Pixel C Review

A Missed Oppurtunity

Google has never really had much luck with big tablets. The Nexus 7 was a great device because of it’s small form factor and extremely affordable price tag. However the Nexus 9 didn’t have the same luck. It didn’t sell particularly well and it had numerous issues. I still love it, but the overwhelming opinion is that it was pretty much a failure. However in late 2015, Google gave it another shot. This time with the 10.2″ Pixel C tablet. Made 100% in house, has Google created a device that can appeal to everyone? Let’s find out.

Specs

  • 10.2″ 2560×1800 IPS Display
  • NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32, 64GB Storage
  • USB C 3.0 Port
  • 8MP/2MP Cameras
  • 9,000 mAh battery
  • Android 6.0.1

Hardware

The Pixel C on the outside is nothing short of stunning. It’s clean and gorgeous all-metal exterior screams premium, and in the hand the feel matches up. This device feels incredible and when using it as a standard tablet it has a shocking amount of grip. I usually like to put a case on my tablet to give it a bit of extra grip, but with the Pixel C I never felt that I needed to do so.



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However I was pretty scared of a scratch on the metal, something that luckily did not happen over my few weeks of testing.
The Pixel C is also pretty hefty weighing in at over 500g. It’s not uncomfortable to hold in your hand as it is well balanced.
On the top of the tablet there’s a power button which (at least on my unit) was a bit “mushy” and really lacked a tactile feel. The volume buttons on the side however felt great. On either side of the device you’ll find a speaker, however the placement makes it ridiculously easy to cover up when you’re using the C as a standard tablet. Up on top you’ll also find 4 microphones for improved sound quality in video calls and on the left side you’ll also find a USB C port.

Overall, there’s really nothing to complain about in terms of hardware on the Pixel C. It’s well constructed in just about every way and it looks the part of a premium device which it is.

Display

There’s really no other way of putting this. The 10.2″ display on the Pixel C is stunning. The colors are solid, viewing angles are great, and there’s absolutely nothing to complain about. It’s dim enough to use at night and also bright enough to use outdoors on a sunny day. This is of course common with IPS panels, but on the C it’s even more impressive considering the pixel-dense display with 308 pixels per inch (ppi).

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Software & Performance

Out of the box you’ll find Android 6.0.1 on the Pixel C. Just like Google’s other products, this is a stock version of the OS and this is really where the Pixel C loses a lot of points. Don’t get me wrong, I love stock Android as much as the next guy, heck, probably a little more. My personal tablet, the Nexus 9, runs the same OS and there I love it. Here’s the difference however. Google is positioning the Pixel as a productivity device, designed to handle day-to-day tasks of any sort that you might need get done. Here is doesn’t really succeed. It can do just about anything, but without features like multi-window you can’t truly be efficient on this machine. Even while I’m here writing this review, I’m having trouble working quickly while switching back and forth between messages on Hangouts, switching songs on Spotify, and even heading into Google Chrome to double check facts.

As a tablet, the Pixel C’s software is more than acceptable. Android apps have gotten a lot better in terms of optimization for large screens and consuming media on a screen this large and crisp is wonderful. However when you consider what this device is being marketed as, the software is extremely sub-par.

 

I personally feel that the Pixel C was a missed opportunity, chance to create an Android tablet that was finally truly made for productivity, right down to the software. There have been a number of different reports and leaks that have shown that this tablet may have originally been a Chrome OS product. I feel that would have been much better than what we ended up with, but at the same time even adding something as simple as multi-window to Android Marshmallow would completely change the game on this device. It’s very likely that this is coming in Android N, but for now the software is the number one reason not to buy this tablet.

Keyboard

You can’t talk about the Pixel C without talking about the keyboard. While it’s sadly not included in the box, it’s almost a necessity for this tablet. The keyboard connects over Bluetooth and attaches to the tablet itself with some insanely strong magnets. Seriously, these are some strong magnets. The keyboard can be used to cover the screen, attach to the back, or of course prop up the tablet to be used as a laptop of sorts.

