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Review: 6 business-class Chromebooks test their mettle

Woody Leonhard | Dec. 11, 2014
I've spent the last three weeks taking six business-oriented Chromebooks through their paces. I started out as a skeptical Windows-rules-them-all kind of guy: I've been using Windows since the early days, and I've rarely strayed from the ghosts of my Windows masters. By the end of my Chromebook experiment, however, my old biases were shaken.

Dell's site lists the base model with 2GB of memory and 16GB flash at $279. I've found small discounts from that price on various vendors' sites. Bump up the memory to 4GB for an additional $20. As of this writing, the Core i3 version (4GB memory, 16GB flash) lists at $379, but doesn't ship until late December.

Dell has been advertising this thoroughly capable (if optically challenged) beast as if it were intended exclusively for the education market. That seems odd to me, because the machine clearly has a lot to offer in the corporate world. Perhaps the marketing folks decided to emphasize school kids because Dell was late to the market — Dell shipped this, only its first Chromebook, earlier this year. Perhaps Dell is concerned about eating into its Windows-drenched base. Maybe it doesn't want to strain that $2 billion investment from Microsoft ("Sure, Steve, we have a Chromebook, but it's only for kids"). Whatever the reason, take the advertising with a grain of salt. The Celeron-based Dell Chromebook 11 works quite well in a business setting, at least in my tests, and I have no doubt the Core i3 version will work even better. If only Dell would improve the screen.

Google Chromebook Pixel

Google released the ultimate Chromebook, called the Chromebook Pixel, back in February 2013, with a second, LTE-enabled model arriving in April. No Chromebook before or since has come close to the Pixel's elegance, gorgeous screen, outstanding keyboard — or exorbitant price.

Comparisons with the 13-inch MacBook Pro are inevitable. The Pixel measures 11.72 by 8.84 by 0.64 inches thick and weighs 3.4 pounds; the current 13-inch MacBook Pro runs 12.35 by 8.62 by 0.71 inches thick and weighs 3.46 pounds. They're kissin' cousins if only in the cloud.

The Pixel uses the most powerful chip of any Chromebook, the Intel Core i5 3427U. If you have a fast connection, the Pixel will drive it hard. Google's Octane 2.0 JavaScript benchmark pegs the Chromebook Pixel at a best-in-class 20,200.

Certainly one of the most breathtaking screens on any mobile machine anywhere, the Pixel's 12.8-inch IPS multitouch screen runs at a stunning 2,560-by-1,700 resolution. By comparison, a nontouch 13.3-inch MacBook Pro Retina screen runs 2,560 by 1,600 pixels. You can crank the resolution up all the way and enjoy the finest portable resolution around, while squinting at teensy-tiny text (to adjust, type chrome://settings/display in the browser). Or you can stick with the installation default, 1280 by 850, for supercrisp text and saturated working glory. Stunning colors can be viewed from neck-craning angles, and the multitouch responds quite precisely. The screen is glossy, but not too glossy. This is, quite possibly, the best portable touchscreen ever made.

 

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