Google has taken last year’s Pixelbook ($999+) and upgraded its hardware for the new year, revamped its design so it has a fully detachable keyboard, and added an ecosystem of compatible accessories (stylus, keyboard, stand, etc.). That’s the Google Pixel Slate ($599+) in a nutshell. It’s a 2-in-1 device that can function both as a Chromebook and as a Chrome OS tablet (many reviewers think most future tablets will be able to do this). On the hardware side, the Pixel Slate is premium. It has a bright and beautiful 12.3-inch touchscreen display, slim bezels, great stereo speakers, dual USB-C ports and other modern touches (like a fingerprint reader). It can be configured with Intel’s latest and greatest chipset, too.
Put plainly, the Google Pixel Slate is designed to go toe-to-toe with Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Apple’s 2018 iPad Pro. They’re all basically the same size and have similar specs. The Pixel Slate’s hardware and software are made by Google, so it’s better equipped to work seamlessly as a Chromebook or a Chrome OS tablet.
The Pixel Slate starts at $599, which gets you 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and an Intel Celeron processor. However, it’s configurable in five different ways. The highest-end model, going for $1,599, comes with 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and Intel’s 8th-gen Core i7 processor. All accessories, such as the keyboard and stylus, have to be purchased separately.
The Good: As a piece of hardware, the Pixel Slate has the look, feel and performance of a premium machine. Its 12.3-inch display is big and bright, and the colors it produces are vivid, life-like and not oversaturated. The aluminum body feels substantial without being too heavy. And the fingerprint scanner, which is integrated into the power button, is a nice touch. The Pixel Slate is an excellent web browser that works best when used in desktop mode. The battery life is good. The speakers sound terrific. The dual USB-C ports, which can connect to most of your other gadgets (such as external hard drives, SD cards and compact cameras), are much more functional than those on the iPad Pro.
Who It’s For: The Pixel Slate is a unique device that’s not for everybody. First, you have to want a Chromebook — more specifically, you have to want a nice Chromebook. And two, you should want the versatility of switching between a laptop and tablet. There are many Chromebooks with traditional clamshell designs that are simpler and more affordable.
Watch Out For: Even though $599 isn’t that intimidating of a price, you’re probably not going to want that entry-level machine. Most people, I’m guessing, will opt for $999 model with an Intel Core-i5 processor and 128GB of storage — and that’s expensive. Throw in the fact that doesn’t come with the Google Pixelbook Pen ($99) and the Pixel Slate Keyboard ($199), the latter of which you’ll definitely want, and it gets very expensive. In my experience, the Pixel Slate works great if you’re just using Chrome to do things like check email, browse the web and watch Youtube, but as a tablet, the Pixel Slate isn’t as put together. Chrome OS apps (like Google Docs and Slack) work well, but Android apps (like Spotify, Twitter and Instagram) were often stretched out and just weren’t optimized for tablet life; to be fair, pretty much all Chromebooks that attempt to run Android apps have this problem. Also, there’s no headphone jack.
Alternatives: There are a lot of other less expensive Chromebooks out there from Acer, Dell, Samsung and more, but if you’re seriously interested in getting one by Google, last year’s Pixelbook is still an excellent machine. It also doesn’t come with many of the Pixel Slate’s tablet-related issues. Apple’s iPad Pro or MacBook Air, or Microsoft’s Surface Pro are more premium alternatives.
Verdict: The Pixel Slate is the first tablet Google has released in years. And that’s exciting. It’s well-built, comes with a super pretty screen and can be bought in many different configurations. From a consumer perspective, however, the big question the Pixel Slate needs to answer is: what’s the “Google” difference? With its Pixel smartphone, Google combines the cleanest Android operating system with the best-in-class smartphone camera — that’s a helluva good combo. The Pixel Slate doesn’t really have those qualities. It’s a Chromebook that can double as a tablet, but the tablet experience, with both Android and web apps, isn’t as polished as it could be. Maybe that’ll change with a future software update, who knows?
If you want a Chromebook with a 2-in-1 design, then this still feels like a good option, but you should know that there are much cheaper Chromebook alternatives also out there.
What Others Are Saying:
• “If you want a premium Chrome device, most people should just get the $999 Pixelbook instead. It features last year’s Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 128GB storage, and you don’t need to shell out for a keyboard. Add in the fact that the Pixelbook has been selling for as little as $699, thanks to recent sales, and there’s no question it’s the better value.” – Nathan Ingraham, Engadget
• “The Pixel Slate is a better laptop than the iPad Pro, and a better tablet than the Surface Pro 6. However, the individual strengths of both of those devices outshine any one strength of the Pixel Slate. Google has bitten off more than it can chew with Android implementation, and it still has its work cut out on the software side of things. With its impeccable display, speakers, and folio keyboard, the Slate is in a good spot right now, even if it doesn’t soundly defeat its prime competitors.” – Luke Larsen, Digital Trends
• “The all-new Pixel Slate is bigger, faster, and better in nearly every way than the old NVIDIA-powered Android tablet. The Slate’s ultra high-res display is absolutely gorgeous, its dual front-facing speakers are loud and full, and a bevy of Intel processor options – my pick would be the $799 64GB Core m3 model with 8GB of RAM – price it competitively with devices like the iPad Pro and Surface Pro. It has two USB-C ports, a battery that lasts for ages, and a slick and sturdy physical design that, despite a propensity for smudge accumulation, I find to be a nice take on the Pixel team’s understated aesthetic. Oh, and the fingerprint scanner is pretty good, even if it is weird to have it on the top of your screen when you’re using it as a laptop.” – David Ruddock, Android Police
Display: 12.3-inch LCD display; 3,000 x 2,000 resolution (293 ppi)
Processor: 8th Gen Intel Core m3, i5 or i7 processor, or Intel Celeron processor
Operating System: Chrome OS
Memory and Storage:
Camera: 8-megapixel with wide FOV
Sensors: 3-axis Gyroscope/ Accelerometer
Battery Life: Up to 12 hours