Google Pixel Tablet full review

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Erin Lawrence

Google Pixel Tablet review with pixel tablet, sitting on glass top table in front of jaunty plant

Every now and then something truly unique comes along in the tech and gadget world. This month it’s the new Google-Pixel Tablet. Far more than a portable screen, Google Pixel Tablet 2023 comes with a special charging and docking station that has a speaker, so your tablet instantly becomes a smart home hub too. I recently received a pre-release Pixel Tablet from Google to try out so in this post I’ll show you what you’re getting, how it works, and what kind of special features Google has built in here to make it unique. I’ll wrap things- up by telling you if I think I can recommend the Pixel Tablet for you.

Google Pixel Tablet
4.5

Summary

Google has taken all the best features of its now-iconic Pixel smartphones and made them bigger and thankfully, better. This tablet concept is incredibly unique, and for the most part very well executed.

On the pro side, the tablet is beautiful, and nicely designed with a mate grippy back and a lovely, colourful high resolution screen. An anti-smudge coating on the front actually does seem to make it look less sticky than my other tablet. It’s lightweight and easy to hold and easy to transport. I love the fact Google has created another completely new product category- basically breaking the Nest Home Hub apart and making it much more useful.

It comes with all the Google apps and services that you could possibly want and then some, and you can also add a huge variety of other apps and services to so you can live both inside and outside of the Google ecosystem.

 

Pros

  • Large sharp screen
  • Lightweight, easy to hold
  • Great design
  • Smart concept
  • Good sound quality
  • Anti-smudge screen
  • Great for video calling
  • Lots of apps and services available
  • Good quality camera
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Speaker dock doesn’t work on its own
  • Takes two hands to remove tablet safely from dock
  • Dock doesn’t adjust
  • No vertical docking ability

Unboxing & design

Let’s do a quick unboxing of Google Pixel tablet specs. Under the hood, you’ll find the sleek, slim, and lightweight pixel tablet.

Rear of Google pixel tablet featuring matte back of screen and charging speaker dock, wrapped in fabricThe device itself measures about 10 x 7 inches and is less than half an inch thick. (258 width x 169 height x 8.1 depth (mm)) and it weighs just 17 ounces or about a pound (493 g). It feels quite light but not at all cheap.

The back has a nice matte finish that’s easy to hold (Google calls it a nano-ceramic coating) and the front LCD touchscreen is 10.95 inches with an anti smudge coating and 2560 x 1600 resolution.

My hands-on video review

Also in the box is the fabric wrapped Charging Speaker Dock which is kind of self explanatory. We’ll get into some of it’s cool features in a moment.

The battery is supposed to last about 12 hours even if you’re using it to stream.

Set up

Getting this tablet set up was as simple as setting up almost any other Google device. Power it on, connect to Wi-Fi, then follow the prompts to install your Google account and email. I was ready to rock with this in less than five minutes.

You can also set up fingerprint unlock, which uses the power button as a fingerprint scanner. Set up was easy and unlocking it this way was actually quick and natural.

What does Charging Speaker Dock do?

Probably the most unique thing about this tablet concept is that while the tablet is completely portable, it’s also designed to dock with the included, charging speaker dock, and turn into a de facto home hub, not unlike the Google Nest Home Hub. While the home hub is not portable, this very clever concept allows you to have two devices in one. The tablet docs magnetically on the base and the connection point is made clear on the back, using for small dots. It clicks into place easily.

Detaching it is less easy; you need two hands to remove it, since the base is lightweight and the magnet is quite strong.

Close-up view of fabric, wrapped, google, charging speaker, dock with tablet attachedThe charging speaker dock is fixed, and the google pixel tablet cannot be adjusted on it. My first thought about this is that it’s a bit of a shame; it would be nice to be able to re-orient the tablet to either a vertical or horizontal view, but as it is, you only get one angle and one placement and that’s horizontal. I can definitely see Google taking this a step further in version 2.0 and providing us with a swivelling speaker base that has a lot more movement. (Not unlike Amazon has done with its echo show 10. But I digress.)

Somewhat interestingly, the dock will not work as a speaker on its own; it only operates with the tablet being attached to it directly. This is a bit of a missed opportunity for me, since it would be nice to have the dock serve some purpose, such as playing music, if I was already surfing the web on the tablet, for example.

I went to Google to ask why, and their explanation is not only reasonable, but understandable for a brand new product like the Google Pixel Tablet 2023:

“This is the first dock and our first tablet product in a few years, so we wanted to make sure to start with a very focused feature set. Our user research showed that charging and audio were the two most valuable things we could provide, so we started with just those. That’s why with Pixel Tablet we’ve invested in optimizing the Home App for the large screen and bringing a communal home control experience, accessible to anyone, on the lock screen. We’re looking forward to learning from users about what could make future docks even more helpful.”

What is Hub Mode?

When docked you need to choose a screen saver or the tablet will go dark. Google tells me they’re still playing with what’s called Hub Mode so that you can get more info on screen, but for now if I didn’t have a screen saver on, the screen would just shut off, and I couldn’t get it to show the home screen with its many widgets.

View of widgets on main screen of google tabletGoogle’s rep tells me: “Setting a screen saver is the only way to ensure that the display is always on when the tablet is in Hub Mode. It sounds like you’re referring to the home panel, which is accessible through the home icon on the bottom left when a screen saver is running. This is only the beginning for Hub Mode, and we’re excited to keep making improvements in the future through Feature Drops.”

