For a long time, if you wanted a compact laptop with excellent build quality and reliable performance, the Apple MacBook Pro was your only choice. But over the past few years, other laptop manufacturers have got their act together and caught up with Apple. In 2018, the selection of beautiful machines with hardware specifications that can satisfy even the needs of pros is wide and diverse. But out of everything that’s currently available, the Google Pixelbook ($990) is perhaps the most interesting alternative to the basic 13-inch MacBook Pro ($1,269).
Apple MacBook Pro vs Google Pixelbook
Chrome OS Versus macOS
Let’s first address the elephant in the room: the fact that the Google Pixelbook runs Chrome OS. If you don’t know, Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system based on the Linux kernel, with the Google Chrome web browser being used as its principal user interface.
When it was first released, Chrome OS could only run web applications. Since then, Google has added support for Android app, making it possible to install and enjoy over 3.5 million apps from Google Play, including Microsoft Word and Excel.
Thanks to the support for Android apps, Chrome OS is now a very usable operating system, but it’s still far behind macOS in terms of the number of professional apps it supports as well as the general usability for people who do more than browse the web, watch online videos, and listen to music.
But if you spend most of your time on the web, Chrome OS has a number of benefits. Because of its barebones nature, it’s not as taxing on the CPU as macOS is, which has a positive effect on the battery life and temperatures. And because Chrome OS is developed by Google, services such as Gmail, YouTube, or Google Docs are integrated well with the operating system and perform flawlessly.
Two Classy Machines
If you think the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a thin laptop, wait until you use the Google Pixelbook, which has a 12.3-inch display. The Pixelbook is only 0.4 inches thin, making it feel more like a tablet than a laptop. At 2.4 pounds, it’s also very lightweight, and its compact dimensions (11.4 in x 8.7 in) cause it to disappear even in the smallest laptop bags out there. Of course, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is no giant either. It weighs 3.02 pounds and measures 11.97 inches by 8.36 inches.
When it comes to design and build quality, both laptops are winners. MacBooks have been known for their aluminum unibody chassis, while the Pixelbook sports a two-tone aluminum and glass color scheme that matches the design of the Google Pixel 2 smartphone.
Both laptops also have their own gimmick to attract consumers’ attention with. The difference is that the MacBook Pro attracts negative attention because it only has two USB-C ports and no traditional USB Type-A ports or a memory card reader. The Pixelbook attracts attention with its 360-degree hinge, which makes it possible to turn the laptop into a tablet or use it in a tent mode.
It’s true that the Pixelbook also has only two USB-C ports, but we don’t see the absence of other connectivity options as nearly a big problem as it is with the MacBook Pro because of how different the target audience of the Pixelbook is compared to the target audience of the MacBook Pro.
For most users, the Pixelbook is likely going to be a very portable web browser with a comfortable hardware keyboard for chatting and occasionally writing documents. The laptop can definitely do more than this, as you’ll see in the next section of this comparison, but it feels like it doesn’t want to.
The MacBook Pro, on the other hand, is a full-fledged computer with an operating system capable of running everything from Photoshop to After Effects to AutoCAD to Ableton Live to Android Studio or Xcode.
Beautiful Inside and Out
The basic 13-inch MacBook Pro has a 2.3 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.6 GHz, 128 GB PCIe-based onboard SSD, 8GB of 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory, and the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 integrated graphics card. The hardware specifications of the Pixelbook mostly mirror the specifications of the MacBook Pro, except for a few relatively minor differences.
The Pixelbook uses a very-low-power Core i5 Y series processor with a power consumption of only 4.5 watts, compared to 15 watts of the Intel Core i5 processor inside the MacBook Pro. As a result, the battery life of the two laptops is nearly the same even though the MacBook Pro has a 54.5-watt-hour battery and the Pixelbook has only a 41-watt-hour battery.
The 13.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology on the MacBook Pro has 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, while the 12.3-inch LED-backlit display with IPS technology on the Pixelbook has 2,400 x 1,600. In practice, both displays appear identically sharp even though the Pixelbook has a slightly higher pixel density, and they both are very color-accurate and have wide viewing angles.
Keep in mind that the display on the Pixelbook is touch-enabled and supports the optional Google Pixelbook Pen, which costs $99. The pen allows for natural writing and drawing directly on the display, but its sensitivity isn’t nearly as good as the sensitivity of the pen Apple sells for use with the iPad.
And the Winner Is?
This comparison has three winners: Google, Apple, and you.
Google wins because the Pixelbook is genuinely beautiful Chromebook with the features and performance of a high-end laptop and the versatility of 2-in-1 convertibles. If you can live without heavy-duty apps such as Photoshop or AutoCAD, the Pixelbook should be able to satisfy all your computing needs with ease.
Apple wins because the MacBook Pro is still an excellent—if not the very best—laptop for those who care about design just as much as they care about raw performance and productivity.
And, of course, you win because you have two fantastic laptops to choose from, with each offering excellent value for money.