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The Pixel C is almost a laptop with this USB-C dongle

Even a year on, Google's own Pixel C remains on sale and for many is just enough of a productivity machine that it can sometimes replace a large and cumbersome laptop. I've actually taken quite a liking to the Pixel C after completely writing it off for the first six months of its life, but its shortage of ports limits its viability for the kinds of things I so often do on a laptop. USB-C itself isn't the issue, actually — it's the fact that the Pixel C offers just a single port. As anyone with a new Apple MacBook will tell you, having a single port isn't all that great.

As I awaited the delivery of my own new MacBook Pro, which of course only has USB-C ports, I actually took to using a couple of my new USB-C dongles with my Pixel C. In what shouldn't have been a surprise, the dongles "just worked" exactly as intended. And with the addition of one of these multi-function adapters, the Pixel C has become more of a laptop for me than ever before.

The Pixel C is almost a laptop with this USB-C dongle

The dongle (or adapter, whatever), which comes from Anker at about $28, isn't the prettiest thing ever. But this is the world we live in for the next couple of years — I'm over complaining about it. It plugs into USB-C with a few inches of cable, and then gives you three USB-A 3.1 ports and an ethernet port on the very end. I picked it up originally because it has a nice enough design, is made of metal and isn't all that much larger than the ethernet dongle I was carrying in my bag anyway. It also happens to nicely fill in a few of the Pixel C's port shortcomings.

The biggest one for anyone who works in a large corporate building or travels often is the ethernet port. This was the first great realization that it all just works: plug in ethernet, turn off Wi-Fi and the Pixel C automatically starts pulling data over the wire, no setup required. I continued my tests.

I plugged in a flash drive to one of the three USB ports. The Pixel C pops up a notification, and with a tap you're in a full file browser looking at everything on the drive. So I plugged in another drive — same result, with both drives accessible at the same time. I plugged in an SD card adapter and put a card from my camera in — files instantly accessible. You can easily transfer files between external drives and the tablet, but also between the drives themselves. No hiccups, no issues.

With the two drives still plugged in, I attached my Galaxy S7 over a Micro-USB cable and put the phone in MTP mode. In just a few moments, I was browsing the internal file structure of the phone from the tablet just the same as I do regularly on my MacBook Air. Oh, and the phone charges, too — checking with a volt meter, I saw the Pixel C offered 5V/1A charging through the dongle. That's just as much as I get out of my laptop today, and can put the Pixel C's large battery to good use in a pinch.

I know I shouldn't be surprised — but it's still great to see everything work perfectly.

After unplugging one of the drives, I popped in a Logitech Unifying receiver for my Performance Mouse MX. About two seconds later, a pointer showed up on screen and I was mousing around. Combining a nice high-end mouse with the surprisingly comfortable Pixel C keyboard just feels right. My forearms, which regularly hover in an awkward position to touch the display when I'm trying to get work done, immediately thanked me for plugging the mouse in.

Again, I know I shouldn't be surprised that this all works. Google would have had to go out of its way to make the Pixel C and its USB-C port not be able to interoperate with these standard peripherals. But that doesn't mean I wasn't downright excited when time after time I plugged in various computer accessories and had the Pixel C take to them perfectly.

With my Pixel C, its keyboard and this single cheap Anker dongle, all of a sudden I have far less anxiety about leaving the house for the afternoon — or, indeed, for a long weekend away — with my Pixel C instead of my laptop. It's these little fringe cases of being able to plug in flash drives, SD cards, mice or other accessories that so often keep a laptop in my bag whenever possible. Now with this accessory — and so many more like it available for specific needs — those situations where I can just bring the Pixel C are growing in number.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

