TECH TALK: Chromebook is light, but carries heavy price tag

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First Posted: 3/5/2013

Google’s original Chromebook created a ton of buzz when it was originally released.

A laptop designed to operate fully in “the cloud,” the Chromebook ditches the “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” mentality of traditional laptop design in favor of hardware and software optimized for work on the web.

The Chromebook’s operating system (creatively dubbed “Chrome OS”) design speaks well to that philosophy.

It’s essentially a substantially fortified version of the Google Chrome web browser, and users of Chrome would be right at home using any Chromebook.

The original Chromebook was inexpensive and minimalist, and it got the job done. I liked it, despite complaints about the build quality from some quarters. It did what it said it would do, extremely well.

Recently, Google released the Chromebook Pixel, a heavily upgraded version of the original Chromebook.

Sporting an ultra-high-resolution touchscreen superior to Apple’s much-lauded Retina displays, along with extremely good build quality, the Chromebook Pixel is a work of art. Its Intel i5 processor and lack of a heavy-duty operating system mean that anything you can do on the Chromebook will be done quickly. It has both WiFi and LTE/4G connectivity, so you can work no matter where you go.

The Pixel is, in a word, beautiful. There’s just one problem: the pricetag.

The Chromebook Pixel costs $1,300, and all it can do is utilize web-based applications.

Granted, that’s no small thing, because you can do a whole lot of useful stuff with just an Internet connection and a web browser, but you can get the same thing with a $300 netbook or tablet. For $1,300, it’s not unreasonable to expect just a little bit of flexibility.

So why buy it?

I like think that the concept of the Chromebook Pixel is somewhat similar to the philosophy of auto manufacturer Lotus. They’re both ultra-lightweight, reasonably powerful, have good build quality and excellent design, and both are a little on the pricey side.

They’re probably both targeting the same demographic, come to think of it. One only hopes that Google produces better engineers than the British.

In any event, it seems to me that Google’s gotten away from the original concept of the Chromebook. Lightweight computing solutions should generally have a lightweight price tag.

Even if you’re fully behind the “let’s do everything in the cloud” philosophy, after spending that much money, you’d think you’d at least be able to play a video game on the thing.

On the other hand, there are always people who like nice things, and this Chromebook is certainly that.