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Lifewire / Jonno Hill
Amazing battery life
Still relatively expensive
The Google Pixelbook Go has the fit and finish of a premium laptop with but faces difficult competition in its price range.
Chromebooks sit in a precarious position in the laptop marketplace. Chrome OS might be able to handle the needs of a lot of users, but they can’t handle every task a Windows or Mac OS laptop can. Chromebooks have also been priced appropriately for most of their history, consistently finding themselves in the sub-$500 range.
Here’s Google’s problem, though. It wants everyone to see Chromebooks as beautiful, capable devices, so it has taken matters into its own hands in the past few years and started creating its own devices. Google has done a great job on the hardware and industrial design side of things, but these devices have nudged the price points of its Chromebooks (particularly the original Pixelbook) into dangerous territory, where they now compete with a lot of very capable laptops.
The Google Pixelbook Go, on the other hand, finds a more palatable middle ground. It’s a very solid, thoughtfully designed, and supremely portable device that comes down a bit on price. Some of the higher-spec models might suffer this same problem, but overall there is a lot to like here. Let’s take a look at what the Pixelbook Go gets right, and where it needs work.
Google wins plenty of points on design with the PixelBook Go. Nearly everything about using this quiet, slim device is enjoyable. The magnesium construction feels rock-solid, without a hint of flex when picked up and carried by the corners. This is especially impressive given its meager 0.5-inch thickness.
I didn’t know how to feel about the wavy, ribbed texture on the bottom when I first took it out of the box. I don’t lie awake at night worrying about the design of the bottom of my laptop, but it’s a design decision worth talking about nonetheless. It grew on me over my time testing the device though, and it seems to help keep the device from sliding around on my lap too much when trying to write.
Nearly everything about using this quiet, slim device is enjoyable.
The PixelBook Go features a backlit keyboard with a rather shallow keybed, but very quick, snappy feedback and fast key return. I can see how it might not be for everyone, but I really enjoyed typing on the Pixelbook Go. I found it really easy to start typing quickly and naturally without much of an adjustment period, which is often required when adapting to the awkward key layouts frequently found on smaller laptops. The touchpad requires a little more force and travels a bit further than expected. Not a dealbreaker, just something to be noted.
As for ports, don’t expect much. The PixelBook Go features two USB-C ports, which can both be used for charging and display output, and a headphone jack. This isn’t a wealth of connectivity, but then again it’s a Chromebook, not a mobile workstation or a gaming laptop. Users can still opt for a USB-C hub to allow for external mouse and keyboard connectivity as well as external storage.
The most glaring omission on Google’s part is the complete lack of biometrics. Users must choose from password or PIN when logging in, although by default the option to show lock screen when waking from sleep is disabled entirely.
Setting up the PixelBook Go took less time than I’ve become accustomed to with Windows 10 laptops, which have suffered from a gradual and irritating setup-creep over the years. Google has kept things pretty light here, and it’s fairly easy to breeze through the options that do exist.
The 13.3 inch, 1920x1080 display on the PixelBook Go isn’t the most breathtaking display I’ve ever laid eyes on, but it’s good enough to never really be an issue. The display is plenty bright and sharp, making reading text very pleasant.
At off-angles, the display doesn’t hold up quite as well, losing brightness very quickly when viewed from the sides. This wasn’t a huge burden during my testing, but it’s something to note.
The Pixelbook Go’s display also supports touch, which I didn’t really find myself using much at all since the hinge only has 45 degrees of rotation. Without the ability to convert the laptop into a tablet, I just don’t find the inclusion of touch to be all that useful. The only time it was helpful to have a touchscreen is when I tried downloading and playing some Android games, many of which are designed specifically with touch in mind. Even still, trying to comfortably hold the screen in order to use it like a tablet is pretty awkward with the keyboard in the way.
The version of the Pixelbook Go I tested features an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage, for a total of $849. The base model, which costs $649, uses an Intel Core m3, 8GB RAM, and a meager 64GB of storage.
In boot times, waking from sleep, and unlocking, the Pixelbook Go was lightning fast. When working in Chrome, which was most of my time, the device was generally very snappy as well. During YouTube playback, however, the Pixelbook Go lagged considerably when switching in and out of fullscreen.
Unfortunately, this laggy experience also echoed when using a good number of Android apps. Most of these apps launched in a portrait-oriented, phone-shaped window, and sometimes faced sluggishness when switching to fullscreen. A few apps needed to restart to be able to switch sizes also, an awkward experience.
These issues were certainly the minority of my experience, which was mostly very smooth, but they were still there. Given the price of this laptop, this is somewhat regrettable since I wasn’t asking very much of the device.
The question that always comes up with any Chromebook is “Can this device replace my current computer?” The answer to this question hasn’t changed too much, but there are little things that sway things in Google’s favor ever-so-slightly.
The keyboard is a genuine plus in favor of the Pixelbook Go. Having a solid, responsive keyboard that’s pleasant to type on makes a big difference. There are plenty of other keyboards on smaller laptops in this category that are frustrating enough to necessitate an external keyboard for long periods of use, but the Pixelbook Go isn’t one of them.
