Samsung surprised us at CES this year with the Galaxy Chromebook, a high-end convertible Chrome OS laptop whose thin, angular body is awfully reminiscent the original Pixelbook. It’s on sale today. But Google’s got its own new laptop bearing the Pixel family name in the Pixelbook Go, which you can spec all the way up to a 4K display and Intel Core i7 processor. If you’re on the hunt for a premium Chrome device, these two should be high on your list, but which should you buy? Let’s discuss.
Chrome OS isn’t the most resource-intensive platform in the world; the majority of the work you’ll do on a Chromebook takes place inside a browser window. Still, if you’re prone to leaving dozens on dozens of tabs open or you want to run Linux apps, headroom can be valuable. Both Google’s Pixelbook Go and Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook come with either eight or 16 gigs of RAM, but while the Pixelbook is powered by 8th-gen Intel chips, Samsung’s new hotness runs on a 10th-gen i5. That makes it the most powerful Chromebook to date. It remains to be seen how the heat generated by that beefy chipset will be managed in real-world conditions, but on paper, Samsung has the edge here.
The displays on both the Pixelbook Go and the Galaxy Chromebook are 16:9 — not a fashionable aspect ratio in 2020, particularly for a convertible device. But whereas the Galaxy Chromebook packs a 4K OLED panel even on its base model, the Pixelbook Go sports a positively pedestrian 1080p display in all but its highest trim level. No contest here; Samsung’s screen is better.
Your preference here will be informed by how you plan to use your Chromebook. The Pixelbook Go is a traditional laptop: it does have a touchscreen, but you can’t detach it or flip it around to use the device like a tablet. The Galaxy Chromebook is a convertible with a 360-degree hinge, like the first-generation Pixelbook. To that end, it’s got a capacitive stylus tucked away à la the Samsung Chromebook Plus and Pro, and it even has a camera embedded in the keyboard deck that faces out when the laptop is in tablet configuration for all your awful tablet photo needs.
Personally, I like a regular laptop — I seldom want to use a tablet, and a normal hinge is nicer to manipulate than a 360-degree one. There’s certainly something to be said about the versatility of a convertible, though; if you want a machine that does casual media consumption just as well as Serious Work, the Galaxy is likely the play for you.
Looks are possibly the most subjective part of any purchasing decision — beauty being in the eye of the beholder and all that — and it’d be hard to find two modern laptops more dissimilar in appearance than these. The Pixelbook Go is all soft lines and playful touches, with its round corners and scalloped underside. It comes in black or pink colorways — the latter certainly being a more fun, trendy option, but still relatively subdued. The Galaxy Chromebook, by contrast, is characterized by sharp lines and harsh edges, and its bright orangey-red paint job is eye-catching in the extreme (although a gray model will also be available).
Between the two, I’d pick the Pixelbook Go — it’s handsome, but it doesn’t stick out too much. If you’d rather make more of a splash, the colorful Galaxy Chromebook will certainly do that.
Let’s be clear: neither of these devices are inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. But at $649, the Pixelbook Go starts $350 cheaper than the Galaxy Chromebook. It’s lacking a lot of the Samsung’s features, like the newer processor, the 4K display, convertible functionality, and a fingerprint scanner, but if all you want is good build quality and a comfortable keyboard, you can save a good chunk of change by going with Google’s offering.
But if you’re looking at the higher-end Pixelbook Go configurations — the ones that cost $999 and $1,399 — you should probably think hard about the Galaxy Chromebook. Your $1,000 will get you a lot more bang for your buck there. Just be sure you need all the bells and whistles before you pull the trigger.