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Google Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs Apple MacBook (2015): Which should you buy?

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Chromebook Pixel

Do you go Chromebook Pixel or new MacBook? Here's how the specs match up

Google is set to launch its new Chromebook Pixel next week, which will add a classy new contender for the premium ultra-portable laptop throne.

Of course, that's a throne that's been newly threatened by the recent release of Apple's sleek MacBook, which many feel will fundamentally alter the way laptops are developed in future.

So which is the better premium compact laptop - Google's or Apple's? Let's take a closer look.

SEE ALSO: Best Laptops, Ultrabooks and Hybrids

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Design

Chromebook Pixel (2015): Anodised aluminium body, etched-glass trackpad, three-segment hinge lid, 1.5kg, 15.3mm thick

MacBook (2015): Anodised aluminium body, Butterfly keyboard, Force Touch trackpad, 0.92kg, 13.1mm thick

SEE ALSO: Surface Pro 3 vs 12-inch MacBook

Chromebook Pixel

Both of these laptops are handsome, desirable devices with high-end aluminium designs. However, these respective designs reflect a fundamentally different approach.

Google's new Chromebook looks much like its previous effort, with a strikingly squared off design. It's as handsome as it is solid.

The new MacBook, for its part, is all about portability, with an almost impossible slim tapered edge. Sure enough, it's not far off half the weight of the Pixel, and it's a fair bit thinner too.

There's more design innovation in the MacBook's keyboard and trackpad design, too. The former utilised a new butterfly mechanism for a more solid typing experience with less travel.

Meanwhile its Force Touch trackpad gives feedback and a unique level of pressure sensitivity without any physical travel.

Apple takes the design win, then, but the Chromebook Pixel is a strong runner up.

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Display

Chromebook Pixel (2015): 12.85-inch touchscreen, 2560 x 1700 resolution, 3:2 aspect ratio

MacBook (2015): 12-inch IPS LCD, 2304 x 1440 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio

Macbook

These laptops sport two of the sharpest and most appealing displays found on such a device.

As befits its name, the Chromebook Pixel's slightly larger screen is the more pixel packed - but it's close. With a resolution of 2560 x 1700 in a 12.85-inch package, it produces 239 ppi.

Meanwhile the MacBook's 12-inch 2304 x 1440 display produces 226ppi. That's close enough that any difference will be hard to discern - especially with the size difference.

More notable is the difference in aspect ratio, with the Pixel going with an oddly square 3:2 aspect ratio. The MacBook, meanwhile, has a more traditional (and widescreen media-friendly) 16:10 equivalent.

In the Pixel's favour, however, is the fact that it's touch-sensitive. Of course, Apple would still argue that you don't need such a feature in a laptop, but more input options is always a good thing.

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Power

Chromebook Pixel (2015): 5th generation Core i5 / Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM / 16GB RAM

MacBook (2015): 5th generation Intel Core M CPU, 8GB RAM

There's really no contest here in terms of raw power. While both laptops run on 5th generation Intel hardware, the Pixel is by far the more capable.

That's because it runs on the latest Core i5 and i7 chips - the most powerful available for a laptop in 2015. The MacBook, conversely, uses an Intel Core M CPU, which is designed with portability and energy efficiency in mind.

It's fine for general tasks, but try anything more advanced like photo editing or gaming and it will struggle.

Of course, this category and the next drive home the opposing critical flaws of these two laptops.

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Software

Chromebook Pixel (2015): Chrome OS

MacBook (2015): OS X Yosemite

SEE ALSO: Best OS X Yosemite tips and tricks

Yosemite

The Chromebook Pixel is something of a showcase for Google's own Chrome OS. This is a lightweight operating system that's largely web-based, allowing you to access Google's wide range of online, cloud-assisted apps and services.

Chrome is a powerful OS, of course, and with the assistance of extensions you can get it to perform a number of tasks. But it's still inherently light, and quite unsuited to advanced tasks like advanced photo editing and gaming.

