The Pixelbook, Google’s latest high-end Chromebook, competes at the upper end of the market against the likes of the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro. It’s a beautiful machine in all aspects, but if you’re reading this site you probably wonder if someone can use the Pixelbook for Bible Study. I’ll try to answer that and recommend whether you should pay the premium price.
You may think of the Chromebook as a “browser” computer that only runs the Google Chrome browser. That’s no longer accurate for a few reasons. First, web apps work well in many cases. There’s also a number of great Bible study websites if you don’t want to install an Android app.
Second, in America at least, most people enjoy full-time access to the web at home, work and even on the go with Wi-Fi hotspots on phones or in coffee shops and airports. The popular idea that Chromebooks are just hardware web browsing machines is false. Google dispels the “myths” as they call them about the Chromebook in a video they produced.
The myths Google dispels in this video include:
They’re just browsers
They have no storage
Chromebooks don’t run real software
They only work online
We get web apps that work off-line and most Chromebooks today come with the Google Play Store out of the box. Others will get it soon in an update to Chrome OS.
Every Chromebook includes at least 16GB of local storage and the Pixelbook has at least 128GB. Plus many add extra storage through an SD card reader, although Google didn’t include a reader on he Pixelbook, frustrating some buyers.
The Pixelbook gives users a high-end experience making it my favorite general use computer over my MacBook Pro, Surface Pro and iPad Pro. I used to own all four, but carry the Pixelbook and choose to use it more than any of the other three. In fact I just sold my MacBook. Here’s what you get with a Pixelbook.
Beautiful high-resolution 12.3-inch screen with 2400×1650 res display.
Excellent chiclet style keyboard that’s easy to type on quickly and accurately.
Large smooth and accurate clickable touchpad that I use over a mouse 100% of the time
Thin light and stylish design.
Two-in-one convertible design that you can use as a laptop, tablet, and in stand mode.
Incredible 8-10 hours of battery life that charges in about an hour from dead.
2 USB-C ports that charge the computer and transfer data.
Spacious 128GB solid-state drive that’s fast.
I usually prefer to connect a Bluetooth mouse for mobile computing with my laptops. I hate trackpads and always pair one with my Surface Pro and MacBook Pro, but I don’t on the Pixelbook. That’s a high compliment from me. It has a fantastic trackpad.
Some people might see 128GB of storage and balk at that. That’s not nearly enough for most people on a Windows or Mac laptop. However, on a Chromebook that runs Android apps, it’s more than enough. That’s because the OS and apps don’t take up as much space. The only reason you’ll need more is if you store large videos or tons of music, photos or other large files. Even the space-hogging Bible apps that you can download from the Google Play Store will not eat up that much of that 128GB.
Samsung sells a pair of Chromebooks that comes with a stylus. I owned both the Samsung Chromebook Plus and the Pro, but sold them both. First I upgraded to the Pro and then sold it to get the Pixelbook. I’m glad I did. The Pixelbook is larger than the Samsung stylus which makes it more comfortable to use. I’m testing the built-in screen annotation feature with PowerPoint and may switch from using my iPad if I can make it work well enough. Right now it takes a screenshot to mark it up, but does offer a laser pointer, which might be enough for what I’m doing.
Using the Pixelbook Pen
There’s a great search feature available only on the Pixelbook with their Pen until another manufacturer gets access to the API that makes it work. Select something on-screen and the Google Assistant will search for the context within the selected area. Here’s where that helps Bible students. Circle some text on the screen and the Assistant will search for it. For example, I chose to search for “false prophets” from 1 John 4:1 and you can see that the Google Assistant did a search for it for me (see image above).
While doing presentations, the Pen lets you mark up your slides. I’m planning to start using a series of PDF file pages instead of PowerPoint. The Pixelbook Pen works much better in this case than it does on PowerPoint or Google Slides. I hope Google updates their own Slides app for better use in situations where the presenter wants to mark up the screen. If you want to see a similar style of Bible teaching, check out John Piper’s A Look at the Book. I’ve included an example from YouTube below.
Getting Other Things Done
Thanks to the Microsoft Office Android apps, I can write in Word and use PowerPoint somewhat. Word’s fine, but PowerPoint’s weak on Android. The presenter view doesn’t do on-screen annotations as easily as the Windows or iPad program. I put my scripture on the screen and mark it up during my Wednesday Night Bible Study at church. I dislike the way PowerPoint handles this in Android because you can see the mark up buttons at the top of screen on the external display. That’s distracting. As I said above, I may use the built-in laser pointer, but not yet.
