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If you’re looking for a slimline, lightweight laptop, you’ll probably consider an Apple MacBook. But should you also consider a Google Pixelbook?
Here are 10 reasons why I ignored the lure of the Apple ecosystem and opted for Google’s latest top-of-the-line Chromebook.
What I Need From a Laptop
I put words on the web for a living. I don’t commute to an office, instead I talk to colleagues via Slack and email. A computer isn’t merely a tool I use to do work—it determines the way in which I work and how I interact with others.
So I don’t want just any computer. I want a device I feel happy to open. One that increases the likelihood I will feel happy to stop fluttering about and get to work.
Right now, that computer is the Google Pixelbook. I don’t particularly love Google, and I have disabled the built-in Google Assistant features. So, then, why am I using a Pixelbook? Here are my 10 reasons.
1. I Like Pixel Laptops
Let’s get this out of the way from the beginning. I like Pixel computers. I purchased the original Chromebook Pixel in 2013, back when there was a general consensus that there was no reason to spend that much money on a Chromebook.
The original Pixel became my favorite laptop. I got three years of use out of that machine, which was longer than I’ve used any other laptop. The Pixelbook is cheaper while offering all-day battery and a convertible form factor. For me, this is a no-brainer.
2. Chromebooks Are Simple
You could call me a minimalist. I like for interfaces to have as few elements as necessary. I tend to remove most preinstalled software and only download the apps I need for the way I use my device. Once I stop using a program, I remove it.
Windows and macOS come with far more functionality than I need. Opening the Windows 10 start menu feels to me like visiting Times Square. macOS is less busy but still a bit much. Chrome OS gives me a browser, an app drawer, and not much else. I like that.
3. Chromebooks Now Run Android Apps
When I stopped using the Pixel in 2016, it was because there was some missing functionality I did find frustrating. I had a hard time editing images and importing photos from my DSLR camera. I wanted the option to edit videos without having to upload my clips to the web.
As I switched back to Linux, Google began experimenting with Android apps on Chromebooks. Play Store support came in 2017, and now all new Chromebooks can run most of the apps within.
Are Android apps as powerful as traditional desktop software? Not quite. Do they do enough to meet my needs? Yup. Not only that, I can run the same software on my computer that I run on my phone. That, for me, is a tech dream come true.
Here are some of the best Android apps, many of which suit a Chromebook just fine.
4. Chromebooks Have Almost No Learning Curve
My parents grew up without personal computers. They rarely touched our Windows machines, but when Chromebooks and Android tablets came around, they didn’t need me to hold their hands. The interfaces were that straightforward.
I write about tech, so I know my way around an operating system. But while I’ve used a Mac, I’ve never owned one, and I have little desire to get to know macOS now.
I don’t believe for a moment that a Mac would be hard for me to figure out, but I don’t have any interest in making that effort (and with so many tech writers out there already in love with Macs, I don’t know what value I would provide to readers by becoming one more).
5. I’m Not Immersed in the Apple Ecosystem
When you buy a smartphone, you’re not only buying a piece of hardware, you’re buying into an ecosystem. Personal computers are becoming the same way. If you own an iPhone, an Apple TV, or an iMac, you might as well get a MacBook Air as your portable work machine. It all plays together nicely.
I don’t own any of those things. To buy a MacBook now would be introducing the temptation to throw thousands of dollars toward Apple. Now that iPhones are starting to cost $1,000, I think I’ll pass.
6. The Pixelbook Is Also a Tablet
I like tablets. While I don’t consider them a necessity, they make for a pleasant way to browse the web, watch videos, and get work done without having to lug a heavier computer around. In college, tablets were great for taking notes and writing papers.
Manufacturers have largely stopped producing Android slates. Convertible Chromebooks, like the Pixelbook and the Asus Chromebook Flip, mark the return of high-end Android tablets. When combined with a pen, I can now write notes and try my hand at drawing too.
7. The Pixelbook Has Better Specs
Both the Pixelbook and the MacBook Air have a starting MSRP of $999.99. The Pixelbook has a 2400×1600 screen resolution on a 12.3-inch display. In contrast, the MacBook Air stretches a lower 1440×900 resolution across a larger 13.3-inch display.
The Pixelbook also comes with a seventh generation Intel Core i5 compared to the MacBook Air’s fifth generation Core i5.
The MacBook Pro is a more comparable machine, but it starts at $1,299. That’s $300 more than the Pixelbook’s official sticker price and nearly $500 more than the discounted price the computer’s often going for these days (I grabbed mine for $840).
8. I Prefer How the Pixelbook Looks
When I first saw the Pixelbook in person, I did a double-take. It’s beautiful.
The MacBook Air and Pro are by no means ugly—in fact, they’re quite iconic. But they look nearly the same today as they did a decade ago. Manufacturers from Acer to Dell have mimicked the design. I’ve owned a PC that looked and felt like a MacBook.
The Pixelbook takes several design cues from Macbooks, sure. But despite that, Pixel computers have managed to offer a distinct look and feel that is largely their own.
9. Chrome OS Is Based on Linux
On the surface, there’s little resemblance between Chrome OS and traditional desktop Linux. But under the hood, you will find many of the same system tools and components. That makes Google directly invested in the Linux ecosystem.
I have a separate dedicated Linux computer, so I’m not likely to install a version to run alongside Chrome OS. Still, it’s cool to see the work going toward making Linux desktop apps run alongside Chrome and Android apps.
10. I Trust Google More Than Apple
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all that trusting of Google. Over the past few years, I deleted my Google accounts and wrote about ways people could use Android while avoiding Google. I don’t like how much information Google gathers about us, and I’m not comfortable with a business model built around this data collection.
Nonetheless, Google has done a lot of good. Its search engine makes it easier to discover content on the web. Google Maps helps millions of us get from place to place. Chromebooks and Android devices have made computing more affordable and accessible to people all across the economic spectrum. YouTube (a Google acquisition, but a Google product regardless) is a great place to learn how to do just about anything.
Apple’s primary contribution is making luxury products for people who can afford them. The company is more than happy to embrace both planned obsolescence and vendor lock-in to increase its profits. I like the design aesthetic Apple introduced into the ecosystem, but if Apple could stop other companies from embracing its style, it would.
Which Would You Pick? Pixelbook vs. MacBook
I’m not making the case that the Pixelbook is hands down a better computer. Many of the reasons above are subjective, and your opinion may differ on any number of points.
And if software you need for school or work is on macOS but not Android, then you’re going to need to go with a MacBook instead. The Pixelbook is not for everyone. No computer is.
But if you are tempted by what the Pixelbook is and what it offers, you may just come away impressed with how much you can do with a modern Chromebook.