The MacBook, on the other hand, comes with arguably the finest computer OS around today in OS X Yosemite. It's a no-nonsense productivity tool, but with a crisp and elegant interface, and the kind of integration with iOS that will doubtless keep many an iPhone user away from Windows 10 when it arrives.

But does the MacBook do it justice? We're not so sure, and here's where those bizarre inverse flaws we mentioned before come in.

The Chromebook Pixel's sophisticated hardware is way too powerful for its lightweight software, while the MacBook's lightweight hardware isn't the match of its sophisticated software.

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Connectivity

Chromebook Pixel (2015): 2 x USB-C, 2 x USB 3.0, SD card reader

MacBook (2015): 1 x USB-C

Pixel ports

Here's another area in which the Chromebook Pixel wipes the floor with the MacBook. It's got the same forward-thinking USB-C connector, which can both handle power and a wide range of connections in a neat reversible format.

However, Google's laptop has also got a second USB-C connector, alongside (and this is vital) two USB ports and an SD card reader.

It's as now-proof as it is future-proof, in other words, while the MacBook's solitary USB-C connector will doubtless prove prohibitive for many owners trying to physically connect a device or (heaven forbid) two to their expensive new toy.

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Storage

Chromebook Pixel (2015): 32GB / 64GB SSD

MacBook (2015): 256GB / 512GB SSD

Apple hits back with far greater physical storage options. The minimum 256GB MacBook offering is four times that of the highest Chromebook Pixel offering.

Of course, this reflects the different operating systems. While OS X is a traditional operating system with an onus on local storage, Chrome OS is focused on cloud storage and using the vast resources of the internet.

Still, if you want to store a large number of photos and music files on your computer for quick and easy access, there's only one choice here.

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Battery life

Chromebook Pixel (2015): 12 hours

MacBook (2015): 9 hours

MacBook

Apple has gone to great lengths creating custom tiered battery technology and even dropping to a less capable, fanless processor in order to keep the new MacBook's stamina up despite its petite proportions.

As a result, it's possible to get a decent 9 hours of general usage out of a single charge.

That still trails behind the Chromebook Pixel, however, which can last an estimated 12 hours. Put it down to that larger size and more efficient operating system.

Also in the Pixel's favour, 15 minutes of charging will give users a full 2-hours of use.

Still, both laptops are worthy of the 'all day battery life' claim.

Chromebook Pixel (2015) vs MacBook (2015): Price

Chromebook Pixel (2015): £799 / £999

MacBook (2015): £1,049 / £1,299

The first Google Chromebook Pixel attracted criticism for its price tag, and while Google has addressed that with the follow-up, it still starts at a rather steep £799.

Why is that expensive? Because of the Chrome OS that it runs on, which has been designed as a cheap and cheerful casual operating system.

Still, the Pixel is considerably cheaper than the MacBook, which starts from an eye-watering £1,049. That's £50 more than the Core i5-powered, Force Touch trackpad-featuring 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display.

MORE: MacBook (2015) vs Surface Pro 3

Early Verdict

These are two highly desirable, cutting edge laptops that make bold claims about the future of laptops. They're also both fundamentally flawed, in their own unique ways.

Their wildly different form factors, capabilities, and drawbacks make an early verdict very difficult to reach. However, if we were to pick an early winner it would probably be the MacBook.

Why do we say that? Simply because we can think of a particular type of person for which Apple's new laptop will be the best choice - the type of person to whom portability is absolutely key, and to whom only light productivity tasks will ever be required.

We simply can't say the same about the Chromebook Pixel. There are few 13-inch laptops that are as desirable, but it's premium credentials are scuppered by the decidedly entry-level Chrome OS.

S_Deemer

April 15, 2015, 4:57 pm

When the Pixel 2 was announced, Google said that the primary target audience was Google internal use; if people want to buy one, fine. It's fairly easy to install Linux on a Chromebook via crouton, which makes it very easy to switch back and forth between Chrome OS and Linux using a single keyboard shortcut. You can even set up crouton so that it autostarts; the only part of Chrome OS you see at startup is the login screen. A Chromebook with Crouton makes a very nice development platform for Chrome OS. Develop on the Linux side; test on Chrome OS. I have been running Ubuntu 12.04 LXDE on an old Samsung S5 Chromebook for several months, and even on a machine with a slow Atom processor and 2 Gb of RAM, performance is acceptable. On an i5 with 8 Gb or i7, 16 Gb, it will fly.

