Pixelbook Go is the latest Chromebook designed by the team behind the Pixel 4 and Pixel Slate
Google has always struggled to convince us with its ChromeOS hardware – the original Google Pixel laptop was a stunning showcase mired by its limited operating system and eye-watering MacBook-esque price tag. With its follow-up, the PixelBook, Google refined the already-impressive hardware, but didn’t really address our biggest concerns about the software. As such, there were very few people we could recommend buy the £999 (or £1,699 for the maxed-out model) ChromeOS laptop.
Enter, Pixelbook Go.
The latest notebook from Google tackles all of our previous concerns head-on. First up, it’s cheaper – not cheap per se, but definitely more affordable than its predecessors – starting at £629 and rising to £1,329 for the top-end model. Google has also made some significant tweaks to ChromeOS to make it a more of a fully-fledged Windows 10 and macOS rival.
Of course, there are still circumstances when you’ll struggle to do everything you’d be able to do with a Windows 10 or Mac equivalent. Or more often than that, you’ll be able to do the tasks but it will be noticeably more finicky. That said, these occasions are less frequent than they’ve ever been with a ChromeOS machine.
In fact, they’re almost so infrequent with the Google Pixelbook Go, that it’s possible to actually recommend splashing-out £629 on this lightweight laptop.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE GOOGLE PIXELBOOK GO
Huawei MateBook X Pro
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
Apple MacBook Air 13-inch
Pixelbook Go review: Design
There’s something really likeable about the Pixelbook Go design. Lift the lid and there’s MacBook-esque feel about the design, especially in the Just Black finish, thanks to the little touches like the product name above the keyboard, the smidgen of travel on the rounded keys, the generous trackpad.
But this isn’t just another MacBook clone, Google has added its own spin. There is ribbed, rubberised pattern on the bottom that stops it sliding around on any surface. There is a touchscreen, something you’ll never find on a Mac. The widescreen aspect ratio on the 13.3-inch display also makes PIxelbook Go feel smaller and squatter than other notebooks in its size, like the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3, which has a 3:2 touchscreen.
Honestly, we’re a little torn on the display size. When watching movies on the move, there’s no need for black bars, so you’ll make the most of every pixel on offer. But when you’re powering through a Google Doc, like this very review, it can feel a little cramped – with so much wasted space either side of the page, but not a lot of room for the text itself.
The trackpad is good, but not revolutionary. It’s about equivalent to what you’ll get on most similarly-priced Windows laptops, twitchy at times and not quite precise enough to do any serious Photoshop edits without a mouse to hand. Speakers are fine. If you’re watching a trailer, they’ll do – but if you’re planning to listen to your favourite album, you’ll probably want to pair a Bluetooth speaker.
And finally, the keyboard. This is easily the single best part of the Pixelbook Go. Google calls the new design “Hush Keys” and it’s absolutely phenomenal. Seriously. In terms of travel, you’ll get a whisper more than what you’ll find on the ill-fated Butterfly-mechanism keys found on the MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro (Apple is phasing out the design, starting with its new 16-inch MacBook Pro, due to a number of issues with reliability), but without the same clackety-clunkety sound. As the name would suggests, these keys gently sigh as you hammer away on the keys. They’re precise, they’re bouncy, they’re awesome.
Flip open the lid and there’s something undeniably Macbook-like about the design
Google only offers two colours for the Pixelbook Go – Just Black and Not Pink
Pixelbook Go review: ChromeOS
A lot has changed from the early days of ChromeOS, when Google first suggested laptop users could do everything from within its immensely-popular browser, which currently accounts for more than 60 percent of all desktop traffic worldwide.
ChromeOS is lightweight and agile. You won’t notice a hint of a stutter as you zip between Docs and Gmail, while streaming a playlist on Apple Music
Of course, most of what you’ll do on the Pixelbook Go still takes place in the browser, but with ridiculously competent web apps like Google Docs, Sheets, Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Maps and Google Photos to hand, you’re not getting an inferior experience when it comes to productivity. In fact, you’re probably using at least one or two of these web apps on your Windows 10 or Mac already.
ChromeOS is lightweight and agile. Flipping open the lid of the Pixelbook Go instantly throws you back into whatever you were working on. You won’t notice a hint of a stutter as you zip between Docs and Gmail, while streaming a playlist on Apple Music.
Clearly, those aren’t the most taxing of tasks – and most similarly priced Windows machines would chew through the same workflow with ease. That said, if you’re looking to excise your inner Spielberg with an Ultra HD video editing project, you’re unlikely to be looking at buying a Pixelbook Go – not least because there simply aren’t the apps available to do that.
This is designed to be a lightweight, ultra-portable notebook for lightweight work. If you’re looking to answer emails, write-up notes from your latest lecture, watch some Netflix and put together a spreadsheet or two, Pixelbook Go handles all this with aplomb.