Thanks to Android apps I can now do some video editing and great photo editing. I use the following apps for these tasks:
Now for the reason we’re here. Can you use the Pixelbook for Bible study? In a word, yes! However, there are a few trade offs.
I usually install the Logos and Olive Tree Android apps on my Android phone and they both work on the Pixelbook. Accordance promises that they will soon ship an Android app that will at first let you read your books primarily. They plan to add more advanced features over time. It’s currently in beta, so go learn more about it in their forums, but it’s clearly beta and not ready for most users not tolerant of instability and lack of features. It will be great, I’m sure.
The Logos Bible study app doesn’t include all the advanced features available on the Mac or PC version. Olive Tree’s mobile Bible study app and computer apps work similarly. That’s because it’s not as advanced or as complicated as the other two desktop programs. The WORDsearch Android app is atrocious so just use the MyWSB.com web app. It gives users a better experience.
If you use notes to record your study discoveries, then you’ll get frustrated using the Logos Android app because the note attached to a verse covers most of the screen. I like to open a notes file and then look at the Bible text and type in my observations. You can do this in Olive Tree easily, but it’s hard to do in Logos. Olive Tree puts the notes on the right side of the screen and you can edit them while viewing the Bible window on the left (see above).
Logos only shows the notes in a pop up window when you first open the editor or tap an existing note (see image above). If you want to attach the note to a verse reference, then it will strangely cover the entire screen (see image below).
The current version of Logos Android beta app has a bug that only opens a notes file in a separate screen. It won’t open in 2-screen view. Hopefully they’ll fix that soon. Even when they fix it, the note doesn’t automatically sync to the note attached the currently showing Bible passage. If you have a lot of notes you’ll have to scroll through the long list of notes till you find it.
Here’s my work around. I open the app on my phone and then type into the Logos notes file on my Pixelbook. I’d use Olive Tree more for this, but most of my best commentaries and references are in Logos, not Olive Tree. Since most of us own a smartphone, this is a reasonable workaround. If you use Olive Tree primarily, then you’ll enjoy the experience. Open the notes file in the right side. If you’re like me and use Logos as your primary app, then you’ll hate using notes on a Chromebook.
Here’s another workable option. Open your Bible app and a Word document, Google Docs file or some other text editor and use the keyboard shortcut to switch quickly between the Bible app and the text editor. Use ALT+TAB to switch between open apps.
I’ve used the Pixelbook plus Samsung Galaxy Note 8 for two screen work for a few weeks now almost every day. I really like this workflow. I write my personal observations, then open word study tools and record those findings. Finally, I open other books like dictionaries, atlases, and then commentaries.
The great screen, keyboard and trackpad make writing on the Pixelbook a dream. I love the crisp text even in small fonts. They look great and easy to read. The keyboard makes typing a pleasure and the spacious trackpad means no mouse needed. It’s accurate but registers accidental palm touches while you’re typing, so I turn off tap to click, like I do on my MacBook Pro. That’s a product of a large sensitive trackpad.
I write my sermons in Microsoft Word, which you can download from the Google Play Store. However, I notice that it’s not stable on the Pixelbook. It doesn’t crash, but typing can get laggy and sometimes the arrow keys on the lower right corner of the keyboard don’t work. Sometimes the space and shift keys just don’t register. This happens only in Word, so it’s an app specific problem. To avoid this, use the online Word web app instead. It’s nearly identical to the Android app for most users.
Don’t forget the great online Bible study sites. Logos, WORDsearch, Bible Gateway and many others include some nice features. The first two give access to most of your library if you already own books for use in their mobile and desktop apps.
I love using the Pixelbook as my primary Bible study and sermon prep tool. Here’s the list of strengths that make it my favorite laptop:
Great accurate and crisp screen
Beautiful and comfortable keyboard
Large accurate and sensitive trackpad
Great 8 hour battery life that charges quickly from a dead battery
Android apps mostly work well on the Pixelbook
Web apps fill in the gaps of poor web apps
It’s not a perfect situation. Here’s what I don’t like:
Android Bible apps not as good as Windows and Mac versions
Word is buggy on the Pixelbook and Android PowerPoint’s not as good as iOS or the desktop version
Video editing is harder on a Chromebook than on a Mac where it is best or Windows where it’s nearly as good as Mac
For the first time, I prefer using a Chromebook nearly 100% of the time. I still prefer my desktop apps for a few Bible Study tasks, like complex word studies and sentence diagramming in Logos. However, I could even do those on my Pixelbook if needed without too much compromise.
The Pixelbook’s not for everyone. People committed to using Chrome OS won’t find a better option, if they don’t mind the $1000 for the computer and $100 if they want the Pen.
Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.