6 Fixes to Make the Chromebook Pixel Worth Buying

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I call them Chromebook Pixel apologists. They're coming out of the woodwork to defend Google's super-expensive but flawed $1,299 laptop. You'll hear things like “It obviously isn't for everyone” or “You either get it or you don't.” Count me as one of the people who don't get it. As I say in my Chromebook Pixel review, the quality, sharper-than-Retina display, booming speakers and superior touchpad and keyboard all make this a lust-worthy machine. But the Pixel's beauty isn't much more than skin-deep. If Google really wants to convert more shoppers to its flagship anti-MacBook, it's going to have to address the following issues head-on. And, yes, I'm sorry to say that some of my fixes will have to wait for Chromebook Pixel 2.

Add Android App Support

Silos are bad, and yet it seems like the Chrome OS and Android teams at Google don't even know each other exist. The Chrome Web Store would be a heck of a lot more robust if Google figured out a way to let Android apps run on its Chromebook. Doing this would not only vastly improve the selection of apps, it would let Pixel owners do a lot more offline. Adding Android app support would also give the touch screen on the notebook more reason for being. Would making such a move necessitate a merger of the two platforms? Maybe, and as I've said before, that wouldn't be a bad thing.

More: Top 20 Chrome Apps for Your Chromebook

Switch to a Tegra 4 Processsor for More Juice

I sort of get why Google opted for an Intel Core i5 processor. It gave the company the muscle needed for the Chromebook Pixels' 2560 x 1700-pixel screen. The MacBook Pro with Retina Display also uses a Core i5 CPU with Intel HD 4000 graphics to power its 2560 x 1600-pixel panel. The problem is that while the MacBook Pro has room for a heftier 74 watt-hour battery, the Pixel makes due with a 59 Wh battery. In our tests we saw a huge difference in endurance between the two machines: 7 hours and 38 minutes for the MacBook versus just 3:54 for the Pixel. A switch to Nvdia's more efficient Tegra 4 processor would allow Google to offer a lot more juice while upping the graphics performance—all without bloating the beautiful chassis.

More: 10 Laptops with the Longest Battery Life

Make 4G More Seamless

This fix qualifies as low-hanging fruit for Google. Right now, if you want to switch between the Wi-Fi and 4G LTE connection on the Chromebook Pixel (assuming you've paid $1,449 for the 4G version), you need to turn the Wi-Fi radio off in the settings menu. Why? You should be able to easily toggle between the 4G and Wi-Fi connection right in the mini setting box on the bottom right side of the screen. While Google is at it, please speed up the time it takes to re-connect to 4G LTE from sleep. I counted a long 30 seconds to get back to work, which is a long time to wait when you're just lifting the lid.

More: 4G Mobile Hotspots Showdown

Go Convertible

If you're going to spend $1,299 or more for a touch laptop, it should give you the option of detaching the screen or at least flipping the display around so you can use the device as a tablet. The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga is one sound approach, which lets you convert from notebook to slate mode by folding the screen back. On the detachable front, the HP Envy X2 and Samsung Ativ Smart PC line both make detaching and re-attaching the tablet portion a cinch. Assuming Google finds a way to combine the best aspects of Android and Chrome OS, a Pixel transformer would be a surefire winner.

More: Top 8 Windows 8 Tablet-Laptop Hybrids

Enable Pinch to Zoom by Default

Maybe Google is nervous that Apple's lawyers are watching, but for whatever reason the Chromebook Pixel's pinch to zoom feature on the touch screen doesn't work with most websites out of the box. The good news is that you can enable this feature yourself. First type “chrome://flags” in the address bar, then scroll down and select “enable pinch scale”. Restart your Pixel and voila! This option should be enabled out of the box. Unfortunately, pinch to zoom doesn't work on most websites with the otherwise awesome glass touchpad.

More: Top 10 Tablets Available Now

Include More Storage

Google is being quite generous with the Chromebook Pixel by offering a whopping terabyte of online storage for three years. Between your files, photos, music and videos, that's pretty much all you'd ever need. Apps are another story, though. Every time I tried to resume playing a cool game on the Chromebook Pixel like “Bastion,” the notebook would re-download 41 MB of data. What's the point of an 8-second boot time and instant resume time if you have to wait that long to get your game on? By offering more offline games and other apps and upping the standard amount of storage from 32GB to 64GB (or even 128GB, like most Ultrabooks), the Pixel could truly be the only PC you own.

More: How to Install an SSD Drive in Your Laptop

Editor-in-chief Mark Spoonauer directs LAPTOP’s online and print editorial content and has been covering mobile and wireless technology for over a decade. Each week Mark’s SpoonFed column provides his insights and analysis of the biggest mobile trends and news. You can also follow him on Twitter and .

