The tablet market has never had more choice, and now, the line between tablets and laptops is becoming increasingly blurry. Almost all of the major manufacturers have a tablet that also doubles as a laptop, and Google has joined the fray with the Google Pixel Slate — a super-portable but ultra professional full size tablet. I had a chance to spend a couple of days with it… and here’s what I learned.
Google Pixel Slate review
The 12.3” Molecular Display is a touch screen, and it gives you a tonne of screen real estate for everything from watching movies, to gaming, and to actually working, since you can maximize space or use a split screen effect to increase your productivity.
One of the first things I noticed is that it’s heavy and it’s big. Maybe because I’m used to using the Apple iPad and the Amazon Fire HD 8 lately this tablet feels big and unwieldy, but I’m sure that’s easy enough to get used to.
Actual dimensions are about 7mm thick and about 20 x 29 cm. The weight is 1.6 pounds. Spec nerds: Choose from the 8th Gen Intel Core m3, i5 or i7 Processor, or Intel Celeron Processor. When it comes to speed and storage choose from 4-16gb of RAM and 64- 256gb storage.
It runs the Google Chrome OS operating system.
Setting up Google Pixel Slate
Getting this tablet set up is a breeze. Power up, then sign into your gmail account. The Slate handles the rest.
You’ll be prompted to set up fingerprint ID, and you’ll access it by tapping the unobtrusive and small white power button. It responds quickly and has the nice feature of verifying your identity as you turn on the power, so there’s only one step.
The Slate appears to come with the full G-Suite of apps installed, like Chrome browser, Gmail Docs and Photos. But on closer inspection, these are actually web shortcuts, and if you use them, they’ll take you to the online versions of these sites.
If you want the real apps, you’ll need to download them via the Play store. That goes for YouTube, Gmail, Sheets, and Drive.
I prefer to work directly in those apps as opposed to online, so I spent a few minutes downloading everything I needed.
Want a laptop? You need Slate Keyboard
The Slate is made to work as either a tablet or as a laptop, and for this you’ll need the Slate Keyboard, which comes in at an additional $159 cost. The keyboard is pretty cool, though, with rounded lowercase keys—backlit, of course—and a nice quiet and soft feel. There’s shortcut keys for the home screen, to maximize a window, and to get you quick launch settings menu up.
Naturally there’s also a Google Assistant button on the keyboard so you can summon your helper whenever you need. There’s also a big trackpad that’s handy and responsive too, though the clickiness does feel a bit hollow to me. The keyboard is very light and some may find it a bit cheap feeling. For my purposes, I think it’s just fine.
The keyboard’s other key purpose is to work as a stand; and you can slide the back flap up and down to get just the right angle. It’ll stick anywhere, along the back of the tablet, so you can get the perfect viewing angle.
Want a stylus? Get PixelBook Pen
You can also get the PixelBook pen for use on Slate. Folks who’ve used it with a Pixelbook will remember it, and now it’s available in a Midnight Blue shade tom compliment the Slate.
Use it as a stylus, or to hand write notes, draw, paint and more, depending on how you want to use the tablet.
Using Google Slate
The gestures to access some of the features of the Slate take a bit of getting used to.
To get your apps list, you need to touch and swipe up from the menu bar at the bottom. The quick launch menu it in a little bar at the bottom right . To search or access recently used apps, touch the white dot on the bottom left.
To see the difference between your onboard apps and the online versions, look for a small Chrome symbol on the app; that denotes the web version.
The screen is pretty amazing. It’s bright, vibrant and ultra detailed. Google calls it a Molecular Display. I’m not sure exactly what that’s supposed to mean—it’s probably marketing mumbo jumbo but it does look great. The Pixel Slate has 3,000 x 2,000 resolution, which is 293 pixels per inch. The screen ratio is 3:2, (same as MS Surface) while something like an iPad Pro is 4:3.
Is Pixel Slate Fast?
