Display

When the original Chromebook Pixel launched two years ago, its big selling point and the source of its name was its 239ppi 2560x1700 display. At that time, the only other laptops on the market with HiDPI displays were Apple's Retina MacBook Pros. Chromebooks have typically aimed for the low-cost segment of the laptop market, and so it was quite a surprise that one of the earliest HiDPI laptops was a Chromebook. Although the Pixel had the highest pixel density of any laptop display at the time, it fell somewhat short when it came to color reproduction due to its narrow color gamut and lack of calibration. With the new Chromebook Pixel, Google has advertised coverage of the sRGB color gamut, along with a maximum brightness of 400nits.

To see whether or not Google has hit their mark, we turn to our standard display testing workflow. As usual, all measurements are performed using SpectraCal's CalMAN 5 software along with X-Rite's i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, with the exception of black level measurements which are performed with an i1Display Pro colorimeter.

Display Brightness - White Level

Display Brightness - Black Level

Display Contrast Ratio

CalMAN - White Point Average

Due to the evolution of our display workflow as time has gone on, I don't have results to compare the new Pixel to the original for certain categories. The result for maximum brightness is certainly in line with Google's advertised 400nit brightness, while the black levels and contrast ratio are what you would expect of IPS panels. The white point is noticeably more blue than the ideal D6504 target, which contrasts with the original Pixel which was very slightly too red. The blue/green tint in white and shades of grey is also more obvious than most other devices with similar average white points, which I elaborate on further below.

CalMAN - Grayscale Average dE 2000

CalMAN - Gretag Macbeth Average dE 2000

CalMAN - Saturations Average dE 2000

CalMAN - Gamut Average dE 2000

The new Pixel improves significantly upon the original in the gamut and saturation tests. It has a much wider gamut than the original, although it misses in magenta and yellow. Saturation improvements follow the improved gamut, as colors of 80% and 100% saturation no longer look identical. Despite these improvements, there hasn't been much progress on greyscale and color mixture accuracy. As noted earlier, the Pixel has a fairly obvious green/blue tint to the lighter shades of grey and white. As you can see in the gallery below, this is due to the reduction in red and increase in blue components of luminance as the shades of grey move from black to white.

I don't expect that many Chromebook users will be doing heavy photo and video editing that requires a perfectly calibrated display. Many $999 laptops ship with displays that are much worse than the one on the new Pixel, and I think that most users will be very happy with the Pixel's display. It's just a shame that Google doesn't seem to have put the same amount of care into display calibration with the Pixel as they have with the Nexus 9 and other Google branded devices, despite it having the highest price point of the devices they sell.

Introduction CPU and WiFi Performance
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  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - link

    I'll avoid debating the usefulness of Chrome OS, but I wanted to clarify a bit of misinformation from your post. The base i5 in the 13" rMBP is faster than the i7 in the upgraded Pixel build. You are comparing low voltage 15 watt parts to full voltage 28 watt parts. Same goes for the GPU. Reply
  • savagemike - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    Always a lot of talk about the limitations of ChromeOS but hardly ever much talk of its virtues. And it does have some virtues. It's almost certainly the most secure commercially available OS going. Maintenance is generally trivial. Updates are blindingly fast.
    I have a lowly c720 and updates literally are a 10 to 12 second affair. So yeah - it's great your Windows machine can run Photoshop. But I wasn't wanting to run Photoshop anyway. Maybe the next time Windows is updating you could use the time to write me an essay on why I should think about it. You'll have time. Meanwhile one thing which never appears on my Chromebook is some little icon spinning in the corner to represent the antivirus thinking about the wisdom of my actually running whatever I just clicked on.
    If your usage falls within the capability of ChromeOS and you prefer time spent computing to time spent managing your computer then ChromeOS is brilliant stuff.
    For the quality of the laptop $1000 does not seem out of place at all. A lot of people whinge about the storage space compared to other systems but within the paradigm of the intended usage of ChromeOS it is a complete non issue. It's essentially intended to be almost a thin client where the web is the real working/storage environment. Keeping gigs and gigs of data on the machine is not the point.
    It's quite possible ChromeOS doesn't fit your usage model. But it actually does fit the usage of the vast majority of users who do nothing more than e-mail and facebook and youtube and netflix anyway. I doubt that is actually any different for the majority of people shelling out for Apple laptops selling well above this $1000 price point.
    Though chromeOS can certainly be a serious tool too, depending on the task.
    Reply
  • chlamchowder - Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - link

