Beginning with the original Google Chromebook Pixel, Google’s higher-end ChromeOS hardware has always been impressive, but it came with price tags to match. With the new Pixelbook Go, Google is aiming closer to a mid-market sweet spot for a personal ultralight laptop. A starting price of $650 puts it in direct competition with other premium Chromebooks and many midrange Windows laptops. So one of the big questions for us, when we got our hands on a review unit, was whether Google could still deliver a premium product at this lower price point. For the most part, the answer is yes.
Google Pixelbook Go by the Numbers
The Pixelbook Go manages to fit a 13.3-inch screen into a 13mm slim, 2.3-pound chassis. One way Google does that is by using a wide, media-friendly, 16:9 aspect ratio. As a result, the actual screen area isn’t as large as 4:3 displays with a similar nominal size, or like the previous Pixelbook, which featured a 3:2 ratio display.
CPU options include Core m3, i5, and i7 versions of Intel’s 8th generation Kaby Lake processor. You can choose between 8GB and 16GB of RAM, and 64, 128, or 256GB of local storage. There is an interesting choice of displays — either a 1080p “molecular display” or a full 4K display. The 4K display comes with a smaller 47 Wh battery versus the 56 Wh for the 4K display. As is the current trend, the Go also omits a headphone jack.
Google claims up to 12 hours of battery life. With a fast charger, a recharge rate of 2 hours of charge in 20 minutes is possible. The front-facing 2MP webcam has been bumped up to 1080p, which definitely improves the quality of video calls. It’s just a single camera, so no fancy facial recognition. Our unit was a “Just Black” model, with the other option being “Not Pink.”
Our review unit was equipped with an i5, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The 1080p display was bright, but I’ve gotten spoiled by the higher-resolution options on models like the 2017 Pixelbook. To be able to read text in Chrome comfortably, I found I needed to change the display setting to show fonts at the same size they would be on a 720p display.
Living With a Pixelbook Go
The rounded corners and grippy, ribbed, bottom make the Go easy to carry. The notch in the front makes it simple to flip open. One of Google’s cost-cutting moves was ditching the 360-degree hinge, though, so no tent mode or 2 in 1 with the Go. Speaking of which, stylus support is also missing, so the Go isn’t about to appeal to those hoping to have their laptop double as a creative tablet.
The Go, at least the Core i5 version we tested, is very quick. You can scroll through and display Google Photos at warp speed assuming you have a matching internet connection. Lightroom for Android also ran very nicely.
The Go has dual front-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard. They did an excellent job with sports soundtracks and a good job with challenging music given their small size. In particular, the sound stage was well-defined.
One nice touch is the adjustable keyboard backlight. I used to think of a backlit keyboard as a nice-to-have feature, but have grown addicted to them. Google touts the quiet “Hush” keys on the keyboard, and indeed they are blissfully silent compared with a lot of other small keyboards. They are also easy to type on but aren’t as impressive-looking or as nicely spaced as those on the older Pixelbook.
Android Support Continues to Improve
While there are still some annoying holes in the Go’s Android support (I’m hoping Adobe’s Premiere Rush will be available soon, for example), Android integration continues to improve. For most of my favorite Android apps, they were easy to run, and they installed themselves on the Go as soon as I logged in to my Google account.
The Pixelbook Go also supports Google’s Instant Tethering feature, which allows your Pixelbook to prompt you to use the data connection from your Android phone when it can’t find a Wi-Fi network to use. You’ll need to have both a supported phone and a data plan that allows tethering. Google explained to me that they prefer re-using the phone’s data connection this way rather than adding the extra cost of an LTE or 5G modem and data plan to the Pixelbook Go. For those of us who are already paying through the nose for a nearly-unlimited data plan with tethering, this is the right call.
Is the Pixelbook Go in Your Future?
Unlike when Google first started producing its own ChromeOS hardware, there is no shortage of competition. For a similar price, you can get a model from companies including Samsung and Lenovo that have equivalent base specs but also offer features like stylus support, tablet mode, a rear camera, a headphone jack, and a microSD slot. To my eye, the Go looks more modern than most of those, and more stylish, which might matter to you. You also know you’ll get the latest and greatest updates from Google, although unlike with Android, the ChromeOS ecosystem already does a good job of keeping devices up to date.
If you do decide to purchase one, some configurations should be shipping before the end of October, with others coming later. While the base unit with an m3, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage is $650, I expect most users will purchase the $850 model that has an i5, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB SSD. If you need more memory the 16GB version is $1,000. For big-spenders, $1,400 gets you upgrades to a 4K display, an i7 CPU, and a 256GB hard drive.