A couple of years ago my ancient Dell laptop finally gave up the ghost and I went looking for a replacement. I wanted something lightweight, fast and capable of running Linux.
(I know, I know: you’re shouting “MacBook”)
I rejected MacBooks out of hand based on, frankly, bare prejudice.
I wanted to buy the Dell XPS DE which is an ultrabook with Ubuntu pre-installed but I couldn’t find a way to get them to sell it to me.
I’m a bit of a Google fanboi so I was interested in the immensely cool looking but scarily expensive ChromeBook Pixel. When I learned that through the Crouton package I could run full fat Linux packages on the Pixel I jumped and invested £1K of my own, hard-earned money.
And I loved it, still do. It’s beautifully made, starts in seconds and attracts admiring glances wherever it goes. Increasingly I just use the ChromeOS as I live in the Google ecosystem much of the time anyway.
So why will my next laptop be an Apple?
Because there’s more to selling laptops than delivering cool kit.
It started early on. The insulation on the charger started to fray. I contacted Google support and they leapt into action.
“The way this is going to work”
“Is we’re going to place a £1K charge on your credit card and send you a new ChromeBook and charger. Assuming you return the old machine to us within the correct timescale, we won;t take the money from your card”
“Well that’s not going to work for me”
“Leaving aside the fact I don’t want you to muck around with my credit card, it’s just the charger that’s broken. I’ve customised my machine and I’d rather not have to go through all that again”
Obviously they disagreed that I *had* customised my machine or that such a thing was possible (it is). But through dogged persistence my query was escalated through various layers until it reached someone who decided the simplest thing would be just to send me a new charging unit.
At no point did I ever feel anyone was trying to resolve my problem. They were perfectly polite but they weren’t, in any meaningful way, helpful.
In a while the insulation began to fray again and this time there was a smoother process to exchange my broken kit for a shiny new item (which seemed much improved in the insulation stakes suggesting I had not been alone).
And now I have managed to lose my charging unit. It’s annoying and it may be returned to me but there’s no guarantee. I need something to power the machine.
Google no longer offer a suitable charging unit in their store. So I spent a fruitless and frustrating period on a text chat with a very polite support person who totally failed to solve my problem and, in fact, repeatedly gave me the incorrect advice that the Universal Charger in the Google Store would work with my device (it really won’t).
Eventually they escalated my request elsewhere and I have just received an email confirming that Google don’t supply this charger. They have no arrangements with third parties to supply chargers. They did suggest a search term I could use to hunt for third party kit.
It’s not the end of the world because a trip to Maplin will enable me to procure a properly universal charger.
Just as soon as Google confirm the specification for the DC power supply, which they have only partly managed so far…
It’s absolutely clear now that the 2013 ChromeBook Pixel was a Beta product. The current model of the Pixel looks awesome, is more sensibly priced and has a much longer battery life. I can’t recommend that you buy it though.
I’m down with the Beta testing. But I probably wouldn’t have forked out a grand if I’d known I was taking part in a testing programme.
So when the time finally comes to buy a new laptop, I’ll be nipping to the iStore. Because I trust Apple to look after me more than I trust Google. And that’s brand value.