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Transparent smartphone prototype is clearly cool

Many smartphones look the same from afar. I bet most of you own one that’s thin, rectangular, and features a big screen. Boooring!

A fully transparent conceptual smartphone, developed by Taiwanese company Polytron Technologies, gives me hope for a future full of fancy smartphones far different from the common designs seen today.

polytronphone

Your future smartphone

 

Mobile Geeks had a chance to personally preview Polytron’s impressive see-through smart-glass gizmo, but it’s worth noting that the current version can’t make calls (yet) and isn’t fully transparent due to limitations with modern technology.

As evidenced in the below preview video, several internal items such as the SIM card, SD card, and microphone can be clearly seen. As Polytron moves toward a more complete device, the company plans to shift many of those visible components to an opaquely shaded area at the bottom while hiding other items, such as the camera, with darker glass.

That’s not the complete story, though. Due to Polytron’s Switchable Glass technology (based on Polyvision), the entire phone may appear opaque when not in use, and clear when powered on.

Polytron perhaps explains the now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t display technology best: “When the power is off, the liquid crystal molecules are randomly oriented [way] that scatters incident light and the screen becomes opaque. When electricity is applied, the liquid crystal molecules line up, the incident light passes through, and the screen looks clear.”

Polytron plans to assemble working prototypes of the transparent smartphone and even move toward limited production by the end of the year, according to Mobile Geeks.

Ubuntu Touch beats Firefox OS to win best of MWC from CNET

BARCELONA, Spain–We’ve seen lots of interesting hardware at Mobile World Congress, and yesterday when the team met to talk about what product should get our best of show award, there were plenty of gadgets in the mix. Asus’ Padfone Infinity was in the running, along with its FonePad, the Nokia Lumia 720, and Sony’s Xperia Z tablet.

But the nine-strong judging team from our San Francisco, New York, and London offices quickly discounted those products. We were much more interested in the product category that has arguably generated more buzz at MWC and is potentially much more disruptive: new mobile operating systems.

The two we zeroed in on, Mozilla’s Firefox OS and Canonical’s Ubuntu Touch, were hotly debated. Lots was said about the impressive number of carriers and manufacturers Firefox OS has lined up behind it. But once put to a vote, Ubuntu Touch was the clear winner, with Firefox OS the runner-up.

The team thought that Ubuntu Touch, the tablet version of which we got our hands-on for the first time at MWC, feels more like the complete package at this point. We liked its slick, elegant interface that makes use of every side of the screen and puts your content and contacts front and center, minimizing the time spent hopping back to a home screen.

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Ubuntu Touch has won the best of Mobile World Congress award from CNET

Elegant smartphone with a huge flaw

With its recent history of mediocre handsets, LG needs something other than the Optimus G to be its Hail Mary that can carry it to the top. Unfortunately, the Nexus 4 isn’t quite it.

Don’t get me wrong, the device itself performs excellently, and some of the specs are certainly impressive: the quad-core CPU is swift, the Jelly Bean Android OS runs as smooth as butter, and all the subtle new features work well without being too unintuitive or burdensome.

But Google’s flagship phone is missing one huge feature that caught us all off guard. The Nexus, which is supposed to represent Android in its most modern, so-high-tech-that-it’s-on-the-bleeding-edge form, isn’t 4G LTE-enabled.

Instead, it operates on “4G-ish” technology (GSM/HSPA+), and comes unlocked from Google (starting on November 13, the 8GB and 16GB versions will be $299 and $349, respectively) or on T-Mobile (after signing a carrier agreement, the 16GB model will be $199 and will begin selling the day after). If your carrier is T-Mobile you won’t care much, since the network runs on HSPA+ anyway. But for those who had been planning on buying the unlocked model and using it on, say, AT&T’s 4G LTE network, the news is truly a downer.

Truth is, while HSPA+ can be as fast as LTE, for the average consumer LTE is expected on high-end phones. Jelly Bean and the pure Android experience will be important for OS enthusiasts, but this phone should have had both. And yes, I know the Galaxy Nexus didn’t have LTE, either, when the technology was available. I was disappointed then, too, even though the network wasn’t as robust. But now that LTE is so widespread, the Nexus 4 shouldn’t get a pass. A handset this high-caliber should have LTE capability, especially these days, when so much time has passed since LTE’s launch and even midrange devices come with it.

Design
If I were to sum up my impression of the LG Nexus 4’s look in one sentence, it’d be this: even though the smartphone has LG’s logo slapped on its back, it has Google written all over it.