66 Comments
  • Thanks for the nice review. Now you have me wondering how the adapter with the USB c port instead of the Ethernet port would work. Could you still charge both the Pixel C and your phone.
  • You mean a dongle that had USB-C in? Yeah you'd be able to charge the Pixel C through that and the dongle would still be able to offer power out for other devices.
  • Hi Andrew! I just got a Pixel C yesterday. This is my first android device. Question: What software were you rinning on your Pixel C that displayed the notification when you connected the Anker USB stick? What have you found to be effective softward for file management?
  • Good question(s). The only notification I see when I plug in my device is the one that says my Pixel C is providing power to the device. I don't get any options for file transfers. Also (see my other post in these comments) I can't get an ethernet connection through it. I get the feeling there's a setting I'm not seeing. Do I need to activate developer options? If so, why didn't Andrew mention this?
  • I'll stick with the laptop thank you very much. I never realized they were so cumbersome and heavy. Time to hit the gym.
  • Given that the Pixel C is over a year old at this point, can you still recommend it? I was thinking about getting one being as Google is discounting the 64 GB model at the moment.
  • YES! I have one and it's my only personal large screen I use. I used to carry a sp3 but the battery life was just so bad. The Pixel C lasts a week between charges. When I'm working I can have the screen on for 12 hours before it dies. Incredible device. Still very powerful. If you can get it at a discount I highly recommend it!
  • I don't know what you were doing with your SP3, but mine seems to have great battery life. Maybe you got one of the ones which had battery problems.
  • I was lucky to get 2 hours of battery. Even at it's best there is NO WAY it would ever come close to Pixel C.
  • All about how much value you put on $650 for one. I think the Pixel C is still a solid tablet, but you can't buy it expecting it to be the top of the line for much longer. It still has another year of support left from Google, so you'll get mileage out of it, but if you're at all worried about the cost you should just wait.
  • I would not recommend it at all. Just received my 3rd unit this Wednesday. First one I had, after a few months of use, a few days before my holiday it suddenly started freezing and would not respond, before that I had many issue with wifi connection. The 2nd unit, after a few months use would turn on but have a very dimmed screen which you can hardly see. This also had the WiFi issue. I will definitely extend warrant as I've completely lost confidence in this device and just waiting for the next problem to occur. From the forms I've seen many other people have similar issues.
  • One good, one bad, and one middling review. Good stuff - that's given me some things to think about. Thanks guys!
  • I didn't realize a mouse would work... game changer??
  • I have used a Logitech M535 with mine and it works perfectly.
  • Xbox 360 controller also works flawlessly. Wireless model has some weird issues...But the wired one is awesome!!
  • Mice have worked with Android really well for years, but we just haven't had that many tablets with these laptop-like form factors where a mouse would make sense.
  • Yeah, it's really cool. I'm writing this right now on an iPad Pro 9.7 with a Zagg slim book, and I love it. It's fast, good app support. I'm a lawyer and really use this exclusively when I'm out of the office for email, basic drafting of docs, reading PDFs, etc. Having a mouse would be better. I know that Microsoft has Outlook and Word, and there's dropbox and other file management systems on Android. I bet I could sell my iPad and keyboard and pick up a Pixel C for not much money out of pocket, if any at all.
  • I was messing about the other day and connected a Bluetooth mouse to my Pixel XL, which I knew beforehand would work as it has for years with Android, like you say. It was a bit of fun holding my phone in one hand and using the mouse in the other. 😀
  • All mice and keyboards have always worked on Android devices plug and play, nothing to do with being a Pixel C. Try plugging them into your Android phone or TV box, or other tablet, any brand Samsung, HTC, Nexus etc They will all work perfectly and always have. Indeed almost all Android devices can also plug in thumb drives and have full file browsers built in, and yes can handle multiple drives and moving files back and forth, the majority of USB to Ethernet dongles will work plug and play as well. And finally most Android phones/tablets support at least one, usually more of HDMI-MHL, USB to DisplayPort or DisplayLink over their USB port. So yes, you can get reasonably priced port replicators that have enough USB ports at add a keyboard and mouse to your phone, charge your phone, give your phone Ethernet connectivity, add external HDDs, and have a large Full HD monitor connected, all with one USB cable plugged into the bottom of your phone! And most of this has been possible for years on most brands of Android phone.
  • Don't need to do any of the a I've nonsense, just pair up a Bluetooth mouse, job done, no dongles
  • External display would be the most useful docking accessory to make it more functional.
  • Waiting for pixel c 2
  • If there is one ...
