Although Google seems to have found their footing in the smartphone arena with the Pixel line of Android-based smartphones, they are still very much in the fledgling stage when it comes to a first party Pixel tablet. At Google’s early-October Pixel event, they unveiled their latest attempt at carving their way into the premium tablet line dominated by Apple’s iPad: the Pixel Slate.
The Pixel Slate looks to be the perfect marriage of Pixel style design with the best that Google’s software suite has to offer. But is it enough of a tablet for tablet lovers while also being enough of a notebook PC for notebook PC lovers? BFAds is here to dig in to the details of Google’s newest line of mobile tech in our Look at the Pixel Slate.
With the Pixel Slate, Google clearly has taken a page out of the playbooks of Apple iPad Pro, which took a page out of the playbook of the Microsoft Surface Pro, and looks to target customers that need a device that is less than a notebook but more than a tablet.
First and foremost, however, Google took a page out of their own playbook and designed the Pixel Slate with the same premium look and feel of their best-selling line of Pixel smartphones. The Midnight Blue frame is constructed of anodized aluminum which has familiar curves that hug the 12.3” Gorilla Glass-protected display and houses a power button that doubles as a fingerprint sensor for added security. Unfortunately, if you don’t like blue, or if you’re a fan of Google’s fun variety of colors with cutesy names, you might be disappointed to learn that Midnight Blue is the only color in which Google is shipping the Pixel Slate.
The touchscreen, which Google calls “Molecular Display,” is one of the most pixel-dense displays in its class with a 3000x2000 resolution for a whopping 293 pixels per inch, rivaling even some smartphones. With 400 nits of brightness, the Molecular Display is definitely an attention getter that will be usable in just about any environment.
Rounding out the design features are a pair of front-facing speakers on either side of the Molecular Display, a far-field microphone, and a wide-angle front-facing camera for video calls or selfies. The Pixel Slate is equipped with two USB-C ports that can be used for charging or data transfer and, because they’re USB-C, can also be used to send a 4K video signal to a TV or an external monitor or to hook up to a docking station for keyboard and mouse support, almost like a full-blown PC.
Finally, there are some magnetic connectors along the edge of the Pixel Slate opposite the selfie cam that Google calls Quick Snap. Anyone familiar with the iPad Pro or Surface Pro should know how these work - Pixel Slate accessories simply latch on to the magnets and can draw power from the Slate’s main battery without plugging in any wires.
The Pixel Slate also has an 8MP rear camera, although Google made no mention about whether or not either Slate camera would utilize some of the new, advanced photo software features they introduced on the Pixel 3 series of smartphones.
Pixel Slate Keyboard
It may seem premature to go right into accessories since we haven’t yet finished talking about everything that the Pixel Slate can do. But, like the iPad Pro and Surface Pro, a large part of the usability of the Pixel Slate relies on the presence of certain accessories. Although they are sold separately, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone talking about or using the Pixel Slate without these items.
Like the competition, the Pixel Slate keyboard doubles as a protective folio cover while also transforming your tablet into a robust, quasi-notebook PC machine that greatly expands the functionality of the Pixel Slate by adding a keyboard and touchpad. Using the Quick Snap connector, the slate comfortably rests against the back side of the Pixel Slate keyboard, which acts as a stand that uses magnets rather than grooves to snap the tablet into place.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Pixel Slate keyboard are the rounded, backlit keys. The round nature harkens back to typewriters of yesteryear while also, according to Google, helps increase typing accuracy by reducing the area around the keys where users normally fat-finger their way into mistypes.
Software and Usability
As we’ve seen with Google’s other new hardware offerings this year, the Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL and the Google Home Hub, Google is really flexing its software capabilities this year and hoping to make them the main selling point of a lot of their products.
With software, the Pixel Slate really tries to flesh out that space between tablets and notebooks by being the first and only tablet from Google that runs Chrome OS instead of Android. This, of course, means full integration of the Chrome suite of software like Chrome Browser, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and nearly everything else with the prefix “Google,” including Google Assistant.
The Pixel Slate is smart enough to know when it’s been attached to the Pixel Slate keyboard, and once the keyboard is snapped into place, the OS transforms into a docked mode that is designed to work more like a notebook PC. Unsnap the keyboard, and the OS switches back to tablet mode with functionality suited for touchscreen use.
Speaking of tablet mode, the dark horse feature here is that Chrome OS now supports installation of Android apps, giving Pixel Slate owners the best of both worlds. If there isn’t a particular application or software package that is available on Chrome OS, there is a very good chance that it exists within the Android ecosystem. This also puts Pixel Slate squarely in the sights of anyone who is in the market for a high-end, high-quality Android tablet, a market which is devoid of any competition and is dominated by Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S line of tablets.
Of course, because you’re within Google’s ecosystem, the Pixel Slate plays nicely with your other Google devices. You can read and send messages from your Pixel 3 or 3 XL on your Slate and use your Pixel phone as a two-factor authentication device to unlock your Pixel Slate. Your agendas, reminders, and to-do lists created on Pixel Slate will, of course, span across all your Google devices as well, including Google Home.
Under the Hood – Hardware Specs and Price
Hardware specs is where the Pixel Slate immediately begins to look more like a PC than a tablet. In a somewhat surprising move, Google is offering a variety of Pixel Slate configurations to choose from.
Pixel Slate Price
Intel Core m3 8th Gen
Intel Core i5 8th Gen
Intel Core i7 8th Gen
Not only does this represent a fairly wide selection of prices to accommodate many budgets and performance needs, the “from” pricing found on the Pixel Slate product listing indicates there may be several variations that exist in between these price points. While this is certainly welcome, keep in mind that the Pixel Slate keyboard will set you back an additional $199.
Detailing more of the hardware, buyers should note that all storage options, even the 32GB devices, are solid state drives and not the painfully slow eMMC chips we have sometimes seen in tablets, so there should be no performance hit expected between storage options if all else is equal.
The Pixel Slate also includes the latest in wireless tech such as Bluetooth 4.2 and support for 801.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi in both 2.4ghz and 5.0ghz bands, although there are no LTE options.
Lastly, in addition to the fingerprint reader integrated into the power button, the Pixel Slate also features Google’s new Titan M security chip. Without details of how the Titan M works exactly, Google promises the Titan M will help secure both the passwords and the operating system of the Pixel Slate.
Currently, Google is allowing potential buyers to join a waiting list to be notified when the Pixel Slate is ready for purchase ahead of the November 22nd release date. With a debut date falling within days of Black Friday, there is slim chance of any discounts. But rest assured, if there is a deal to be had on a Pixel Slate, BFAds’ readers will be the first to know as we'll be the first to break each and every leaked ad, doorbuster, and price break throughout the holiday season.
What did you think of the Pixel Slate? Does it stack up to the Surface Pro and iPad Pro, or did it leave something to be desired? Head down to our comments section and let us know if you’ll have a spot under your tree for the Pixel Slate.