I've been meaning to write this for a long time now. Since I purchased the Pixelbook on November 2017, I've done the following with this machine:

  1. Mobile development (Android Studio & React Native)
  2. Web development (Go, React, Redux, and the lot)
  3. Smart Contract development (Solidity on the Ethereum network)
  4. ...and (sorry m5) even deep learning (Python, Pytorch, Tensorflow)!

Below is my two cents. I guess not a lot of people are out looking for a Pixelbook in 2020, but my retrospection might shed some light on the "ultrabook developer experience", which is relevant to Pixelbook Go and other hot new Chromebooks.

One line summary:

Developing on a Pixelbook is not as bad as you'd think. You can make it work, but it's like sleeping on the sofa.

Crostini FTW

Crostini! Everything I've mentioned above was done on Crostini. Is Crostini a complete and happy linux experience? Absolutely not. But it excels at lowering your expectations, and surpassing them mightily. With Crostini, the Chrome OS team at Google is hacking through uncharted ground here (and they make sure you know this), and considering how from-the-ground-up this whole project is, Crostini is quite decent. Major things that have to run, run. Just don't try to do the niche stuff, like connecting a usb IR receiver to your Pixelbook to read your AC remote signals. Or playing audio.

Still a beta hardware

Pixelbook is beta hardware. Hardware longetivity is subpar. One of its two USB ports does not work. Trackpad only registers tap-clicks not click-clicks. Power button reacts to one out of 10 presses (every time I turn the Pixelbook off I do not have faith I can turn it back on). I mean, can all of these major defects possibly be user error? It's not like I slug this thing around carelessly.

But the keyboard is godly. Enough to eclipse all the problems mentioned above. I have two HHKB pros but this seemingly nondescript pentograph keyboard is just.. so.. good.

Mobile development

Compiling Java for an Android project is damn slow. But, like I said, it's doable.

Web development

Pleasantly doable. Building React projects is a bit slow.

Smart contract development

The bottleneck is not your local machine but the Ethereum network's transaction delay.

Deep learning

Inference on Bert-base takes ~10 seconds.

Should you buy it?

Yes, but only if:

  • You don't live in Korea (good luck getting that dead port fixed. Not to mention our super wonderful government websites with all that keyboard "security" .exe).
  • Or you are comfortable enough to hack your way through Linux.
  • Or you can ssh into another workstation for your main work.

Tagged in:

pixelbook, review

Last Update: February 24, 2024