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.