The best way to describe the Pixel C is that it feels unfinished. Google has a clear vision for what tablet hardware should be, and how it should perform. But in creating what is arguably the most gorgeously designed tablet on the market, the search giant forgot to put good software on the thing.
For all of its power, functionality and convenience, the state of Android constantly reminded us that Google’s OS isn’t quite ready to compete with devices from Apple and Microsoft in the tablet space—at least not yet.
When the Pixel C was announced, it looked a lot like just another tablet for watching Netflix and playing Plants vs. Zombies. Google, however, had other ideas, instead aligning the device as one that could “do it all.” As in: work, play, fun, serious, productivity, etc., etc. Along with its optional full-size keyboard, which uses a magnetic hinge to stick to the Pixel C, the slate is going after the growing hybrid market, putting as much emphasis on laptop-like capabilities as it does traditional tablet uses.
It’s not just something you sit and stare at. The Pixel C has been designed to be the center of your life, whether you’re writing a report or showing off a presentation. And it handles those tasks well—when you’re focusing on one thing, and one thing only.
You may have already heard (or experienced yourself) that Android isn’t so great to use on a large screen, especially from a productivity standpoint. Android feels like a well-oiled, very optimized experience on mobile, and is great at being in your pocket for communication and whatever else it is you use your phone for. On a tablet, however, Android becomes incredibly limited.
Unlike what you can do in iOS, Android doesn’t feature any kind of productivity modes, which means you can’t run two apps side-by-side. That becomes a big annoyance and hindrance if you’re writing a paper and need to check on sources, or simple want to browse the Web and watch a YouTube video at the same time. Not to mention many Android apps don’t feel suited for the Pixel C’s 10.2-inch screen.
Google claims the Pixel C is capable doing it all, and while that’s technically true, for the work we do on a daily basis, the device simply isn’t good enough to suit our workflow. When you have to bounce between e-mail, Chrome, WordPress, TweetDeck, Slack, and more, getting a single task done can take forever because of how often you’ll be switching apps. It all depends on what your workflow is like. If you require multiple apps at once, the Pixel C makes you jump through a lot of hoops because of Android’s limitations.
The Pixel C isn’t all bad.
From a design standpoint, the device is a resounding success. Equipped with a 10.2-inch 2560 x 1800 display (√2 aspect ratio), Google’s tablet is among the more beautifully designed slates we’ve ever seen, with an all-aluminum build and stereo speakers that give it a premium feel. It’s a lot like the Chromebook Pixel—complete with a small light bar on the back to check the device’s battery—but shrunk down into the tablet form factor.
If you’re looking for an Android tablet to play games and browse the Web and watch Netflix, then, yeah, the Pixel C is great. We always expected it to excel in those tasks, and it does with aplomb. However, as a device to tackle the iPad Pro and even the Surface Pro, it has a long way to go. At $499 it has a pretty heft starting out price, and if you’re really serious about this being your main productivity machine, the Pixel C keyboard is an extra $149, bringing the total price to $650.
For that price, you can get a nice Chromebook, or even a decent Windows 10 laptop. Check out the video above to hear more of Jon’s thoughts on the Pixel C, and whether or not he believes the device is a buy or not.
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