Google Pixelbook 12in The tidal wave of announcements that accompanied CES 2022 has finally subsided. While there were few new Chromebooks announced this week, the two that were unveiled this week piqued my interest for two very different reasons.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook will be the first Chromebook with a 1000-nit screen option — and it’ll also have anti-glare — but as an Elite-branded Chromebook geared at Enterprise users, the Dragonfly will be too pricey for most people.
Acer, on the other hand, equipped a mid-range Chromebook with a premium display. The Acer Chromebook Spin 513 has the same 13.5-inch touchscreen as the Acer Chromebook Spin 713, which has a 3:2 aspect ratio, 2K resolution (2256 x 1504), and 400 nits of maximum brightness. Instead of a bulky Intel Core i5, Acer uses a more efficient but still capable MediaTek Kompanio 1380 processor with 8GB of RAM, allowing it to be priced at $600.
Although $600 for a high-brightness screen is still a bit pricey, both entries have consolidated a pattern we first noticed last autumn into a true, happy trend: Chromebooks are finally getting bright screens!
What exactly is a nit, and why is it important?
Candlepower is measured in nits, same to how horsepower is measured in cars (technically 1 candela per square meter).
The average smartphone now has a maximum brightness of between 300 and 500 nits, with phones like the Galaxy S21 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max hitting 1200-1500 nits under particular settings like watching HDR content or using the phone outside in direct sunlight.
The importance of nits in an outdoor device is largely due to sunlight. Even if only a portion of that is landing on your phone, it may easily wash out most phone displays. The sun’s brightness at midday is around 1.6 billion nits, which is why you should never look straight at the sun.
Outdoors, 500-nit phones can be tough to read without darkening the screen, which is why flagships like the OnePlus 10 Pro’s ability to reach 800-1,200 nits brightness is such a selling point.
It’s also why, if you’re not treating your laptop like a LIMO (Laptop in Model Only), the nits brightness is so important: when you go out to the back porch, most Chromebooks with their 220 or 250-nit screens become five times harder to read.
A quick history of Chromebook brightness
Last year, Chromebooks turned ten, and for the bulk of that decade, it didn’t matter whether a Chromebook cost $200 or $600; it could only attain a maximum brightness of 250 nits.
A few luxury Chromebooks, such as the Google Pixelbook – Google, we’re still waiting for a Pixelbook 2 — let you obtain a brighter screen, but they normally cost $800-1000.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet, which debuted in 2020 with a brightness of 400 nits, was a game-changer.
It was the first time we’d seen a Chromebook under $300 with a 400-nit screen, and it looked fantastic whether you were reading emails, playing Android games, or binge-watching Disney+ in bed.
It was too underpowered to be anything more than a tertiary/backup computer and content consumption device, but it was a great start.
Acer’s Spin 13 was upgraded to the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 that summer, combining its stunning 400-nit, 2K display with a hefty i5 underneath to power through lengthy workdays even with multiple monitors.
With a $630 price tag that would sometimes drop to $529, the Spin 713 soon established itself as the premium Chromebook to acquire.
Then came 2021, and more progress: the HP Chromebook x2 11 and the Lenovo Duet 5 were two additional Chrome OS tablets with 400-nit screens. The x2 11’s $600 initial price — similar to the Acer Spin 513 — was surprising at first, but it regularly dips under $400, as did the Duet 5 with its supersized 13.3-inch 16×9 screen.
We also saw an increase in the number of laptops with brighter screens. The Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook came with a 300-nit display that could be upgraded to a 4K 400-nit display.
With the ASUS Chromebook CX9, ASUS joined the 400-nit party, and Samsung delivered 400 nits for less with the Galaxy Chromebook 2. (though the savings are debatable).
Starting 2022 with two more high-brightness options gives me hope that the 400-nit club will expand significantly, but 400 nits is still on the bottom end of the nit spectrum for laptops.
With Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Lenovo, and ASUS all selling displays with over 1000 nits, it’d be wonderful if Google included an 800-1000-nit option in a Pixelbook sequel. After all, if you want a screen that is brighter than 400 nits, you currently have the following options:
• The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, which has a brightness of up to 750 nits and is currently on sale for $700, two years after its debut at CES 2019.
• The HP Elite c1030 Chromebook with 1000-nit screen, which will set you back at least $1,800 and won’t be available until August 2022.
• The impending HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook with the most costly 1000-nit screen option, which will certainly cost more than $1000.
But let’s not get carried away. To begin, we must establish 300 to 400 nits as the baseline brightness for Chromebooks. Brighter screens should become standard in the next year or two, especially in the 13-14-inch class, where many of the top Chromebooks, including as the Lenovo Flex 5i and Acer Spin 514, fight with an increasingly competitive Windows market.
Raising brightness standards for 11.6-inch Chromebooks will take extra effort, but given that student Chromebooks are utilised both indoors and outdoors, kids, parents, and educators would all appreciate an increase.
It would also be a fantastic moment to see brands update from the decade-old 11.6-inch 1366×768 panel to a 12-inch 1080p screen, but even though Chromebooks are lasting twice as long as they used to, it’s unlikely to be regarded worthwhile.