The Google Pixel C is a brand new Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow tablet with an optional keyboard accessory for the ultimate productivity and Android tablet experience. Google first revealed it earlier this year, and released it last week for $499. Now that I’ve had 24 hours to try out Google’s new tablet and keyboard, here are some thoughts and first impressions.
In September Google launched the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P smartphones, but no one expected a tablet. Rather than release another Nexus, they revealed the Pixel C. A tablet completely designed, manufactured and made 100% by Google. Like the Chromebook Pixel, and it’s what Google considers a premium Android tablet to be.
The first thing buyers will notice when they pull it out of the box is just how nice it is. The Pixel C is made of a solid slab of aluminum, feels very sturdy and durable, and runs the latest version of Android. It’s well made, looks nice, and has a neat LED battery meter on the back. Here’s my thoughts and impressions after using it for 24 hours.
The Pixel C itself is an excellent Android tablet with my limited time with it, but those thoughts could change. However, Google’s selling it with an optional (but recommended) $150 aluminum magnetically attaching keyboard accessory to make it more of a portable to compete with the Microsoft Surface, iPad Pro, or similar devices. So far I haven’t tested all of that too much, but at the same time I know I don’t need to, as there aren’t apps or software for that.
Android 6.0 doesn’t have split screen to run two apps at the same time, and it doesn’t have native tablet apps to deliver an great experience. Meaning this beautiful hardware and tablet is just that, runs Android, and has an awesome keyboard many may not use or even buy. Reviews around the web have been slamming it for a few reasons, and they’re right. Android as it is right now, doesn’t have what it takes to compete with the Surface Pro 3, or be a workhorse. As a tablet itself, the Pixel C is beautifully made and rather awesome. Take it for what it is.
Google’s new Pixel C comes in an odd 10.2-inch form factor, with a shape that’s wider or taller than most. Almost like an A4 piece of paper, rather than be long and skinny like most Android tablets. It’s refreshing though. Having so much room for apps, games, or viewing video. There’s an extremely powerful NVIDIA X1 processor under the hood with 3GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, an 8 megapixel rear camera, dual extremely loud and decent speakers, USB Type-C, and a massive 9,000 mAh battery that will have this tablet lasting longer than most.
Now that we have some of the basics out of the way, here’s what I learned and some of my thoughts after using the Pixel C and its keyboard accessory for the first 24 hours.
It’s Big & Heavy
The Pixel C is a big tablet, and somewhat heavy. It comes in heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and heavier than the iPad Air, but not by much. Weighing just 1.14 lbs. That weight may be a bit much for some using it with one hand, but it also has its benefits. The aluminum design is excellent, which looks and feels great, and it has a bigger battery than most tablets, so should get excellent battery life.
Most Android tablets are long and skinny, but the Pixel C isn’t. It’s more square, and isn’t even a 4:3 aspect ratio like the iPad. It’s almost as tall as it is wide, which means some Android apps have a lot of empty space, because they’re simply blown up phone apps. At the same time, Netflix, games, Gmail, and browsing the web are all great.
It’s over an inch taller than the Nexus 9, a little longer, and quite a bit heavier. It also feels like a premium device unlike any other Android tablet. When you add the keyboard, it gets really heavy, being around 2 lbs total. At that point I could carry around my MacBook Pro Retina.
The Pixel C has a 10.2-inch 2560 x 1800 Quad-HD display with a class-leading 500 nits of brightness and 308 pixels per inch. What that means is it’s big, bright, and everything looks really good. It might not be as colorful as Samsung’s AMOLED displays, but this is by far one of the best screens on any Android tablet I’ve ever used.
The Pixel in the name is for all those pixels, and it really shows. Playing games or watching video looks great, and reading a few magazines on Google Play were nice as well. There are a few apps that look really great on a screen this big, but others that don’t. Most Android apps are built for a phone, so there are a lot of blank spaces.
At the end of the day though, this is an Android tablet. In that regard it’s been pretty impressive so far. The screen is simply gorgeous with great colors and inky blacks, plenty of brightness, and everything is as crisp as can be. For $499 this is one of the better Android tablets in terms of design and display.
I did have one problem at first, and that was the display wasn’t accurately reading all my taps. I found myself missing letters while typing, tapping on things twice, and having a hard time. Like the display just isn’t recognizing all the touches. This same comment was mentioned in multiple reviews around the web as well, so it could be a hardware issue to look out for. That said, I did a factory data reset and the problem is gone. The display is perfect, I no longer have missed touches, and it’s working flawlessly. There could be an issue somewhere that needs addressed with a software update. I was worried at first, but it seems to have completely gone away. I’ll update if this changes.
It’s pretty thin, barely thicker than the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the front is almost all screen, which as we said, looks great.
Google moved the on-screen keys to the sides, making them easier to reach with your thumbs. Unlike other tablets the back and home bottom are on the bottom left, and the recent apps is off to the right. They look out of place, but it makes using the tablet much easier. We thought other Android 6.0.1 tablets would do the same, but the Nexus 9 still has the on-screen keys centered. This really helps while using the large Pixel C.
