For the past couple weeks, I’ve been battling off the feeling that I was a little crazy. I work most days at my desk with my Chromebook under my extended display and my eyes regularly dart back and forth between the two. In these past couple weeks, I’ve been noticing a slight screen abberation only on my internal display when using the Pixelbook Go. I could never quite catch it in action, but I could clearly detect a flicker in my peripheral vision on a very regular basis.
I saw this on the Core i5 model (two of them, actually) and then on my personal Core m3 version. Same screens, different internals, same odd behavior. The flicker isn’t enough to disrupt work or cause a crash; it is simply annoying. I tried multiple times to catch it via screen recorder but never could. I thought about mounting a camera over my shoulder, but that seemed like overkill. I just wanted proof that what I thought I was seeing was actually happening.
Since Gabriel and Joe started using the Pixelbook Go and confirming they were seeing the same screen glitches, it at least confirmed I wasn’t crazy. Once I knew it was a real issue, I then began trying everything I could to replicate the issue and solve what was causing it. Things like this can be hardware defect, OS malfunctions, extension-based problems, or even Google Account-level glitches. My biggest fear was the possibility that it could be a hardware defect as that would seriously break my heart.
I love the Pixelbook Go and to see it have an irreparable issue with the screen would be a dagger to the heart for me. Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case. A reader sent over an email that reported the problem and a new thread all about it on the Google support forums. Right now, the work-around answers seem to be coming down to either the removal of hyper-threading on Intel chips or the enabling of GPU rasterization via flags. If you recall, hyper-threading was removed to mitigate security flaws in Intel chips that fell susceptible to the Spectre and Meltdown exploits.
As of Chrome OS 74, hyper-threading has been disabled for most Intel-based Chromebooks. As a test, I used a flag to re-enable hyper-threading on my personal device and the screen flickers decreased considerably. In the few hours I’ve had the flag enabled I’ve been using this Chromebook nonstop and only saw two screen flickers. That’s compared to the 10-20 I’d expect over the same time if it weren’t on.
Another post suggested turning on the GPU rasterization flag here: chrome://flags/#enable-gpu-rasterization. I turned the hyper-threading back to default and tried this method with similar results. An hour in and not a single screen flicker. I’d have to say of the two options, this is by far the one I would suggest. Either flag could cause other issues to arise for sure, so use them at your own risk.
The hyper-threading work-around is the one I’d seriously warn against since those security issues are still very real and very dangerous. I’ll link to the Google Help page that talks you through re-enabling hyperthreading, but you need to know you do this at your own risk. Sure, it helps get the flickers to calm down, but I don’t think this bug is worth exposing personal data for. I’d first try the GPU rasterization flag if the flicker is bothering you.
We’re keeping a close eye on this one and a spokesperson for Google has assured us that Google is aware of the issue and is looking into a resolution for it. Those are pretty vague words, but the fact that it has been basically narrowed down to either hyper-threading issues or GPU issues tells me a fix can be had. My hope is it happens soon, but I’m also very glad this isn’t a hardware defect in the screen as there are no real ways to remedy that kind of problem. As we learn more about the issue, we’ll keep you posted.