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Hands-on with the Google Pixel C

OK, so the new Google Pixel C looks very much like the Chromebook Pixel. Same beautiful aluminum. Same sleek lines. This one's decidedly Android, though (thus no "Chromebook" moniker, never mind how many times I type it by mistake), and it very much is in the ilk of the Microsoft Surface and perhaps the new iPad Pro.

It's part tablet, part keyboard, with the two mated by some seriously strong magnets. They'll be available for purchase separately, but we've got a feeling most folks considering the Pixel C will want them together.

Let's take a quick look.

First, the tablet half of the equation. You're looking at a 10.2-inch display at 2560x1800 resolution — Google's quick to tell you the aspect ratio is 1:√2, or the same as a sheet of paper — housed within a fairly blocky metal tablet. If you lopped the display off of a Chromebook Pixel, you'd be in the ballpark. So it's not necessarily the most comfortable tablet we've ever held, especially when it comes to its weight.

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Pixel C screen

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Pixel C

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Pixel C

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Pixel C audio

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Pixel C

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Pixel C

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Pixel C

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Pixel C Keyboard

You've got a few interesting features here, though, like the four pinhole microphones to better assist with voice commands. Five speaker grilles (not sure if they're all active, or if some are decorative) can be found as well. The power button and volume buttons are on the same edge, and the whole thing charges by USB Type C. It's powered by the new Tegra X1 processor (and its 256-core Maxwell GPU) from NVIDIA, with 3 gigabytes of RAM.

The optional keyboard — it'll run you $149 — is where things get really interesting. Google's happy to show how even though it's smaller than traditional keyboard it's rearranged things a little so that you're not completely lost. And in a quick typing test I did OK. It definitely isn't as cramped as the disappointing keyboard that you could get to go with the Nexus 9 tablet. And the keys themselves felt pretty good, too, about the same as what you'd find on the Chromebook Pixel (and that's exactly what Google was going for).

But, again, this isn't a Chromebook. It's a full-fledged Android tablet. So you'll be running Android apps, and browsing with Android browsers — and that's still an experience that's not as good as what you'll find on a Chromebook.

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Pixel C

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Pixel C

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Pixel C

And you have to see the keyboard mating process to believe it, really. When the whole thing's closed up you slide the tablet to the side first, then pry the two apart. The magnets are housed in sort of a flap on the keyboard side of things, and they're extremely strong. At least for demonstration purposes, you basically could swing the thing around and nothing would come flying apart. (Real-world use, of course, can always expose weaknesses.) With the keyboard attached the tablet stays put magnetically, and can adjust to various angles to suit your needs, just like you would a laptop. It's very well done, and gives the current Android keyboards a run for their money.

The biggest question here — as it always tends to come down to — is going to be price. At $149 for the keyboard and the Pixel C itself running $499 or $599 (depending on whether you're getting the 32GB or 64GB model) you're back in proper laptop computer territory — and that's often the case with these high-end tablets and a solid keyboard accessory. (But you're still a few hundred bucks below the Chromebook Pixel itself, to be fair.)

So how badly do you want an Android laptop?

