Leave it to Google to zig when we expect it to zag. Here we were, expecting to learn about the latest updates to the Pixelbook, and Google throws a curveball and debuts the Pixel Slate, a 12-inch tablet. Available later this year and starting at $599, it's a direct shot at Apple and Microsoft.
The Pixel Slate is one handsome tablet. The rear panel and sides are swathed in a lovely midnight-blue aluminum. Measuring 0.28-inches thin and weighing 1.6 pounds, the slate sits smack dab in the middle of the 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro (0.27 inches thick, 1.5 pounds) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (0.33 inches thick, 1.7 pounds).
Along the top of the Slate, you'll find the silver power button that's pulling double-duty as the fingerprint reader. On the right is a slightly raised volume rocker and USB Type-C port. Another Type-C port resides on the left
Display and Audio
That's a lot of pixels! The Slate's 12.3-inch display has a 3K x 2K resolution which translates into 6 million pixels or 293 ppi. In person, the panel looked sharp and vibrant.
There's also dual front-facing speakers, which teamed with Google's algorithms, should make for richer, crisper audio. Either way, I'm looking forward to taking that free 3-month trial of YouTube Premium for a spin.
In terms of power, it appears the Pixel Slate is outgunned, at least in terms of the base model. The $599 iteration of the Pixel Slate will have an Intel Celeron processor with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. However, the Slate can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB and 256GB of storage, specs more fitting of Google's aspirations of a laptop replacement.
The Pixel Slate will feature an 8-megapixel camera on the front and rear of the device. The front-facing shooter has a wide-angle lens that's ideal for large group shots. The camera also has a larger sensor for better low-light pics.
Productivity and Keyboard
Google is touting the Pixel Slate as a productivity machine, which is a claim a lot of 2-in-1s make. But Google seems ready to put its money where its mouth is. The Pixel Slate will run the desktop version of Chrome OS. Google claims that you'll have the ability to run developer tools and even Linux. And since it's a tablet, Chrome OS has been optimized for touch. Other tweaks to Chrome OS includes a customized app launcher with Google's integrated machine learning technology.
That means that your most used apps will be a tap away. You also get a dual-window feature, similar to the Snap feature on Windows devices, which should help Google live up to that productivity claim.
But in order to give you any semblance of productivity, you're going to need to type. Google has created the $199 Pixel Slate keyboard. Comprised of a full-sized keyboard and a bendable, magnetic back flap, the keyboard connects with a snap. The full-size backlit keyboard borrows from PixelBook keyboard, down to the comfortable quiet keys.
I did the 10fastfingers typing test and reached 50 words per minute, which is well below my usual 70 wpm. However, I was impressed with how springy the circular keys actually were. I never bottomed out as the keys popped right back up as soon as I pressed them. The keyboard also has a full-size trackpad that offers traditional functionality. (The iPad Pro doesn't even have a touchpad.) Pinch-zoom and two-finger scrolling were quick and responsive.
The folio back flap pulls double duty as a cover and a stand, allowing you to use the Slate at almost any angle. The integrated magnets let me slid the flap up and down the Slate's rear for easy stand adjustment. If you're looking for something a bit sturdier, there are also third-party keyboard options like the $159 Brydge G-Type keyboard. If you feel the need to jot something down, the Pixel Slate also works with the Chromebook Pen ($99).
With a new data breach being reported almost every day, security is an important feature. To that end, Google has built a few security measures into the Pixel Slate. There's integrated virus detection to keep the malware at bay as well as Google's Titan Security, a chip which controls disk encryption and the lock screen. And in an effort to protect you from you, Google has also added Digital Wellbeing to monitor and limit your device and app usage.
By itself, the $599 Pixel Slate is cheaper than two of its major competitors, the Apple iPad Pro (12.5 inches) and the Microsoft Surface Pro 6, which start at $799 and $899, respectively. But once you throw in the accessories, the Slate becomes a bit more pricey. With the $199 Pixel Keyboard, the price jumps to $798 -- throw in the Chromebook Pen ($99) and the grand total hits $897. It's still cheaper than the competition, but it's a hefty price to ask for a tablet.
With the Pixel Slate, Google is looking to become the de facto choice for truly mobile portability. The 12-inch device is lightweight and sleek and offers some compelling features. The improved Chrome OS interface shows that Google is ready to close the gap with Windows, by creating an experience that's well, a lot like Windows.
The idea of having the ability to run full versions of some of my favorite productivity apps instead of the mobile versions is quite appealing. Typically, I don't buy into the idea that a tablet can truly replace a laptop. However, with such a bright panel, comfortable keyboard, and optimized OS, I'm warming up to the idea.