The Pixel Slate (still) doesn't suck

Pixel Slate
Pixel Slate (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

Unpopular opinion time: Google's Pixel Slate (opens in new tab) isn't a bad product.

It's expensive and has limited appeal, for sure, but as far as Chrome OS on a tablet goes, it's the best you're going to find if you're willing to pay too much money for Chrome OS on a tablet. Right up front, I'm not a tablet kind of person, not at all. I don't like Chrome on a tablet, I don't like Android tablets, I don't like iPads and think any piece of glass bigger than 6 or 7-inches that doesn't have an attached keyboard best belongs in someone else's hands.

I don't like tablets very much, but this is the best (and most overpriced) Android tablet you can buy.

I am, however, a Chrome OS kind of person. I use a Chromebook for everything except playing my favorite PC games. I'm willing to put up with Chrome's bugs and glitches because they are better than Apple or Microsoft's bugs and glitches to me. And that's the type of person it takes to think the Pixel Slate is anything but a flop.

I felt this way when I first laid hands on the thing and after a handful of minor updates, I still feel the same: it's far better than most reviewers say it is. The two things — using Chrome every day and putting up with its wonk every day — are most certainly the reason. A reviewer who uses a MacBook or Surface every day is going to hate the thing I don't and vice versa. Trust me, nobody would be happy with my review of a computer that's not Chrome-based unless they too are just done with MacOS and Windows. That's why it's important to read more than one or two reviews before you plunk down $1,000 for something like a Pixel Slate. Or a MacBook, for that matter.

You might be asking why in the world this has come up again? Haven't we heard everything we ever need to hear about the Pixel Slate and it should stay out of the limelight until it dies? Because I'm not a tablet guy and because I have several really nice Chromebooks here, I would have agreed with you until just this past week when I dusted off the gigantic tablet to see how well some of the newer Android apps and games worked while using it. And that's when I decided it was worth talking about again.

Most Android apps are bad on tablets, but games can be the exception.

Android apps on tablets mostly suck. Let's stop beating around the bush and come to grips with that simple fact. There are a handful that take advantage of a big screen but most of them are made by Google itself and you'll have to look long and hard to find 20 other apps worth installing on an Android tablet. You don't have to dislike tablets to agree that a lot of ... something is needing to be done if Android on a tablet is ever going to become great. One exception to this general rule, though, is gaming. Plenty of Android games are pretty darn great on an even bigger screen.

After doing my usual round of trying my apps on a tablet and hoping different results this time, I stumbled across Stardew Valley (opens in new tab). I'm not a fan of pixel-art farming role-playing games (there are a lot of things I am not a fan of it seems) but Stardew Valley has its own quirky charm and it's easy to see why it is a hit on every screen it's available for. It's also fantastic on the Pixel Slate.

I can have it running in its own window while having a browser open to see who in the valley wants a turnip for their birthday or what that purple-haired lady likes when she's not working at the saloon. I can also get my messages and emails at the same time, just like I could if I were playing on my phone. Except I can actually see everything in a game that was designed for the PC and consoles that use a much bigger display than my phone.

The Pixel Slate's big draw over another Android tablet or the iPad is a real desktop web browser.

One thing sets the experience apart from another Android tablet or the iPad: a real desktop-class web browser. I have all my bookmarks, all my extensions and privacy controls, can easily use my VPN if I like, and because Chrome the browser runs really well on Chrome the operating system I can have it all running at once thanks to the Pixel Slate's overkill-level of hardware. That's pretty spiffy and has me looking at more Android games that look and act great on a tablet.

I'll tire of poking at an oversized — really, 12 inches is entirely too big for a tablet unless you have the forearms of Superman — piece of glass whenever I need to type or resorting to a folio keyboard that does suck to do it soon, I'm sure. But I'm glad I gave it another try so I could remember that the Pixel Slate doesn't really suck. It's just misunderstood.

