Top critical review
A thorough disappointment
Reviewed in the United States on December 23, 2018
I purchased the entry level Pixelbook for a family member who like me is a longtime Android and Google user. ( i5 CPU, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD) After a few frustrating hours, we decided to return it. I don’t write many reviews, and usually none this long, but this experience was so maddening I wanted to share it for other potential buyers.
The Pixelbook is far too limited to be called a true laptop; its not even as capable as a current Android smartphone. It seems like an expensive toy designed to promote Google Assistant.
Here's a detailed list issues we found through basic everyday use in the first 2 hours.
- Google "apps" in the taskbar -Sheets, Gmail, - aren't "apps". They're links to browser plugins. So after you just signed into the laptop, you open the Gmail "app" and get prompted to sign in again. This is a worse user experience then a phone.
- The ability to install Apps from the Play Store is a big selling point. So you can install the Gmail Android app to keep a persistent login. But guess what? There are no system sounds installed, so you don’t get notifications, which is the next problem...
- Notifications are useless. There is a counter in the bottom tray but there is no visual popup or sound to alert you like Windows 10 Android or iOS or any consumer electronic OS made in the past 25 years. When you get an email you don't know until you open the "app" in the browser.
- Checking the interwebs we found a "workaround" to install an Android app with its own sounds built in. Or copy your own sounds from another device into the Notifications folder. That leads to t he next problem, local File Management .
- The native File Manager hides most files from you. You can't access the Notification folder to import sounds from a USB stick. Nor can you easily create a new folder, drag and drop files, or do other core tasks any laptop should provide. You have to download a 3rd party file explorer from the Store to do that. We went through all this and still the system didn't recognize added sounds. Notifications foiled again!
- Back to the file system. It seems Google expects you to sync everything to My Drive. But on a laptop don't most people have some sensitive files they store locally only? Good luck doing this with the built in File Manager.
- Likewise, you can't open password protected MS Office files in Google apps. Its not supported. I found a very crass comment on support forums saying "Drive is password protected, why would you need to protect individual files?" Missing the point totally….
- No worry though you can install the free Android Excel app and open password protected files just like on your phone right? Wrong. Microsoft requires an O365 subscription to use their apps on the Pixelbook or any device with screen over 10". So something you can do or free on any Android phone costs you $10/mo on the $1000 and up Pixelbook. Foiled yet again
- Maybe you heard Chrome OS can run Linux apps in Developer mode. Not for the average user, but your desperate now. While great, you can install LibreOffice the opensource MS Office alternative. Except you need to know how to use the Linux terminal to do it. Even if you do Linux apps are run in a secure container. You can't access your folder structure, you have to copy files you want to work with to a Linux only folder then move them back later. Another half-baked idea not ready for prime time.
- More on running Android Apps. Chrome OS is not the same as Android OS. Under the hood ,the latest Chrome OS 71 is still using the out of support Android version 7.1.2 which no longer gets security updates as of Nov 5, 2018. So the brand new device you just bought is already unpatched! Google brags how secure the device is which makes this even harder to stomach.
- And last, even something as simple as playing music didn’t work right. I loaded a few albums from a USB stick. The stock barebones music player and Play Music apps couldn’t display the .JPG albumart. GMMP Android player from the store could. These are the same albumart files that work on Android phones for years...
All of this is what two reasonably tech savvy users uncovered in just a few hours with the Pixelbook. As longtime Android users we know its not unusual for Google products to get released in a nascent state then be refined over time. But this product has been on the market for a year already and it still feels like its barely a Beta version. I can't believe they make a $2000 i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, 512 SSD version for something with so many issues which can only run browser and Android apps. I can not recommend the Pixelbook to anyone at any price.