Who Needs a Keyboard?
Google is selling two optional keyboards for $149 each. One is a folio flip keyboard, and the other is all aluminum that attaches with some extremely strong magnets. And I mean really strong. Picking up the tablet by the screen, wobbling it around, and being rather rough while typing isn’t enough to knock it loose. They’re so strong I put the Pixel C on the fridge in the kitchen, and watched some ESPN while cooking dinner. Seriously.
Simply slide the tablet on and the keyboard attaches. It’s smart enough to know, and the Bluetooth connection instantly pairs. Once done, you’ll never see the on-screen keyboard, and everything is done with the keyboard like it’s a laptop. The keyboard itself is also extremely well made, and this is some of the best Android hardware around. However, there’s no mouse-pad or anything, so switching back and forth from touching the screen and using the hardware keyboard isn’t ideal.
The keyboard is really nice, but $150 is a lot. It’s made out of the same aluminum, has nice black spacious keys, although some are smaller than a typical keyboard, and I had to get used to the small shift and enter key. I’m typing on it as we speak. They have a decent amount of travel, feel nice, and there are even feet on the bottom of the keyboard so it doesn’t slide while in use.
There are a few different angles it can be switched to, perfect for use or while enjoying a movie, but it would be nice if there were a few more. The tablet is a little top-heavy, and while typing it wobbles a bit on my lap, so I’d suggest user type on a desk. Some reviews claimed the magnet wasn’t strong enough and occasionally the bluetooth connection would fail and the on-screen keyboard would appear, but that’s yet to be an issue for me. Overall I really like the keyboard, but don’t see myself using it much aside from watching video and using it as a stand. Whether or not it’s worth the $150 price is up to buyers, and if they see a need for it.
Apps & Performance
As far as performance goes, the Pixel C is one of the best. Running the latest Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with a powerful NVIDIA X1 processor and 3GB of RAM means it flies. It’s one of the fastest Android tablets I’ve ever used. Everything is smooth, stable, and quick. I’ve yet to experience any hiccups or issues.
Loading up a few games was a pleasant experience on the big, bright, and beautiful display, and Asphalt 8 even has optional keyboard controls now, so that’s nice. Using apps, playing games, and watching some Sling TV and other things all were a positive experience. The speakers are surprisingly loud as well. Better than many cheaper options available.
As far as everything else, this is a standard Android tablet, just done better than most available. The problem is with apps. There aren’t any apps that will allow users to truly benefit from using this and the keyboard to make it worth it. At least not yet. There’s no split-screen support to run two apps at once, like Samsung offers, and not enough true apps that look amazing on an Android tablet. I did everything I usually do on Android tablets, and enjoyed it, but those looking to replace a laptop or the Surface Pro will have a hard time finding enough to warrant the purchase.
Aside from having an amazing display and a beautiful design, the best part about the Pixel C so far has been battery life. I used it plenty last night. Watching Sling TV, playing Clash of Clans, responding to emails and other things. I used it for well over 2 hours, and still had 84% battery life remaining. Then, with Android 6.0 and doze, I lost hardly anything overnight. Waking up to 80% battery life I was able to stream Sling TV all morning without remotely worrying about battery life.
The Pixel C is equipped with a USB Type-C charging port, so regular chargers won’t work. It’s attached to a big wall outlet, bigger than what comes with the Nexus 6P or smartphones, and will charge it extremely quick. With a 9,000 mAh battery users will see plenty of usage out of the Pixel C, and a fast recharge when they need.
Speaking of battery life, the keyboard can last up to a month without a recharge, according to Google. That said, you’ll never have to charge it. As long as the keyboard is attached to the Pixel C, the tablet charges the keyboard with inductive charging.
One of my favorite aspects of the Pixel C are the four LED bars on the back top. They glow blue, red, yellow and green like the Google logo while using the tablet. Then, a quick double tap while the tablet is off and they light up in yellow to show how much battery life is remaining. It’s really neat, just like the Chromebook Pixel.
Only spending 24 hours with the Pixel C isn’t enough time to say too much more, or a full review, but so far it’s been rather positive. Other than the touchscreen not working right at first, which seems to have gone away, it’s an excellent all-around device. As a tablet it’s one of the best Android options available, and costs $499 for the 32GB model, or users can get a 64GB option as well.
As far as everything else goes, that’s still to be decided. It’s clear there aren’t enough apps or software features in Android to make it replace a laptop or the Microsoft Surface, and they keyboard is extremely nice but certainly not something I’d need. If users are looking to replace their laptop this isn’t it, at least not yet.
Using the Pixel C as an Android tablet I can already say it’s one of my favorites by far. It’s well made, looks great, has an amazing screen and performs excellent. But Google looks to be pushing it as much more than that with the design, price, and the optional keyboard. We’ll need more time before we share more thoughts on the complete package.