These accessories for the Pixel Slate also don't suck and are a must-have if you've picked up Google's Giant Chrome Tablet.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Even as an Android nut, if anyone ever asks me what tablet to get, my response is always 'get an iPad'. Sad but true.
  • As much as we're an iPad family regarding tablets, for school, my daughters both required leased Surface Pro 3 at time. I actually liked them and I sometimes debate getting one as much as I use my W10 laptop. I've got several different Android phones yet, only single Android tablet from 7-8 years ago. Never even thought to get another one.
  • Then you're handing out shiite advice there Ronnie. iPads are great for some users and their specific needs - and for other users, with use cases and workloads that extend beyond some light gaming, consuming content and browsing the www, then a the iPad is probably the wrong device. Like most broad generalist approaches, your approach to recommending devices just plain sucks. Nice work Ron.
  • Hello Brian. I’m a user that has a work load beyond light gaming and consuming content. I utilize a program called xactimate which runs like dog **** on every android tablet I’ve owned. On the cheapest 2018 iPad, it works beautifully. I also use numerous diagraming and cad programs, some of which aren’t available on Android, and when they are, they fail to take advantage of the larger screen. They are also photo programs I use including photoshop that run like **** on my tab s4 but work wonderfully on my iPad Pro 12.9. All this to say, I see what Ronnie is saying. I’m a big Android lover. My personal phone is an lg v40 and my work phone is a galaxy s9. Hell, I bought the tab s4 even though they used last years processor..which I knew they would. That being said, the large screen for Android blows. I bought the pixel slate when it came out. The i5 model. It ran like hell compared to my iPad Pro 12.9 (2018) model. I paid over 1k and the lag was ridiculous. I agreed with Ronnie. Get an Android phone but the tablet scene just isn’t there yet. Maybe with chrome os advancing and merging more with Android we’ll finally get a decent experience. I hope.
  • No man. As much as I want to agree with you... There is nothing in the Android tablet world that even comes close to offering the performance (and apps) the iPad does. I wish it weren't true! And remember, I'm only talking about everyday folk, non techies... The iPad just works.
  • True but it's a valid point it's browser is limiting. There's no more important app than the web browser. I appreciate the Pixel Slate isn't for everyone but it's browser excels.
  • I've used the Slate, and as much as the hardware is gorgeous and it seems like a solid tablet, it is vastly overpriced. Additionally, if you're looking to get it as a laptop replacement... Don't. It's better than an iPad Pro but only marginally. The keyboard attachment is absolutely atrocious compared to a Surface Type Cover. Google has a long ways to go there if they try again.
  • I was interested in getting this device, but wanted to get the Brydge keyboard instead since that one didn't look like it sucked. Have you tried that one? Since the round keys on their official one seemed like a nightmare after I tried round keys on a logitech bluetooth keyboard. Turns out keys are best kept as squares.
  • I've heard the Brydge does go some way towards improving it, but it's still not an amazing experience. I recommend waiting for a sell to pop up (with how poorly the device has been doing, I'm surprised it hasn't already happened) and if you can try and find somewhere that sells the Brydge keyboard so you can test it first. Or make sure you have a decent return policy. For me, the keybkard experience ruins the Slate. The Pen isn't all that great either, but that's more Chrome OS.
  • I agree with Jerry. Tablets that are 12 inches or bigger are simply too big. That 8-10inch range, with a weight under 1.5lbs, is best. Really, the iPad size, or the Pixel C, are the best sizes for 'large' tablets.
  • Agreed. Around the 10" size is the perfect tablet size. The Surface Pro and iPad Pro 12" suffer being used as tablets. They're too big. In this case, like the Surface Pro, they have to be this size though or they'll struggle as a laptop. Which is their bigger user case.
  • Mine is my primary computer. I love it.
  • Same. It sucks as a tablet but I use it as a laptop and it's fantastic. People wanna ***** about the keyboard but I've had zero issues and quite enjoy it. I don't ever have a need to rest it on my lap though so maybe that's where it falls short. I don't know, I just really dig it.
  • Do you ever use it as a tablet? If not, like the Surface Pro, what's the point over a laptop. Plenty of people use a Surface Pro and never remove the keyboard. I get it's very compact but a thin and light laptop would offer a much better experience. I remove my Surface Pro keyboard about a quarter of the time so it makes sense for me.
  • Some people just like the form factor of having a tablet and detachable keyboard. I have an iPad Pro with the Smart Keyboard and I never use it without the Smart Keyboard.