    Updates: Windows updates can often finish in under a minute if you have a SSD. Same with Linux.
    Antivirus: Don't install one - they're pretty useless IMO.
    How about an example of when Chrome OS is slower? Suppose you're on vacation. You just took ~100 pictures (JPEGs, about 3 MB each). Suppose your hotel gives you a 10 Mb/s down and 4 Mb/s up connection. It takes 100 * 3 * 8 (bits/byte) / 4 (Mbits/sec) = 600 seconds = 10 minutes to get those pics off the camera and into the cloud. To get them back (for display), it'll take 240 seconds = 4 min. Most hotels won't give you such a nice connection, btw.

    On a laptop with a SSD that can write at 200 MB/s and read at 300 MB/s...your copying speed is now limited by the memory card. Let's say that card reads at 45 MB/s. You're done in 7 seconds. What about photo viewing? You can read all the photos in ~1 sec.

    Also, let's hope Chrome OS users never learn how to take video.
    Reply
  • jabber - Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - link

    As a Chromebook user who takes it on holiday and lots of high MP photos too, I have to say the issue you mentioned never ever has come up. Why would I want to upload all my pics to the cloud while on holiday to look at them when I can just slot the SD card in the side and look at them then? Even if I had a Windows laptop an needed to upload everything, by your reckoning I'd still be stuck by the limiting bandwidth so it makes no difference. It's not hard to carry a 16GB SD card or (a radical approach) even two of them. The scenario you quote is total bollocks chap. Using a Chrombook for looking at and editing photos on holiday is not a problem. Reply
  • chlamchowder - Thursday, March 19, 2015 - link

    So you just keep all your pics and video on your SD cards?

    What if you're away for a week? Those cards fill. What if you're shooting raw, burst shooting, or taking video? Even 16 GB cards fill fast. SD cards are also easy to lose, so I'd rather get the pics onto a computer unless I don't have the time to do so.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    Yeah...I still don't really "get" this. To me, Chromebooks are Netbooks 2.0, they're good at doing a few things, but not a full laptop replacement. So to spend over 1000 dollars on one, when you could get a wonderful Windows or even OSX machine for that price (refurb, or student discount), I don't get it at all.

    A Chromebook with a high DPI display is a good idea - but it doesn't' need mid range PC hardware. If it was 500 dollars with an ARM SoC or Atom? Maybe.
    Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    While it's a very nice MacBook clone chassis, the specifications and price along with Chrome's inflexibility (it's almost not even really an OS in a true sense as it limits rather than permits the user to run and do what they want on the platform) make it a no-brainer to write off. Given the missing capabilities of Chrome OS, the underlying hardware ultimately needs to beat inexpensive Windows tablets and laptops in price in order to be a compelling purchase and Google is taking their own budget-minded system in the wrong direction to appeal to the mass market. Given the rumored return rate for Chrome OS devices in general though, it might be that they're trying to target a different audience that's less likely to take their computer back to the place they purchased it to obtain a refund or exchange it for a more capable Windows or Apple computer. Beyond that, the price premium should also come with a no data mining promise from Google, but I expect that won't be the case and everything done with the hardware will be compiled and combined with metrics obtained from phones and other computers for targeted advertising purposes. With that being the final nail in the coffin, I don't know if buying one of these is even remotely rational. It doesn't seem that way to me. Reply
  • Valis - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    Bleh! that is one bland looking laptop, in the time when we have stylish things we get a square, grey with what looks like a keyboard made by a cheap Chinese electronics company selling their stuff on alibaba and aliexpress. Reply
  • Valis - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    I can get a 1080p XPS 13 with i5 for 899 or 999, I'll take that any day before this Surf-OS device. Reply
  • pdf - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    I'd find this really appealing to drop Linux onto if it wasn't for the terrible keyboard layout - no meta key, and no home/end/ins/del/pgup/pgdown makes this absolutely useless for anything other than ChromeOS, and even there, I'd be really pissed without some of those navigation keys. I really don't know what they were thinking when they designed this keyboard. Reply

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