Completely sight unseen, a former friend and co-worker of mine bought a new Google Pixelbook. Yeah, I know. I asked the same question. “Why?” $100 off list price. A new Mac notebook isn’t the least expensive notebook you can buy but have you seen the price tag on Google Pixelbook?
$1,649. Even at $100 off do you know how much Mac you can buy for that much? Not as much. Almost. But not as much. The Pixelbook comes with a new Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD storarge and 13-inch-ish touchscreen. Options? Not much. There’s a $99 Pixelbook Pen for the touchscreen. How does this compare to a MacBook or MacBook Pro?
Story In Numbers
First, we have to recognize some of the differences between a Mac notebook and a Pixelbook. The former runs macOS High Sierra, Windows 10, and various and sundry flavors of Linux and Unix. All of them at the same time if you want. Pixelbook runs Chrome OS (which is a flavor of Linux) and many Android applications. Spend less and get a lesser Intel Inside, less RAM and less SSD storage. In addition to the $100 discount, Google sweetens the deal by offering six months of Netflix for free, and a free Google Home (order before end of 2017).
Second, we should but really cannot compare Apple to apples because the Pixelbook won’t ship until 2018 and the MacBook is still the older model from last year but with a modest speed bump. But let’s try anyway.
Google Pixelbook maxed out is $1,649 for 13-inch display, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and a Core i7 CPU. The MacBook is $1,949 for a 12-inch display with 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and a Core i7 CPU. The MacBook is priced $300 more. The MacBook Pro is $2,199, or about $700 more. Google’s Pixelbook is priced the same– $1,549– as Apple’s aging MacBook Air with comparable specifications (except for display; the MacBook Air is non-Retina).
Indeed, Mac notebooks are more expensive.
Comparing Apples to apples is an exercise in futility here. For example, Microsoft has a new 13-inch Surface Book 2 model with a quad-core Intel i7 inside, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage but with a discrete GPU (think faster) for $2,499. The only way to get similar power is with a 15-inch MacBook Pro for $2,599. $100 more.
What this comparison boils down to is this: Apple’s notebooks are priced higher– but not too much higher– for almost comparable hardware. Macs do not have a touchscreen, but Windows-based touchscreen notebooks are the only bright spot among Windows PC sales these days.
It also means not much has changed at any time in the 21st century, even with Google and Microsoft selling their own notebooks. Competitors offer the same, comparable, or even slightly higher specifications on hardware when compared to Mac noteboooks and always have.
Mac notebooks continue to run macOS, Windows 10, and various flavors of Unix and Linux– all at the same time– while competitors cannot.
Here’s what bothers me about the Mac line. It languishes compared to the competition. Other than the new iMac Pro, the entire Mac line of desktops and notebooks is aging and not very competitive relative to new Windows PC notebooks which often feature newer and faster CPUs, more SSD storage, longer battery life, and better Retina-like displays– for less money.
Here’s an example. The Mac mini.
This is promotional copy from Apple’s website.
Mac mini makes everyday tasks a breeze with fourth-generation Intel Core processors, a flash storage option that’s up to 50 percent faster, and wireless performance up to three times quicker than its predecessor. With Intel Iris Graphics or Intel HD Graphics 5000, it also delivers graphics performance up to 90 percent faster than the previous generation. And with great connectivity features like Thunderbolt 2 and support for HDTV, Mac mini makes the perfect centerpiece to any setup.
4th generation? Intel is shipping 8th generation CPUs and not one Mac has one. Thunderbolt 2 is dead. Thunderbolt 3 lives. Even the Apple-branded display Apple promotes with the Mac mini is no longer being manufactured.
What all this tells me is that specification comparison is less value than technology critics assume. Hardware is easy to compare but is only one factor of many why a customer buys what they buy. Frankly, Chrome OS doesn’t do much compared to Windows and especially when compared to macOS High Sierra, but it might be enough for Google to sell thousands. Microsoft’s Windows notebooks also compete against $300 tablet-notebook hybrids which run exactly the same software which makes selling a $1,500 to $3,500 premium notebook a more difficult task.
Meanwhile, despite a languishing product line, Apple sells more Macs now than at any point in the company’s storied history. What does that say? Where are the true MacBook killers?