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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Attractive modern design
Good battery life
Pixelbook pen is useful
Limitations of ChromeOS
The exterior is easily marred
Bulky and awkward
Cost of accessories can add up fast
The Google Pixel Slate is a fine tablet if you want ChromeOS, but it was hard not to miss the functionality of a more robust operating system. It’s heavy weight and easily marred exterior detract from the experience of using it, and the device is rather pricey for a ChromeOS tablet.
The Pixel Slate is Google’s latest foray into the world of tablet computers. It runs lightweight ChromeOS software that’s designed to make it easy to pick up and use in seconds, but can this tablet compete with stiff competition from tablets with more robust operating systems?
The moment I took the Pixel Slate out of its packaging it acquired tiny scratches. Not only is the finish on the back of the device easily scratched, but it’s also a fingerprint magnet, as is the screen itself. Within a few minutes of using the Pixel Slate, it was a disgusting mess and no longer resembled a new high-end tablet.
The Slate is remarkably thin with a width of just 7 millimeters. However, at 1.6 pounds it’s tiring to use unsupported in your hands for long periods of time. This is a big tablet with a massive 12.3-inch display, and that expansive visual real estate comes at the cost of ergonomics. It’s certainly unwieldy, which makes it more practical if purchased with the optional detachable keyboard (which I didn’t test). Its form factor is more suitable for a small laptop than a tablet.
Not only is the finish on the back of the device easily scratched, it’s also a fingerprint magnet.
The large size does give you a more expansive space for work and art though, both of which are aided by the Pixelbook Pen. This tilt and pressure-sensitive stylus make for a highly enjoyable experience for digital sketching. It has a nice premium feel to it, though it’s perhaps a little on the thick side.
The only port you'll find on the Pixel Slate is USB-C, which is used for both charging and connecting other devices such as USB drives. There’s no headphone jack, and a USB-C to AUX adapter is included.
As with all ChromeOS devices, setting up the Pixel slate was as quick and painless as possible. After charging it up I just had to sign in to my Google account, sign the usual terms of service, set a PIN, and register my fingerprint. These login details can be skipped if you prefer just to use your password to log in. After that, the device was functional, though it did run a few quick updates in the background. It was also easy to install the battery in the pixel book stylus and connect it to the tablet.
The 3,000 x 2,000 pixel “Molecular Display” is great looking and bright. Details are sharp, colors seem accurate, and viewing angles are especially impressive. The aspect ratio is excellent for drawing and productivity. It’s a little awkward for viewing the video, and you’ll see black bars on the top and bottom of typical 16:9 ratio videos. However, videos on Youtube and shows on Netflix are quite pleasing to watch, given the high quality of the display.
With an 8th generation, Intel Core M3 processor, and 8GB of RAM, the base model Pixel Slate I tested should be quite fast. However, I found it a uniquely challenging device to test.
In GFXbench I had a difficult time achieving complete results, as the benchmark seems to be only partially compatible with the Pixel Slate. It showed the tablet performing abysmally poorly in terms of graphical capability, which didn’t translate to real-world use. I also ran the Work 2.0 Test in PCMark, but though I tried several times, the test crashed partway through.
The reality is that the power of the pixel slate is more than adequate when using compatible apps. The real issue revealed by the failure of my benchmarking software is that compatibility with Android apps isn’t yet perfect in the Pixel Slate.
Playing games on the Pixel Slate was a better experience than I had initially expected. At the time of testing, Google was offering the classic Doom, Doom II, and Stardew Valley for free with the purchase of the device. Controlling Doom was a bit tricky given the touchscreen controls, but Stardew Valley was brilliantly fun to play on such a large tablet, especially using the Pixelbook Stylus. All three games ran flawlessly without dropping any frames.
The Pixel Slate is by no means designed for gaming, but it’s more than adequate to run what is available.
Since this is a Google device running Google’s ChromeOS, the Pixel Slate is clearly designed with Google’s suite of free productivity apps such as Google docs and Google Drive, in mind. These all work rather well and are aided by the Pixelbook Pen, though if you’re using this for typing you’ll definitely want to invest in the optional keyboard.
For a tablet, the quality of the audio that the Pixel Slate is capable of producing is quite impressive. It’s perfectly adequate for watching videos or playing games. It’s even respectable for listening to music, with quality throughout the mids and highs, though it’s a little weak in the bass range. If I listen very closely there is something of a tinny quality, but for the most part, the sound is remarkably good for built-in speakers.
For a tablet, the quality of the audio that the Pixel Slate is capable of producing is quite impressive.
The Pixel Slate was quick to connect to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and was able to maintain a strong connection. I experienced no issues with signal consistency. This high performance is especially important in a ChromeOS based device, as the operating system is somewhat dependent on a network connection.
The Pixel Slate has both a front and rear-facing camera. Both are only 8 megapixels, but they get the job done. The front-facing “Duo Cam”, so named for its wide-angle view, is particularly good for selfies and video calls. Video only goes up to a max resolution of 1080p, and there isn’t much in the way of extra camera features.
I found the claimed 12 hours of use from a full charge to be about accurate, and I was easily able to use the Pixel Slate over the course of a full day without needing to recharge. It also charges quickly, with fifteen minutes of charging yielding a full two hours' worth of use.
Rather than implement Android, Google went with their lightweight ChromeOS, which certainly has its advantages as well as its limitations. Though many Android apps worked fine on the Pixel Slate, it isn’t guaranteed to function flawlessly with everything, and I find the interface somewhat irritating. I don’t like having to run everything through what is essentially a glorified web browser.
However, Chrome OS is rather well implemented in the Pixel Slate. It’s snappy and responsive and includes some attractive free third party software such as the aforementioned games. The implementation of Google Assistant in the Pixelbook Pen is handy, allowing you to highlight text and images to perform searches and other functions.
Overall, from a software perspective, the Pixel Slate is no slouch, but that doesn’t stop me from missing the convenience of working on a more robust OS like Android, Windows, or IOS.
With MSRP for various models ranging from $500 to $900, depending on specs and included accessories, whether or not the Pixel Slate provides good value is somewhat hard to judge. It’s hard to see why anyone would buy the higher specced models, as ChromeOS isn’t a demanding operating system and doesn’t run power-hungry applications. The base model I tested is a reasonably good value and has as much horsepower as the Pixel Slate really needs.
It’s worth noting that the optional detachable keyboard will cost you an eye-watering $200. The Pixelbook Pen also costs $99, which is steep but fairly standard for a stylus with its level of functionality.
Google Pixel Slate vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab S4
The similarly priced Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 is a less flashy, but much more practical tablet than the Google Pixel Slate. The Galaxy Tab S4 is two inches smaller, which is a much more usable size, and I prefer the stylus that comes with the Galaxy Tab S4. The Galaxy Tab S4 also runs android, so you benefit from better compatibility, and I much prefer the interface on the Galaxy Tab S4 to that of the Pixel Slate. The Pixel Slate may look fancier, but I find the Galaxy Tab S4 to be a much better tablet.
The Google Pixel Slate is a great tablet for fans of ChromeOS
This tablet should be exciting, but it just isn’t. It doesn’t stand out in any remarkable way and is hindered by the limitations of ChromeOS, though of course, the simple, lightweight nature of the operating system has its advantages. If you’re looking for a ChromeOS tablet, then this is probably the best one out there, but most people will probably be happier with Android or IOS.