Sunday, March 15, 2015

When Google Pixel met Apple Macbook

Verge: Chromebook Pixel 2

To fill in a possible blank, Google and other manufacturers sell a laptop running a closed  (well Black Box) version of the Linux Operating system that has one purpose only.

To support the Chrome Browser.

Using Google's Web based computing model you only need a Browser.  You store all but transient data in the Cloud, on Google's Drive and access it transparently via your Internet Connection.

For some years then, Chromebooks (or desktop Chromeboxes) have existed from multiple manufacturers exhibiting the following features

- Emphasis on really, really low price
- So newer Chromebooks have perhaps marginally better features, but definitely lower price/function
- It's often a race to the bottom marketplace :(

Some years back however Google introduced the Pixel Laptop, with free (for 3 years) Google Drive storage of 1TB.   Considering the initial pricing of that Drive storage, the Pixel laptop was practically free, although the retail cost was a staggering 1500 USD or thereabouts.

Google Pixel 2

For some time (over 12 months) the Pixel has been wildly uncompetitive in both price and features, and,  the Chromebook community has been hoping for a Pixel 2 machine to get us back in the game.

This March 2015, Pixel 2 arrived.

CNET pixel review

+ 2560x1700, 12.85" display
+ touchscreen
= 720p webcam, I was rooting for 1080
+ i5 or i7 with 8GB or 16GB RAM memory
++ 2xUSB-C  & 2 USB 3.0 & SD Card Reader & Headphone ports
= I bet it can be opened up and upgraded!  Well Disk anyway.
+ runs some Android apps 
-- Music support via web based providers / Google Play music (i.e. no way to support Apple MP3 players & iTunes or any podcasts)

Apple MacBook

Johnny Ive: Apple Macbook 2015
(Stay awake Please)

MKBHD Macbook First Impressions

It's a brilliant product BUT!  In tried and tested tradition it seems that Apple has designed in some super innovative features whilst at the same time screwing users with some annoyances

+ Backlit keyboard, fanless, 1Kg
= Retina display but 2340x1440 pels not 2560x1440 :( doh
+ Acceptable CPU power considering form factor
- Why only 8GB
- 480Pix webcam

+ Force touch trackpad shows real innovation
- 1 USB C connector is just plain dumb
- New keys with limited travel, reports are that they are fine
+ For people with good eyes (not Marcus) then this 12" laptop might work. I prefer at least 14
-- No user upgrades (no surprises here!)

RAT  (Reluctant Apple Trap)
RAT as I describe it means that you are either addicted or reliant on some Apple functionality that you can't get from any alternative source.

For Marcus and Agata it is iTunes for Music (Agata) and Marcus (Podcasts).  iTunes does not run under ChromeOS and Google Play music is a valid alternative but only to stream music from your (free by the way) 40,000 song strong home music library in the cloud.

I've looked at various alternatives from Pono Player to DoubleTwist but some equivalent functionality is damn cumbersome at best and missing at worst. For now  iPod still rules.

Who Wins?
Both Google and Apple could legitimately proclaim: Well they are a lot more competitive than our last iterations, so buy now!

But well it really comes down to existing prejudices or should I say preferences!

Any athlete training with music knows he/she can't rely on a streaming Internet source.  How about whilst I am swimming? Or say, in the mountains.  So a Google Play Music solution just doesn't work and and a dedicated player not Android Smartphone is sometimes necessary  (for us, multiple times daily).  Advantage Macbook.

So solely using a Chromebook would not work for Marcus.   And yet, the Apple Macbook with its single USB-C port, crap-o quality webcam, and Apple signature can't-upgrade-anything-sir  is not exactly the ideal solution either. Advantage Pixel.2

For Marcus, the existing pimped Lenovo U430 touch laptop is still going great and despite it's extra weight over the above laptops still looks like it will be required, even if we add to the stable with another portable device.

Official Pixel Play Store link

Chromebook Pixel 2 CNET
Not really an Apple Engineer
Lenovo U430 Touch Review
Lenovo U430 SSD Upgrade
Lenovo U430 802.11ac Wireless Upgrade
Lenovo U430 M.2 SATA upgrade