  • If this was a Chrome OS running tablet with full Android app support with the google Play store I'd break my monitor trying to grab this thing.
  • for sure :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • For me, I don't even care about the keyboard, this is the first Android tablet I want to get my hands on.
  • Same, I couldn't care less about the keyboard, but as an Android tablet this thing looks amazing!
  • The keyboard doesn't look backlit, huh? Well, I like it. But I'm a big fan of the Surface Pro line, so I'll wait for the Pro 4 announcement (hopefully on the 6th). Posted via the Android Central App
  • would a digitizer on this make the choice between the pixel c and a surface harder for you?
  • No idea about him. For me it wouldnt. Its not comparable. Tablet running mobile OS compared with a laptop running a desktop OS and can be used in tabletmode when slacking in the sofa?
    Kind of like comparing tablet with gamingPC, or hamburger with a car..... not same type of device, not same usage.
  • its just a mobile OS .surface is running Full desktop OS. So it is an easy choice to make considering the price of pixel c.even with a digitizer pen pixel c is no match for surface. I think anyone with at least two functional brain cells would prefer to pay a little more and buy surface than this one.
  • But surface is still at least double the price.... Posted from my amazingly smexy Nexus 6, powered by CM
  • How is the surface double the price? Surface 3 starts at $499 (64GB/GB RAM) and goes to $699 (128GB/$GB RAM/LTE).
  • Sorry I was talking about Surface Pro, completely forgot the ARM-based line
  • Surface 3 isn't arm based. I think you might be thinking of surface 1 and 2. Surface 3 has an atom processor.
  • Oops yeah sorry again.
    Never really bothered much with 3rd gen surface line. I'm more interested in smartphones
  • Also, dealing with the fact that the Adobe Creative Cloud products can run on the Surface Pro tablets. I am SO happy to have my Surface Pro 3, but this Pixel C tablet is sweet. IF it could run Adobe products, oh yeah I'd consider getting it. I mean the price is great for both 32 and 64 GB.
  • agreed, i would definitely do the same, as the surface pro line has always made great advancements from model to model.
  • If they design it, to be used with a keyboard. Why not package them together?!?!
  • Greed Posted via the Android Central App
  • The question every potential Surface owner asks themselves... Just a way to make more $$$ I guess.
    I can excuse them not including a keyboard with this, considering it's an Android tablet at its core. But the Surface line? It's ridiculous they don't include one. Posted via the Android Central App
  • True!! I hope Surface Pro 4 will include one. :)
  • I agree, I dont get why so many people down voted that.
    I do believe it's a way for the OEMs to get more money.
    However, it's not a necessity to have the keyboard, so I think Microsoft is trying to sell the Surface as a tablet that you can buy a keyboard for. Not a laptop that you can turn into a tablet.
    They include the Surface Pen because you kinda need it if you don't have a keyboard.
  • The Type Cover comes in a range of color choices. It costs money to package different models of the Surface with every possible different color of the Type Cover for each model, so if the Type Cover was included in the price of the Surface, the resulting price would be higher than each combined. So it's a consumer-friendly decision to sell the Type Cover and Surface separately. The Surface Pro 4 will work with the Surface Pro 3's Type Cover, so selling the SP4 with the Type Cover included would add an unnecessary cost for owners of the SP3 who choose the backwards-compatible 12" SP4.
  • No. The Surface line definitely doesn't need a keyboard to be useful as a tablet similar to what Pixel C would be without a tablet. None of the apps need the keyboard (except Office, but same goes for any tablet). So it'd be biased (and fanboyish) to say it's OK for Google not to include one (which btw is more expensive), but not OK for Microsoft.
  • Because not everyone wants or needs a keyboard. It's not like if they packaged the keyboard with the tablet the keyboard would be any cheaper, the tablet would just have a higher base price. This way the tablet is accessible to more people and the people that want to spring for a keyboard can. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Because Packaging together = bad, look at how much flak Microsoft took for the $500 Xbox One bundled with Connect, Sell Tablet and Keyboard seperately give you a lower price point for people just looking for a great 2560X1800 10.9" tablet.
