Google Pixel Slate full review
Google held a hardware launch recently where it announced the Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Google Home Hub, and a new Chrome OS tablet called the Pixel Slate. It offers the advantages of a Chromebook – simplicity and security – in a form factor that’s more versatile than a traditional laptop. We see how it compares to Microsoft’s own advanced tablet, the new Surface Pro 6.
Price and availability
The Pixel Slate has no confirmed release date at the time of writing, but Google has said that it will appear before the end of the year.
There's a range of models, starting at £549/US$599 for the base tablet with an Intel Celeron processor 4GB RAM and 32GB of storage, and going up to £1,549/$1,599 for an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.
Adding the (necessary) keyboard will cost £189/US$199, and the stylus - the Pixelbook Pen - comes in at £79/US$99.
Microsoft’s latest iteration of the Surface Pro is available from 16 October and offers a number of configurations. These start at £879/US$899 for the 8th Gen Intel Core i5 with 128GB of storage and 8GB Ram, and goes up to £2,149/US$2,299 if you want an Intel Core i7, 1TB of storage, and 16GB of RAM.
To get the most from the Surface Pro 6 you’ll also need a keyboard cover (starts at £129.99/US$129.99) and the Surface Pen (£99/US$99).
If you don’t mind a smaller device, then the recently announced Surface Go is another option. This mini-tablet has a 10in display and costs £379/US$399 for the base model or £509/US$549 for the more powerful version.
Again, you’ll need to factor in the price of a Keyboard cover which amounts to £99/US$129, and if you want the Surface Pen that’ll be another £99/US$99.
Design and build
The Pixel Slate features a 12.3in 'Molecular' display, which is comprised of 6 million pixels (3000x2000) and delivers 293ppi for crisp, detailed images.
The metal body is larger than a standard tablet (290mm x 202mm x 7mm), due to the screen size. But, by clever placement of the internals, the balance is well measured and makes the device feel lighter than its 721g.
Twin front-facing speakers adorn the side bezels, while the power button on the top edge also works as a fingerprint sensor. The only other feature on the front panel is an 8Mp f/1.9 camera that features a wide field of view so that video calls with multiple people doesn’t require everyone’s cheeks to be touching.
A Midnight Blue livery covers the back, where you’ll also find another 8Mp camera, this time with an f/1.8 aperture.
Two USB-C ports (one on either flank) are the connections of offer, both with capabilities for Charging, 4K Display output, and fast data transfer. One glaring omission is a headphone jack. Google no doubt has some complicated reason for this, but in all honesty it’s just plain stupid. This is a tablet and as such has room for the simple and useful addition of a 3.5mm port.
The Surface Pro 6 is very similar in design to its predecessor the Surface Pro. Thankfully Microsoft has restored some logic to its naming conventions, hence the reappearance of a number to denote which Surface you’re holding.
The main difference is a switch from the solitary magnesium colouring of the older model, to the option of a cool looking matte black on the Pro 6. Otherwise, it’s the same 292 mm x 201 mm x 8.5 mm dimensions, 12.3in PixelSense display, and strange lack of any USB-C port at all.
Why this remains the case in 2018 is anybody’s guess, but you’ll once more have to do with a single USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect, microSDXC card reader, and 3.5mm headphone jack.
We’re still big fans of the built-in kickstand, which remains a ridiculously elegant way to position the Surface Pro 6 at the right angle for typing, watching videos, or resting on your lap.
Camera-wise, there’s a 5Mp front-facing 1080p unit, which also supports Windows Hello facial recognition, and an 8Mp,1080p shooter on the back. These are accompanied by 1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium.
Features and specs
To get anything like the full potential out of either of these devices requires buying both the external keyboard and dedicated stylus. While the Surface Pro 6 can act happily as a tablet (insofar as Windows 10 is a tablet OS), it’s too heavy to hold for gaming or idly browsing the web, and the amount of optimised apps pales in comparison to the riches of something like an iPad.
