Google and Apple's new laptops may sound bad now, but they are the future of computers

Google chromebook pixel second generationBusiness InsiderThe new Chromebook Pixel.

On paper, the future of laptops looks disappointing.

A few days ago, we learned Apple’s new MacBook is about four years behind in terms of performance. It has a gorgeous new design and a sharp display, but costs more and isn’t as powerful as the entry-level MacBook Air.

Google is following a similar trend. Its newest computer, an updated model of the two-year-old Chromebook Pixel, starts at $US999 but lacks a lot of the features you’d find in similarly-priced laptops.

I wouldn’t recommend either of those computers for most people. If you want a MacBook, get the MacBook Air. If you want a Chromebook, get one of the cheaper models like the $US330 Toshiba Chromebook 13, which is one of the best.

But I do think the two devices serve as a representation of where desktop PCs are headed in the near future. They may not look like much today, but neither did the original MacBook Air when it launched in 2008. Now it’s the best laptop you can buy.

I’ve been using Google’s new Chromebook Pixel for a few weeks. Like all Chromebooks, it can’t do everything Windows PCs and Macs can do. You have to do almost everything in the browser.

You save files in Google Drive, Google’s online storage service. You make documents like spreadsheets and presentations in Google Docs. You store and edit photos in Google plus. And many popular third-party apps like Evernote make web-based versions that work well in Chrome.

New macbookREUTERS/Robert GalbraithApple’s new MacBook is thin, light, and beautiful, but not a good buy at the moment.

That’s probably enough for a lot of people. Unless your profession requires some specialised software, chances are pretty good you can do everything you want to do in a web browser. That’s also why cheaper Chromebook models are becoming increasingly popular. Why buy a $US1,000 computer on top of your $US700 smartphone, when a $US500 computer is good enough?I’ve used the Pixel as my primary home computer for several days and only ran into a few instances — like streaming music on Spotify, when I needed to go back to my MacBook.

However, I think the Pixel is too expensive for what you get. It sticks to the same great design as the original model and sports a sharp touchscreen. Its guts are faster too, thanks to Intel’s processors and ample memory options. But you don’t necessarily need all those pricey specs in a Chromebook if you’re just using the browser for everything, especially when there are plenty of Chromebooks available for much less.

What really excites me about computers like the Pixel and the upcoming MacBook is the direction they’re pushing laptop hardware. Both have a new kind of port called USB C, which can be used for everything you need: Charging and power, file transfers, and video output to a monitor or TV. USB C plugs are thin, and it doesn’t matter which direction pop them into your computer. That means no more fiddling around with cables.

But they’re also rare. In today’s world, that means using a lot of adapters. For example, if I want to connect the Pixel to my monitor, I have to use a separate adaptor with the USB C port. Google sells four adapters for the USB C port in the Pixel for various connections. That can get annoying.

Usb c on google chromebook pixelBusiness InsiderUSB C will be standard in laptops soon.

Eventually, we’ll get to the point where a lot of those tasks are done wirelessly. You won’t need a super powerful laptop anymore, just something thin, light, and capable. As USB C becomes more prolific, it will eventually become one of the only ports you see in computers.

It’s easy to scoff at the Pixel and MacBook now, but they are the shape of things to come.

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