Rey Bango

Web developer, honey badger

Thoughts about the Google Pixel Chromebook

Disclaimer: I work for Microsoft. This is my own personal review of the Chrome Pixel and is not associated with my employer in any way.

I recently got a Google Pixel Chromebook at Google I/O 2013. All attendees were given this device as a giveaway as part of their registration and I wanted to share some observations after having it for a little while.

Packaging

One thing I love about Apple is that they’ve forced OEMs to rethink their packaging and make it a key visual and emotional aspect of their devices. Google did a nice job of boxing up the Pixel so that it feels like a luxury device. =I took pictures of my unboxing and posted them below. If you’ve ever opened an Apple MacBook, it kind of seems similar.

Hardware

Google PixelHaving used both PCs and MacBooks, I think I have a fairly well-balanced expectation of how devices should respond. I’m very pleased with the hardware for the Pixel. It “feels” solid with no cheap feeling areas that were immediately visible.

You can tell that Google took a lot of cues from Apple when they built this device. I love the MacBook keyboards because they’re light on the fingers and backlit. The Pixel keyboard feels the same way and when my wife saw that the keys were backlit, that was a big plus for her.

The trackpad is responsive and attaching an external mouse was easy. I enabled bluetooth and it discovered my Microsoft bluetooth mouse. The mouse settings didn’t seem as granular so I couldn’t really dial-up the mouse speed as much as I liked but it was passable.

One thing to note is that the audio plug is a little tight. When I plugged in my headphones, I initially thought that the jack was broken because the headphone plug just kind of dangled inside loosely and wouldn’t output my audio. After some online searching, I found I just needed to push it in just a little harder because the laptops jack is a little tight.

The nicest aspect of this device, by far, is the screen. I mean OH MY GOD what a gorgeous display. It’s one of those that makes you realize how nice things could look and how you wish all your devices looked this nice. I have to believe this is the reason the Pixel is so pricey.

And on top of that, it’s touch-based which in my opinion puts a nail in the coffin to all those silly “gorilla arm” comments.

ChromeOS

This is my first foray into ChromeOS. I’ve tried it out sparingly in the past at Best Buy but that’s about it. I think it’s an okay experience for someone who solely wants to surf the web or do some basic documents using Google Apps. At this point, power users may feel that this device is anemic for their needs and I’d have to agree. Being a developer, there’s a host of tools that I need local access to that ChromeOS just can’t handle. With that said, it seems like more than a suitable device for a consumer to have on their kitchen counter for general browsing, especially if it’s a user that takes full advantage of Google’s ecosystem. I spoke with Joe Marini of Google and he feels that Chrome Packaged Apps will be a big plus to ChromeOS bringing feature-rich native-style apps.

The tie-in to Google Drive is certainly nice (along with the 3-years of 1TB cloud space) but I think it takes some getting used. For me, I still like having access to local documents, especially since I travel frequently. It’s the whole “living in the cloud” thing and Microsoft and Apple are heading down that route as well so it’s not a stretch to imagine everything just living on the Internet. For me, though, some old habits die hard. Yes, I know I can do some things offline and the Pixel comes with some (limited) disk storage but the expectation is clear that you will use this device while connected to the Internet. Hence why they offer a Verizon LTE option in this device. That way, you can connect whether WiFi is available or not.

Price

The Pixel comes in two flavors: 32GB w/Wi-Fi ($1,299) & 64GB w/Wi-Fi & LTE ($1,449). While the device is gorgeous, I can’t picture myself (or most anyone else) dropping that amount of money of it especially when there are feature-packed touch devices like the Samsung Series 7 & Toshiba Kirabooks and Apple’s great lineup of MacBooks for similar pricing. And I’m not alone in this opinion. This feels like a nice reference device for Google. A kind of “look at what we can do when we want to build something really nice” type of thing. And I think Google did a good job at this. I just don’t think they’re going to sell a lot of them; at least not at those price points.

Conclusion

Great, gorgeous hardware. Love the high-dpi touchscreen. Fast startup is awesome. Would I buy one? No way, not at this price point. There are just too many other equally awesome machines out there that offer a whole lot more for the money.

Note: I updated this post to reference the fact that I received the Pixel at Google I/O 2013.

Gallery

Google Glass Packaging and Dimensions

I was lucky enough to get a pair of Google Glass to play with for a couple of days. Pretty nifty device and I could definitely see the potential, especially after a great chat with Matt May about them during Google I/O. The possibilities, especially in warehouses and retail operations, are really promising.

