 with a premium look and feel that offers even less functionality than the company’s laptops, especially without its optional $199 keyboard case or $99 Pixelbook Pen. Even though this expensive tablet runs Android apps, many are not optimized for the Pixel Slate, leading to an unreliable user experience when dealing with third-party software. The Pixel Slate supports split-screen multitasking, for instance, but many third-party apps are not yet compatible with this feature. While the product was nonetheless praised by reviewers for what it was, it was a commercial flop, and Google seems to have shifted its focus away from ChromeOS tablets towards laptops at least for the time being.
While the Go is significantly cheaper than Google’s premium version released earlier this year, its price point, at essentially twice the cost of Chromebooks by other manufacturers, puts the product into a class all of its own. For that additional price, consumers are treated to impressive hardware specs that ensure the task of browsing the web, even when using multiple tabs and accessing content-heavy sites, remains fast and smooth. Chrome on the Pixelbook Go runs about as well as it does on any other laptop on the market, with the exception of Google’s own, more expensive 2-in-1 hybrid Pixelbook. And the Go features a high-quality, 1080p display, which, combined with a battery life that lasts all day and then some, renders the device perfect for extended Netflix or Youtube binge sessions.
The problem with the Pixelbook Go is the existence of laptops running exactly the same software almost as well for half the price or less. For $299, Samsung’s take on the Chromebook concept features a display of the same resolution and a similar, attractive design, with specs that are likely more than adequate for the tasks one might seek to accomplish within the confines of the Chrome web browser. And for $100 less, Asus’s Chromebook C423 features a lower-resolution screen but can handle light web browsing with ease. Consumers willing to spend $650 on a laptop are likely better off purchasing one that features a full operating system like Windows or MacOS, rather than what is in essence little more than a stripped-down version of Android. At this price point, Windows laptops with similar specifications are abundant, including Microsoft’s own Surface Laptop, and while they may not share the attention to detail of the Pixelbook Go’s build quality, the boost in functionality their more sophisticated software environments offer more than makes up for it.
With all that being said, I still wouldn’t say the Pixelbook Go looks like a bad product. It’s simply one with an unclear market. While people who buy the Go are likely to be satisfied with their decision, the fact of the matter is that any number of better value propositions exist at and below its price point. As such, though it appears to be an acceptable device with some impressive specifications, it’s hard to recommend the Pixelbook Go to anyone when considering its alternatives.
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