  • Well MS was going to make your Xbox inoperable unless your connect was plugged in. It was about nickel and diming people. Like only allowing 4 people to watch a movie and making others pay to see it, and charging people Licensing fees to play used games you buy 2nd hand. They wanted control over how you use their device and wanted to nickel and dime people.
  • Probably so people can choose. It's not a cheap device, even without the keyboard, plus no expansion. Hence the pixel line? Awesome AC.
  • This is firmly in the Apple territory of great industrial design and high price point but limited fuctionality. I find it very hard to justify purchasing this when for the same price range (and even less in many cases) I can get the full Windows experience and all of the functionality it brings. Looks great but not for me.
  • Exactly, what is the advantage here? The Surface Pro 3 can emulate android, it has expandable storage, and is a full fledged Windows OS. The Pixel C is gimmicky at best and only in that it has an unusual keyboard that isn't backlit. Not impressed by the Tetra Chip set or the aspect ratio either. Hopefully the surface pro 4 will have USB type C, GPS, and NFC, can't wait! Posted via the Android Central App on the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
  • Actually the Nvidia X1 is an incredible chip. I have a Nvidia Shield TV running Linux, I'm using it as my main development machine for Web apps. Anyone for giggles I installed Blender, not for a second did I believe it would be able to handle it or even be able to open up a 3D animation. I was proved wrong, not only did it run extremely well but I was able to create and render a pretty complex 3D model. As well as edit 1080p videos from my phone without a single hint of lag. My Macbook 12" can't even do this without lag and constant rotating beach balls. It's a proper chip that even plays 4K content at 60FPS and easily pushes a 4K monitor which is what I have connected to it. I was so impressed that I bought three more and created a cluster for a render farm. With this setup I can encode a 25 GB BluRay file to MP4 in under a 40 minutes, my neighbors iMac 5K takes almost 4 hours to do the same thing with HandBrake. So I will definitely be buying the Pixel C and install Linux in a dualboot. It will take some time to get it working but the end results will be all the motivation that I need. This is an incredible tablet that deserves to be applauded. Just compare it to the new Samsung Tab S2 9.7 and you who quickly see just how great this thing is. It's hands down the best tablet on the market that uses a mobile OS.
  • Interesting. I took my shield tv, which on the android side of things let's you stream to twitch. I also have an hdhomerun prime cable tuner on my network, and had the hdhomerun viewer installed on the shield, so as a test I tuned to an HD 1080i channel (Which is scaled to 1080p), and streamed that to twitch. Viewing on one of my computer it's was full hd, and it was re-encoding the raw mpeg 2 broadcast stream to twitch in real time.
  • Seems like a great tablet for content consumption. But for productivity, I'd choose a cheap intel-powered chromebook over any Android tablet.
  • First off..I love Google hardware..I'm looking for ,new tablet, and a laptop, ,just started back on college. Was oozing at surface 3, but really only need excel and,word support...I'm love this design, but don't know if I can pass up full laptop windows 10 functions for this Posted via the Android Central App
  • Microsoft has all the office apps free on Android. What else is Windows 10 offering you that this doesn't?
  • I actually bought the old Surface 2 when it came out for this very reason. And it worked great (later needed a machine that could run access though). I would still buy a Surface 3 over this though - just run an Android emulator if you want to run android on it (that's the beauty of having a full x86/x64 OS). For very basic school needs, a mobile OS works fine though. The Office mobile apps are awesome as well, running on desktop and phone alike - they're super feature rich for what they are. Just make sure you won't have to purchase an office subscription because of the "free office for tablets under 10" rule. You can probably pick one up on the cheap using your education discount.
  • So Phil, you blogged the apple event, was there talk of Rene blogging the android event? That would've been funny, I'm not sure he'd have made it through the day.
  • Who the hell is this thing targeting? Android apps in their current incarnation aren't good enough to really strut their stuff and take advantage of this screen real estate at all. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • that GPU will never even close to be used either
  • Looks like a Nexus 9 with its keyboard.. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Thought the same thing N6/9
    Posted via the Android Central App
