Google Pixel C Review
Google's First Foray into Tablet Manufacturing
Posted: December 9th, 2015
The Google Pixel C is the first tablet to be made by Google themselves. The team which worked on the Chromebook Pixel laptop have brought their design sensibilities to the tablet. Its launch price is $499 and there's the option of a $149 keyboard add-on (for comparison, today it is possible to buy an iPad Pro with keyboard for $968 or a Surface Pro 4 and keyboard for $1,029). So, how good is it, and is it worth the money?
Display and Design
The Pixel C comes with a 10.2 inch screen, and as the model name suggests, you get a lot of pixels... The resolution is 2560x1800 (interesting dimensions as we will see in a moment) which means 308 pixels per inch - one of the highest on the market. It's a beautiful screen. The ratio mimics A4, and anyone who has ever folded a piece of paper will have noticed that the ratios of the smaller halves are the same as the orginal piece. It all seems to suggest the Pixel C was designed with split-screen functionality in mind - yet it's strangely absent from the software. We can only assume it is still in development and will arrive in a future update. Still, all in all the screen is very nice and it will make you happy... unless you see it side by side next to the Galaxy Tab S with its swanky Super AMOLED screen...
The case is somewhat bulky and square, but it is sturdy, sharp, and is clearly a product of design choice rather than compromise. I loved the Anodized Aluminum exterior. This level of quality and thoughtfulness is rare outside Cupertino. It very much has a premium feel to it. Still, some will be put off by the thickness and weight of the device - it's just over a quarter of an inch thick and weighs 1.13 lbs.
The specs are outstanding. The processor is a blazing fast Nvidia Tegra X1 matched with 3 GB of RAM. Despite having a 64-bit powerhouse CPU, the tablet is prone to lag and latency. The response time when tapping an icon is noticeable - and it's weird. It's something you forgive in a cheap Chinese tablet or a low-end Android product, but this is Google's flagship. What has happened? Again, we hope for a software update that will put things right.
But when it IS running, boy does it run. Got an action game you want to play? The Pixel C will make mincemeat of it.
The Pixel C's bulk seems to be the result of one of its better features - its battery life. It easily lasts 11 hours.
Bits and Pieces
The stereo speakers are LOUD; it uses reversible USB-C ports; the 8 MP camera is serviceable but nothing special. Right, now let's talk about that keyboard.
The keyboard is genuinely innovative. It fixes to the tablet via a powerful magnet, and once there it automatically charges itself. No need for fiddly wires or connections. There's a hinge, too, that feels like it will take a fair amount of punishment. Despite its ruggedness, it is flexible enough to rotate up to 90 degrees. Having said that, there is - and this feels strange to type - a steep learning curve involved in using the keyboard. It's not something that most people will work out on their first or second try. But once you've got the knack, it's satisfying to slide the keyboard into place. It doesn't attach in portrait mode, which is a shame but understandable, and feels nicer than the iPad Pro or Surface keyboards.
Some less-commonly keys have been taken away, giving more space to the rest of the keyboard. Again, it takes a bit of getting used to, but the average person will soon be merrily typing away. The problem, again, is a curiously intermittent lag. Sometimes pressing a key does nothing, so one tries again, and again, and then everything you typed suddenly flies across the screen. We are left to hope, once more, that these are issues that can be solved via a software update. A minor nuisance in testing that could become a real pain in the neck in the real world is the lack of trackpack - you will be reaching over to touch the screen ten times a minute.
So on the whole it's a winner, but it's also rather heavy, weighing almost as much as the tablet itself (at 0.87 pounds).
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Remember we said we loved the screen? Well, we do. But it's also slightly problematic, in that it reveals the gap between the hardware and software in a very obvious and prominent way. You see, neither the operating system and apps have been optimised to take advantage of the wider screen. In most cases you get the standard Android screen with some unused space either side. It's like your 8-inch tablet decided to grow overnight but nobody had told the software - it's just a lot of dead space.
Anyway, Android 6.0 is an upgrade over previous versions, featuring welcome tweaks like better cut and paste, more control over permissions, and battery life enhancements.
But without proper split-screen support, multitasking, or optimised apps, one has to wonder what Google thinks we will do on the Pixel C.
Using the Google Pixel C feels like using the first version of the Microsoft Surface range. Both had some interesting ideas but were flawed experiments. Microsoft didn't quit, and reworked and reimagined the concept year on year, until now they have a superb, desirable product. It's quite easy to imagine the Google Pixel F being the must-have device of 2019, but for now, the Pixel C seems a bit undercooked for the price.
|Tablet||Google Pixel C|
|CPU||Nvidia Tegra X1 - 1.7 GHz|
|Display||LTPS LCD - 10.2 inch|
|Resolution||2560 x 1800 px - 308 ppi|
|Camera||Front 2.0 / Back 8.0 MP|
|Weight||0.51 kg / 1.13 lbs|
|Battery life||10.5 hours|
Battery life comparison