ChromeOS is pretty stable, too. We only had one occasion when the Pixelbook crashed. But even that wasn’t too much of a hassle, the windows refreshed automatically, all of our unsaved data returned unharmed and we were back up-and-running immediately. It’s not great that it happened, but it wasn’t anything close to the dealbreaker it could’ve been.
The £629 Pixelbook Go has a vivid, pixel-packed display that responds well to touch
Since the launch of the original Pixel laptop, Google has incorporated Android apps into ChromeOS. This is a huge change and makes the entire operating system feel so much more fleshed-out. If you already use an Android smartphone or tablet, you can immediately download all of your favourites during the set-up process – so Spotify, Pocket Casts, Snapseed, Apple Music, Instapaper, Netflix, and more while be ready as soon as it boots.
Most of these apps can be used in fullscreen mode, where they will take on the same appearance as they would running on a tablet in a landscape orientation, or in a window – as if they were native apps built specifically for the ChromeOS software. It’s pretty impressive and seriously elevates what the Pixelbook Go can do.
So, if you’ve got a few smart lightbulbs at home – you’ll be able to change the colour of your favourite lamp with a few taps from the Google Home app while you work, or you can export photos from your latest outdoor adventure using the brilliant GoPro app, or play a number of addictive mobile games when you’re done with work for the day.
The final word on ChromeOS is that it’s a much better optimised for touch. Although most Windows 10 notebooks sport a touchscreen, Microsoft seems to be focused on mouse users when it comes to the design of the operating system – using infuriatingly small menus in the File Explorer that will have you tearing out your hair before you select the right option. Google has done a much better job with ChromeOS, likely due to its shared heritage with its hugely-successful Android operating system. That said, while scrolling down a webpage feels pretty natural, tapping on the display is still far from intuitive since the hinge on the Pixelbook Go gets a little bouncy when you start selecting items with your fingertip.
There’s something joyously Google-y about the design, including the ribbed rubberised bottom for grip
This looks – and feels – like a notebook that is much costlier than its £629 starting price would suggest
Pixelbook Go review: Battery
Battery life on the Pixelbook Go is absolutely staggering. Considering Chrome is such a battery-drain on macOS, we didn’t have high hopes for the Pixelbook Go, but the endurance of this svelte (it measures just 13mm) notebook is jaw-dropping. If you’re only planning to use a few web apps – in our case, Google Docs and Gmail – you can easily get 14 hours on this impressive little machine. That’s more than enough to work through a long-haul flight.
And when your battery finally depletes, Pixelbook Go supports fast-charging over either of the two USB-C ports it has on either side of the chassis. That means you won’t have to contort yourself like a Cirque Du Soleil artist to get the charger to reach the right side of the notebook. And since it’s USB-C, you’ll only have to pack one charging cable to handle your Pixelbook Go, iPad Pro, Android smartphone, Nintendo Switch, or bevy of other gadgets.
Google says Pixelbook Go can recharge two hours of power from just 20 minutes plugged into the wall. While fast-charging is something we’ve been accustomed to on our smartphones, the ability to top-up your notebook with enough battery life to last through a meeting is around the same time it takes to sort the tea round for the same occasion is truly transformative. If it wasn’t for that gorgeous keyboard, this would be our favourite feature.
Pixelbook Go review: Specs, Price
Pixelbook Go is the most affordable notebook that Google has ever built. That said, it’s far from the cheapest option when it comes to ChromeOS devices. Starting at £629 for the entry-level model with Intel Core m3, 8GB of RAM and 64GB of built-in storage, and rising to £1,329 for the maxed-out Intel i7 model with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Given the vast array of sub-£300 ChromeOS notebooks already on the market, maybe it’s alright for Google to single-handedly cater to those who want to commit to ChromeOS with a notebook with all of the design chops of the best Windows 10 and Apple devices.
Pixelbook Go review: Verdict
- Pros – Stunning ‘Hush’ Keyboard, Fast Operating System, Android Apps Add So Much More Functionality To The Pixelbook
- Cons – Tapping The Touchscreen Is Still A Bit Bouncy, Widescreen Display Can Feel A Little Cramped At Times
With the Pixelbook Go, Google has pitched its latest ChromeOS notebook just right.
It’s a supremely well-designed, friendly-looking laptop with a distinctive Google spin that’s light enough not to notice in your backpack, but powerful enough to get through (most of) your work without a splutter.
The Hush Keys throw down the gauntlet to every other laptop manufacturer and the addition of Android apps makes ChromeOS more capable than it has ever been before. Of course, there are still a few nitpicks – the trackpad is a little jittery at times and the widescreen display can feel a tad cramped when you’re dealing with text documents.
But none of these quibbles ruin the experience. Pixelbook Go is easily the best notebook that Google has ever built, and our go-to recommendation if you’ve been thinking about throwing yourself into ChromeOS for a while. At £629, it’s not cheap. And you’re still going to have to make some compromises compared to Windows 10 and macOS, unless you’re only planning to use Pixelbook Go for a few emails and word processing. But you’ll have to pay a lot more than £629 to get an Apple or Windows 10 machine that’s built as well as this.