So far, in my limited use, the tablet seems fast. Apps launch quickly, the fingerprint sensor works in milliseconds, videos play seamlessly and everything seems to move quickly. I’ll keep testing and update as the review period wears on.
Pixel Slate: sound quality
One aspect of the Slate that blew me away is the sound quality. Tablet speakers are notoriously tinny and often provide a soundscape that feels about as wide as a pair of chopsticks, so when I heard the sound from the Slate, it was really surprised. It sounds fulls, clear vibrant and very strong. It almost sounds like the audio is emanating from behind the screen.
Work online or offline
Slate quite obviously drives you to work online whenever possible; the fact the stock apps are all web-based proves that. But you can still of course work offline. Though it’s worth pointing out there’s no LTE or cellular option with the Slate so you need Wi-Fi or to be tethered to your new Pixel 3XL to access data.
You can automatically pair or tether your Pixel Slate with your Pixel phone when WiFi isn’t available; this does make using it on the go a bit more seamless.
Pixel Slate battery life
You’ll get about 12 hours of battery from the Pixel Slate. I’ve only had this for a couple days so I haven’t had a chance to try to wear it down. That said, the claimed battery life is about 10 hours on an iPad Pro and 13 on the Surface Pro 6.
Comparing Slate to the competition
Google is clearly going after folks who might otherwise be looking at a Microsoft Surface product. Though it’s sized similarly to a MacBook pro, you and I both know that getting Apple users to switch is an uphill battle, so this will likely find the most favour with Android fans.
I have not yet has the chance to review or get hands on with a Microsoft Surface product, so I can’t compare this to that. But in reading up on each of their specs, the Slate has more pixels in the screen, they have a similar battery life. There’s no headphone jack on the Slate, but there is on the Surface Pro 6. Some reviewers have crowned the Surface Pro 6 the winner when it comes to power and speed, but again, I’ve not tried it, so I’ll pass on weighing in there.
This tablet would be idea for a commuter who might want to read news via Wi-Fi on the tablet during ride into work, then click on that keyboard and get down to business.
What’s the difference between Google Slate and Google PixelBook?
The most noticeable difference between the new Slate and last year’s Pixelbook is that the Pixelbook had a permanent keyboard. You could flip it around and use it like a tablet, but they keyboard wasn’t removable like the Slate is.
Simply put, the Slate is also not as powerful as the Pixelbook and doesn’t have the same heavyweight storage options. I’m not equipped to do a head to head comparison or speed testing so that’s as far as I can take this.
This tablet could definitely sub in for a laptop. It’s good a good screen size for working on the go, and the resolution is outstanding. I like the fact you can use it online or off.
Overall review: Google Pixel Slate
The size has taken me some getting used to; it’s definitely heavier and bigger and a bit more awkward than my current tablet, but it’s lighter and more compact than my laptop. Definitely a hybrid.
The keyboard is pretty much a mandatory investment if you want this device, in my opinion.. but the extra cost is an annoyance; it would be nice if this just came with it, but I guess even Google’s got to earn a paycheque. The pen on the other hand is definitely an accessory you don’t need and can easily do without.
There’s plenty of options on this tablet depending on your memory needs, so that’s a plus… and things seem fast so far.
When it comes to price, a surface Pro 6 starts at $1179 in Canada, and the iPad Pro starts at 1249 for the 12” size. That puts the Pixel Slate’s $849 starting price within much better reach for people looking to buy something in this market. It goes up to about $2000 CAD for the top end model.
The battery life is impressive, and the sound quality is going to blow away all those other restaurant diners if you’re the type that likes to play your content on high volume in public places.
I’m still working through the downsides…. Maybe the weight and the size, just for me.. but that’s hardly a complaint for the masses, because if you’re wanting a full size tablet you’re definitely getting what you pay for with the Slate.
Check back with me in a couple of weeks to see what else I’ve learned. Like the Facebook page for updates.