  • I just sold my Note 10.1 2014 and decided I was going to get a Surface. The plot thickens. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I feel like this thing is a compromise. It's a little bulky to make a great tablet, but not quite up to laptop territory in terms of usability for work purposes, especially my line of work. A little expensive for a toy as well. I think I'm happy with my nexus 9 and the Logitech tablet keyboard after all. I have to use a windows based machine for the applications we run at work. Posted via the Android Central App
  • >YAWN <
    Been there with the Asus Slider and Tf 201 a few years ago now. C'mon tech companies, give us something truly innovative and far reaching. Sheesh Posted via the Android Central App
  • You should get some more sleep.
  • I still have my tf201. It's a great paperweight. If I recall pricing from a few years ago, it was about the same as this but with less storage. Worst Wi-Fi signal I've ever seen in any device ever. N6/9
    Posted via the Android Central App
  • Do I need one? Nah.
    Do I want one? Yeah. Posted via Android Central App
  • Here's what I'm wondering... Can the angle of the screen be less than 90 degrees when docked? As in less than straight up and down? I do this laying down with a laptop on my stomach for Netflix night binging. Surface pro can't do that with the kickstand. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This product is just plain dumb. I mean, it's like every single other tablet with a bluetooth keyboard. Same as my Samsung Tab S 10.5 with the keyboard. They had a shot at adding a trackpad and maybe usb ports on the side of the keyboard, to make it unique in the Android tablet world and they blew it. Now it's just another Android tablet with yet another bluetooth keyboard.
  • +1 Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • Hardly.
  • Softly.
  • Not at all, but Ok! Posted via the Android Central App
  • I like how you elaborate. Great talking to you.
  • I know, they just say 2 words and go their merry way. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • I actually agree with you about the keyboard and think Google should be de-emphasizing it marketing-wise. For me, it somehow takes away from the tablet. As some others here have intimated, the Pixel C with a keyboard makes me think about why I much prefer a Surface or Surface Pro. But without the keyboard, I think this is a cutting-edge tablet. Evidently a very solid build, great screen, great processor for media-watching and web-surfing, and a USB-C port. Would have loved 128 GB (or SD expansion) but still, 64 GB is good enough for most. As a tablet, the Pixel C rocks!
  • It has USB-C, when paired with the likes of the new Hub+ designed for the new Macbook but should have no problem being used with this, you get HDMI, SD Card Reader and USB ports. It's also extremely portable. What more do you want. This is the best Android tablet on the market, period. Why would a person even consider a Samsung Tab S2 when they could be rocking this for less money. An iPad, forget it, iOS is simply to limited to be used as a productivity machine, sure it has apps but without a decent file-manement system, the inability to choose your own default apps, assign a file-extension to a single app, mediocre multitasking as in you still can't run any app that you want in the background or stream a movie to your TV and still have access to your iPad at the same time, half-assed, limited inner-app communication. As in unlike Android in which when you login to Google, which is just once, from that point on you have access to Google's services within every app installed without having to login, again and again. Unlike iOS in which you have login to iCloud about 40 times for each and every single app that supports it. Also not everyone wants a Windows tablet, I sure don't, it's an overkill for what I need a tablet to do. I have Office, I can still access the same cloud app that I use on my Chromebook, I have my games and good ones at that, I have my terminal so I can edit scripts and start compile jobs on my work server, I have all of the news, multimedia, cooking, messaging, etc. Apps that I could possible want or need. I also don't get this, well there isn't enough apps that are tablet optimized for Android, every single app that I have installed look great on my tablet, though I don't use any of those small unknown apps either, just the well designed ones, which there many. I use about 50 apps, every single one of them are tablet optimized, how many apps do people need really, the average person only uses between 5 to 10 according to submitted user statistics but here they aren't complaining that there isn't enough, ridiculous
  • An extremely strong magnetic keyboard? I've seen magnets warp video screens (giving them permanent color distortions), I've seen magnets corrupt/erase hard drives, and destroy memory chips. Is it really safe to be exposed to the tablet for long lengths of time, and over the life of the device?