LeeTronix

April 16, 2015, 1:09 am

I own a google pixel (first edition) and have not yet seen the 2015 pixel. That said if I am just going to compare the 2013 model I would say on design it wipes the floor with the mac, also on the pixel there are no screws no nothing it is completely seamless and the keyboard is excellent. It is no shock this site as per usual votes for the apple they always do it is an apple pocket site as many have noted.

Further, yosemite is an awful OS and yes it does look like an IOS phone, the icons, the lack of core features that have been removed, the fact safari now runs so slow you have to close it down and re load to get it to work, it is rubbish. I mean it is not like I do not own a mac pro with it on!!! As for business I find the pixel more fluid for working online and apple are not business machines, they are good for music and web design and graphic work but not for mainstream or business intensive solutions. Windows wins fair and square there.

The thing is these two machines are really very different. The pixel is web based and has better connectivity all round making it as a portable device much more portable for on line work etc. The mac on the other hand might be lighter and nimble but has the heavy baggage of its OS, no touch screen and inferior connectivity. Not sure why they compared these two.

Mac 6/10
Pixel 10/10

Rant over :)

Benjamin Parmentier

April 16, 2015, 2:47 pm

Thank you for the great comment/review. You should have written it instead! Thumbs up :)

Jesse Vaughan

April 16, 2015, 7:36 pm

TL;DR
These two computers are after the same market, but as the wrap up stated, fall a little short in two very different categories.

Disclaimers: I own a new MacBook (2015), and have owned/used a 17" Powerbook G4 (2005), a 15" MacBook Pro (2009 and 2012) and a 13" MBP (2013 and 2014), both in educational and professional settings. I have not yet seen either Pixels in person and have limited hands on experience with Chromebooks in general. My main machine at home is an iMac and at work it's the 13" MBP. I bought a MacBook for home use and travel so the burden of carrying a company laptop wouldn't be on my mind when traveling (also to help separate work/home/freelance.)

Honestly, the new Pixel is a very good looking machine and Chrome OS is more than capable of being a solid everyday OS for the general use I'm looking for. Since the iMac is my main machine, I don't need anything super powerful, I just want something portable for use around the house and for traveling. When I stop there, both the Pixel and the MacBook appear to be solid choices. And both really are. Where the problems start to appear are with the extended use cases.

For example, I'm a web developer and occasionally I have to do on-the-fly updates or make quick code edits on the fly. For that I would use Sublime Text and Terminal; maybe I'd open up Transmit for SFTP access. For something like this, the MacBook is perfect, but I don't think the Pixel could help me without some workarounds. Also, having access to Photoshop and Lightroom are pretty essential for light photo processing and having that ability in something as portable as the MacBook is pretty astounding.

That all being said, the MacBook definitely lags when it comes to some of those processor heavy tasks. I'm not going to be able to heavily edit a PSD mockup or batch process a vacation's worth of photos, but that's why I have a desktop.

I guess to sum things up, I think both the MacBook and the Pixel are a little ahead of their time and fall short in a handful of places. In terms of performance, the Pixel shines but lacks the OS to fully exploit that power; the MacBook is capable of driving desktop grade apps, but not at desktop grade speeds or with heavy workloads. In terms of design, I'll throw that one up in the air since both are great looking and I won't knock on anyone's personal preference.

One final note, the whole "apple are not business machines, they are good for music and web design and graphic work but not for mainstream or business intensive solutions" argument is EXTREMELY dated. I don't think there's a company here in Silicon Valley that isn't stacked to the brim with Macs. In fact, the companies that run most of the apps and digital services you use on a daily basis are probably all driven by at least 75% Macs. And please don't interpret this sentiment as a "Macs are better and PCs suck" attitude because the bottom line is that both serve similar functions and use comes down to personal preference. I just personally think that in 2015 saying Macs are for "graphic design and web design" feels extremely uninformed.