  • I was curious, how much do you use it with or without the type cover? 50:50 or something else?
  • I have a Surface Pro and most cases that I've taken the keyboard off was wto read documents in portrait mode, play some games, or anything that doesn't really requiree to type extensively. Light browsing, quick email composing or reading them. Basically, anytime I find myself handling the device.
  • I have to agree with the author of this article. Just as he mentioned, you have to love ChromeOS to see the greatness of the Google Pixel Slate. Case in point, see the first few comments above for reference ^^. I wouldn't say that I hate the Microsoft OS, but I certainly do NOT love it. I will avoid it in any way possible, however. Ergo, my dislikes for Microsoft OS will confuse Microsoft lovers the same way my love for ChromeOS boggles the minds of that crowd. We just agree to disagree. The misguided reviews of this device (true the device probably needed another month's of updates before release--I never saw any lagginess as reported on Celeron models) were so far off base, that unfortunately, many folks considering the device were scared away by what I refer to as "tech reviewer bias". These reviewers were never, and will never like or understand ChromeOS. Nor are they anywhere near the right "authority" to opine on the device. Just look at MKBHD's review of the Pixelbook at launch. All he could muster is "this device is weird". Now a year and a half later, the device is widely viewed as oustanding success. Not all tech reviewers are made equal, period. I would no sooner look to the MKBHD or similar Youtube reviewers for purchasing advise the same as I would not ask my 95 year old grandfather to recommend my next laptop. That said, I purchased the Slate (I5 Model) because I was coming from the similarly Youtube reviewer maligned Google Pixel C tablet--that I loved (Same detachabe keyboard minus touchpad, that Apple drew praise for releasing for the iPad Pro). The Pixel C was end of life for Android updates and I was seaking the next tablet in my life. In comes the Slate. I was also attracted to the Slate since Google will support the device for 6+ years, that also gave me access to Android apps. Finally, the Folio Keyboard is great. I've used it on my lap with no issues and the typing experience is better than on the Pixelbook (which says alot...and far better than Apple's butterfly switch keyboard---has backlit keys and thanks to the pogo pins, immediately switches the Slate from laptop mode to tablet mode when detached, with no delay comparied to other technologies such as "just works". It's not the "perfect" device, but neither is the iPad or Surface Book. The Slate more than meets my expectations and I am very pleased with my purchasing decision now, and the Slate will continue to get better with regular ChromeOS updates every 6 weeks.
  • I do my on my Celeron Asus Chromebook, bought new in 01/2019, but only paid £200 for this so I don't mind.
  • I cant get over the sexually suggestive looking squirrel
  • You sir, have got some serious issues.
  • I agree with the author and Trent41. I have had the mid-range pixel slate since the day it was released. It is not quite my daily driver, but it is very close. (pro tip: skip the Google slate keyboard and buy a gboard keyboard. It's cheaper, it turns the slate into a clamshell device and it feels amazing to type on.) The screen is amazing, the audio is shockingly great, and the pen works extremely well. (why Google? Why did you make a perfect cylindrical barrel for the pen? Set it down anywhere and it rolls away..) Google shot themselves in the foot by releasing that underpowered entry level slate. Of course that's the unit that news outlets provided to their reviewers... So that's the unit they formed their one and only opinions on... Washed their hands of it and walked away. Google made (and still makes) expensive reference hardware. They should just own that and not try and enter low-priced units into the mix. That single, bad PR move has now consigned the slate to the dustbin of tech history, unfortunately. It's an amazing little machine, and it deserves better.
  • "Google shot themselves in the foot by releasing that underpowered entry level slate. Of course that's the unit that news outlets provided to their reviewers..." Actually most seem to get the i5 model. Power shouldn't have been a problem.
  • I just recently bought the Surface Book 2, tried Chrome OS numerous times, on ARM and Intel variants, just never could get into them. I'm a tablet person. I have a lot of them, Apple's iPad Pro 1TB version, Samsung Tab S4 64 (may upgrade to 256), 3 Huawei tablets (8.4, 10.8 Pro LTE and non-LTE), two Note Pros (LTE and Non-LTE to test out Exynos vs Snapdragon), two Tab S 8.4, a cheap joke Atom Windows Tablet hybrid for $200, and one cheap $80 android tablet to see how bad it would suck (a lot). So I'm a tablet junkie. Though, I HATE chrome OS apps, it's impossible to tell which ones are online and which can be used offline, Intel + Android Apps were a nightmare. I take notes, hence why a lot of my tablets as you see offer pen support. It's a very vital feature for me. I love drawing, drafting and taking notes. I might get the top tier of this one with the Brydge Keyboard. As long as if someone can tell me if they fixed the Android Intel ARM emulation issue. I used to use Fii Notes on Android, and boy was it sluggish on my HP X1 Chrome or whatever, an i3 device, yet on the Samsung Chromebook V1 ARM it was pretty great, but terrible keyboard.