Don’t get me wrong, you won’t see Andy anywhere on the handset, nor will you see any blue, red, yellow, and green lettering. But the device’s design noticeably lacks LG’s past aesthetic.

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Yup, this is definitely running Android Jelly Bean.

 

Gone are the bezel hot keys that light up when in use, and there’s no physical home button. Instead, the shortcut keys for back, home, and recent apps appear on the screen itself, just like they do on the previous Nexus. Also gone is the straight-edged touch screen. In its place is a display that softly curves into the bezel, which adds that luxurious extra oomph, and it’s something I’m a huge fan of.

Lastly, the top and bottom edges of the Nexus 4 curve outward, giving the device gently rounded corners. This is a welcome departure from LG’s recent string of mid- to high-end smartphones that were sharply rectangular and austere.

Not everything looks great, however. The phone’s edges are coated with a matte plastic, rubbery material, and they turn inward at a sharp, jagged angle. And if you want to access the inside, you’ll need to use a tiny screwdriver, which will be inconvenient for some.

Overall, the design is nothing we all haven’t seen before. Yes, the Nexus 4 does look and feel like a premium handset, but it’s uninspiring. It measures about the same as most big, 4.7-inch phones (5.27 inches by 2.7 inches by 0.36 inch), so it’ll be a tight squeeze in small jean pockets. It’s a wide fit in the hand but is comfortable to hold, and while it’s only 0.1 ounce heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S3, it feels noticeably denser and sturdier.

On the left is a volume rocker and up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack. The sleep/power button is on the right spine, and the Micro-USB port is on the bottom edge. Above the display in the top right corner is a 1.3-megapixel camera and below the screen is an LED notification light. The back of the phone houses an 8-megapixel camera and an LED flash.

Now, about that distinctive sparkling back plate: personally, I don’t mind it. You can only really see it in the light, and it reminds me of either Tetris or “The Matrix” (two things I’m fond of). There are others, however, who don’t like it and say it makes the phone look like a “Sailor Moon” sticker card.

Display
Though the LG Optimus G and the Nexus 4 have the same 4.7-inch True HD IPS+ touch screen with the same 1,280×768-pixel resolution, and both are made out of Corning Gorilla Glass 2, the usable screen space on the Nexus 4 is actually smaller because of the onscreen hot keys. Sure, the icons move out of the way when you’re watching videos or playing games, but that third of an inch of lost screen space (especially given that the two devices are nearly the same size) is noticeable when browsing the home screen or surfing the Web.

Having said that, however, the screen is still impressive — it’s bright, text renders crisply, colors are true to life and vivid, and it’s sensitive to touch input. Something about swiping my fingers across it and letting them fall off the edges felt incredibly slick. Even the slightest touch will register, without being inaccurate, and typing with Gesture Touch (more on that later) was exceptionally smooth.

Understandably, on the Optimus G and and the Nexus 4, photos and videos looked practically identical. There were a few times when colors on the Nexus 4 had warmer tones and less contrast, but these instances happened so rarely that it’s difficult to make a call between the two.

On the other hand, differences compared with the Samsung Galaxy S3 were much more prominent. Colors on the Galaxy S3 were more saturated, greens looked deeply green, and whites had a subtle blue hue to them. Dark colors, like black and brown, were harder to distinguish from one another. Though there were times when the richer palette made photos and videos look better on the S3, the Nexus 4 displayed colors that were truer to life without being muted.

Interface and basic features
Unlike the overhaul that was the change from Android Gingerbread to Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich, the change from ICS to Jelly Bean is subtler. In general, the aesthetics of the UI remain about the same: Roboto is still the dominant font, menus and icons keep the same minimalistic look, and the elegant simplicity of ICS is retained overall. In fact, only hard-core Android devotees would be able to tell it wasn’t ICS even after spending a few minutes with it.

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The interface for incoming calls has been slightly tweaked.

 

However, the minor changes that are present are welcome, such as resizable widgets; a more expansive notifications bar that lets you see more information about things like e-mails, texts, and screenshots; offline voice dictation; more wallpapers; updates to Google Play; and updates to Android Beam, which now allows you to transfer more-complex files like photos and movies over NFC.

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Google Now gets more accurate with its suggestions and transportation estimations the more you use your phone.

