Google's Chromebook Pixel has always been kind of a contradiction in terms. Whereas most Chromebooks ply the $300-and-below waters of budget laptops, the original Pixel was a high-end affair selling for well over $1000. Despite that contradiction, Google apparently had enough success with the concept to refresh the Pixel with Intel's Broadwell CPUs and reversible USB 3.0 ports. And it also knocked $300 off the starting price.
Many of the things that made the original Pixel so alluring stick around in the second generation. The body still appears to be carved from a solid block of aluminum, and the 12.9" touchscreen has the same 2560x1700 resolution (with its odd 3:2 aspect ratio.)
But there are big changes under the hood. The new Pixel is said to last for up to 12 hours on a charge (the old model barely cleared four hours according to one review). That's likely due in part to the use of Intel's latest Broadwell CPUs. Buyers can choose between a "2.2GHz Core i5" (most likely the Core i5-5200U) and a "2.4GHz Core i7" (probably the Core i7-5500U).
Like Apple's latest Macbook, the new Pixel relies on a USB 3.0 Type-C connector for charging. Unlike the Macbook, however, the Pixel has plenty of other ports. The edges house another USB 3.0 Type-C port, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, and an SD card reader. Another fun touch is the LED bar at the top of the lid, which shows the notebook's remaining battery life when tapped.
The sticking point for the Pixel is still likely to be its $999 starting price. That gets you the Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal flash. $1299 buys the Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD. If the internal storage seems tiny, remember that the future of computing is in the cloud—and that you can add an SD card.
The biggest question remains: what do you do with all that power? The Pixel is still a Chromebook, which means you can...uh, browse the web, run a few selected Android apps, work with Google Docs, and watch the latest cat videos on YouTube. Chrome OS might become more fully-featured with time, but that's a long bet for $1000. More than anything, I suspect that the Pixel will remain a halo device for those who enjoy the paradox of a high-end Chromebook.
If paradoxical hardware is your thing, the Pixel is available for order today from the Google Store.