Google Pixel Slate vs. Apple iPad Pro: Which Should You Buy?

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Updated on Nov. 27 at 3:00 pm ET: This face-off has been updated with the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2018) and details from our Pixel Slate review. We declared category winners and an overall winner. 

With the debut of the Pixel Slate, Google kicked off a tablet war against its heated rival, Apple. Starting at $599, the new 12.3-inch detachable has a premium aluminum design and comes with the latest Intel processors.

As a tablet that turns into a laptop when connected to a keyboard accessory, the Pixel Slate is a direct competitor to the iPad Pro. Google has its work cut out for it if it wants to dethrone Apple — the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro is one of our favorite tablets, having received a 4.5-star rating and our Editors' Choice award. The sleek device has excellent battery life, blistering performance, and a brilliant edge-to-edge display. 

There are a number of things we like about the Pixel Slate, but does Google's first in-house tablet live up to the iPad Pro's excellence? Here is how the Pixel Slate compares to the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Design

The Pixel Slate is a sexy device, even if there's nothing remarkable about its design. It is, like other tablets, a thin, rectangular slab of anodized aluminum and glass.

pixel slate 2

The dark blue metal shell sports a Google logo in the upper left corner and an 8-megapixel camera on the opposite edge.

pixel slate 3

On the front of the device, positioned on both sides of the display, are two speaker grills designed to provide a wide soundscape. A power button doubles as a fingerprint sensor on the top edge of the Slate, and a front-facing camera is centered above the display.

Our only criticism with the design of the Pixel Slate is that the display is flanked by relatively thick black frames. Compared to the iPad Pro, which now has very thin bezels, the Pixel Slate looks dated. 

Apart from its new (almost) borderless display, the iPad Pro looks almost identical to the Pixel Slate now that it ditched the Touch ID sensor.  One difference is that the iPad Pro has four speakers positioned at each corner whereas the Pixel Slate employs front-firing speakers on its bezels. On the rear of the iPad Pro are a 12-megapixel camera and a centered Apple logo. Apple sells the iPad Pro in Space Gray, Gold and Silver color schemes, whereas the Pixel Slate is available only in Midnight Blue. The smaller, 10.5-inch iPad Pro also comes in a Rose Gold finish.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a smaller surface area than the 12.3-inch Pixel Slate. Measuring 11 x 8.5 x 0.2 inches, the iPad is a sleek device compared to the 11.5 x 8 x 0.3-inch Pixel Slate. The smaller iPad Pro, at 1.4 pounds, weighs less than the 1.5-pound Pixel Slate.

Winner: iPad Pro

  Google Pixel Slate Apple iPad Pro
Price  $599-$1,599 $999-$1,749
Accessories Pixel Slate Keyboard ($199), Pixelbook Pen ($99)  Smart Keyboard ($169), Pencil ($99)
Display  12.3-inch, 3000 x 2000 pixels 12.9-inch, 2732 x 2048 pixels
CPU 8th Gen Intel Celeron, Core m3, i5, i7 A12X Bionic
RAM 4GB, 8GB, 16GB 4GB
Storage 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB. 1TB
Ports Two USB Type-C USB-C, Nano-SIM
Colors Midnight Blue Silver, Space Gray
Size 11.5 x 8 x 0.3 inches 11 x 8.5 x 0.2 inches
Weight

1.6 pounds

1.4 pounds

 

Display

Google spent much of the Pixel Slate's unveiling touting the tablet's 12.3-inch LCD display. The screen has a resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixels for a dense pixels-per-inch measure of 293. That edges out the 12.9-inch display on the iPad Pro, which has a 2732 x 2048 resolution at 264 ppi.

pixel slate 4

The Pixel Slate's display produces 120 percent of the sRGB color gamut, falling just short of the 128 percent of the new iPad Pro. Both devices top the 110 percent tablet average.

When it comes to display brightness, the iPad Pro is the undefeated champ. The tablet's display reached 484 nits of brightness, which is significantly more luminous than the Pixel Slate (337 nits) and the average tablet (422 nits). 

Winner: iPad Pro

Ports

You'll want to sit for this news: The Pixel Slate and new iPad Pro don't have a headphone jack, which means that if you want to listen to music, you'll need either a dongle or Bluetooth headphones. Of course, Google wants you to buy its own Pixel Buds while Apple is selling the AirPods, but we say to stay away and try these wireless headphones instead. At least both tablets have USB Type-C inputs — the Pixel Slate has two while the iPad Pro has only one. 

You'll want to sit for this news: The Pixel Slate does not have a headphone jack.