I was recently asked about the dimensions so I took a tape measure and took pictures of the device at various angles trying to give decent views of the dimensions. I live in the States and of course we don’t use the metric system so you’ll have to convert measurements on your own. :)

The gallery shows both the packaging of Glass and the measurements. Note that I don’t have the device with me at the moment so I won’t be able to give you more details.

Video Interviews Part 1 – Steve Souders, Google’s Performance Evangelist Talks Performance and Mobile & Yahoo!’s Gonzalo Cordero Discusses BayJax

During the jQuery conference in Mountain View, I got a chance to video interview a number of people. First up are Steve Souders, Google’s Performance Evangelist. Apart from Steve’s great comments on performance and mobile, what I truly appreciated was that I caught him just before sessions were about to start and without hesitation he took the time to speak with me. It’s a true testament to how great a guy Steve is and a lesson to all those that may be intimidated about approaching some of the stars of web development; just do it because they’re very approachable and cool!

Be sure to pick up Steve’s book, High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers and Even Faster Web Sites: Performance Best Practices for Web Developers, which have become THE books to read for improving your site’s performance.

Then I spoke with Gonzalo Cordero of Yahoo! (who is also a contributor to YUI) about BayJax, the monthly meetup sponsored by Yahoo! which tackles some great front-end development discussions. Gonzalo coordinates the meetings and has made BayJax the envy of many developers with it’s great sessions. The most recent event included presentations from the authors of the new book High Performance JavaScript
.

Which is Your Primary Browser?

I did a REALLY informal poll on Twitter to see which browser people consider their primary browser. I’ve listed the results below. The “Browsing” category is what I consider results for a “primary” browser in terms of general day-to-day use while “Development” is the primary browser used to build web applications or help you in your job:

Browsing:

Firefox: 9
Chrome: 25
Safari: 10
IE: 2 (including @getify)
Opera: 1

Development:

Firefox: 10
Chrome: 0
Safari: 0
IE: 1

Again, this was a totally unscientific and informal poll but the results were surprising. I would’ve expected Firefox to be ahead of Chrome & Safari in the “Browsing” category, especially since add-ons are such a huge benefit. I know that Chrome for Windows now has extensions but nowhere near the number of add-ons Firefox offers & their currently not available on Chrome for Mac or Linux. I guess it may not be too off base considering that most of the people that follow my Twitter account would be considered advanced users who tend to be early adopters. I remember Firefox going through the same adoption process with techies leading the charge.

Unsurprisingly, Firefox still rules the roost when it comes to a development browser. Add-ons like Firebug, Web Developer Toolbar, TamperData & ColorZilla really make a HUGE difference in getting work done. Other browsers are catching up (Safari Web Inspector & Developer Tools for Google Chrome) so it’ll be interesting to see how that evolves.

New jQuery Plugin for Google & Yahoo Mapping

Tane Piper today released v1.3 of his jQuery mapping plugin with the following major updates:

  • Added support for creating Yahoo! Maps, can create Map,
    Satallite or Hybrid. Check out available options below

  • Added support for creating points on Yahoo! maps.
  • Added support for creating Polylines on Yahoo! maps.
  • Added support for GeoRSS files on both Yahoo! and Google maps, as well as existing KML support for Google, method
  • Name was changed from .addKml to .addRss
  • Moved directions search out of main namespace, now function that is called from within plugin by providing fields
  • Added Yahoo! Geocoding support

This was a fairly big update and allows developers to take advantage of either Google or Yahoo maps from one codebase!

Tane is already working on v1.4 which will include:

  • Add in custom icon support for points.
  • Add support for Google Points Manager
  • Add support for overlays

and possible support Microsoft Live maps.

You can grab the latest code via Google SVN and see a live demo here.

Google Starting a Standards War?

Great article over at ThreadWatch.org that discusses what appears to be Google trying to set its own standards for inter-application communication.

While the theory behind GData, Google's new API, sounds interesting, I have to agree with ThreadWatch that other vendors may not be too keen to work with Google. For Google, having the standard for data exchange obviously makes sense as their motivation has always been to have as much control over information as possible but I'm not sure how I feel about secure communications being sent over any protocol that can be manipulated by the information king (ie: Google).

Read the full article here and you make your own assessment:

http://www.threadwatch.org/node/6278

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