Chromebook Pixel: A In Depth Review of Chrome OS [Update]

You've probably all heard about the hardware a million times so I'll skip straight to the software and just confirm that the praise of the screen, trackpad, keyboard, and build quality are well deserved.

Positive Experiences:

Simplicity - I know exactly where everything is and how to do everything because it's mostly just the Chrome Browser.

Bloat-free - Java, Flash, and AVG aren't bugging me about permissions and updates. On my old Windows PC, the Java update would bug me and then tell me the update failed to install when I do eventually click update.

Organization - All my apps are in one place (there's an apps button and a pop up apps drawer) and I don't need to manually make short cuts or ever dig into system files to make anything work.

Gestures - 3 finger horizontal tab swipe, 3 finger vertical window switch, 4 finger pinch minimize, 2 finger scroll, and 2 finger pinch zoom all work nicely.

Nifty features - Open as window in Chrome OS will open a web app like a native app with no URL chrome. Immersive mode creates a full screen app-like experience, and unlike Chrome for windows, hovering at the top actually brings down the url bar.

Design - Chrome OS really has nice iconography and the new Google white style permeates it.

Performance - A benefit of a light OS is that it doesn't lag even with a 2560 x 1700 screen.

Work flow:

Now some say that you can't get any work done on Chrome OS. That may or may not be true depending on what work you need to do. For me it isn't true.

Pixlr is as good as Gimp but doesn't take forever to load and has an easier to use interface.

I use Google Hangouts' screensharing feature and a live broadcast to record my screen and just download the file from Youtube.

Soundation is a decent audio editor and works. I don't do very complicated audio editing so I can't say how it compares to Audacity.

WeVideo is a great substitute for Windows Movie Maker. You won't be making anything for Hollywood on it but for what I do (adding some popups, cutting, rearranging, adding and changing sounds, etc.) it works fine.

Skydrive actually has a word web app that preserves the formatting of .docx files and replaces Word nicely unless you're doing something really complicated. It works fine for my English essays.

I use Scratch to make basic flash games and the new version has a web client so I didn't lose anything by going Chrome OS.

I don't do any coding but I hear there are cloud based code editors on Chrome OS.


I have good news and bad news.

The bad news: There's a LOT of negatives.

The good news: The negatives aren't related to the core philosophy of Chrome OS. The cloud with some offline rather than native apps with online tacked on seems the right approach. But the execution needs some work.

1. No alphabetical arrangement of files in the file manager.

2. [Fixed, now has consistent icons for the most part] No consistent icons in the file manager. Documents should have previews, images have thumbnails, videos have screenshots, music should have album art, and folders should have folder icons.

3. No separate tabs for Documents, Music, Pictures, Video in file manager.

4. No Dropbox integration in the file manager, creating an extra step in every process.

5. Chrome Office Viewer (the default app that opens up when you click on a .doc or .docx file in the Pixel) doesn't allow editing.

6. Google Music has no way to sync on Chrome OS. The upload manager is an exe.

7. Gmail offline is a separate app.

8. Offline mode in Calendar and Drive need to be manually enabled. It should be enabled by default.

9. Tab discarding is annoying. It should be off by default.

10. Google Music and Google Movies/TV have no offline mode even though Google Books does.

11. No way to run Plex as a media server in the background.

12. No support for Miracast or a native DLNA solution.

13. No support for Bluetooth audio music.

14. [Fixed] In immersive mode, the bookmarks bar disappears from the new tab page.

15. No way to turn off auto-brightness, which drives me nuts because it changes brightness every time the clouds move a little.

16. [Fixed, can now do 50-50 split] No side by side windows support.

17. No zooming in on pictures in the photo viewer.

18. Gestures like 3 finger horizontal tab swipe, 3 finger vertical window switch, 4 finger minimize, and pinch to zoom need to be manually enabled in chrome://flags. I'd rather Google just enable these by default.

In the end, I think I'm going to keep the Pixel as Chrome OS has thus far been enjoyable overall. I have hope that Google will fix all the negatives I mentioned eventually. Most of them are quite easy to resolve.