Google's Pixel C is a killer Android tablet on a productivity mission

IDG.TV | Dec 8, 2015

The Pixel C has beautiful industrial design, a gorgeous screen, killer components, and a clever hardware keyboard that attaches with magnets. But Google’s pure Android tablet still has work ahead as a productivity machine.

This is it, the Pixel C, it’s Google’s interpretation of the perfect Android tablet. From top to bottom, it’s a super-premium hunk of hardware. But Google is also positioning the Pixel C as a productivity machine, and in this capacity, the tablet falls just a little bit short.

But let’s start this Pixel party with industrial design. The Pixel C has the same high-end aluminum shell of the Chromebook Pixel, and of course Google includes its happy-colorful lightbar as well. Give the tablet a quick double tap, and the lightbar will show you battery levels. It’s just a throwaway parlor trick, but, yeah, it’s sorta neat.

Overall, the tablet’s build quality is fantastic, but the real headline news is Google’s optional hardware keyboard. The keyboard attaches with magnets, and when it is attached, it clamps down tight. Seriously, just try to shake this sucker apart. It’s a very confidence-inspiring system.

The keyboard itself feels solid and stable, and exudes a much more premium vibe than Microsoft’s Type Cover for the Surface tablets. Google’s keyboard also has generous key travel, and when the Pixel C is attached, the screen can be adjusted from 100 to 135 degrees. Really, our only gripe is that some of the keys have been trimmed down to fit a cramped layout. We’re looking at you, Backspace, Enter, and Shift.

When you’re typing in Google Docs, you’ll be mesmerized by the sheer pixel-perfect audacity of this tablet’s display. At 500 NITS, it’s brighter than the Las Vegas strip, OK? The display also rocks a super-high resolution, giving it more pixel density than any other competing tablet.

And, no, Google didn’t skimp on the internal components either. With three gigs of RAM and a Tegra X1 processor, the Pixel C decisively owned other tablets during benchmarking. It also felt fast and fluid during regular old testing, and I’ve never seen a mobile device of any kind download and install apps so quickly.

The C in Pixel C stands for “convertible,” but it really should stand for “crushing it.” So what then, exactly are my gripes?

Well, here’s the deal: The keyboard positions the Pixel C decisively as a productivity tablet, but Google’s software experience doesn’t complete its end of that promise.

Most glaringly, Android still doesn’t have a multi-window mode that lets you see two apps at the same time. This is essential for multitasking, and Microsoft, Apple and even Samsung have already nailed this trick for their productivity tablets.

During testing, I was also continually annoyed by Chrome’s default to the poorly rendered mobile views of so many websites. With a 10.2-inch display, the Pixel C should be showing desktop views. So I found myself using Firefox instead of Chrome--and that’s just unacceptable.

The Pixel C also lacks a pen accessory, which has become de riguer for the oh-so-fashionable productivity tablet category. In sum total, I just expect a more comprehensive, deliberate productivity experience from Google.

Sure, the Pixel C is running pure Android Marshmallow, so it’s got Google Now On Tap, and that’s a great productivity aid. But I really wanted Google to take one extra step. It should have tweaked the Android software experience just a bit more to nail the productivity story.

But, hey, the Pixel C is still a kick-ass tablet, and if you’re looking for the highest-end Android tablet hardware, this is your choice.