Well, I Bought a Chromebook

Well, I Bought a Chromebook

2020, Nov 20    

I bought a Pixelbook Go in early November 2020. As a spec nerd, I agonized over the decision of A) if I should buy a new laptop or wait for the 14” Macbook with Apple silicon, and B) which laptop to buy, if I wasn’t going to wait. I decided to shop around for deals while waiting for the release of the Macbook.

The Plan

I’ve been thinking about upgrading my laptop for a while now. My criteria seemed unrealistic - I don’t think a laptop exists which meets all of the below: -<$1200 before tax -16gb RAM -256gb storage -long battery life -1080p or better resolution display with good brightness (300+ nits) -good keyboard (subjective, but I am coming from a Lenovo T440 and don’t want to downgrade) -keyboard backlight -usb-c charging option -less than 3 pounds -non-Windows OS Nice-to-haves: -convertible -3:2 display ratio -USI stylus compatibility

I’d narrowed my search to the following computers: -System76 Lemur Pro -the yet-to-be-released 14” ARM Macbook -Google Pixelbook Go -Acer Spin 713 -Lenovo X1 Carbon with linux -Dell XPS13 Developer Edition

I was willing to compromise on storage and RAM for the chromebooks - they have a good record of being able to perform better than equivalent MacOS or Windows systems using the same amount of RAM. Also, easy integration with the Google Cloud means that overall savings on the laptop could be put into paying for cloud storage and compute power, if needed. The two chromebooks on the list (the Pixelbook Go and Spin 713) both retail for a little more than 1/2 of my chosen budget in their entry-level spec.

Some Good Fortune

After browsing online marketplaces for a few weeks, I bought a $300 used Pixelbook Go online. I figured it was a good deal regardless of the specs, which weren’t listed. The internet was abuzz with praise for the keyboard on the Pixelbook Go when it was released in 2019, and I wanted to see if it was as good as advertised.

As luck would have it, this is the top-tier model. Instead of the base model m3 processor with 8gb RAM and 64gb storage, I got an i7 with 16gb RAM and 256gb storage! I even got the original packaging and a usb-c docking hub thrown in. fistpump

The Review

In short, this is a fantastic computer that so far has not limited my usage in any meaningful way. I’ll try to briefly describe my usage below.

Things I use my laptop for:
  • Programming in VS Code and Atom
  • Watching videos on YouTube
  • Taking online courses
  • Writing emails
  • Slack
  • Spotify
  • Video conferencing
    Things I don’t use my laptop for
  • Gaming
  • Photo/video editing

I’m very pleased with the performance of this computer. The first things I noticed are the screen and keyboard.


The screen on this is 4k, which before now I didn’t think I wanted. It is a significant upgrade from my 1080p Lenovo T440. I would normally have concerns about a 4k display hampering battery life, but Google decided to increase the battery size on the 4k Pixelbook Go so supposedly the run time should be comparable across models.


The keyboard is very nice. Key travel is less than my Thinkpad, but typing feels nice and my speed seems to be about the same (I have not tested to see if I am faster on one or the other). The Pixelbook Go keyboard is noticeably quieter than my Thinkpad. Also, I appreciate the backlight on the PB Go, which my old laptop lacked. Unlike many other laptops, there is very little light bleed around the edges of the keys, which definitely gives it a very premium feel.


Battery life is really good. I haven’t timed it, but my butt gets tired of sitting before I run out of power. I also haven’t run a stress test, but there have been no signs of slowdown in my (admittedly light) typical usage. Wake from sleep is nearly instantaneous - faster than I could get my fingers positioned on the keyboard. I suspect I would be perfectly content with the base model which has the m3 processor, although I would definitely need to pay for some extra Google Drive storage. I would miss the 4k screen, though.


I am impressed with the webcam quality. Most laptops these days still come with 720p webcams, and the 1080p resolution on this one is a nice bonus and it provides a noticeably sharper picture for video calls.


I had some concerns about utility when moving from my Thinkpad, which is running linux. Some chromebooks, this one included, are now able to install and run linux programs, though. I have installed a few linux applications such as VS Code and Atom, and both run well. Connectivity with various Google tools is handy - I enjoy being able to text from my computer using Messages (yes I know that Apple has had this feature for ages). The touchpad gestures built into ChromeOS are useful, and the touchpad on this particular chromebook is quite nice. It’s super quick to change between virtual desktops, and controlling tiling with keyboard shortcuts is easy too.


The build quality of the Pixelbook Go seems to be excellent. When I received the computer, it had a battery cycle count of ~200, but it is still at 98% battery health and had no visible imperfections. The ribs on the bottom of the laptop are nice for carrying it around (from the office to the couch, and back). One hand opening is a prized feature on laptops these days, and while this one is very good, I’d call it 1-1/2 hand opening. It requires some technique. Maybe I just need some practice, or maybe my hinge is a bit tighter than normal - I don’t know. Regardless, I would give this laptop a 9/10 and would definitely recommend it to most people looking for a general purpose computer, although I’d steer them toward the $650 base model.


Some people have concerns about privacy, especially concerning the Google ecosystem. I am among them. The potential for abuse is undeniably there - authoritarian regimes around the globe have already used technology to monitor and control their citizens. However, I’ve personally decided that I am comfortable using the Google suite. The tradeoff of some privacy for convenience and utility are worth it to me. There are other options out there, but have their own issues. The Apple ecosystem is built to work incredibly smoothly, on Apple devices. Linux has a number of solutions, but it is incredibly difficult to achieve a private digital existence without taking EXTREME and inconvenient measures. For example, I don’t want to have to buy the one or two laptops on the market with integrated hardware switches and completely open hardware/software. I don’t want to have the same limited choices with my cell phone.

I do take precautions which provide me with what I consider a reasonable amount of online security, if not privacy/anonymity. I have a very limited social media presence. I don’t have an Alexa or other voice-activated Smarthome system. I limit app permissions for most apps.

Photo Credit

Photo by Arthur Osipyan on Unsplash