The 12 hours of claimed battery life is, if anything, an underestimate on Google’s part. I was able to reach 13 without an issue.
Can the Pixelbook Go replace a laptop or desktop though? For me, the answer is no. I use my computer for video editing and gaming though, so the answer was always going to be no. But I would gladly adopt the Pixelbook Go as a second computer for all the times I need to do basically anything else. Users that also don’t need to do much with their computer beyond writing, reading, web browsing, and multimedia use might find that they can make this their primary computer without any concern.
The only thing I’m going to give Google credit for with the PixelBook Go is bucking the trend of putting useless downward-facing speakers on the rear of the device. The PixelBook Go at least features a front-facing stereo speaker pair, making the sound audible. The bad news is that these speakers are excessively tinny sounding and pretty grating at high volumes. You’ll definitely want to use headphones or a Bluetooth speaker whenever you’re doing anything involving audio on this device.
Wi-Fi is more important on the Pixelbook Go than on any other laptop, given the cloud-based nature of Chromebooks. The good news is that the Pixelbook Go performed great in the mixed variety of Wi-Fi situations I subjected it to during testing. Buyers don’t have anything to be concerned within this department.
While not up to the level of modern smartphones, the 1080p camera on the Pixelbook Go definitely beats out the laptop competition. This is an often overlooked area for laptops, but it makes the difference between a blurry, pixelated video call with someone and a clear, consistent one.
Battery life is one area where the Pixelbook Go is absolutely faultless. The 12 hours of claimed battery life is, if anything, an underestimate on Google’s part. I was able to reach 13 without an issue.
To make things even better, the Pixelbook Go features fast charging support, enabling you to get 2 hours worth of charge on 20 minutes of charging. Pairing the great battery life and great charging speed, the Pixelbook Go is practically always ready to use. After using some gaming laptops that suffered separation anxiety when left off the power supply for more than an hour, this was a really welcome change of pace.
If you aren’t too familiar with Chromebooks and the overall software experience, here are the broad strokes: Chrome OS is primarily a browser-driven operating system, with the added ability to run Android apps. Anything you would normally do with a web browser or on an Android phone, you will be able to accomplish with the Pixelbook Go. This is a huge and ever-expanding list of capabilities that covers most of what people tend to use laptops for, but it doesn’t cover everything, and that’s going to be a sticking point for some people.
If you’re confident your needs don’t exceed the capabilities of a Chromebook and you’re a fan of the design, I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed by the Pixelbook Go.
You can’t play PC games, you can’t use Adobe’s Creative Suite, and you can’t install the desktop versions of Microsoft Office. If you wouldn’t miss any of those things, you would probably be completely fine with a Chromebook like the Pixelbook Go. Likewise, if you are shopping for a secondary computer (perhaps you already own a desktop) a Chromebook definitely makes a lot of sense.
At an MSRP of $849, the version of the Pixelbook Go that I tested is still worth the price, but marginally so. For this price, you can scoop up an Asus Zenbook 13 or an entry-level Lenovo ThinkPad E590, neither of which bears the same limitations as the Pixelbook Go. I still think the Pixelbook Go is a better built, more solid feeling laptop, but it costs a lot for what it delivers.
The $649 entry-level model featuring an Intel Core m3, 8GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage exists at a more interesting price position, but I can’t speak directly to the performance. It also has a little less storage than I would be comfortable recommending in a laptop, but given the way Chromebooks are used, you could probably get by with the help of some external and/or cloud storage in the mix.
All the other models are harder to recommend. At $999, the second-most expensive Pixelbook Go option costs as much as the original Pixelbook, and even the Dell XPS 13. At $1,399—the most expensive option—you could afford a MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, or Razer Blade Stealth 13, among plenty of other very capable laptops. If you’re still buying a Pixelbook Go at these prices, it’s probably not about the cost for you anymore.
For $999, you can get a Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of SSD storage. For that same price, you’d be looking at the Pixelbook Go with 128GB of storage and 16GB of RAM. Between the two of these, I’d recommend the Dell over the Pixelbook, since it runs Windows 10, comes with two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a fingerprint reader, and a microSD card reader.
The Pixelbook Go has the advantage of being slightly lighter, having a better battery life, and featuring a 1080p camera. Step it down to the $849 or $649 model though, and the Pixelbook Go represents a potentially better value as well.
Overall, if you can find an even $1000 in your budget, you might be better served by the XPS 13, but if it’s a stretch, the less expensive of the two Pixelbook Go options offer a great alternative.
Great product at a difficult price point.
Google’s Pixelbook Go is, in a vacuum, a really wonderful product to use. The only thing holding it back is the price point, which makes it difficult to recommend as a primary computer for most people. All said, if you’re confident your needs don’t exceed the capabilities of a Chromebook and you’re a fan of the design, I can’t imagine you’ll be disappointed by the Pixelbook Go.