Talk to Google

You can of course invoke your Google Assistant from the device like you’d do with any other Google home hub or Pixel phone, asking questions, getting information, making notes or to do’s setting timers… you get the idea. Google Home is also installed here and in tandem with the Google assistant, you can also control any of your smart home devices that you have connected to the Google Home interface. The assistant will work, whether you are holding the tablet by itself or whether it’s docked.

Audio Transfer

Hub Mode also allows a feature called Audio Transfer which means you can listen to audio on the tablet, then when you leave it at the dock, you can

Using the tablet

Using this tablet is a lot like using your Google Pixel smart phone. It comes loaded with most of the same apps and programs so you can do a lot more on a larger screen. Check your Gmail, manage your Google home, smart home, watch Google TV, surf Google news, listen to podcasts, and more.

Tablets can sometimes be too big and awkward to be enjoyable to use, but I’m happy to say the pixel tablet is nice to hold and easy to read whether you’re holding it horizontally or vertically.

Google pixel tablet on the left compared to Google nest home hub on the right; the similarities are incredible.Google has ensured that a good number of key apps (especially Google’s own apps) have been optimized for use on the tablet, so you’re not just getting a blown up version of a Pixel smartphone app. What’sApp, Google Home, Chrome browser, YouTube and Canva are just a few.

Watch video content

You can also watch TV shows and all kinds of video content on the pixel tablet. Use the pre-installed Google TV, or you can also download another favourite app from the play store. This includes Amazon, prime video, Netflix, Disney+ or and a lot more. I will point out for some of you out there that Apple TV is perhaps not surprisingly excluded.

The screen is great for watching content; it’s optimized for horizontal viewing but it will also be perfect for watching TikToks and other vertical content too. You can connect headphones like the Google Pixel Buds Pro and listen privately, or dock the tablet and let the speaker on the dock take over.

Multi-Profile Accounts

It’s not that uncommon for families to share a tablet among a few family members, and Google makes this easy with individual accounts. Each user can sign in with their own Gmail account for their own personalized experience and their own settings. I set up both myself and my husband on the tablet, and we were each able to access our own mail and other preferred settings.

Each user has their own profile with their own apps and content,
protected by their own PIN or fingerprint.
● There’s an 8 profile limit per tablet.
● You can also set up a child account, which lets you manage settings like
blocked apps and screen limits.

Video calling

Video calling has become extremely popular thanks to the rise of video enabled screen devices in the pandemic and post-pandemic era, like Google Nest Home Hub and now Google Pixel Tablet.

Screenshot of a video call using the Google pixel tabletGoogle has made sure that this tablet has a few features which is going to make it even more seamless to use for video calling.

Google Meet comes installed, and you can tap to open it up, or ask Google Assistant to do it. Meet works in conjunction with another feature called continuous framing, where the camera will automatically adjust the lighting to keep you well lit and it follows you within a certain space so you can move around the room a bit while staying in the video frame.

You can also download and use Zoom on the Pixel Tablet if you prefer.

How to use Google Meet on Pixel Tablet

Open the Google Meet app and join a new meeting
→ To try continuous framing:
● If the tablet is docked, continuous framing should be on automatically. If you
need to turn it on manually, tap the person in the frame icon in the top right.
● If the icon is highlighted, continuous framing is on. Walk
around the room and the camera will stay zoomed into you.
→ To try a 360-degree background:
● Before joining the call, press the “Apply visual effects” icon
at the bottom of your video feed → Choose a background that shows a
circular arrow (see example) → Join the call
● During the call, press the “Apply visual effects” icon on your thumbnail →
Choose a background that shows a circular arrow
● Try the beach or futuristic city 360-degree backgrounds to get started, or switch
between all four
Quick Tips:
360-degree backgrounds adapt in real time to your position and movement

Voice dictation

Like most smart phones and tablets today that have microphones, the Google pixel tablet has a voice dictation feature that allows you to speak what you want to put into an email or text message. Google is pretty sharp and this works really well; far better than Apple’s Siri does, and messages are mostly, free of embarrassing errors

Multitask and split screen

A feature I have not spent enough time. Exploring is the multitasking and split screen features of some new tablets, including the Pixel Tablet.

Two screens simultaneously on the Google pixel tablet; one showing YouTube on the left, and the other featuring Instagram on the rightThere are more than 50 Google apps optimized for the Pixel Tablet and it can run multiple apps
simultaneously, letting you split screens and multitask easier. I tested it out by opening YouTube on one side and my social feed on the other and it’s easy enough to manage if a little more unfocused than I usually want to be. But that’s a me thing; Google has it on lock!

Overall review: Google-Pixel Tablet

Overall, Google has taken all the best features of its now-iconic Pixel smartphones and made them bigger and thankfully, better.

On the pro side, the tablet is beautiful, and nicely designed with a mate grippy back and a lovely, colourful high resolution screen. An anti-smudge coating on the front actually does seem to make it look less sticky than my other tablet. It’s lightweight and easy to hold and easy to transport. I love the fact Google has created another completely new product category- basically breaking the Nest Home Hub apart and making it much more useful.

It comes with all the Google apps and services that you could possibly want and then some, and you can also add a huge variety of other apps and services to so you can live both inside and outside of the Google ecosystem.

On the con side, it’s hard to find something to really hate on; some folks may not love the long and narrow design of the tablet, but that would be personal preference. It does take two hands to remove the tablets safely from the dock, but again requiring an extra hand is hardly a hardship. I would like a future iteration of the docking stand to have some type of motion to it, and I promise not to ask Google for royalties if they decide to take my advice on this.

The Pixel Tablet starts at $699 CAD, which includes the bundled dock. The tablet is available in two colours in Canada – Hazel and Porcelain, with a Rose shade on tap in the US.

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