 

Another feature is Google Now, which is closely tied into Google Search and Voice Search. Because Google Now isn’t technically a voice recognition service, it’s not like iOS’ Siri. But it does have voice assistant-style abilities. For instance, it can suggest local restaurants and estimate your commute time.

For more information, read our review of Jelly Bean.

Basic features include a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm functions (with an extremely beautiful interface, I must say), an e-mail client, a movie-editing app, and a news and weather app. And all the Google apps you come to expect are preloaded: Chrome, Currents, Earth, Plus, Search, Local, Maps with Navigation, Messenger, Talk, Voice Search, YouTube, and the Google Play Books, Magazines, Movies and TV, Music, and Store portals.

Android 4.2: What’s new for Jelly Bean?
Right when I turned on the handset, it prompted me for an update to version 4.2. This brought a few more features, most of which involve the camera (I’ll expand on that later). Another feature is Gesture Typing, a typing input method that’s similar to Swype. Swype is a third-party app that allows users to swipe through the letters to form the words they’re typing out, instead of hitting individual keys. It’s a faster, more convenient way of typing that’s rightly loved by Android users. Gesture Typing is a native feature that works in the same way.

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Gesture Typing, a native typing input method, works similarly to Swype.

 

There’s also Daydreams, a sort of screensaver sleep mode for your phone whenever it’s docked or charging. Options include a graphic of floating jelly beans you can interact with through touch, a mural of headlines gathered from your Google Current subscriptions, or a shifting color gradient. In addition, photos from your albums can be displayed, either individually or piled on one another like a stack of physical pictures.

Camera and video
Shooting options and editing: The LG Nexus 4’s 8-megapixel camera sports a new user interface that is now even more minimalist than the previous Nexus iteration’s. Photo options can be reached through a radial dial that you can access by either tapping on the circle on the right-hand corner, or tapping anywhere on the viewfinder itself.

These options include flash, geotagging, and 3.9x digital zooming, five white-balance modes, five scene modes, seven photo sizes, an exposure meter ranging from -2 to +2, and HDR shooting. You also get touch and autofocus. The front-facing camera retains most of these features save for the flash (obviously), and there are only three photo sizes to choose from.

In addition, you can take panoramic pictures and Photo Spheres, a new feature in Android 4.2. Photo Sphere stitches together pictures taken from every angle at a single point, to create expansive 3D-esque photos. Though you need to spend some time to take all the photos, the spheres never fail to impress people, and they’re great when you want to record and share an all-encompassing scene, like when hiking or buying a new house. Though I had a little trouble figuring out how to use it in the beginning, the feature works reliably and swiftly. There were a few times, however, when the feature didn’t allow me to capture the very bottom and very top of a scene, which resulted in huge black holes of empty space in my photos.

photo_sphere

Photo Sphere patches together several pictures and renders them into (nearly) a 360-degree image.

Aside from the exposure meter, rear-facing video features consist of the same options. However, there is an additional time-lapse mode and you can select from three video qualities, the highest being HD 1080p. If you want to record with the front-facing camera, the highest quality you can shoot in is HD 720p.

The photo gallery also went through a makeover. You can browse through photos in a filmstrip view by slightly pinching in on an individual picture. To delete a photo, simply flick it off the screen. To edit an individual image, select the icon of three intertwining circles at the bottom of the display.

Editing options include 10 lens filters, not unlike the ones Instagram offers. You can also overlay seven different types of borders, crop a photo, or adjust sharpness, exposure, contrast, hues and saturation levels, and much more.

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Android Jelly Bean includes new photo-editing options that are quite Instagram-esque.

 

Photo quality: In photo quality the Nexus 4 was very similar to AT&T’s Optimus G. In sunny outdoor shots (and even on gloomy, overcast days), images were in focus, with crisp, well-defined edges. Photos didn’t necessarily “pop” with saturated hues, but colors were true to life. I found that whites, even on auto white balance, were especially accurate. In low or indoor lighting, pictures understandably fared worse. Dark hues were harder to distinguish from one another, and when zooming in at full resolution, there was more digital noise and pixelation.

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             In our standard studio shot, objects are in focus and colors are true to life.

The camera performed well; there was no lag in feedback when I moved it. However, for a handset that performs so speedily in every other aspect — running games, Web browsing, and the like — the shutter speed is comparably slower than the iPhone 5’s and the Galaxy S3’s. Snapping one picture is fine, but when I rapidly and continuously pressed the shutter button, the time it needed to refocus stalled its shutter time.

