I’ll use the Pixel C full-time for 30 days so you don’t have to

This article is part of a 30 day Pixel C Challenge by  Chip Colandreo. Read all the articles from this series here. Pixel C Challenge.

In partnership with Chrome Story, this is the first in a series of posts about my experience working for a month with the Pixel C as my only computer. To date, I’ve been a dedicated Chrome OS user and an equally dedicated fan of all things Google.

Why am I doing this to myself? There should be a hotline for people to call when they’re about to engage in behavior like this. I’m going to spend the next 30 days of my working life exclusively on Google’s Pixel C convertible tablet, a device many reviewers claim is about as productive as a rusty spoon. Why would I do this, exactly? Well, for one, I’m doing it because I can. I’m a magazine publisher in Central Florida, U.S., who spends the bulk of his day pushing around plain-text documents. I do a fair share of photo editing and uploading, too, but all the heavy Photoshop work and layout and design activity is handled by my art director and various other members of my team. I don’t even own an active Photoshop or InDesign license. I don’t do any high-end video or audio production, either. This workflow makes me an ideal candidate for “thin-client” operating systems like Chrome OS and, for the purposes of this experiment, Android.

I’m also doing this because Google told me I can. At the unveiling of the Pixel C in September of 2015, Google very obviously pitched the C as a productivity machine. The tablet and its “optional” keyboard attachment were clearly marketed as a package deal designed to be used in tandem to turn the content-consumption-oriented tablet into a productive laptop replacement. The concept looked great on stage, but boy did it fall flat when the device reached the hands of reviewers. The early review problems were twofold. 1) At launch, the Pixel C’s software was so riddled with bugs, the device was basically unusable. 2) Android, the Pixel C’s chosen OS, was judged to be ill-suited for real work and genuine productivity. Problem #1 has been (mostly) fixed via a recent software update. With that out of the way, I’m putting issue #2 to the definitive test.

So here are the ground rules: I’m beginning my experiment today, Leap Day, February 29th, the only day crazy enough for an endeavor such as this. For the next calendar month, I will not use or even turn on my regular full-time computer (an original Chromebook Pixel) or any other laptop/desktop device. While away from my desk, I will continue to use my Android phone, a Nexus 5X. If a work-related task can’t be done on the Pixel C, I won’t do it. I’ll either find an acceptable workaround or ask/pay someone else to accomplish the task for me. I’ll catalog my experience here on Chrome Story with regular posts throughout the month. I’ll enthusiastically highlight the good and the bad of life with one of Google’s most confounding — and most intriguing — products.

What I expect to expect

Despite my snarky headline, I expect to enjoy my month-long exile into Android productivity. I’m one of the dozens of intrepid Google fanpersons who purchased the Pixel C at launch. It has quickly become one of my favorite pieces of tech, and the device has rarely left my hands since I officially took delivery on Christmas Day. I love it. The C has restored my faith in Android as a tablet OS. As a productivity OS?… I’ll need a bit more convincing, and that’s partly why I want to give it a fair shot.

I’ve already accomplished quite a bit of “real work” on the Pixel C. I’ve edited and processed several articles for my magazines (which is my primary job) and edited/processed photos to go with them. My team uses Slack and email to communicate and Google Docs/Sheets to manage content and advertisers across our three magazines. We maintain a file server at our physical office, which I can access from the C.

But just because the Pixel C is capable of doing everything I require to earn my living, it doesn’t mean the experience will be enjoyable. That’s the main goal of my 30-day experiment, not so much to determine if this whole thing is possible, but to determine if it’s something I — and by extension, you — would want to do.

I hope the results will be positive, because I also expect to enjoy working, playing, and basically running my digital life on a single device. A device with legitimate all-day battery life, to boot. Gaming on the Pixel C is a joy, and I’ve spent countless hours on it battling up the leaderboards in Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes and conquering the world in RISK Big Screen Edition. So far, the bill of goods Google sold me at the C’s reveal has held true. In the middle of RISK domination, if I’ve suddenly been required to bang out a lengthy email response or Hangouts message, I’ve not needed to open my Chromebook for the job. Instead, I’ve popped on my Pixel C keyboard and gone about my business without missing a beat. With the typing done, I’ve simply reattached the keyboard to the C’s backside (or, more commonly, detached and placed the keyboard on the couch next to me) and gone right back to gaming. The Pixel C is also my favorite YouTube viewer of all time.

