Pixel Tablet Impressions

John Scalzi

Yes, in addition to purchasing an iPad Pro recently, I also picked up the new Pixel Tablet, complete with its recharging speaker stand. In fact, I ordered this thing first, but the iPad Pro, having already been in production, showed up first. I’ve had a couple of days to live with the Pixel Tablet and I have to tell you that I’m pretty happy with it so far. What follows are some general thoughts, not necessarily a recitation of technical specs. That said:

1. I suspect one of the ways to be happy with the Pixel Tablet is to understand what it’s for, or at least, what you are using it for. I got my iPad Pro primarily to be a productivity and content creation machine — I pulled the trigger on getting it because Apple put out a full-featured version of Logic Pro for it — and to be a content consumption machine secondarily. The Pixel Tablet, on the other hand, I got specifically for content consumption, both as a traditional tablet and as a large-sized Google Nest Hub. Other than the occasional social media post, I don’t really intend to write anything on it. I’m going to read and watch and listen to things on it. And unlike my iPad Pro, which I plan to take places, the Pixel Tablet is going to mostly live in my bedroom, with occasional trips to my office and couch. So, this is the context in which this particular piece of computing hardware is to be viewed.

2. And in that context, hey, you know what? The Pixel Tablet is pretty close to perfect for me. Its 11-inch, 16:10 screen is nicely-sized, colorful and sharp, its speakers are perfectly serviceable (and on its stand, better than that), and the G2 Tensor chip inside means that it has more than enough power to, say, read an ebook or watch a YouTube video. It looks nice, it feels nice, and since I am already deep into the Google/Android experience via my Pixel phone and Chromebook, everything here feels really familiar and comfortable with next to no learning curve involved. This is a “pick it up and go to town” experience, and I like it a lot.

3. The other side of the tablet experience here is when you put it on its speaker dock and have it switch over to “Hub” mode. I have a number of Google Nest devices around the house (yes, I know this means Google is listening in to everything I do, congratulations to Google for hearing me fart and snore in my sleep), and we use the devices mostly as glorified transistor radios and occasionally to get a weather report. Guess what? The tablet does a pretty good job of doing those things too. The hub’s speakers are reportedly not as nice as the speakers on the really big Google Nest, but since I didn’t have one of those, the sound upgrade here is real and perfectly good. I’m not expecting a concert hall experience from it in any event. It’s nice to have a tablet that pulls “double duty,” as it were; it’s nice to have it behave as a hub on the stand and as a tablet in the hand.

(You can use it as a tablet on the stand, or as a Hub off of it, if you like; these are merely the default actions.)

4. Other notes: The cameras on this tablet, like the cameras on most tablets, are merely adequate and not something you’d pick as your primary shooter unless for some reason you didn’t have a recent phone or an actual camera. They’re perfectly cromulent! Just not anything special. When you have the tablet on the speaker hub, it will automatically start charging but will only charge to 90% in order to save wear and tear on the battery over time. This is perfectly acceptable to me, especially since as noted the tablet is likely to live on my bedstand. The screen is 60Hz, which probably makes some spec snobs sneer, but honestly it’s perfectly fine for reading and watching video, most of which is recorded at 60fps or less.

The tablet has no face ID but has a fingerprint scanner in the power button; it’s finicky and I don’t love it. The tablet also has tiny rubber feet on one side so that if it’s not on a stand, you can prop it up and it won’t slide. In theory, anyway; in practice it doesn’t work at all. I told that the tablet is made with metal (I think aluminum) but it’s covered in a coating that makes it feel a little grippy. I like it and never felt like it was going to slip out of my hands. Google has created a tablet-facing Android experience so you can do things like split screens and other tablet-y activites; it’s fine, but generally speaking if you’ve used Android and Android apps before, you know how this works generally. No headphone jack, which sucks, but I have enough Bluetooth/USB-C headphones now that it’s only a minor inconvenience at this point.

Finally, the tablet attaches to the speaker hub via magnets which are strong enough that you can’t just lightly remove it once it’s on; you have to kinda lever it out. I don’t have a problem with this; I would rather have it securely on there than to have it detach every time one of my cats brushed up against it.

5. I’ve noted that I plan to use this tablet primarily for media consumption, but could you use it for productivity tasks and other such things? I mean, sure — it’s a fully functional Android machine and has Bluetooth, so if you wanted, you could attach a keyboard and go town, particularly with the suite of Google productivity apps and/or using the installed Chrome browser to run Web-based iterations of popular programs. I think you’d eventually run up against some of the same problems I ran up on with the iPad Pro: Some specific programs/tools are best on Mac/PC, and their mobile OS/Web counterparts are not as fully-featured or bump up against processing ceilings. This is compounded by Android apps often being an afterthought to iOS apps. So. Light productivity? Sure. You really have to do things? Stick with an actual laptop or desktop.

6. Would I recommend the Pixel Tablet based on my couple days use of it? If you’re looking for something to read/watch/listen to things while you’re lying around and/or you’re already deep into the Google/Android ecosystem: Yup, absolutely, I really like this thing and have absolutely no regrets about the purchase. If you’re focused on content creation and want a tablet to do that with, or are already deep into the Apple ecosystem, stick with that.

Would I recommend the Pixel Tablet over other Android tablets? Yesssss, but largely because it has the trick of turning into a Google Nest Hub, and I like that and it fits into my existing set-up. If that’s not hugely important to you, then there are other Android tablet makers to look at. There are Samsung Android tablets that have better specs, for example, if that’s you’re thing.

For me, however, the Pixel Tablet hits the spot: Right size, right capabilities, right in the zone for what I want it to do. A winner in my book. So far, at least. We’ll see how it does in the long run.

— JS

4 Comments on “Pixel Tablet Impressions”

  1. At the end of point 3 I was expecting Dr. Seuss to make an appearance. My psychic connection to the late Dr is down at the moment so I can’t fill you in on what he might have had to say.

  2. You need a car for driving around your neighborhood, another one for trips to town, another one for statewide trips then yet another one for long trips. You know you can afford it, Scalzi!

    Just yanking your chain. Happy to read well-written reviews of all your tech toys. I recently purchased an EGO Z6 battery powered ZTR mower and it is cool as cool can get. Plus, I can mow my .56 acre lawn for 41¢ with no gasoline, no oil changes, and did I mention how cool it is? 😎

  3. Nesting…. nope. We are so old fashion that we use trail cams to spy on our visitors. I hate that I still get Google voice asst on my phone trying to help me once in awhile. I do have some IPad but if you asked me what version I’d be hard pressed. It is for content creation. So far I’ve made 0 content on it. But my brother swears I can access it with my thumb print. Newsflash – I can’t.

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