  • Do you have any reason to believe that there won't be other than the fact that Google didn't in November? Google has typically related new devices when there was a need to. Given that the Pixle C was so advance hardware wise at release, and didn't really take advantage of it until this spring, it's not surprising that they didn't release a successor so quickly.
  • I have this same Anker dongle and I've gotten a lot of mileage out of it! Important to note that the USB-A ports it gives you are 3.0, not 3.1, so you're capped at 5 gbps transfer rates (which is hardly anything to scoff at, just important to note). The only thing I wish it had in addition is a Mini DisplayPort.
  • I've been thinking about picking up a Pixel C, but it's age has me hesitating. Would you recommend I get one, or should I wait a while longer and see if a "Pixel C 2" is released in 2017?
  • 100% yes!
  • If we see one in 2017 it won't be until fall. Yes I recommend the Pixel C. Hell of a tablet!
  • Andrew, why didn't you or someone at AC try this when the device was new? Google gives you a brand new type of device (at least new for then) and instead of pushing it's boundaries you guys use it like a normal tablet and give it an overpriced review... This is the exact type of functionality that would have changed a poor review IMO.
    I typically come to AC because you guys have Jerry try out all this stuff in New ways, but it seems like you waited a year to give the C a fair chance.
  • We can't put all products through every single scenario right away, nor can we dedicate 100% of our resources to one device at a time. It's not like I withheld this article just to be mean and not inform our readers. When I started using the Pixel C more, I noticed how this works and wrote an article about it.
  • Andrew can you tell us exactly how you got the ethernet to work on your Ankler hub? I just bought the same one and can't get it to work
  • Unless I'm misunderstanding something this sounds very similar to the Kickstarter Superbook that allows you to use your phone through a laptop shell. I should be getting mine in February.
  • I don't see any relation to that at all. This is just the standard relationship of plugging a phone into a computer and transferring files. There's no active sharing of data or mirroring here.
  • Andrew thank you for the lovely article! You have sold me on a Pixel C and keyboard with this article alone. Adding a mouse and dongle to the Pixel C seems to make it a very versatile way to not only travel but get work done when you're on the move! Thanks again!
  • Wow I wasn't trying a sales job per se ... but hope you enjoy the tablet!
  • Getting one for my Yoga Book. Thanks for the great article.
  • With the right apps and maybe a custom ROM, I could see it being a Chromebook replacement, but decent laptops just have too much power to compare with most tablets these days. Except for the Microsoft Surface Pro of course.
  • Stop saying "dongle". They're just adapters people.
  • They have a cord that makes them hang loose. That's a dongle. An adapter would be flush.
  • Just been looking at the Pixel C in PC With. It was £100 off, making it £299 I think. To be honest though I think if you are going to use it like this you might as well go for the Chromebook Flip and leave the adapter at home. Some of the other android tablets were a joke though, they are still selling Samsung tablets running 4.0!
  • I dunno man. I have the LTE 128gig iPad Pro 12.9" with the pencil and Smart Keyboard cover...it's pretty amazing for productivity. Yes, it runs iOS, no I'm not religiously opposed to iOS and no I'm not trying to start a teenager OS war. It's a beast.
  • The moment you mentioned the ****** overpriced iPad Pro is the moment you started the war, Apple and its ****** overpriced products and simple and pathetic OS aren't welcome here in the Android world and simply doesn't compare with the superior Android platform.
  • Oh hi, I #triggered you, nice. I had a Pixel C and keyboard. Sold it and bought an open box (negotiated price) iPad Pro 12.9" for the same cost. Also bought a used pencil and smart keyboard for $70/each. So netted out to about the same cost as the Pixel C and keyboard. Functionally the iPad is far superior - it's no secret that Android tablets aren't the best ever. And the Pixel C only has 1 year left for support, then it's rooting and flashing. Nah dawg, not for me. Nice meltdown though. Merry Christmas. I love Android equally as well, so sorry for sharing my experience. Back to the echo chamber I guess.
  • Settle down tolani05
  • Good timing for this review as I just purchased an Acer Chromebook R11 and it can run Android Apps. Can always use more ports so I just ordered the USB version from Amazon Canada. Good review as well and Merry Christmas to all!
  • No full desktop apps = Hardly a laptop
  • There's always at least one of these guys lurking around isn't there.
  • Whatever. I've used Android tablets before, and their apps are just giant phone apps. Any tablet has this kind of extensibility, but that doesn't make them laptops.
  • Good job no-one called it a laptop isn't it?
  • I still don't understand why people buy this device and wish it was like a laptop, personally I have regular tablet ( Nexus 9) and use a great device that can actually be a great laptop - Surface Pro 3 (yes, I know this android central - so don't even try). I know some people think it is not a great device but most of them have never use it if they did they would realize it is actually a powerful machine.