</rant>

LeeTronix

April 21, 2015, 9:19 pm

Interesting reply and noted your points you did not agree with but since you replied I feel the need to return the favour!

You kindly told me what you have so I feel it is fair that return the same. Without going back before 2005 which I can easily I own the following: 2013 Alien R3 PC i7 6 core, 2012 Imac 27" i5, 2012 17" Mac book pro i7, 15" 2014 Mac book pro i7, 2014 Mac Pro 12 Core zenon chips 64gb ram, 2014 i5 Microsoft Surface Pro 3, 2013 Google Chrome Pixel, 2014 Toshiba i5 ultrabook, a Samsung Galaxy S tab 8.4" and 2 x ipad 2's, ipad 4th gen and 2 x 2012 Blackberry Playbooks for good measure.

Getting straight into the business part of the apple scenario I completely disagree with your statement as a former CEO of a global business I know macs do not cut it in the mainstream. I am not saying they are not used on mass as of course they are, my point was that are not successful for mainstream intensive business purposes. While I agree they are widely used and lead the front in the media and music industry without question, that is simply where it ends and with good reason, unless your a self employed individual or a small manned business with a few employees.

Unlike if you look at the banking industries, manufacturing industries, call centre industries, storage and mass data recovery centres/distribution companies, aerospace, defence/military, gaming environments, R&D business and bio chemists and chemicals. I could go on and on but macs do not have any place of main usage in any of these industries and then some.

Why?

-- Well first of all it is about cost. On volume PCs from various manufacturers will always be more cost effective and macs are not.

-- Secondly, the cost for developing hired contractors for macs world wide is limited as to the pool for PC specialist contractors or developers and hence it costs so much much more to develop mac software and maintain software control on a larger scale. That said even the small one man band applications are so expensive as well.

-- Thirdly, macs unless using the mac pro range, so this refers imacs and mac book pro's etc are limited to upgrade as they now solder in the ram and cannot change video cards in the imacs and hard drives are now soldered in.

-- Very limited business software and not enough bespoke systems designed for macs, although web portals can be a solution for CRM systems which you are probably familiar with as a web designer.

-- Cost for business insurance for part or full replacement and parts are insane for any business to maintain in PC intensive environments.

-- Decided to stop here as it is becoming boring :)

The Good

-- Great for design as in web, graphic design houses and boutique architect firms.

-- Anyone in the music industry will use macs to run the studios, performances (live on stage), DJ's, Mastering, Mixing etc etc.

-- up to 5 man employee type business are capable any more and the costs are stupid to maintain unless your a board rich guy/girl just having fun!

Ill stop here for now but I look forward to hearing from you :)

LeeTronix

April 21, 2015, 11:58 pm

Thanks for your comment it is much appreciated :)

Jesse Vaughan

April 22, 2015, 5:56 pm

Ah ok I see now. When you put it that way, your perspective starts to make a lot more sense.

To be honest, all of the points you made for why Macs "are not successful for mainstream intensive business purposes” are great points and definitely apply to a lotof businesses and industries in the world.

It’s definitely true that cost, ease of use and on boarding, etc. are the top factors for why PCs are still used in that fashion and I’ll be the first to admit my own personal perspective is skewed having no real experience in any of those industries.

Just to play devil’s advocate I’ll throw in that plenty of industry might also be handcuffed by legacy infrastructure. Again, take this with a grain of salt given my status as a youngin', but even if a large company wanted to move systems (sometimes even just upgrading their existing systems! Look at Windows XP!), the fact that there is already so much investment in legacy technology with no future proofing is of course a recipe for disaster!

But I digress.

The main point I want to drive home is that while Macs are expensive, difficult to upgrade, not as globally adopted in certain industries, expensive, etc etc etc, I still believe they have a major stake in the future of business, especially OUTSIDE of “web, graphic design, boutique architect firms,” “the music industry” and “5 man employee type” businesses.