Video recording was also respectable. Audio picked up well, colors were accurate, and moving objects, like passing cars, remained in constant focus with clean outlines and little pixelation. The refresh rate during playback was high and images rendered smoothly.

Performance
Call quality: We tested the device on T-Mobile’s network. Signal quality both indoors and outdoors was great. I didn’t hear any audio clipping in and out, no calls were dropped, and I didn’t hear any extraneous buzzing.

Call quality, however, was a different matter. Every test call I made was to a landline phone, and for the in-ear speaker, audio volume was too low. There were times, especially outdoors, when I couldn’t make out what my friends were saying, even after cranking it up to maximum volume. Switching to speakerphone helped a little, but if I turned the volume too high, voices sounded extremely harsh. This makes sense since sound can only escape through a thin slit in the back of the phone, so my friends sounded really tinny while speaking. The speaker also rendered music flatly. Its small opening strips away much of the depth and body, especially from songs that are instrumentally rich.

Furthermore, even in regular (not speakerphone) calls, voices sounded slightly staticky, and every word I heard was layered with a subtle fuzz. Likewise, a friend reported to me that I sounded too sharp, as if the bass was turned down on my voice while the treble was turned up.

Whether the lack of LTE matters: If you’re a T-Mobile customer, the answer is no. T-Mobile’s “4G” was always based on HSPA+ technology and it never offered LTE, anyway (though the carrier does plan on launching it next year). So for those of you who belong to the carrier now, this handset is one of the best phones T-Mobile is offering.

On average, it loaded our CNET mobile site in 6 seconds and our full desktop site in 8 seconds. The New York Times mobile and desktop sites took 7 and 14 seconds to load, respectively. ESPN’s mobile site downloaded in 7 seconds, and the phone took 15 seconds to load the full site. It took a mere 50 seconds on average to download the 22MB game Temple Run. And the Ookla speed-test app showed me an average of 8.15Mbps down and 0.5Mbps up.

However, if you buy the phone unlocked, you won’t be able to use any carrier’s 4G LTE network. As I stated before, LTE has become a staple in mid- to high-end phones and the technology is no longer in its infancy. And while some surmise that operating on GSM/HSPA will make the Nexus 4 a more global device, it’s still a letdown for the U.S. market.

Processor and battery: Though the Nexus 4’s data speeds might not be blazingly fast, the 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core CPU makes its internal speed swift and smooth. Graphics-intense games like Riptide GP and Asphalt 7 played extremely well, launching and running with no stalls or hiccups. The games both displayed high frame rates with high-resolution graphics.

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            Because of the phone’s ultrafast CPU, gameplay was crisp, smooth, and fast.

In addition, average start time for the handset was about 23 seconds, and it took about 1.82 seconds to launch the camera. Browsing on Chrome was a lot smoother on this device than on the Optimus G for some reason. For instance, scrolling down Web pages was executed much more swiftly.

During our battery drain tests for video playback, the device lasted 8.1 hours. Anecdotally the handset had short battery life. Though it’s powered by a 2,100mAh battery, the screen takes much of its reserves. I needed a few good charges to get me through the day, and playing a 22-minute show drained about 10 percent of the battery’s power. According to FCC radiation standards, phone has a a digital SAR rating of 0.56W/kg.

Conclusion
In general, the device is excellent and reliable — its internal speeds are zippy and smooth, the camera is packed with new features, and Android 4.2 is indeed sleek. The Nexus 4 is one of the best LG phones out there alongside the Optimus G, and for such a recognizable phone, it’s extremely affordable. In addition, if you’re already a T-Mobile user, the Nexus 4 is the carrier’s best offering next to the Galaxy S3.

But aside from natively sporting Android Jelly Bean, the Nexus 4 doesn’t offer up anything significantly new. If you ask yourself, what does this phone do to expand and progress the Nexus brand? The answer is, nothing much.

Though it’s fast, the Optimus G also has a quad-core CPU and the AT&T model is 4G LTE-capable to boot. Compared with the Samsung Galaxy S3’s design, the Nexus 4 looks all too common. And if you’re concerned about what Google said about LTE and battery life, look no further than the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD. Plainly put, while the Nexus 4’s HSPA+ speeds are respectable, its lack of LTE capabilities will definitely leave users feeling behind or slighted.

