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Google Chromebook Pixel vs. MacBook Pro vs. MacBook Air

We put the Google Chromebook Pixel in a head-to-head comparison with Apple's MacBook Pro and MacBook Air to find out if the Chrome OS device can beat the rest…

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Chromebook Pixel - Main

Google’s new Chromebook Pixel was announced last night, marking the search giants first steps beyond low-cost laptops and into the premium device market. It’s already attracted a lot of attention, thanks to it’s super-high-resolution, touchscreen display and…well…the price. At £1049/$1299, the Chromebook Pixel sits in the same space as Apple’s MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, but how does it shape up against Apple’s premium portable devices? Here’s a quick comparison…

Display

The Chromebook Pixel features a 12.85″ touchscreen display. With a resolution of 2560 x 1700, it beats Apple’s 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display on resolution but falls short of that achieved by the 15″ Retina MacBook Pro. Its 239PPI pixel density beats both the 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display (227PPI) and the 15″ model (220PPI), too. This all comes at a cost though, the Chromebook Pixel has a 3:2 aspect ratio, which may sit a little strangely with anyone used to Apple’s widescreen offerings. It’s worth noting that none of Apple’s MacBook models have yet to feature a touchscreen display, so the Chromebook Pixel chalks up a victory here, even if early reports suggest its responsiveness is more molasses-like than silky-smooth. Winner: Chromebook Pixel

Processor

Powering the Chromebook Pixel is a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 dual-core processor; it’s on a par with Apple’s MacBook Air, but it doesn’t come close to the 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display which 2.5GHZ dual-core i5 processor and even the non-retina MacBook Pro which has identical processor specs. The argument here is that the Chromebook Pixel runs on Chrome OS, a cloud-based operating system which is significantly less intensive than Max OS X. That said, if Google is looking to go after the pro market at all, it’ll need to introduce some pretty impressive apps to Chrome OS and beef up the processing power to cope with them. Winner: MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Storage

Google may have only kitted out the Chromebook Pixel with a somewhat measly 32GB SSD, but with the majority of what you’re doing on Chrome OS taking place online, it really doesn’t matter too much. To balance things out, though, they also include a three-year Google Drive subscription which leaves you with a pretty impressive 1TB of online storage. The caveat here, though, is that after three years, you’ll be left to pay for your 1TB of Google Drive storage, setting you back a lofty $49.99 per month. On the other hand, similarly-priced MacBook Pro with Retina Display and MacBook Airs come with 128GB of Flash Storage and the non-retina MacBook Pro packs anything from a 500-750GB hard drive. You might end up extending this after a few years, but at least you’re not paying for it EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. Winner: MacBook Pro with Retina Display / MacBook Air / MacBook Pro

Graphics

High-res displays aside, it’s disappointing to see the Chromebook Pixel’s main selling point powered by a fairly average integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip – it’s hardly going to make for super-impressive viewing. That said, Apple has done no better here, its 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display has the same specs. The same goes for every MacBook Air model. You’ll need to upgrade the MacBook Pro with Retina Display to get hold of an Nvidea graphics card, but oddly, the MacBook Pro comes with this as standard. Winner: MacBook Pro

Operating system

This one is tough, because it really depends on what you want from your computing experience. Google’s web services have vastly improved over the past few years in terms of design, functionality, syncing, compatibility and, well, everything. Chrome OS is a great offering for anyone who spends the majority of their time on a computer browsing the internet, checking emails and writing the occasional word document. If you’re interesting in advanced photo or video editing and music creation, though, you can’t beat OS X for its range of bundled and third-party applications. Winner: Draw

Price

Here’s the big one and it is big. The Chromebook Pixel will set you back an eye-watering £1049/$1299 or even more if you opt for the LTE version for internet connectivity away from a Wi-Fi connection. Compare that to £999/$1199 for a 13″, entry-level MacBook Air or MacBook Pro and £1249/$1499 for an entry-level MacBook Pro with Retina Display and the Chromebook Pixel suddenly isn’t such an attractive offering. The jump in specs for a MacBook Pro with Retina Display certainly justifies the extra you’d pay and saving $100 on a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air  makes the slight drop in specs completely acceptable. Winner: MacBook Pro / MacBook Air

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