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Is $1,299 Too Much For The Chromebook Pixel?

As I told you earlier that the Chromebook Pixel may be real, it actually is. Without any media hype Google announced its high-end Chromebook Pixel which redefines the consumer PC experience. The build quality, material used and the justified pricing tell that the device is undoubtedly targeted at those users who while want to take advantage of Chrome OS – instant boot, cloud-based services and storage and no maintenance – but don’t want to lug around some cheap $249 Chromebook. They want high-end, top-tier hardware.

That’s what Pixel is.

These could be executives going for meetings, creative people or even developers. I have seen quite a lot of developers on G+ showing interest in this device.

When compared with other mid-range hardware it’s not that expensive actually. If we look at Dell XPS 13 developer PC it is being sold for $1,449 and it doesn’t have the same luxurious ‘aluminum’ body or the retina ‘tearing’ 2560 x 1700 at 239 PPI display. Yes Dell has i7 CPU, 8GB RAM and 256 GB SSD. I do quite some film-editing and I never needed more than 4GB RAM (yes Adobe Recommends 8GB) but that’s for 1080p 3D 60i frame film editing. You are not going to do that on Chromebook. So, tying a rocket engine in a shopping cart won’t work. Display is what would work as you can enjoy high-definition movies, images and content. And when you slap a multi-touch on that screen – you add a value which looks like dirty cheap at $1,299.

Since I use two devices with have retina + display Nexus 10 and Nexus 4 I now know what it means to have a better display and Chromebook is setting a new standard for PCs.

It really breaks the stagnated (to the extent of stinking) Windows hardware where only innovation you would hear about was in GPU. Apple triggered the hardware improvement with its retina and Google is taking it to the next level.

Isn’t $1,299 too much for a cloud based laptop?
I knew this question would pop-up and it did. Someone commented on my Google +, “The new Google Pixel has (only) 4G of RAM, (a meager) 32G SSD and comes at $1.299? Really? And they call it a laptop? And Google fans still claim Apple is selling overpriced stuff? I am impressed. Not.”

It’s easy to opine or pass judgment when you don’t actually have any clue about the cost of the hardware. The core component that makes up the cost is the awesome retina plus display with touch and that build quality. I guess display itself is the main ‘consumer’ here.

So, I asked Aaron Seigo, the project lead of KDE’s Plasma Active, who himself is planning to release a Linux powered tablet withing 3 months. He has been dealing with all kinds of hardware vendors so he _actually_ has some first hand experience and his opinion is the one that matters in this matter.

Seigo said, “That resolution is very expensive. We looked at various pixel density screens at 7″ and 9″ and wholesale in large quantities even just 1280 (“retina” is ~50% denser) was over 2x the cost of 1024. (Yep, 200 more pixels wide, double the cost of the panel; and don’t forget the comparable touch module too, that’s another cost.) Double the size to 13″ and it will again go up again more than one might expect. As pixel density and panel size rises, yield rates plummit and that’s the main source of the cost: the factories end up smashing and recycling more screens per run than they produce. I would not be surprised in the least if those displays + the touch module are close to 1/2 the BoM.

So then I asked if $1,299 is too much? Seigo said, “So is it possible to do it all-in for under $1200 retail, say $999? Maybe, but I imagine with everything else in (storage, bluetooth, case, blah blah …) the profit margin would be razor thin.”

So the cost is justified according to someone who _knows_ hardware.

Personally, unlike critics I think it’s cheap at that price point.  I almost forgot to mention that it also comes with 1TB of free Google Drive storage for 3 years. 1TB is $49 per month and if you do some maths it turns out to be $1,764 for three years. So, you get ‘more’ than what you pay. Though personally I am not a huge fan of 3rd party cloud and keep my data on ownCloud for those who use cloud that’s a great deal.

Tweak, tweak, tweak!
It’s great hardware for those who want to ‘tweak’ with it. Developers now won’t have to throw money at Apple to get decent hardware. I won’t be surprised to see more Pixels at Open Source events. It will be a great hardware to install openSUSE, Linux Mint, Kubuntu or Arch Linux and take full advantage of the hardware.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this device.

Chromebooks everywhere
Chromebooks have shown their market strength as they were the #1 best seller on Amazon.com. My wife is now a full time Chromebook user – earlier she was a Mac user who was converted by me to an Ubuntu machine. One of the biggest differences I noticed once she moved to Chromebook was her ‘support’ calls. Which means when she was on Ubuntu she would bug me at least once a day, complaining about something not working properly or asking me to fix something. With Chromebook her support request have gone down to zero. I don’t have to worry about anything as everything works out of the box.

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So, I think this is a great devices and the price is pixel perfect.

Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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