Google is convinced its new, ‘high performance’ Pixelbook Chromebook is worth £1,000, but could you be better off buying an Apple or Windows laptop for less?
Chromebooks have made their name as low-cost alternatives to regular laptops. They run the Chrome OS operating system, meaning that, in effect, everything you do on them runs through the Google Chrome web browser.
You can pick up a Chromebook for under £200, and even these cheap models will start up quickly and give you great battery life. So, what features has Google packed into the newly announced Pixelbook to help justify its £1,000 price?
Best Buy laptops – our experts would buy these models with their own money
New Google Pixelbook doesn’t come cheap
The Google Pixelbook is a portable laptop running Chrome OS. It can compete with a MacBook when it comes to screen quality, thanks to its 12.3-inch ‘Quad HD’ touchscreen. The shapeshifting design means that you can fold it up and carry it around like you would with a tablet – handy for the morning commute.
This laptop wants you to get chatty with it, too. It runs Google Assistant, a voice-activated Siri equivalent. With it, you can ask the laptop to read out news headlines, answer questions, set reminders and more. You’ll spot a dedicated Assistant button on the corner of the backlit keyboard.
The Pixelbook comes with Instant Tethering, a first for the Chromebook family. That means that if the Pixelbook detects a dropped wi-fi signal, and you have your Google Pixel smartphone nearby, it’ll instantly start using the mobile signal from your smartphone.
We’re told that you’ll get up to 10 hours from the Pixelbook on a single charge, or up to two hours of battery power from a quick 15 minute charge. We’ll be putting those claims to the test when the laptop makes its way to our lab.
The price of the Pixelbook depends on specs. You have three versions to choose from (a £99 stylus pen is available, but not included):
- Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB Ram, 128GB SSD – £999
- Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB Ram, 256GB SSD – £1,199
- Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB Ram, 512GB SSD – “Coming soon”
Is the Pixelbook worth the money?
The question is, do you need all this power for a laptop that only runs the light-touch Chrome OS? Chromebooks can’t run conventional programs, after all: no Photoshop, no Microsoft Office, not even Skype. You’re expected to be almost always online, and make use of Google’s web apps, which let you edit documents, send emails, or check your calendar.
Admittedly, the Pixelbook models have plenty of storage if you need to save files to the laptop itself, which is a departure for most Chromebooks. But it’s hard to picture what use you’d need to make of this storage – why save video files when the laptop is aimed at streaming videos, for example?
For more on this laptop’s key features, see our Google Pixelbook first look review.
Laptops under £1,000 – the models to beat
There’s no denying it – £1,000 is a hefty sum for a Chromebook, especially when you consider the average price of the Chromebooks we’ve tested until now is just over £200. Google has launched this model into a competitive end of the market, with plenty of rival brands vying for consumers with a generous budget.
If you don’t fancy spending that much on a laptop running Chrome OS, you might want to invest in an Apple laptop or Windows 10 machine. Below, we list three laptops you could nab for less than the price of the entry-level Google Pixelbook.
Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2017)
This 13-inch Apple MacBook Air is on sale for £949. The cheapest configuration available is powered by an Intel Core i5 processor. It comes with 128GB of internal storage, which should be more than enough for most. If not, you can use iCloud to store your pictures and videos.
To see what our experts make of this laptop, see our Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (2017) review.
Microsoft Surface laptop
The Microsoft Surface starts at £979, and it has an Intel Core i5 processor tucked inside. You get 128GB of internal storage, and the 4GB of Ram should keep the 13.5-inch laptop running smoothly. Of course, an i7 model is better-equipped when it comes to high-impact programs, but if you want to upgrade the processor the price rises to £1,549.
Head over to our Microsoft Surface review to see how this Windows-powered laptop scores.
Asus ZenBook 3
Here’s an ultra-portable laptop to consider if you’re looking for a model that you can easily transport to and from work. It’s around £800 and has a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel 12.5-inch display. It weighs less than 1kg and is just 12mm thick.
We’ve run this laptop through our rigorous laptop tests. See how it performed by reading our full Asus ZenBook 3 review.
Cheaper Chromebooks in our test lab
All of the Chromebooks we’ve tested this year are on sale for under £600, with most costing closer to £200.
Most recently, we had our hands on the £280 Acer CB3-532. It’s a 15-inch Chromebook with 4GB of Ram and 32GB of storage. That may not sound like much, but relying heavily on cloud storage is all part of owning a Chromebook.
If you’ve got slightly more to spend, there’s the £530 Asus Chromebook C302ca. It has a 12.5-inch Full HD screen and a backlit keyboard, which makes typing in low light a breeze.
If you’ve got your heart set on a portable Chromebook, see our full range of Chromebook reviews. If you want to keep things affordable, we suggest you see our guide on the best cheap laptops for under £500.