I do expect a few things to bother me. I’ll only touch on them here and leave the bulk of my complaints for future posts. I bet I’ll miss backlit keys A LOT. I also think I’ll find the C’s 10.2″ display too small for my liking as a full-time screen. I don’t expect to be that much slower as I accomplish tasks on the Pixel C, but I do expect the difference in speed, however small, to be a source of irritation.

Either way, it’ll be fun, and I hope you’re willing to come along for the ride. Expect my first letter from the bleeding edge to arrive in the coming days, and I want to extend a special thanks to Dinsan Francis, owner of Chrome Story, for giving me a platform to share my experience.

I genuinely believe devices like the iPad Pro and the Pixel C are the future of personal computing. There’s no time like the present to embrace that future, and I’ll be all up in it for the next several weeks, at least. Wish me luck.

9 responses

  1. Welcome aboard Chip!

    Remember the initial days of Chrome OS? As a computer that cannot run Photoshop, it was destined to be a dead platform if we were to believe most of the reviews. I think we might see that trend repeating!

    1. Glad to be here, Dinsan! Thanks so much for the opportunity. Using the Pixel C does feel like being on the ground floor of something new. Before the first software update hit, it felt like the most beta consumer product in Google history, and that’s saying something. I wish more of the reviewers would revisit the device now that a lot of the software kinks have been ironed out.

  2. I will be reading your reports on Pixel C with interest because I already own four Chromebooks, including an Asus 2in1.

    Will I buy a 5th Chromebook? I’ll wait for your reports.

    1. Five Chromebooks? Wow! Now that I think about it, though, I went through about as many before I bought the Chromebook Pixel. Before I went all in like this, I will say my Chromebook and the Pixel C made an excellent team. It’ll be fun to see what I think about my Chromebook when the 30 days is up.

  3. Good thing! And good luck!

    In fact, Im an avid chromebook user and ordered a pixel c myself, which is bound to arrive in the next days.
    Im really excited.

    And true, Dinsan, in 2012, also chromebooks received bad reviews. For me though, they were a major revelation and have easily succeeded my macbook.
    So giving the pixel c a try seems an exciting way to go. Ive always disliked the low-endishness of chromebook (apart from the pixel and the hp11). The in my eyes really beautiful and cool pixel c could come handy…

    Ill be checking back to read more.

    1. Thanks, Joerg. It’s fun to take a dive off the deep end like this. The device itself is extraordinary. I can’t wait for you to get your hands on it. Be sure to tell us what you think!

  4. So. My Pixel-c arrived two days ago. Its an exciting machine, and youre right, Chip. basement of something new.

    If I could only decide wether to keep it or send it back, Id be lucky.

    Let me expand – Ive been using chromebooks since 2012. So I have a bit of experience with them and love their simplicity. But the letdown of them is that you cannot get many decent machines. they are mostly, low end, cheaply manufactured machines with often bad screens. I cant buy the Pixel in my country. Not even the Dell 13. So the choice is really small. This made me eye the Pixel-C.

    Which has indeed a woundrously well made body, a nice tactile keyboard and an amazing screen.
    Only that you ever so often have to change your ways to navigate. Apps, browser, some respond to keyboard scrolling, some dont. Its just not so stringent and efficient as a chromebook.

    But on the other hand – boy its fun to use.

    So Im torn between the love for it and the wish it would be as easily and logically usable like a chromebook.

    A classic dilemma;-)

  5. I am really looking forward to this story. I’m another one who is glad I didn’t listen to the “you can’t do this and you can’t do that…” crowd when it comes to chromebooks. I was really interested in the Pixel C when I first heard the rumors because I assumed it would be a chromebook and I was eager to find out the price. Then I found out it would be an Android device and I read all the somewhat negative reviews and decided to wait as I just can’t justify replacing my Xperia tablet Z that still works beautifully and my current chromebooks work great also.

    I’m really hoping that by the time I need to upgrade my tablet, that the Pixel C type devices will be to the point that I can replace two devices with one. I have been keeping my eye on these and on Remix OS because I don’t play games or do a lot of production type work that needs a real powerful computer.

  6. Hoping your lack of a first post doesn’t mean it’s been an utter disaster…. Waiting to hear how you go before I decide to order one. Unlike a lot of your other readers, I get a new computer about once every five years, so I’m a little risk-averse, but this looks like it could really suit me.

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