The Forge: Google Pixel C – Review
The Google Pixel C is a premium Android tablet that sets the bar for what can be achieved by Samsung, Lenovo and others who use Android OS on their tablets. It’s 2016 and Judgement Day is coming for this category of devices. Many industry analysts have proclaimed the death of (ARM-driven, non-Windows) tablets, while more productivity-friendly portable devices, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro, are wooing consumers. I’ve owned Samsung, Apple, Lenovo and ASUS tablets. Yet, this is my first Google tablet, having passed on the Nexus 10, 7 (both years) and 9. The Pixel C is extremely well built with a display that rivals all others. It’s powered by the latest NVIDIA mobile SoC: the Tegra X1. In fact, it’s the only tablet available with this chipset. It’s powerful, gorgeous, and improving every month as we near the general availability of Android N (expected in Q3).
There is no other tablet in the world that is as beautiful as the Pixel C. The tablet is nearly 100% encased in metal with fairly thin bezels around the glass that covers the high-resolution 10.2″ screen. Even smaller details such as the feel of the power and volume buttons are also encased in metal. At first glance you likely won’t be overwhelmed by the appearance of the Pixel C, but once you get your hands on it you’ll see the beauty in its minimalist design. Unlike its predecessor, the Nexus 9, the Pixel C has two side facing speakers that run in stereo. Other usual suspects exist: a USB-C port, microphone/headphone jack, and a new and cool LED strip on the back that can convey battery life status. Even the Google-designed keyboard companion for the Pixel C is made of the same materials and shares a similar design.
You have to buy the keyboard to really maximize your experience with the Pixel C. Magnets cover the keyboard and keep the tablet connected to it with a high degree of strength. These are the types of magnets you wanted to play with as a kid. Magnets maintain that premium feeling that goes along with the entire Pixel C experience.
The Pixel C is lighting fast. The SoC (system on a chip) is Nvidia’s latest Tegra X1 – an octa-core processor and 256-core GPU with 3GB of RAM. It’s a beast. I felt no slowdown while playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic or Dead Trigger 2. Even having multiple tabs open in Chrome, in the background, didn’t trip up this tablet. If you are a nerd for performance, go buy a Pixel C. Even still, you’re still using Android 6.0. All of this power is probably unnecessary. I like that I haven’t maxed out the capabilities of the Pixel C, but without multi-windows and a true Microsoft Office experience, the Pixel C isn’t being challenged by business users.
Later this year, Android N is expected to arrive on the Pixel C and other Google devices. It will enable support for two applications to be open side by side (provided those applications support the feature as well). I loaded the developer preview of Android N onto the Pixel C and I was pleased with the new features. But, at the end of the day, I still felt like I was using Android 6 with a cobbled together pitch at productivity. If Google wants to get serious, they need to put the rumors to bed an finally combine Chrome OS with Android. The only thing getting in the way of Chrome OS, is the application ecosystem and Android has a strong one.
Speaking of ecosystems, a huge advantage for Android (and Apple for that matter) over Microsoft is the strength of your movie and TV show streaming and even download options. By side-loading Amazon Video you’re able to download movies and TV shows that you own or are part of the Prime service, assuming you’re a member. This is excellent for offline viewing on airplanes or wherever you like. Amazon does not allow users to download video to Windows (anymore) and you cannot download onto an SD card. Although Android 6 allows you to treat your SD like it’s internal memory, you are still restricted to the actual internal memory for this service. If you’re a big media fan, you’ll want the 64GB Pixel C, not only for it’s size but also the high resolution and brightness of the screen. It’s rated at 2560 x 1800 on a 10.2″ display. That’s a sharp 308 PPI. You’ll love movies in HD on the Pixel C.
If the Pixel C were any lighter or smaller it wouldn’t be as premium. There is a lot of device behind this 10.2″ screen and I love the way it feels. Unlike other slates that are lighter or thinner, they don’t have the large battery and all metal design that make the Pixel C a high-end device. Battery life of both the tablet and keyboard is strong, even at bright display settings. Technically, the Pixel C nails “it”. It’s super portable, powerful, and gorgeous. But at $500 (or $650 if you include the keyboard) and without expandable storage, the Pixel C is out of reach for many. In comparison, the Microsoft Surface 3 runs full Windows 10 and is priced equivalently while being able to truly replace your laptop.
OS – Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Size and Weight – 242 x 179 x 7mm | 0.517 kg
Screen – LTPS LCD | 10.2 inches | 2560 x 1800 (308 PPI) | 500 nits
Processor & memory – Nvidia Tegra XI 64-bit processor | 3 GB, LPDDR4 memory
Storage – 32 GB and 64 GB
Ports & connectors – USB Type-C, 3.5mm audio
Wireless – Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2×2 MIMO, dual-band (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz) | Bluetooth 4.1 + HS
Cameras – 8 MP Rear camera, 2 MP Front camera
Google’s Pixel C is a polarizing device. While powerful, beautiful and competitively priced, it’s limited by it’s operating system – Android 6.0. The coming savior: Android N is in preview mode now, and available to all Pixel C owners, but it’s technically not in General Availability, thus, it isn’t really a savior quite yet. Since 2014, I have been on the hunt for the perfect travel companion. While the Pixel C is an amazing piece of hardware, it hasn’t satisfied this need. The challenge is the price. At $500 for the 32GB model, it’s sandwiched in between uber-affordable Chromebooks with greater productivity and sleek Ultrabooks that enable extremely high productivity.