Chromebook Pixel vs MacBook Air

How does Google’s new Chromebook stack up against the MacBook Air?

By - February 22, 2013
Apple vs Google battle

Google recently announced its new Chromebook Pixel laptop computer with media reports quoting Chrome head Sundar Pichai as saying, “People will give up a MacBook Air for this.”

According to Google, the Pixel is aimed at “power users who have fully embraced the cloud”, with Pichai later saying that some of these users buy Mac or Windows 8 and they wanted to make sure Chrome OS is in that segment.

With Google comparing their new cloud computing device to Apple’s ultra-ortable, it raises the question of whether the device does stand up well against the somewhat older MacBook Air.

Apple last refreshed its MacBook Air line in June 2012, though the electronics maker did recently announce a price cut for the top-end model.

The table below compares the default configurations (where applicable) of the various models of the laptops:

Specifications MacBook Air Chromebook Pixel MacBook Air Chromebook Pixel LTE
Display 13.3″ 1440×900 12.85″ 2560×1700 multi-touch with Gorilla Glass 13.3″ 1440×900 12.85″ 2560×1700 multi-touch with Gorilla Glass
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 1.8GHz Intel Core i5 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 1.8GHz Intel Core i5
Memory 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 4GB DDR3
Storage 128GB SSD 32GB SSD 256GB SSD 64GB SSD
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000 Intel HD 4000
Ports 2x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, SD card 2x USB 2.0, Mini DP, SD/MMC card reader 2x USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, SD card 2x USB 2.0, Mini DP, SD/MMC card reader
Battery 50Wh (7 hours) 59Wh (5 hours) 50Wh (7 hours) 59Wh (5 hours)
Camera 720p 720p 720p 720p
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 3.0 4.0 3.0
Cellular None None None LTE
Keyboard Backlit, chiclet Backlit, chiclet Backlit, chiclet Backlit, chiclet
Touchpad Clickable Clickable, etched-glass Clickable Clickable, etched-glass
Dimensions 325 x 227 x 17mm 297.7 x 224.6 x 16.2mm 325 x 227 x 17mm 297.7 x 224.6 x 16.2mm
Weight 1.35kg 1.52kg 1.35kg 1.52kg
Operating system OS X Chrome OS OS X Chrome OS
Price $1,199 $1,299 $1,399 $1,449

The table shows that the only hardware advantage the Chromebook Pixel has over the MacBook Air to justify its higher price, is a high resolution touch display.

There are some factors not shown in a straight-forward hardware comparison that are important to note, however.

One the one hand, the MacBook Air comes with an operating system designed to run applications and handle data locally, and it includes programs such as iMovie and GarageBand.

One could also add $100 to the price of the MacBook Air to double the RAM. For the same price you could also upgrade the CPU in the more expensive MacBook Air model to a 2.0GHz Intel Core i7.

The Chromebook, on the other hand, includes 1 terabyte of Google Drive cloud storage for three years.

Using Google’s rate of $49.99 per month it would usually cost to get this, that equates to $1,799.64 of Drive storage included in the price of a Chromebook Pixel.

Google Chromebook Pixel press shot

Google Chromebook Pixel press shot

South African availability

Another factor to consider is that the default configurations of the MacBook Air are readily available in South Africa, while the Chromebook Pixel is not.

Asked about local availability a spokesperson for Google South Africa provided the following response:

We are very committed to reaching users in more countries and together with our partners, we plan to launch Chromebooks in more countries in the coming months. For the Pixel, it will be available in the U.S. and UK to start.

Macbook Air

Macbook Air

Google Chromebook Pixel unveiled

Google makes 0 laptop dream a reality

No Chromebook plans for SA

Retina MacBook Pro, MacBook Air price drop

New MacBook Pro here, refreshed hardware launched

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