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RIP, Pixelbook

I regret to say that after four and a quarter years, my Google Pixelbook has up and stopped working. I suspect it might have something to do with the battery, but it’s difficult to tell without cracking it open to have a look, and even if I did that I would have no idea specifically what I’m looking at. What I do know is that after opening it up to do a little work on it, it refused to boot up. I plugged it in and that didn’t help; I left it to charge and still nothing. I know that making note of how it is not working will inevitably inspire some of you to try to diagnose it from your own keyboards; let me save you the diagnosis. I may take it in to a repair shop to see if it can be fixed, or, you know, I may just accept it’s dead and move on with my life. Don’t feel you need to give me advice on it.

If it is indeed well and truly dead, I am sad to see it go. It’s probably my favorite laptop computer ever, both for its form factor and its general functionality, and it was the first Chromebook I’ve had where I didn’t feel I was having to compromise the user experience for simplicity. My only real complaint about it was because of the Chrome OS security, it wouldn’t easily fire up the pop-up pages that nearly every hotel uses to allow people to access the Internet. I suppose I could have found a solution for that, but inasmuch as I have a hotspot with me at all times anyway, it was usually not a problem.

Also, don’t cry for me, as I still have a Windows laptop (a Dell XPS 13) and otherwise don’t mind looking around to see what’s new and exciting in the Chromebook world. There are a lot of very excellent Chromebooks these days, and at the moment the only hard line I have for one is that it needs to have a 3:2 screen, which I find easier to write on than a 16:9 screen (The Pixelbook Go has a 16:9 screen, for everyone about to suggest one of those to me). I’m not in a rush to replace the Pixelbook, but I do like Chromebooks enough that I will nevertheless eventually get around to it.

So: Farewell, Pixelbook, you were a pretty great little laptop. Off you go to computer Valhalla.

— JS

By John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

28 replies on “RIP, Pixelbook”

Not to force you to continue with this relationship, but if you want to go the extra kilometer, take a flashlight (and magnifying specs?) and check the magnetic charging port. If you’re like me, you might have an old staple that got sucked into the port and now blocks you from recharging.

Chromebooks actually time out after five years. I bought my son a Chromebook after his successful Kindergarten campaign (top marks) and that was five years ago this upcoming June. A few weeks ago he got a notice from Google that the Chromebook was going off-support and would no longer work after the date we initialized it five years ago. This is the same thing that will happen to my school’s first batch of Chromebooks in a few months.

Scalzi, looking forward to your new Chromebook! I bought one that I used for simple web surfing and music streaming, and really liked it – if I didn’t edit video, I’d have kept it and not gotten a M1 Pro Macbook….

Yeah our Chrome book has been giving us pop-ups lately saying it’ll be END OF LIFE around June this year. Not sure what we’ll do since we use it so infrequently.

I fully agree with you about the form factor. I much prefer a form factor that is closer to square than the widescreen ones that are so popular now. Unfortunately, they are on the wane and may not be available much longer.

Is everyone saying that Chrome books have Nexus 6 style lifespans? “Looks over shoulder looking for Google hired Bladerunners”

The HP Dragonfly Chromebook is the spiritual successor to the Pixelbook, at least until Google release a new one. High-end, light, etc; and with the Correct screen ratio…

Chromebook “end of life” in general, just means no more Chrome OS updates. I have an ASUS Flip C100PA which aged out in Jul 2020. Still working fine.

Any electronic device powered off a battery has a clock running. Even the best smartphone/laptop/tablet battery will be dead in five years, even if you never turn the device on. How long do Prius batteries live?

I’m unfamiliar with the taxonomy of Google’s Chromebooks, but it’s possible the battery can be replaced. In full-featured laptops, some models will boot up with an AC connection and a dead battery, and some won’t. In the event that yours is in the second category, youcan try disconnecting the battery from the logic board and booting just with AC; it might work, at the cost of portability.

Odds are, the thing that ages out is compatibility with current versions of the browser. As everything on a Chromebook runs through the Chrome browser (hence the name), that’s a bigger deal than it would be with a laptop, where youcan switch browsers.

Oh, and Drew: The whole notion of the Chromebook and its assorted kin from other manufacturers is that everything’s in the cloud; there’s almost nothing in local storage, so there’s very little local storage. The upside is that it turns the device into an appliance: Inexpensive and essentially disposable, you can get back your stuff by buying a replacement and logging back into your Google account. The downside is that if you have no Internet connection (or if your connection is unreliable or slow), you have none of your stuff.

So, they’re not great if you’re out in the woods, or if a power failure takes out your WiFi connection.

I had the exact same issue and after a week I’ve discovered there’s actually nothing wrong with the pixelbook but rather the issue is the screen image. Connected to an external monitor it works fine, even the touchscreen works, but just no image. I this point I believe it’ll need to be opened up.

The reason laptops have 16×9 video-shaped screens is that there’s a lot of commonality between TVs, computer monitors, and other flat-panel display tech, so especially the cheap laptops are able to get cheaper parts that way.

Even a 16×10 screen is a big help, because you can do the 16×9 stuff and still have a menu bar above or below it.
Wishing there were more 32″ 4K TV/monitors so I could fit more pixels on my desk and still see them.

@Peter just to answer your literal question, my 2005 Prius is still running fine on its original battery (and I’m typing this on a 2014 Macbook Pro that still gets many hours off a single charge). These things don’t need to be essentially disposable, at least not on that timescale.

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