It’s a similar story with the Pixel Slate. Yes, you can use it as a tablet, but given the choice between that and the iPad, even the most ardent Google fan would have to admit that the Apple route would be the one to take.
Adding the keyboards does change this equation quite significantly. If you’re a fan of Chromebooks, but want a premium device that can also double as a tablet, then the Pixel Slate is a compelling option. Chrome OS has developed quite substantially in recent years, and the lightweight hardware of the Pixel Slate is a perfect way to experience the productivity and leisure capabilities.
Depending on which configuration you go for, there’s plenty of power on offer, and even the Celeron models should zip along at a decent clip thanks to the lightweight nature of the operating system. However, we didn't see this in practice when we got our hands on a Slate at the launch.
Again, you can configure the Surface Pro 6 to be a light-use device or production powerhouse depending on which CPU and RAM option you take. But, whereas Chrome OS doesn’t need much in the way of storage and RAM, we’d certainly recommend opting for somewhere a little up the chain if you want the Pro 6 to be future-proofed for a few years.
Here’s a breakdown of the technical specs for both devices;
|Pixel Slate||Surface Pro 6|
|Operating System||ChromeOS||Windows 10 Home|
|Display||12.3in Molecular display 3000 x 2000 (293 ppi)||12.3in PixelSense 2736 x 1824 (267ppi)|
|Memory||4GB/8GB/16GB||8GB or 16GB|
|Processor||8th Gen Intel Core m3, i5 or i7 processor, or Intel Celeron||Intel Core i5 / i7 8th Gen|
|Storage||32GB up to 256GB||128GB up to 1TB|
|Ports||2 x USB-C, connector for Pixel Slate keyboard||1 x USB 3, headphone, mini DisplayPort, Surface Connect, microSD card reader, connector for Type Cover keyboard|
|Dimensions||291mm x 202mm x 7mm||292mm x 201mm x 8.5mm|
|Weight||721g||770g (784g for Core i7)|
|Colours||Midnight blue||Black, Platinum|
|Battery life||Up to 10 hours||Up to 13.5 hours|
|Price||From £549/$599||From £879/$899|
This is where the rubber will really hit the road for most people. While either device is passable as a tablet, their main use will almost certainly be for getting things done. In that respect you have a clear choice between the full Windows 10 experience that comes with the Surface Pro 6, replete with the wide range of apps that run on the device itself, or the cloud-focussed ChromeOS on the Pixel Slate.
Now, it should be noted that many production apps, such as Google Docs, Sheets, and others, will run offline on Chromebooks, and thus the Pixel Slate. You can also download games, movies, TV shows, and music to enjoy when you’re not connected, but this is where the smaller storage options could cause problems.
Google has also given newer ChomeOS machines, the Pixel Slate included, the ability to run Android apps. This does add a fair amount of content, but these do tend to run in boxes on the screen rather than as optimised full-screen apps. In time we hope this will change, but at the moment it’s not quite there.
Google Assistant is a useful tool though, with its best-in-class voice recognition interface allowing users to launch apps, start emails and messages, or generally control the device without touching it.
The Surface Pro 6 is a fully-fledged PC, and as such will run anything you’d normally expect on a desktop Windows 10 machine. The Pixel Slate is a fancy Chromebook, albeit with an OS that’s been optimised for touch.
Google Pixel Slate: Specs
- Google Chrome OS
- aluminium casing
- Midnight Blue colour
- Power button with fingerprint sensor
- Storage: 32GB / 64GB / 128GB / 256GB
- 12.3in Molecular Display
- 3000x2000 pixels, 293ppi
- 10-point multi-touch
- Pixelbook Pen Input
- 8th generation Intel Core i5 / Core m3 / Celeron Processor
- 4GB / 8GB / 16GB RAM
- Wi-Fi (802.11ac)
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Two 8MP Full HD cameras, front- and rear-facing
- Microphone, Stereo speakers
- 2x USB-C ports
- Pixel Slate Keyboard port
- Titan security chip
- 48Whr battery, up to 10 hours