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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  • karasaj - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    What other objectivity can you have than display analysis, battery life, build quality (even still moderately subjective), and performance? Heat and noise I guess, which is normally included in laptop reviews, but considering he can't actually run HWmonitor, and it's also probably hard to actually load up the machine with a super heavy workload, there's not much he left out.

    If you don't like the subjective parts, skip them. Subjective qualities at the expense of objectivity can be bad, but he hasn't sacrificed that really.
    Reply
  • nunomoreira10 - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Those color (target and actual) diagrams are great!
    Please do so again on future displays reviews
    Reply
  • frakkel - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Finally - Someone who understands that we are not using our notebooks for watching 16:9 movies day long. To see a more square format is very much welcome. Now I will just wait for Haswell and then I will buy. Reply
  • internetf1fan - Saturday, June 1, 2013 - link

    Wider screens are better for productivity as you can fit multiple documents side by side. Going back to 4:3 displays really hurts how I work because of lack of space. Reply
  • leexgx - Saturday, June 1, 2013 - link

    we are not talking going back to 4:3 that would be silly, we are talking about website friendly 16:10 screens

    not many people use the side by side feature in windows 7
    Reply
  • seapeople - Monday, June 3, 2013 - link

    Not many people use graphics cards, either, so why not just get rid of all those? Reply
  • twtech - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Remember the dot-com boom of the '90s, when the internet was supposed to take over everything? And then it didn't, and all these startups went bust, but it still had a significant impact, which continues to grow today?

    Right now, people are saying, the PC is dead, tablets are the new king. We've heard this mantra before. Notebooks, netbooks, consoles vs. PC gaming, everything new was supposed to kill the desktop PC. And along the way, those things have taken some marketshare when those devices were actually the more appropriate tool for the job.

    If all you had was a hammer and nails, but now you have a screwdriver and screws as well, some of the times when you previously used nails, now you'll use screws instead. If you put the usage of nails on a chart, maybe you'd say that they were "dying", and that usage of screws is the future, since of course it was growing from zero. Well, we know that both types of fasteners have their preferred uses. And tablets may replace PCs for certain uses - the use cases in which they are genuinely better. But there would be no sense in trying to use a tablet for things the PC is naturally better at.
    Reply
  • Crono - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    The PC isn't dead. We're just in a transition period where tablets are becoming a very popular form factor of PCs. Anyone who wants to create content knows that a base iPad isn;t going to do you much good unless you have the right apps and preferably a physical keyboard. That's why the Surface and Surface Pro are the right direction, I think, though everyone agrees Haswell is needed to bring better battery life. Hybrid and convertible tablets or ultrabooks - whether they are Android, Windows, or iOS - will be key for the next few years... until we start getting scrolls. ;)

    Personally, I would love a 10" x 12" x 0.2" OLED flexible scroll computer with a display that can become rigid when completely unfurled from a thin computer core/column.
    Reply
  • rwei - Friday, May 31, 2013 - link

    Odd that you yourself note the unfavorable comparison to the 13" rMBP, yet your review gushes with enthusiasm for the Pixel. I love shiny, beautiful new gadgets as much as or more than the next guy, but your praise seems excessive.

    I more or less took away from this is that the Pixel is cool because it makes for a really nice and shiny typewriter, and wow look it's evolving really quickly to the point where it's slowly approaching the level of basic functionality that other systems already deliver.
    Reply
  • Arbie - Saturday, June 1, 2013 - link

    rwei - I agree with you completely.

    And there is a weird parallel between the design effort put into this overdone $1400 browser box and the writing effort put into this overblown, wordy, and just so artfully crafted treatise on it. Is this all a joke of some kind? I got through a couple of pages and couldn't take it any more. If you gave the author an enema he could fit in a shoebox.

    As for the computer, the only thing it's ideal for is to make the Surface RT look like a success. Maybe it makes sense as an investment collectible, considering that they're only going to sell two or three. Nothing worthwhile here.
    Reply

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