Author Bio
Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
Mark Spoonauer, LAPTOP Editor in Chief on
Add a comment
  • jo ann smith Says:

    i would like to know how to adjust the color on my hp pavilion 14 chomebook

  • Matt Says:

    Isn't the point about offline storage going against the whole point of what chromebooks are about? If you want to play games or store a tonne or crap on your device - buy a regular notebook! (or a console for games...)

  • Wilfried Says:

    Well I set it before Mr. Spoonauer is on Apples Christmas gift list, he can not edit one article without glorifying the fruit company, Mr. Jobs is turning in his grave for happiness. Just my opinion.

  • Techstur Says:

    Hey Mark,
    Thanks for sharing the most useful extensions of Google Chrome.Some more extensions for easy and fast browsing are-
    1) Awesome screenshot
    2) Freemake YouTube Converter
    3)BeFunky Photo Editor

  • Bob Says:

    So, you're advice to google is to stop making laptops for the next generation of computing and turn the Chromebook into a tablet?!? Lol, I guess that's your opinion and I respect that, even if your opinion would be market suicide if Google ever implemented. You should change the name of your blog to ignorance is bliss. :)

  • Alex Says:

    I will speak on the developer and engineering side of things. Since Google's Chome OS is based off of Ubuntu Linux for the Intel x86 series processors, and Ubuntu Linux is based off of the core of Debian Linux distribution. The emulation packages are available for the Google pixel, just need to grab them from Ubuntu and Debian.

    With this being said, using the apps written specifically for another operating system and virtual machine, it's going to take a serious hit in performance, mind you. It would just be better if the applications were ported to Debian and then imported into Ubuntu, then later into Google Chrome OS's repositories after everything had been debugged and made as stable long term support packages or LTS-P for short.

    Or better yet, figure out what these apps do and why people like them and then just mimic them in native code on Linux, which would be the best practice.

    On a hardware perspective, the idea of using a huge desktop space in resolution is absolute genius however, since Linux has a problem with clunky interfaces and the occasional, "How in the hell do I get this to run" problem. Chrome
    OS will still suffer from the same woes as the rest of the Linux community however foreseeable in the future it doesn't have to go this way.

    Yes, Chrome OS is a slimmed down version of the Linux kernel and they did a wonderful job but they've got a long road ahead of them if they want to be an Apple Mac killer and mangler of Microsoft. They need to make sure they have perfect support for their chipset and make sure they have all the packages and multimedia drivers already installed on their base OS installation. That would take out the major frustration for most users, in addition to getting some big
    players in from the gaming industry to design games for Linux, more specifically their brand, then people are more likely to switch. Seeing it as a "fun platform" and that it could be a great one for "creatives" which is what Apple has done well at keeping these people.

    A note to Saint Nick:

    There will always be some of us that don't trust the the Central Intelligence Cloud, and go with a full system and be not of the mainstream, let alone be proud of it.

  • Saint Nick Says:

    This article mises the whole point of chrome. Several large software and hardware companies are going to be forced to move in on googles turf. Certain companies are already trying to take business away from google by making there software with default search settings for there own engine, other companies are offering increasingly successful cloud options for their devices. Google is forced to move towards android and chrome to make sure that as the Internet advances google will not become outdated. the point of the pixel is to make sure that in say 5 years when the cloud is the norm and Internet access is a given google will have a competive product. Like they said this is the next generation of chromebooks, products like these are the future of computing. And wants to be sure when that future happens they have the most mature products.

  • @aizu Says:

    how is a laptop no one wants or needs "inspirational" or a "flagship"?

  • nerd1 Says:

    Just cannot believe all the tech review sites are publishing complete crap article like this. Use tegra 4? Make it a tablet? Add android support?

    Then why just buy Nexus 10 instead? I think $1299 chrombook is a very bad idea, but you are just asking a complete different requirements.

  • Adam Says:

    Yikes! So it's a $1300 netbook that has trouble connecting to the net?
    Glad I got a Surface Pro, which does support Android apps in addition to all the high end desktop programs out there.

  • aizu Says:

    Haha, no one cares if you're not one who's going to buy it, many others will. Probably many more than Google actually expected, given that it's meant to serve as an inspirational flagship for the next generation of Chromebooks, rather than a standalone do-everything.

    Also, your very first suggestion of "adding Android app support" proves you have no idea what you're talking about. They are completely different *architectures* -- good luck finding anyone able to do a "quick fix" on that.

  • dave Says:

    here's a crazy idea - maybe google know something about the plans for the future of this machine that you don't know, and that they're not yet ready to make public? wouldn't that be WILD?

  • Frank Says:

    Enjoyed the article but what's that music site with the piano pictured on the 4th slide??? Thx!

  • Jeff Says:

    The Tegra 4 does not have faster GPU performance than the Intel HD 4000 GPU. -_-

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