  • My Shield Tablet's screen cover attaches with pretty strong magnets and hasn't suffered from it, and Apple's been attaching covers to the iPad since the second version. I doubt there's much to worry about. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No active stylus right? If not, don't want.
  • Just get a bluetooth Bamboo Fine Touch, it's fantastic with pressure sensitivity. I honestly don't see the difference between using this or using a Surface pro 3's pen.
  • As a Pixel LS owner who has occasionally pushed my Nexus 7 with bluetooth keyboard into service at work as a productivity device, I have to say I have zero desire for an Android laptop, and still find Chrome OS (especially on the Pixel) to be about the most perfect OS I've used for my needs. Android is fabulous for mobile and, on a tablet, for media, but it's just not smooth for power-user productivity, which is where Chrome sings. That said, for someone whose needs are more mobile and media with occasional productivity, then this might be a very nice option (or a convertible CB like the Flip).
  • Oh man... the Surface 3 is looking better all the time. I do like the idea of this Android tablet, but I can't quite see why it would be preferred to the Surface. The Surface has a great screen, keyboard/trackpad, it's a real PC AND a tablet, larger storage options, can do all of the Chrome stuff, has the option of a very good stylus,...and a very high build quality.
  • I don't know but somehow Android with keyboard doesn't seem to mesh properly together. I've had the Asus Slider and still got the Prime 201 which is now gathering dust and also I've got three bt keyboards of varying sizes also gathering dust. Now I'm thinking of buying one yet again specifically for my delightful Tab S 8.4. I simply don't get it. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The keyboard dock doesn't look as good as the Dell Venue 10 7000. That is easily the best keyboard dock for a tablet. Google's way does avoid the barrel on the Dell, which some didn't like. I especially don't like the lack of a trackpad. You'd think with a touchscreen it wouldn't be a big deal, but I find myself using the trackpad a lot on the Dell.
  • I've got the Tab 12.2 Pro, and the software keyboard (especially now that's it's been bumped to 5.1.1) is really comfortable to use and since you've got this huge amount of screen real estate, you totally don't mind when it pops up. I know this thing is going on two years old, but you'll get it when it dies or I do. Every time I hold or look at a 10" tablet, it leaves me all "meh" inside. For media and comics, this thing is amazing. I'm really hoping Sammy or someone else comes out with a revamped version of this to compete with the iPad Pro. When it finally dies it's going to be a sad day in my house.
  • Any company that sells "optional keyboards" for tablets deserve to go under. I fell for that trick when I purchased a Surface Pro 3. Those damn things cost me $125. Never again.
  • Anytime you buy a $100+ keyboard you're telling them you're fine with being ripped off. There is no keyboard worth over $100 anywhere, ever. They should be half price when bought with the tablet for the first month of release. A full size USB port would have made it worth considering
  • A Type-C port is equivalent to a full size port
  • Similar to the iPad pro. Great form factor hampered by a limited os. At this size and price I expect more functionality than a mobile phone. Apple should have put osx on the iPad and Google should have put chrome os on this. I'm sticking to my surface pro 3.
  • Hmm. So folks still actually use tablets...interesting... Posted via Serenity
  • Tablets are still more "mobile" than laptops. I use mine all the time for watching media (especially now that I can download content from Amazon Prime, too) and reading. The bigger screen makes tablets much more comfortable and conducive for that than phone screens; even on my Note 4. Plus, I can still do things like read my email and surf the web quickly and easily. Tablets still have their uses: many times they are more useful than either a laptop or a smartphone.
  • Surface 3 makes much more sense at this price point, the surface 3 keyboard is cheaper too, along with offering double storage for same price and option to get a pen and LTE radio.
  • Sounds like the new nexus 10 gets a new confusing name to distance itself from the underwhelming nexus 10. Is this tegra chip any better than the k1? I remember thinking the k1 in the nexus 9 would be great until I learned the older celeron chips killed it in everything except gaming. Apple showed of f some nice multi tasking and Samsung has some too, what does this have to make it special? Also, no lte option?
