December 14, 2015

Pixel C Tablet Review: Did Google Drop the Ball?

By Justin H.

We live in a ruthless copycat world, and nowhere is this more readily apparent than the tech industry. You can’t make an innovative new product or gadget these days without all the other companies gunning to one up you. This practice likely dates all the way back to the fellow who invented the cup-and-string telephone!

With the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface drawing rave reviews from the critic crowd, it was only a matter of time before Google jumped into the fray and released the Pixel C, a 10.2-inch tablet that runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. This is Google’s first tablet made without the help of Samsung or HTC, meaning Google not only provided the Android OS, but also the hardware for this brand new gadget!

The tech giant aimed to reinvent the way we interact with computers by creating a legitimate tablet/keyboard hybrid that frankly, comes across as a bit overthought.

Where could they have done better?

Software/Hardware Coherence

According to Ars Technica, the Pixel C was likely never supposed to run on Android, and was only forced to after being left with no other choice. Android was apparently plan C after ‘Project Athena’ and ‘Frankenboard’ went by the wayside, which were Google's two previous software projects. The previously linked article mentioned the following:

“With Chrome OS now apparently out of the picture for the Pixel C, it looks like the decision was made to put Android on it and ship it out the door. In September 2015 at the Nexus launch event, Google announced the Android 6.0-powered Pixel C. This was just two months after the apparent cancellation of the dual-boot plans, leaving very little time to get regular Android up and running on the Pixel C.”

Since Android’s mobile-friendly aesthetics have jumped to a 10.2-inch screen, many apps are clunky and fail to utilize the extra screen space now available to them. This is true with even Google’s own apps, such as Hangouts and Google Docs.
Google also got lit up in a recent Reddit AMA, which they conducted to supposedly answer all Pixel C-related questions users may have.

One of the user questions was, “It seems a lot of the disappointment with the Pixel C stems not from the hardware, which is getting rave reviews, but from the software. How is the Android team working to make the Pixel C a better purchase when compared to more functional tablet operating systems?”

Google replied to this by saying it’s working on specific Android updated for this form factor, which offers little help.


How much is the Microsoft Surface 3? $500.

How about the iPad Pro? That’ll run you $800, but the iPad Air 2 is a wonderful deal at $500, as well.

The Pixel C? It’s also $500, plus another $150 if you want a keyboard.

At that price, what argument is there for the Pixel C vs. the competition?

In the smartphone battle, Android and Apple are neck and neck, but Apple’s iOS has always had a reasonable edge when it comes to tablets. With iOS9, Apple has implemented tablet-specific split-screen multitasking ability, while the Pixel C offers you no ability to split screens. This feature is on its way, but not until Android 7.0 N comes out in roughly a full year. 

For now, we have a tablet that is unjustifiably expensive considering it does nothing that the competition cannot do.

Verdict: Why Not Just Buy a Laptop?

The prestige surrounding this tablet was that it would blur the line between tablets and laptops. But, at $650 including the keyboard, and a combined weight of around two pounds, what makes this the price equivalent of three Google Chromebooks?

It’s hard to justify that price for a keyboard-equipped Android tablet. The Pixel C was hyped up to be a tablet/laptop hybrid, but that label is unjustified if you can’t comfortably replace your laptop with it. It also provides little upgrade to the Nexus 9, and could be viewed as more of a gimmick gadget trying to keep up with Apple and Microsoft.

Although, that’s not what Google was going for. The Pixel C is meant to be a desktop companion to help you get light work done. It will only fall short if you ask too much of it.
Because of that, it feels as if the Pixel C is not great as either a tablet or laptop. The Pixel C toes the line too closely, making it less than stellar than either of the devices it hopes to emulate in most aspects.

What do you think of the Pixel C? Will you purchase one? Let us know in the comment section!

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