Winner: Pixel Slate

Keyboard and Pen

The $199 Pixel Slate Keyboard connects to the left edge of the Pixel Slate via the tablet's accessory connector. The backlit keys have a unique circular shape that's reminiscent of a vintage typewriter. The keyboard's "Hush Keys" are ultraquiet so nearby co-workers won't get distracted by your chaotic typing. Perhaps the Slate Keyboard's best feature, however, is the integrated track pad.

slate-keys

Google's keyboard accessory offers a surprisingly comfortable typing experience with well-spaced keys that have a tactile feedback. 

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The 1.1-pound Pixel Slate Keyboard transforms into a folio case that allows the tablet to contort into various orientations. You can prop up the back of the display to use it as a traditional laptop or fold the keyboard under the device when you want to view content. The keyboard accessory also doubles as a protective cover that prevents scratches and dents.

We aren't impressed by Apple's $169 Smart Keyboard. The shallow keys forced us to adjust how we normally type in order to prevent our fingers from hitting the base.

Even worse, the keyboard doesn't have a touchpad and is, therefore, not a true solution for turning the iPad into a laptop. That's not surprising considering iOS doesn't support a cursor, but it's an annoyance, nonetheless. Also, typing under low lighting is tricky, because the keyboard isn't backlit.

Like the Pixel Slate Keyboard, the 0.8-pound Smart Keyboard elevates the iPad Pro into laptop mode and folds into a cover when you're not using the tablet.

The touch screens on both the Pixel Slate and iPad Pro feature stylus support. The Google Pixelbook Pen and Apple Pencil are both sold separately, for $99 each.

Winner: Pixel Slate

Performance

Equipped with an Intel Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM, the Pixel Slate scored an 8,071 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test (running via aan Android emulation). That is less than half the score achieved by the iPad Pro (17,995) and its insanely fast A12X Bionic chip. 

ipad pro 3

The Pixel Slate also slumped behind the iPad Pro during our Javascript performance test. The Pixel Slate scored a 146.9, which is a decent result but far behind the 279 of the iPad Pro. 

WinneriPad Pro

Battery Life

Both tablets have impress endurance, but the iPad Pro outlasts the Google Slate. The Chrome OS device lasted 9 hours and 51 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, an impressive result but more than 2 hours short of the iPad Pro's runtime. 

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The 12.9-inch iPad Pro lasted 13 hours and 14 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi with display brightness at 150 nits. That outstanding result is well above the 8:51 tablet average and tops the Microsoft Surface Pro's result (7:30).  

Winner: iPad Pro

Price and Value

The Pixel Slate's price starts at a reasonable $599 but quickly rises once you add the keyboard and pen accessories. It's also worth noting that the Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB SSD included in the base model won't cut it for power users. Another $200 upgrades the processor to an 8th Gen Intel Core m3 and doubles both RAM and SSD storage.

With powerful components, a comfortable backlit keyboard and a high-resolution display, Google's first detachable appears to be an intriguing alternative to Apple's premium tablet.

But those specs are still below what we recommend for a device that costs more than $600. You have to spend $999 to reach our recommended configuration: an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The top-of-the-line config costs $1,599 and comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

The cost of a Pixel Slate doesn't stop there. If you want to transform the tablet into a detachable, you'll need the $200 Pixel Slate Keyboard. The Pixelbook Pen adds another $100.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro comes with 4GB of RAM and is powered by Apple's own A12X Bionic chip. The entry-level model costs $999 and includes 64GB of storage. Upping the storage to 256GB raises the price to $1,149, and the high-end, 512GB model costs $1,349.

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The Smart Keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro costs $169, but unlike Google's version, it does not include backlighting or a touchpad. The optional Apple Pencil stylus accessory costs $99.

Winner: Draw

Overall Winner: iPad Pro

  Google Pixel Slate Apple iPad Pro (2018)
Design (10) 7 9
Ports (10) 6 4
Display (15) 12 13
Keyboard/Touchpad (15) 12 7
Performance (20) 14 19
Battery Life (20) 16 19
Value (10) 5 5
Overall (100) 72 76

With powerful components, a comfortable backlit keyboard and a high-resolution display, Google's first detachable is an intriguing alternative to Apple's premium tablet. Moreover, the Slate's keyboard is miles ahead of the iPad Pro's version, and, at $600, the Pixel Slate has a lower starting price than Apple's device.

But there are areas where the Pixel Slate just can't keep up with the iPad Pro. The tablet's battery life is around 10 hours, which is respectable but two hours worse than what the iPad Pro achieved in our testing. Also, the Pixel's display is dimmer and not as colorful as the iPad's, and its thick bezels are ugly when juxtaposed with the iPad's edge-to-edge display. Not to mention, the iPad Pro's A12X chip is faster than any Intel CPU you can configure the Pixel Slate with. 

In the end, the iPad Pro retains its crown as the best tablet on the market. Of course, these two devices run on very different platforms, and your preference in operating system between Chrome OS and iOS should play a big role in determining which tablet is right for you.

Credit: Laptop Mag