  • I feel like Android tablets are dead. Correct me if I'm wrong but not a single high end model was released by any manufacturer in 2016, the devices of 2015 are the best and recommended. With the way Android updates work, these devices will probably get one more major update if lucky. I also feel like Windows on ARM is the nail in the coffin for Android tablets, still the best phone OS in my opinion and that's it. Good article BTW
  • You're wrong. Lenovo released the Yoga Book which I'm currently using to write this. Btw, it's fantastic.
  • Well, strictly speaking, it's a convertible laptop, not a tablet.
  • I purchased one of these for my HTC 10. Want to play around with using it as a computer. I can cast the screen to my TV via my chromecast. I messed around with this on my OnePlus X, using a USB OTG cable, and it worked great. I'm sure the additional processing power is going to make the experience much more pleasant on the HTC, compared to the OnePlus X.
  • I love how people are so determined that a tablet can't replace a laptop. Well for about 90% of what a laptop can do, it can. The things that are left aren't needed by the vast majority of users. And for many people the convenience of an ultra portable and secure device more than compensate for it. Great article Andrew!
  • I don't see why anyone would buy a $500 android tab and the not-cheap keyboard and want to use it as a small notebook, when you can get a nice small notebook which will run your Windows apps and do everything just mentioned and a lot more, for much less money. Or get a 2-in-one Windows machine (like I did) and get the best of both tablets and tiny notebooks, again for less money. If I wanted a cool tab, I'd get that Yoga book. At least it has that nifty if awful to use virtual keyboard. It's unique anyway... And it comes in Windows! The Pixel is a beautiful thing. But just not a very smart buy. I know - heresy on an Android website :)
  • if your already invested in apple there is no good reason to get the pixel c. I purchased it with the keyboard for $499 on special over a year ago. The tablet is the best Android tablet on the market for business and productivity but maybe not for the price. It can replace a laptop for me in most cases, I can take it anywhere and get my work done but the same could be said for any recent iPad with a keyboard. If your already invested in android it's the best option by far if you need a keyboard. It's the quality that's impressive, apple people won't get it because all iPad are great quality but android has just had plastic tablets from Samsung for years setting the bar low. If it was $399 with the keyboard it would be easier to suggest.
  • Does it work with Android
  • Pixel C or Lenovo Yogabook???
  • I bought the dongle mentioned above but when I plug it all in, my Pixel C doesn't get a network connection. Am I missing something?
    My Pixel C is on the latest OS 7.1.1.
  • Did you make sure you turned off the Tablets WIFI?
  • Like GP98144 I bought a dongle after reading the above article, and it doesn't work for me. Not exactly the same dongle, as the Anker device wasn't available from amazon.co.uk, but something with a different brand name but what looks like the same specification.
    This is the URL of the Anker device:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00XU6PM68/?tag=hawk-future-20&ascsubt...
    and this is what I bought:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/TeckNet-Ethernet-Including-ChromeBook-Aluminum/... When I plug the device into my Pixel C Android tells me it's providing power to the device, the device's power light is lit and the green light by the ethernet connector comes on. But when I plug in an ethernet cable the port light on my router isn't lit and no data flows. (The cable's fine - I tested it on my netbook.) Likewise, if I plug a flash drive into the device it doesn't register on my Pixel C.
    Any idea why it's not working for GP98144 and me, while it does work for the reviewer? I don't have the keyboard, if that makes any difference (though I can't see why it should).
  • Did you make sure to turn off your WIFI?
  • Yes - I'd turned WiFi off. Also at one point I had it turned off before restarting Android. No connection any way I tried it.
  • Hi,
    I'm searching a dongle that permits to use the ethernet and to charge the tablet.
    I have a minix neo usb-c https://www.amazon.co.uk/MINIX-USB-C-Multiport-Adapter-HDMI/dp/B01ANITHV... but the adapter does not charge the tablet.
    I see the "charge icon", but inside the options I see "not charging"
    Could you tell me if this adapter can charge the tablet?
    Thank you very much Angelo
  • Read your article and bought the Anker device you referenced. When I plugged it in to my Pixel C (the newest model) while it did recognize the dongle, it did not recognize any of my memory sticks, telling me they were "unsupported." I then tried Panasonic DVD Writer Model SE-218. The Pixel C powered the player but did not recognize that any content was available. The whole point of this exercise was to be able to access content when I travel that is not on the Pixel C drive. My experiment to do so seems to be a dismal failure. It doesn't work as you describe. Although the networking port was not a reason for my buying the dongle, I tried it as well. NO LUCK. Yes... I turned-off WiFi. Any suggestions would be appreciated.