The last four CEOs I’ve worked for have all worked on Macs (13” Airs I believe?) and those companies have ranged from the travel industry, to enterprise SSO and identity management, to enterprise CLM/CPQ (publicly traded), to a global advertising technology company (all six glocbal offices fully stocked with Macs.)

Almost every CEO of an IPO’d company in the Valley is probably working on a similar Apple machine.

That’s not to say PCs haven’t been in the picture or played a part, it’s just to say that Macs CAN drive a company operating at a global scale in virtually EVERY department, from finance and operations all the way up to exec. It’s also not to say that every industry would benefit from a Mac. There are countless PC driven pieces of software than run all sorts of industry that I would not argue against using. (Also maybe because it’s funny for the wrong reason, but imagining the government or the military using Apple products is actually a bit humorous.)

For every task there is a tool.

To continue to clarify, I’m just saying that you can’t look into the future and write off the Mac as not suitable for business at any level. An you can’t realistically say “oh they’re just for designers or the 5 man company working out of a shared space. There’s just way too much evidence to suggest otherwise.

Are these companies the bio-engineers, government/military, aerospace people? Definitely not. But with apprx. 40 tech companies valued at $1 billion or more, all poster children of harmonizing Mac/PC driven work environments… how is that not validation?

I respect your opinion and your thoughts, but have to politely disagree with your perspective on the part Apple is playing on modern business. I can’t speak to the thrilling world of data recovery or R&D (meant to sound sassy but no disrespect) but I can definitely speak to the current technology-driven environment.

LeeTronix

April 22, 2015, 8:35 pm

It is good to have a healthy mature debate and I respect your opinion as well. I think it is great to share thoughts and real life experiences because if we didn't then no one would be the wiser.

Interestingly enough I do not have an issue with macs per say but I do not respect the company if that makes sense, and I am not loyal to Microsoft either, in fact my favourite device is the Google Chrome Pixel!

As for mainstream business I agree Apple it is grabbing market share and has really gained traction. It will be interesting as to where Apple will go in business, it maybe they even start to provide a more business front end on some machines and keep the current trend as trendy for say media. I just think beauty over functionality are two separate issues in my mind anyway!

Just out of interest have you seen a Google Pixel? The build quality and the lack of seamless joining is mind blowing, I have been using mine for nearly two years and I still think it is a work of art from Google, Anyway I am now digressing...

In respect to the business environment I could site some very interesting stats but ultimately is simply still comes down to working capital costs as any CTO & CFO in any fortune 250 company will tell you. You have independent cost centres within each division that are centralised in a budget program that will have to cover liability, repairs, life span and something that many do not take on board is continuity planning fail safes, the larger the business the more important that is with tech and your systems need to be unified, basically machines that are using the same software for compatibility issues should things go down or severely go wrong how does the business still survive?

This is known as business continuity and you need to have all your core systems still able to work on computers etc etc.

Anyway I feel our views are similar but very different which is good fun.

Look forward to your reply.

Jesse Vaughan

April 22, 2015, 10:36 pm

I agree. I think deep down we're on the same page, there's just some discrepancies in the surface details.

I actually haven't seen a Pixel in person, but when I first heard about them and saw a few videos, I thought it looked(looks) great! I enjoy the iOS/OSX ecosystem and am pretty invested in it at this point, but I will give credit where credit is due, Google/Android and all have done a lot of great things.

At the end of the day, all of this really means good things for us as consumers since we end up with the choice of several great machines.

I think we can all agree and be thankful for that!

Turlututu

July 15, 2015, 1:09 pm

Macbook 2015 : limited by hardware => not future-proof
Pixel 2015 : limited by software => ChromeOS, ChromeApps, Internet are in perpetual evolution.

In my opinion, both are beautiful ultrabooks, and kind of a compromise. Pixel will become better, and macbook worse... I wish Pixel SSD could be swapped with a larger one (I can still use SD-card storage...), in case internet isn't reachable and I need an Azerty keyboard...

And you can use Crouton on ChromeOS which mean you can use any Linux distribution in parallel with ChromeOS. Perfect tool for web development...

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