Brilliant touch screen, hefty price

Google’s Web-based Chromebook laptops seem to be heading in two different directions. On one end, there’s the Samsung Chromebook Series 3. At the time of his writing, it’s the best-selling laptop on Amazon.com. Perhaps not surprising, given its $249 price tag — it’s basically filling the low-end gap left by the collapse of the netbook and the rise of the 7-inch tablet.

At the other end of the spectrum is Google’s new Chromebook Pixel. This is the first Google-designed laptop — not one that was farmed out to a partner like Acer or Samsung. And Google has upped the ante, adding a high-res touch-screen — with a pixel density greater than that of Apple’s vaunted Retina screens — and a real Intel Core i5 processor. But the 3.3-pound Pixel also has a high-end sticker price: it starts at a whopping $1,299. That goes to $1,449 for the step-up model, which adds a built-in 4G LTE cellular modem (and won’t ship until early April of 2013).

For die-hard denizens of the cloud, this may look to be the ultimate online-only laptop. But like its less-expensive predecessors, the Chromebook Pixel comes with a long list of caveats — all of which are amplified by its high price. The screen is gorgeous, but — unlike Windows 8, which has been designed to interact well with touch — the Chrome OS itself is not particularly touch-friendly right now.

And unlike every other laptop in this price range, the Chromebook Pixel can’t run familiar desktop software like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop — only the Chrome-compatible Web-based alternatives such as Google Docs and Pixlr Express. Want to do video editing? Even if you think WeVideo is as good as Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, be prepared for long upload and download times as you manipulate your video clips in the cloud.

Until Google can provide a Web app ecosystem that’s as robust as the vast software libraries for Mac and Windows, and a cloud-based architecture that’s as convenient as working on your local hard drive, this sort of high-end Chromebook is going to remain a tough sell.

We like to think of the Chromebook as a Google experiment — a physical playground upon which a handful of wealthy consumers play out a utopian Google Fiber future that anticipates gigabit wireless everywhere. When that future arrives, the Chromebook Pixel may be just the hardware to navigate it.

Battery testing for this product is ongoing. We’ll update this review with those results once they are available, and adjust the rating if necessary.

The screen
The marquee feature of the Chromebook Pixel is its multitouch-enabled screen, with enough pixels to match Apple’s Retina Display. In person, it’s nothing less than spectacular.

The 12.85-inch, 2,560×1,700-pixel display has a taller-than-usual 3:2 aspect ratio, and is covered with a layer of Gorilla Glass for protection. It also gives you an unusually high 400-nit brightness.

There’s no doubt that the 3:2 ratio, as opposed to the more common 16:9 ratio, is a difference that becomes apparent in two ways. The first is with the touch screen’s height: if you’re typing away and then move to tap the screen, it feels just a hair further away than the shorter, wider Windows touch screens. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily, but it is noticeable.

The second difference with the 3:2 ratio is that you get more vertical space. (In that regard, it’s a throwback of sorts to the older, squarer 4:3 screens of the pre-HDTV era.) If all you use your laptop for is watching movies, you may lament the return to larger, black letterbox bars. But Chromebooks live in the cloud, which means the Web, and in terms of design, the Web is nothing if not vertically-oriented. You scroll down through your online docs or to read stories, blogs, and reviews such as this one. It’s a natural fit for something so centered on the Web.

The screen density of 239 pixels per inch means it edges past the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s Retina Display at 227ppi, making fonts smooth and graphics sharp. As with Retina devices, though, a lot of software and Web pages must be updated before graphics will look their best, but text is a pleasure, and going back to ordinary resolution displays is no fun.

Using the touch screen itself was a smooth experience. You’ll encounter more problems from using Chrome, which does not have a touch-friendly interface, than you will from anything related to the Pixel’s screen. For example, Chrome’s tabs are thin, and it may take two or three taps to switch to the right one. Using the screen to draw or pinch-to-zoom was flawless.

Hardware features: Under the hood
Inside the Chromebook Pixel is a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 processor, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics, and 4GB of memory. That’s a huge step-up for Chromebook power; previous models use low-end Celeron or ARM chips. Essentially, it puts the Pixel at the same computing parity as other Mac and Windows PCs.

There are two versions of the Pixel: the $1,299 Wi-Fi-only model has a 32GB SSD (flash storage), while the $1,449 64GB model adds built-in 4G LTE wireless. Both come with an impressive 1TB of cloud storage with Google Drive for three years. While LTE costs have not been fully revealed, if you go over the Google-comped 100MB per month, you can add the Pixel to your Verizon Share Everything plan for $10 per month. Per day access is available as well, although the price has yet to be revealed.

