If you're a student who wants an easy-to-use, high-end hybrid laptop, you have two main options: Pixelbook and Surface Laptop.
The Pixelbook is essentially a glorified Chromebook, a cloud-based laptop geared toward the education market. However, Chromebook laptops often don't have the power or the flexibility of a proper Windows or Mac laptop, so Google is hoping the Pixelbook will improve upon that situation. Meanwhile, Microsoft has launched the Surface Laptop to steal back some of the market it has lost to Chromebooks.
Make no mistake: the Surface Laptop is not a business PC. It's a cross between a MacBook Air and a Chromebook, and it even runs a sandboxed version of Windows. To help you figure out which to get, we did all the leg work and pitted them against each other, spec by spec.
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Google Pixelbook vs Microsoft Surface Laptop: Design
- Pixelbook: Only available in a silver aluminium unibody
- Surface Laptop: Metal, plastic, and fabric body available in different colours
Pixelbook is only available in a silver aluminium unibody, with a Pixel phone-like glass detail made of Corning Gorilla Glass. It weighs 2.4 pounds has the following dimensions: 11.4 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches. It also has dual speakers, four mics, a backlit keyboard, an edge-to-edge trackpad, USB-C ports on both sides, a 3.5 mm headphone jack, and a front-facing 720p web camera that captures 60 frames per second.
Surface Laptop is offered in four colours (burgundy, platinum, cobalt blue, and graphite gold). Its emphasis is on manufacturing skill, with metal, plastic, and the Alcantara fabric deck coming together. It weighs 2.76 pounds has the following dimensions: 12.13 x 8.79 x 0.57 inches. The Surface Laptop also has a Windows Hello face sign-in camera (720p HD camera), stereo microphones, and Dolby Audio speakers.
Google Pixelbook vs Microsoft Surface Laptop: Display
- Pixelbook: 12.3-inch, 2400x1600 resolution, 235 ppi, touchscreen
- Surface Laptop: 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504 pixels, 201ppi, touchscreen
The Pixelbook comes with a 12.3-inch Quad HD LCD touchscreen (2400x1600 resolution and 235 ppi). It offers 400 nits for use in bright areas and a 72 per cent NTSC colour, netting you a sharp, vivid image. It also supports the Pixelbook Pen for drawing. And finally, the Pixelbook's display has a 360-degree hinge, meaning you can use the device as a tablet, with the keys turned off as they face outward on the rear.
The Surface Laptop comes with a 13.5-inch PixelSense display (3:2 aspect ratio, 201ppi, and 2256 x 1504 resolution). It's touch-enabled with 3.4 million pixels for a sharp picture, and Microsoft is claiming it is the thinnest LCD touchscreen you'll find on any device. However, the Surface Laptop does not work as a tablet, so if you're looking for a true hybrid device, you may want to consider the Pixelbook.
Google Pixelbook vs Microsoft Surface Laptop: Hardware
- Pixelbook offers a 7th Gen Intel Core processor
- Pixelbook comes with 8GB or 16GB RAM
- Surface Laptop offers Intel Core i5 and i7 options
- Surface Laptop offers Intel HD 620 or Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
The Pixelbook has a solid state drive you can get in 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB NVMe options. It runs a 7th Gen Intel Core processor, has an "all-day" battery, and comes with 8GB or 16GB RAM. It also can charge in 15 minutes for up to 2 hours of use, Google has claimed.
The Surface Laptop is powered by the latest Intel Core i5 or Core i7 CPUs. Graphics-wise, it has Intel HD 620 or Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640. Impressively, Microsoft says you'll get 14.5 hours of battery life. It's also claimed that when the lid is closed and the laptop is in standby, it will drain no battery. It will be available with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB RAM, with an option of 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB SSD for storage.
Google Pixelbook vs Microsoft Surface Laptop: Connections and ports
- Both have a 3.5mm headphone jack
- Both support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
The Google Pixelbook has a USB-C port on both sides and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. It supports Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; 2x2 MIMO; dual-band 2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz) and Bluetooth 4.2. Meanwhile, the Microsoft Surface Laptop has just one Mini DisplayPort, one USB 3.0 port, Surface Connect, and a headphone jack. It supports Wi-Fi (802.11ac wireless networking) and Bluetooth 4.0 LE.
Google Pixelbook vs Microsoft Surface Laptop: Accessories
- Pixelbook: Works with optional Pixel Pen
- Surface Laptop: Works with optional Surface Pen and Surface Dial
If you're like us and find yourself not really touching Pixelbook's display, maybe you'd get more use if you paired it with the Pixel Pen (sold separately for £99). It supports around 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity and has tilt awareness for true pen-like results. Mind you, Microsoft's Surface Pen has 4,096 levels, but we think Google's still writes fast and smooth.
Using the Pixel Pen with Google Assistant is even more interesting. Press-and-hold the button on its side, then select a snippet from any app, which will simultaneously activate Google Assistant on Pixelbook so it can search or respond to whatever you've marked up. Circle a photo and Assistant will tell you where it was taken. Circle a celebrity's face on a news site and Assistant will tell you who they are.
As for the Surface Laptop, you can use it with the sold-separately ($99) Surface Pen and ($99) Surface Dial, the latter of which has been designed by Microsoft to give you more interaction with Surface devices. Uniquely, this is an accessory that's designed to be used either on the display itself, or on the desktop. It offers rotational haptic feedback when twisting, so you can have radial control of menus.
It will allow rotation of objects, scrolling of documents or websites, or simply changing the volume of your music. It will allow rotation, press and hold menus, clicks, as well as capacitive detection when placed on the screen of Surface Laptop.
Google Pixelbook vs Microsoft Surface Laptop: Software
- Pixelbook comes with ChromeOS and Google Assistant
- Surface Laptop comes with the Windows 10 S OS
Pixelbook runs ChromeOS and is the first laptop ever made with Google Assistant. Whether you activate Assistant from the keyboard key or Pixel Pen or "OK Google" wake word, the window for it will pop up in the lower left, sort of like Windows Start Menu. ChromeOS has come leaps and bounds since 2011. It has multitasking features and can run Android mobile apps in their own windows now.
Surface Laptop runs Windows 10 S, a fully functional version of Windows that is meant to run smoothly on all hardware. The big catch is that it's designed to only run verified apps from the Windows Store. You will not be able to download apps online and install them, so this version is sandboxed. But there aren't any hardware restrictions on Windows 10 S, so again, it can run across a full range of devices.
Google Pixelbook vs Microsoft Surface Laptop: Price
- Pixelbook: Starts at £899
- Surface Laptop: Starts at £979
Pixelbook is available now, starting at £899. Surface Laptop is available now, too, with prices starting from £979 for the entry-level model.