Google’s Surface competitor, the 10.2 inch Pixel C Android tablet has been announced at the price of $499 for the 32 GB version and an extra $149 for the keyboard. I spent the last couple of days with it as my main machine to find out if it’s any good. Google’s Pixel brand used to only stand for high-end Chromebooks, but in September, the search engine giant surprised us all with the Pixel C – a high-end Android tablet with an optional Bluetooth keyboard. If you think that sounds a little bit like Microsoft’s surface tablet or Apple’s iPad Pro, you’re not alone. It’s impossible not to compare the Pixel C with them.
Pixel C Android tablet: Review and first impressions
The Pixel C Android tablet with its aluminum shell is a high-end machine. With the keyboard connected, it looks as if somebody reduced a Pixel laptop down to tablet size. The build is really solid. That does mean the tablet/keyboard combo has a bit of heft, though. At half a kilo, It’s not heavy by any means, but you won’t forget that you’re carrying it with you. The keyboard doesn’t come standard with the tablet, so let’s look at the tablet first. The first thing you’ll notice when you start up the Pixel C is the screen. It’s a 10-inch 2560×1800 resolution screen that’s simply gorgeous. It’s screen is surely one of the brightest screens I’ve ever seen on a tablet. It’s actually so bright, it’ll probably hurt your eyes when you look at it with the full brightness. Google says it still managed to keep energy consumption really low. The screen has a bit of an unusual aspect ratio. 1:√2, that’s the same as the A4 paper size. Especially in landscape mode, that feels like a really good ratio for browsing the web and working on documents.
As for performance, nobody is going to call the Pixel C Android tablet slow. With its Nvidia Tegra K1 and 3GB Ram, it works just as smoothly as you would expect it to. Just like all of Google’s newest devices, it uses a USB Type C port for charging. Google says the battery should last a good 10 hours and while we haven’t done any tests yet but the numbers seems to be right. The Pixel C comes with the latest version of Android Marshmallow and it’s pretty much a standard build. The only major difference I noticed is that the home and back button are on the bottom left side. Google have built four microphones into the tablet just to make sure that it can hear your OK Google commands.
What about the keyboard? It’s small but after a few days of using it, it’s grown on me. The keys are a bit light-weighted, but it’s quite usable. Google kept the most often used keys at a regular size. That means your enter and tab keys are really small now, but otherwise you probably won’t notice much of a difference in daily use. What’s really cool is how you attach the keyboard to the tablet. There is no hinge on the tablet – everything is held together with magnets and a stiff hinge on the keyboard. And those magnets are strong and they are both in the keyboard and the tablet. Indeed, you could easily stick the C on a metal board. The keyboard and tablet connect over Bluetooth, so there are no connectors. It charges inductively from your tablet when the two are attached. That means you never have to worry about charging the keyboard. I have to admit, it’s also pretty satisfying to break the combo over your knee to disconnect tablet and keyboard. But how much sense does the tablet/keyboard combo make? More than I first expected.
I used the Pixel C Android tablet for few days as my main machine and was able to do everything I needed to do my work. What’s missing for me is a split-screen view in Android and that’s a shame, given that the screen would be perfect for that. At one point, this feature actually existed in the Marshmallow beta, but it didn’t make it into the final release. Is there a market for the Pixel C? I think it’ll be a small one.