On the outside, the Chromebook Pixel has two USB 2.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort for external monitors, an SD Card slot, and a combination headphone-microphone jack. Google promises five hours of battery life with typical usage. Bluetooth 3.0 and USB 2.0 mean that the Pixel is a version behind the latest standards. Likewise, you can get a Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter, but nearly all other laptops in this price range (with the notable exception of non-Retina Macbooks) offer built-in HDMI.

Even the $250 Samsung Chromebook Series 3 comes with one USB 3.0 port.

Google put two microphones, an HD camera, and a light detector above the screen. The two microphones are for better noise cancellation, but Google also tucked a third below the keyboard to help cut out typing noises.

Despite this being the best hardware design for a Chromebook yet, small blemishes keep it from truly shining. Video-out options are limited. Google picked a Mini DisplayPort so it could drive large external displays without having HDMI power consumption burdens, but let’s face it: there are a lot more HDMI TVs and monitors out there, and nearly every other laptop in this price range (with the notable exception of non-Retina Macbook Pros) has HDMI outputs.

There’s also the keyboard oddity. Google’s intent on making this a thing, but heavy typists familiar with traditional keyboards still will miss the Caps Lock key and right-Delete key. Alt-Delete just isn’t as fast, and overall the keyboard feels a bit mushy, especially compared to the snappy laptop keyboards of a Lenovo or newer MacBook Pro.

Performance
Normally at CNET, we test laptops by running specific software benchmarks on Photoshop, iTunes, Quicktime, as well as games like Far Cry, Metro 2033, and Crysis. Of course, none — absolutely none — of those programs can run on a Chromebook’s Web-based operating system. As a result, we did some more anecdotal testing instead.

For video playback, we tested streaming HTML5, streaming Flash, and locally-saved video files on the Pixel and on a Samsung Chromebook Series 3 for comparison. There was virtually no difference between the two streaming video formats that couldn’t be chalked up to buffering issues. Local playback was identical on both, even though the Pixel is currently running a more recent version of Chrome OS — version 25 versus the Series 3’s version 23.

However, when using more processor-intensive Web apps, the Pixel’s superior hardware came to the fore. Whether running the Flash-based Pixlr, WeVideo, or the HTML5 deviantArt Muro app, the Pixel was provided an invariably smoother rendering, editing, and saving experience.

There are problems with the operating system, too, although Google generally has made good its promise to improve Chromebooks by issuing regular update to Chrome OS, which updates every six weeks.

One of the most memorable Chromebook fixes that came from an OS update was when the Cr-48’s trackpad suddenly started working much better than it had previously, thanks to an update about six months after the Cr-48’s release. So we know that Google can make substantial improvements through OS fixes.

With that caveat in mind, there are still some big hang-ups with the Pixel. Its 4GB of RAM isn’t enough to save it from the same multiple-tab managing problems of Chrome-the-browser. Since Chrome OS’s Web apps are essentially glorified browser tabs, this can quickly slow down your zippy Pixel experience.

Fine-tuning things like the keyboard refresh rate or battery use is impossible. That’s a noticeable limitation when compared to Windows, Mac, or Linux-driven laptops.

And Web apps still don’t match native apps for performance, features, and offline support. The fact that Google Drive will soon automatically sync 1,000 of your most recently used documents, up from 100 of them, is less important than the overall offline experience.

QuickOffice integration is coming to Chrome OS, a clever boon to businesses, and it’ll arrive first on the Pixel — but not for at least two to three months.

Should you buy the Pixel?
In a word, no.

While the Pixel makes manifest our subconscious expectations of the Chromebook when it first launched two years ago, the expensive, high-end, touch screen laptop still falls short in some key areas. Yes, there’s a lot to like about the hardware, but the Web-based Chrome OS just has far too many caveats and compromises to justify its exorbitant price tag.

At $1,300 to $1,500, every other PC — Mac or Windows — will give the vast majority of users far more options for the money, though right now they’ll have to choose between a high-res Retina screen (MacBook Pro, starting at $1,349) or a touch screen (many, many Windows models).

The Chromebook Pixel is an interesting “halo product,” and the design chops Google has shown bode well for future models. But for now, this is laptop is targeted at a niche of a niche. The vast majority of people who use Google services would be better served by sticking with the Samsung Chromebook Series 3. It lacks the high-res touch screen and zippy Intel processor, but at $249, it’s a lot easier to overlook its flaws.

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