  • Nice looking, but still a Nexus, so no expansion and really Apple expensive. If only Google would get passed this mental blockage. Give us choice or better prices please, don't be stingy. Awesome AC.
  • I like it but I have a couple of questions: - Does it have an SD card slot (don't think so but I might as well ask)? - Will there be a cover or case available instead of the keyboard? Honestly, I think the keyboard is the least attractive feature. I am very glad it's optional -- if you like it, get it -- but the way Google and/or the media are marketing this thing, the keyboard makes me think of the Pixel C is a low-end, overpriced notebook instead of an (admittedly expensive) cutting-edge tablet. I don't mind paying for the latter but I won't for the former.
  • C stand for clone or copycat? cough Surface cough Posted via the Android Central App
  • lol..
  • I would love to own this, but the pricing is just wrong. $100 for an additional 32GB of storage space, and $150 for a keyboard? No, no. That's Apple B.S. territory right there. If they sold the 64GB version with keyboard for $600 then I may have biten. Oh well, I hope the rumors of MS dropping the price of Surface Pro 4 are true.
  • It looks top heavy and not very "lappable". It reminds me of my old acer iconia tab in that it would probably tip over sitting on your lap.
  • It seems like the A players are getting it wrong this year. Google and Samsung and Apple. Nothing impressive over the 2014 lineups.
  • Sliding around and fumbling with that keyboard looks like it would get old fast. It also looks like a huge potential for scratching the units or causing wear marks over time. A cover, like on the Surface Pro 3, is really nice and easy. I love the jab about not having a kickstand or whatever... Also having the keyboard be a dedicated device is way better than bluetooth... And ugly magnetic connectors? Yeah, ok...said no one ever.
  • Ah fuck...nevermind, I thought this was a 4k device.. That'd give it an edge iver a Chromebook...this is just another tablet now... Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have an Asus transformer tablet with keyboard docking station, and it suits me just fine (the Android version)!!! Posted via the Android Central App
  • Although I'm not interested in buying a tablet (I rarely used my previous), I think the Pixel C looks great. I would probably be more interested if it used the Chrome operating system instead of Android.
  • Looks like a great replacement for myNexus 10.
  • Looks like some high quality materials were used for sure; but the keyboard price, lack of stylus support, lack of ports, and lack of expandable storage is a let down though. And it's still a mobile OS: it may be adequate for someone in school (something that doesn't require anything other than Excel, Powerpoint, and Word. So, like, a liberal arts degree) but it's going to struggle to fill the needs of someone needing anything more. If this was priced $100 lower and bundled with the keyboard, it would be a worthwhile buy. If it were in the mid-tier chrome book range of pricing, it would be more worthwhile. Google is not Apple - I'm not an iFan by any stretch of the imagination - they can't sell beer hardware at a champagne price.
  • I'd consider it if they release an LTE model, would just be very convenient!
  • Does it have LTE? If not, what's the point?
  • "So how badly do you want an Android laptop?" Really badly ;)
  • So, this is running android and not chrome? I would have liked it if it were chrome. But they odd keyboard design with no touchpad is a deal breaker. I have 2 surface 3s and they are probably the best multi use device made. I have the dock on my home office desk hooked to a 23" monitor, keyboard and mouse. Dock and I have my full desktop experience, take the tablet with me with the pen and keyboard and I have the ultimate portable computer. best of all worlds. Gamers need not apply however. But that's not what they were desgined for.
  • Wow, I did not finish my thoughts on this. I think google should have followed a similar path, the tablet with proper keyboard, dock etc for this pixel c. It would have been an awesome device. Run Chrome, have a multi use device. Right now, the pixel c is just ANOTHER android tablet.
  • I don't find this interesting in the least. Why? Android. Most laptops now-a-days have many years worth of life in them. My 2010 Macbook Air just updated to El Capitan and it runs great. My old Dell E6400 is running Windows 10. We all know that Android devices have a lifespan of like maybe a year to 2 years before they stop getting updates. So you spend $499-$599 to get this device and within two years it'll no longer be getting updates. I just dont see Google updating this thing to Android O let alone go further down the alphabet.