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Pixelbook vs. Macbook Pro

May 5, 2019

Last year I picked up a Pixelbook as an experiment to see if it would simplify business travel by allowing me to bring a single device I could use for both work and personal tasks (previously when I’ve traveled for business I’ve generally brought my work laptop and a personal tablet). I haven’t had many opportunities to try out that idea yet (although I have a couple coming up soon), but I have been splitting my time between the two, so I do have a few thoughts about the two.

First, I found that I missed Mac apps less than I expected. Good Android applications for tablets are still sadly pretty scarce (and the relative scarcity of good Android tablets isn’t helping), but most services I use have a good web equivalent, so there isn’t too much I’ve missed. Heck, even iCloud has a pretty good website, so I can still access my Apple email and calendar on my Pixelbook. I think the application I miss the most is Things, since it doesn’t sync to Android or have a web app. And I haven’t found a service that works across iOS and Android that I like as much.

Second, I greatly prefer the Pixelbook keyboard to the MBP keyboard. I don’t buy Apple’s excuse that they needed to ruin their keyboard in the name of thinness; the Pixelbook is really thin and yet manages to have a really good keyboard.

Third, it’s really useful to be able to access both personal and work accounts on the Pixelbook. There have been a few times where I’ve worked from home using it, and between Linux support and Chrome Remote Desktop I’m nearly set for work tasks. As soon as they add support for adb support over a USB connection I’ll be able to do pretty much everything I need.

The one thing I really don’t like about the Pixelbook is that its battery drains noticeably even when off. I can turn the device off and come back to it in a few days to discover it’s lost ~20% of its charge. Contrast that to the MBP, which might lose a few percent.

My suspicion is that the drain is related to the processing that the Pixelbook is doing to allow you to check the battery level even when it’s powered off: you can double tap on the sides or top to show the current power level. Because they need to be able to respond to taps, they need to continuously sample and process the device accelerometer. Hence continuous power drain.

If that is the reason for the steady drain when powered off, then it’s reflective of really poor decision-making by the device team. I have used that feature exactly never, so would trade it for NOT draining power when I’ve turned the device off in a heartbeat. Heck, if the device didn’t slowly lose power when off then there’d be less need to check the power level in the first place.

The Pixelbook does charge pretty quickly, and if you’re using it daily then the drain isn’t that big a deal. Still, it reflects a trade-off that I don’t think the team should have made.

If I had to get just one, which one would I get? Well, working at Google makes the Pixelbook arguably more versatile than the Macbook Pro, since I can easily use it for both work and personal tasks. If I didn’t work at Google and couldn’t leverage that capability, though, I’d probably go with the Macbook Pro. As with all things, the best choice depends on your preferences and your particular situation.

From → Hardware, Software

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