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The keyboard itself is great, comparable to almost any laptop, better than most even. The keys are extremely tactile and satisfying to press and the size of the keys makes it very easy to adapt to, however it’s nowhere near perfect. The condensed layout of the symbol and function keys is a huge downside for me as I commonly find myself pressing a key by mistake. Another massive downside is the lack of certain symbols. The absolute essentials are available, but others such as {, [, and \ are all missing. Sure, this probably won’t affect you in the day to day, but I found it extremely annoying, to say the least. A quick fix to this however is to toggle the virtual keyboard on when you’re in need of a specific symbol, however there is no option to do this on the physical keyboard.

At the end of the day however, the number one issue with the Pixel C’s keyboard is the fact that it is not backlit. On a device of this size which is designed for the purpose that it is, not including backlighting on the keyboard just makes no sense. At least 6 out of the 10 times I reach for the Pixel C, it’s in a dark room. The size makes it great for using on the couch at night or even in bed, but sadly you’ll need to leave the lights on to use it.

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Battery Life

With a 9,000 mAh battery under the hood, the Pixel C can get some pretty solid battery life. However for me it was pretty hit or miss. Sometimes it would last two or three days on a single charge, other times it would only last a day. Why was that the case? Honestly I haven’t the slightest clue. My usage never changed, the circumstances never did either, but for whatever reason, battery life was rarely stable for me.

Others however have reported far better results getting hours upon hours of screen on time and day after day of standby, so your results may vary from my own. Long story short, when it works properly, the Pixel C has incredible battery life, unless it acts weird.

The Future In USB C

One redeeming factor of the Pixel C is its on-board USB C port. This can be used for rapid charging with the included power brick, but also for about a million other things. You can use an adapter to add an SD card slot, full size USB ports, and more. I connected an adapter from Satechi to add two full size USB ports, SD and microSD card slots, and even a second USB C port to allow charging. The possibilities with USB C are endless and with a device like the Pixel C, you can really see how useful it can be.

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The Little Things

One of the highlights of the things I love about the Pixel C is the LED light bar on the back. It shines Google’s signature rainbow of colors when the device is being used with its keyboard and really grabs attention to the already great design. However my favorite feature by far was what that light bar can do while the device is asleep. Simply knock twice on the back of the tablet and the light bar will show you about how much power you’ve got remaining on the device. Of course it’s not an exact amount, but it’s great to give you an idea of how much power is left before going somewhere with the device.

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Another thing worth mention is the speakers. While they put out some solid sound, they aren’t the best, especially for a tablet. The sound is a little tinny and lacks a richness in the audio.  To make matters worse, the side mounted placement of the speakers means that if you’re holding the tablet in landscape, you’ll be covering them up.

What It Could’ve Been

My biggest problem really with the Pixel C is what it could have been. This tablet checks so many boxes that you would want on a productivity tablet, a crisp display, good battery life, a stellar keyboard, and a portable form factor, however it is extremely limited by its software. If the Pixel C ran a version of Android with multi-window or even windowed apps (such as Remix OS) then it would be an entirely different story. Heck, if this tablet ran Chrome OS it would be an entirely different story and, if I’m being honest, I would probably own one.

However the Pixel C remains a missed opportunity. I have no doubt that a lot of the problems with the software will be fixed as Android continues to mature, but for now, Google really missed the ball here.

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Final Thoughts

When it comes down to it, the Pixel C is by no means at all a bad tablet. The hardware rocks, the keyboard is solid, and the screen is downright gorgeous, but as I’ve said numerous times in this review, it’s held back by nothing more than its software. Add in the price of $500, and it makes the Pixel C a bit tough to recommend. If it fits your specific needs, by all means go for it, you won’t regret it, but the Pixel C is definitely not a tablet for everyone.

 

Google Pixel C

$499
Google Pixel C
8.26

Design

10/10

    Screen

    9/10

      Performance

      9/10

        Software

        6/10

          Battery Life

          8/10

            Pros

            • Premium and beautiful design
            • Portable
            • Stellar keyboard
            • Great battery life

            Cons

            • Poor software
            • Keyboard isn't included
            • Keyboard is not backlit
            • Speakers are easily covered up