New MacbookThere are some notable similarities between the two new systems, so the inevitable question becomes, how do they compare to one another?When the first Google Chromebook Pixel was introduced in 2013, it left a lot of folks confused. Some were off-put by the lack of local storage or traditional software support, while others were just befuddled as to where the pricey Pixel fit in a family of budget Chromebooks defined by sub-$400 prices. Prepare for some deja vu, because people may have warmed up to Chromebooks in the last two years, but the Pixel is back, with a base price of $999.
NameApple MacBook 12-Inch (2015)Google Chromebook Pixel (2015)
Lowest Price$1,234.00Amazon$1,259.01Amazon
Editor Rating
Processor NameIntel Core M-5Y31Intel Core i5-5200U
Processor Speed1.1 GHz2.2 GHz
Operating SystemMac OS XGoogle Chrome OS
Storage Capacity (as Tested)256 GB32 GB
Graphics CardIntel HD Graphics 5300Intel HD Graphics 5500
Screen Size12 inches12.85 inches
Native Resolution2304 x 14402560 x 1700
Storage TypeSSDSSD
Weight1.98 lb3.3 lb
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The overall design looks much like the previous model, a milled aluminum chassis that takes some minimalist cues from Apple designs, but ditches the tapered look for a more slab-like profile. A piano hinge running along the back edge provides smooth opening and stability against taps and swipes on the display, while a glowing stripe on the lid lights up in Google's rainbow of colors.
The new design measures 0.6 by 11.7 by 8.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.3 pounds. Compared to the new lighter-than-Air 12-inch Apple MacBook, that's a lot of weight and bulk. The new MacBook weighs just 2 pounds and measures 0.51 inches thick at the bulkiest point. It also looks a little boring, available only in a bare-metal grey, while the MacBook can be had in silver, space gray, or gold. On the design front, the point goes to Apple.
The Pixel's new display is apparently the same as the past model. Its 12.85-inch display takes on an unusual 3:2 aspect ratio, and offers multi-touch capability and 2,560-by-1,700-pixel resolution. That's a marginally larger screen than the new MacBook's 12-inch Retina display (2,304 by 1,440). The biggest difference here, however, is touch. Apple has made no moves to bring touch over to OS X from its iOS devices, so there's no touch screen on the new MacBook. If you've been using a Windows 8 laptop or tablet, or have simply become enamored with touch from using your smartphone or tablet, the Pixel has it and the MacBook doesn't.
The Chromebook Pixel is outfitted with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U processor, which easily outpaces the MacBook's 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y31 in terms of pure performance capability—in tests like Cinebench and Photoshop, the MacBook lags behind most competitors. But despite the disparity in hardware, it's not so cut and dried when comparing the Pixel to the MacBook, as the two systems apply that processing power in very different ways.
The Chrome OS paradigm shifts a lot of the processing load off of the device and onto the cloud, which is what allows inexpensive Chromebooks—which are frequently equipped with Intel Celeron and ARM processors—to offer decent performance despite the silicone inside. We have seen Chromebooks with Core i3 processors, like the Acer C720 Chromebook (C720-3404)$344.99 at Amazon and the Dell Chromebook 11 (Intel Core i3)$269.00 at Dell, but the difference in performance was minimal. It was most apparent in multitasking and video conferencing, but not regular Web browsing and app use.
There's also the question of storage. Apple's 12-inch MacBook has a 256GB solid-state drive, which isn't half bad, capacity-wise. The new Pixel offers 32GB of onboard storage, and even that's a step up from the 16GB that is the norm for Chromebooks. Google gets away with this by, again, shifting things off of the device. All of your documents, photos, videos, and the like are stored in Google Drive, so that local storage isn't anywhere near the hindrance it might first appear to be. That said, if you're usually working offline, or don't want to rely on cloud storage, the MacBook wins with its larger drive.
But for the cloud-friendly, Google is throwing in some pretty hefty extras, namely a full 1TB of Google Drive storage free for 3 years. That's a heck of a lot more than the free 100GB normally included with inexpensive Chromebooks, and it significantly changes the value equation for the Pixel. Currently, Google is offering 1TB of cloud storage for $10 per month, which would run you nearly $360 over three years. If you were thinking of upgrading your G-Drive storage anyway, this effectively drops the price of the Pixel down to a much more reasonable $640.
New Chromebook Pixel
The other big point of divergence between the two is more physical: port selection. The Apple MacBook is stunning for its extremely narrow selection of ports, outfitted with nothing but a headset jack and a single USB-C connector that serves as charging port, video output, and data transfer. It's one of the first devices with USB-C to hit the market, meaning that MacBook users will need to either upgrade to USB-C-equipped peripherals or purchase several adapter dongles to get things like standard USB or HDMI functionality.

Google's Chromebook Pixel also offers USB-C, but with two main distinctions. First, it offers not one, but two USB-C ports, and either one can be used for power, leaving the other free for connecting another device, like a monitor. But second, unlike Apple, which stripped the MacBook of other ports, the Pixel is still outfitted with two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card reader. That's a huge benefit to anyone using a USB flash drive or a camera with an SD card, as it means that the Pixel will let you use the devices you already own, and won't force you to buy an extra adapter. (For more on that, check out What Is USB-C? An Explainer.)
Both the MacBook and the Pixel boast long battery life, but here we have a clear winner. The Pixel lasted an impressive 12 hours in our battery rundown test, but the MacBook lasted even longer, impressively stretching the battery life to 14 hours 10 minutes. If pure battery endurance is a priority, the MacBook wins, but either system will still carry you through a full day of work or school with hours to spare.
Last but not least, there's the price. The new Chromebook Pixel starts at $999. Now that might be a lot for a Chromebook, but it's a lot more affordable than the 2013 model. It's also more affordable than the Apple MacBook 12-inch, which starts at $1,299. Adjust those prices to account for the free cloud storage and the difference in necessary accessories, and the MacBook winds up costing roughly twice as much as the Pixel. If price is a big factor in your decision, the new Pixel is the better choice.
But ultimately, comparing MacBooks to Chromebooks is like comparing apples to oranges—they aren't two of the same thing. The two systems take an entirely different approach to both the user experience and what constitutes a PC. There are definitely some key advantages to the Pixel, like a touch screen, wider selection of ports, and free storage, but the Chrome OS isn't for everyone. In the end, neither is a must-buy, but both will surely have an influence that's felt throughout the laptop market in the next year or two as these new features and concepts filter down to more mainstream laptops.