Status

Let’s spend a minute talking about status symbols. In every culture, certain things become elevated as carrying value and importance above and beyond themselves. In more heroic times, a scar denoted meritorious service in battle. Being fat in the dark ages was as good a symbol of wealth as Gucci handbags are today. Fashionable accessories are status symbols today, which is as clear a sign as any that ours is a materialistic and wealth obsessed culture. Harsh, maybe, but not all status symbols are as vain. 
 
Gadgets have long been status symbols, as far back as the Motorola brick phones, and further back to color televisions and FM radios. Technology itself is insufficient to be a status symbol, though, because while a $1200 purse will remain unattainable for the masses, every technological bauble will eventually be mass produced and sold at Walmart. For a gadget to be a status symbol it needs more than just hardware and software, though missing on either of those can be crippling. Status symbols are sexy. They’re unique, though that quality is often short-lived. And, they’re expensive. The Motorola StarTac was a status symbol. The HP LaserJet 1200 was a status symbol. Sony’s earliest HDTVs were status symbols. And then, of course, there’s Apple. Apple breeds status symbols. Every category they’re involved in is trendsetting in style, provides a laudable user experience, and commands a premium over their competitors. 
 
Google, is almost utterly absent from the lengthy list of status symbols. To some degree, that has been part of the company’s ethos. Their goal has been to provide users with the best user experience possible, and at the best price possible, which is as often as not: free. Making something free can really boost early uptake, but it doesn’t make for a good status symbol. Even Google’s Nexus line has really only built status symbols for the gadget inclined, I doubt my wife could spot a Galaxy Nexus from across a room, let alone the Nexus 4. Google is a services company. They develop search tools, mail clients and cloud-based solutions. They help you keep your schedule, catalog your work and life, find a decent Chinese take-out near by, and play some Angry Birds while you wait for your order to be ready. They’re useful, essential even, but boring, and unlikely to sell something that you crave in an entirely illogical and excessive manner. Right? 

It ships in a typically minimalistic box. I don’t mean typical for Google, I mean typical for an industry that has learned that gaudy packaging is more likely to hinder than help sales. Though it looks like you’d push one recessed end of the package out to slide the box from its sleeve, entry is actually made by lifting a flap held in place by magnets. I’m a cheap date when it comes to packaging. Magnets will always win me over. Once revealed, the grey slab is irresistible. It wins you over before it does anything but sit there. The exposed hinges are masked by a silver barrel that runs the width of the device. The aluminum is cold to the touch, and the only flourish is the LED strip lower down the lid, dormant, but nonetheless exciting for its potential. It’s lighter than you expect when you lift it, and feels solid; not simply in the sense of its rigidity, it feels like a block of aluminum weighing just north of 3 pounds. Right angles abound but are softened with chamfered edges making it comfortable to hold and touch. Its meager thickness is uniform across its length, and the weight is similarly balanced, avoiding the rearward bias of other notebooks. Almost without thought I find myself torquing and flexing against the device; my hands struggling to elicit a single creak or bend from the frame. Setting it down and lifting the lid, it boots in a breath, and reveals an image so rich with detail I’m drawn closer to get a better look. Chromebook or not, the Pixel is a status symbol. And I want it.
Context and Design Why Not Android?
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  • Crono - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    I don't mind when reviews talk about design aspects or aesthetics. But the focus on the subjective seems out of place on AnandTech. It's not a bad review overall, and I don't want to sound too negative (I appreciate the effort it takes to write reviews), but when we start to factor in whether a piece of hardware or a computer is a "status symbol" or not into review, I think we're in danger of losing sight of the tangible, quantifiable elements of computing and well-built machines. Reply
  • themossie - Saturday, June 1, 2013 - link

    "Status" is the only way to judge this computer - that and a premium (albeit minimalist) experience.

    Judging the Chromebook Pixel from a purely technical standpoint would be silly - it's not based on offering superior value for money or superior functionality. There is no direct economic justification to buy this computer.

    But some will buy it anyways. It's all about 'feel' - the OS as much as the physical machine itself. If a consumer can live with the pure web functionality, you get a bulletproof OS with a gorgeous screen and case - for a pricetag which can only be justified by "status" and a luxury experience.

    For the right person, this could be the ultimate minimalist laptop.

    I'm sure Google doesn't expect this to be a high-volume product; if they did, they would have cut the price significantly. Instead, they were looking for a truly premium halo product to - a nice looking piece of kit which puts Chrome OS out there as something other than a cheap, crappy modernized netbook.
    Reply
  • SomeNiceGuy - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    It would be nice to know the latency and the accuracy of the touch screen. iOS devices excel at this, others don't. Even if you haven't measured it, do you experience the touch screen laggy compared to an ipad? I think this can make or brake a touch centric device. Reply
  • mfenn - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    "Once revealed, the grey slab is irresistible. It wins you over before it does anything but sit there. The exposed hinges are masked by a silver barrel that runs the width of the device. The aluminum is cold to the touch, and the only flourish is the LED strip lower down the lid, dormant, but nonetheless exciting for its potential. It’s lighter than you expect when you lift it, and feels solid; not simply in the sense of its rigidity, it feels like a block of aluminum weighing just north of 3 pounds. Right angles abound but are softened with chamfered edges making it comfortable to hold and touch. Its meager thickness is uniform across its length, and the weight is similarly balanced, avoiding the rearward bias of other notebooks. Almost without thought I find myself torquing and flexing against the device; my hands struggling to elicit a single creak or bend from the frame. Setting it down and lifting the lid, it boots in a breath, and reveals an image so rich with detail I’m drawn closer to get a better look. Chromebook or not, the Pixel is a status symbol. And I want it."

    Is Engadget or Anandtech?
    Reply
  • neo_1221 - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    "50 shades of Chrome" Reply
  • themossie - Saturday, June 1, 2013 - link

    Made my day! Reply
  • lmcd - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Chrome is great, but...

    The biggest problem is Java. There haven't been efforts to put Java on Chrome. Android, ironically (and expectedly), is holding Chrome OS back. Hopefully efforts are made to replicate Android's provided resources with Dart or C++, then bindings added for Java.

    Google is currently its own devil. Dalvik needs to become an extension to PNaCl, or needs to move towards it. If Google doesn't have a hidden repository where they're pushing to this (regardless of their short-term plans and their visible work) they are risking their whole web business model.
    Reply
  • wffurr - Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - link

    Are you talking about Java applets? Aren't those dead by now?

    Or do you mean running Java desktop apps like Eclipse? There are no desktop apps on Chrome OS except Chrome.
    Reply
  • bji - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    The review had alot of good detail but too much superfluous chatter. I think you need to work on understanding when brevity is more appropriate than verbosity. You'd do better to use the florid language as a highlight where needed instead of being present in nearly every sentence in the article. Just sayin' ... Reply
  • bji - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Forgot to mention - the review should be more objective and less subjective as well. This is a tech review site, and I think the numerous comments about how enamored the reviewer is over subjective qualities of the laptop are out of place. Reply

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