  • ChromeOS apps are Websites in a window. So you hate websites? :-/ Because they're designed for a keyboard/mouse most ChromeOS web apps perform better than the android version. Most cannot be used offline (Gmail, Google Docs etc... can). Use Android apps if you need offline support.
  • got the core i7. battery lasts forever, even when running gitkraken and intellij while compiling scala code. complaint i just discovered while sitting here using it? if you're on a metal table on a restaurant patio, the folio case adheres to it real hard. i've owned a lot of android tablets and chromebooks over the years...and one ipad...the slate is definitely my favorite.
  • I wish a Pixel Mini was released as an 8" Android tablet, these still have a market, but otherwise agreed the Pixel Slate is nicer. Android tablets are fine but limited.
  • It is clearly overpriced. This we know...but damn, it works well.
    It has become my major companion for trips, fun and work and i can't complain.
    Yes, it's on the large side but sometimes it is more then welcome ( i also take notes with the pen).
    After a littel hickup at the beginning ( imprint not working with GSuite accounts) it all got perfect.
  • I've owned the m3 Pixel Slate from day one and I have no problem using it as a tablet. I am a retired IT director and my primary PCs still run Windows 7 because it is no frills and it works. Just like my Slate. I've been lucky that all the Android apps that I run on my Pixel 3 XL run as they should on the Slate. One app really didn't run well on the Slate, but the developer released an update this week and now it runs great! It might be overpriced, but I like the package and it will keep me happy for many years.
  • In Europe the Slate is not for sale, so I got the HP x2 Chromebook, also a detachable, but more affordable. The screen is also too big to be used as a tablet. I sometimes use it however to show colleagues the content of my screen.
  • I'm often surprised that there is little coverage of the Samsung Chromebook Pro. I imported one from US via Amazon and it's the best laptop / tablet I've ever owned. The screen is typical pin sharp Samsung and it powers along nicely with its M3 processor. Forget the slate, this is the true Chrome tablet experience. Best of all, it's around £400.
  • I also have the pro and it works flawlessly.
  • I'm hoping for cheaper ChromeOS hybrid tablets because I like ChromeOS and am sold on the form factor after buying a Surface Pro but the Pixel Slate is much to expensive and I'd want an SD card slot to keep the cost down. The M3 model, reportedly the lowest usable version, is nearly £1000 with the keyboard. If this was half the price I'd be considering it (with the third party keyboard). The Surface Pro is an even worse tablet OS than Android is. At least Pixel slate has mobile apps and the full Desktop browser is more useful to me than anything the iPad (IOS) can offer. Let's not forget the Surface Pro was slated until it's third release.
  • It was *just a squirrel*. Then you made this comment and now, no matter what I do, it had become "Sheila, the Sultry Squirrel", or "Roxanne, the Randy Rodent..."
  • Here's an even more unpopular opinion: The Pixel C is still the best tablet on the market. Or at least it would be if it were still available on the market. And the Pixel Slate is just too large and too heavy. Too much. I have been using my Pixel C every day since Google stopped deploying beta versions of Android on it. That alone was the reason for the initial reports of instability; the software was beta. It is the perfect size, with the perfect screen ratio combined with great battery life. Oddly enough, I think the reason why the Pixel C failed is that Google insisted on marketing the Pixel C as a laptop replacement with its cheap but expensive keyboard. With a keyboard, the Pixel C was a too-expensive, kludgy, faulty laptop not-really-a-replacement. But without a keyboard, the Pixel C was the competitively-priced, even superior non-Apple (and non-PC) tablet many people were waiting for.
  • Let's just agree to disagree on this issue. I decided to after the release and test drive to go with a Samsung Galaxy Book 2(Windows 10) and it has satisfied my needs. It came with the keyboard cover and pen which didn't have to be brought separately like the Pixel Slate, Pixel C, and the iPad Pro. Even has Verizon service to use on the go, I think I mad the wiser and less expensive decision on my end.
  • Jerry you wrote "...can easily use my VPN if I like, " I have not found it easy to use a VPN with my Pixel Slate. Can you 'say more' about which VPN you use and why? I have Express VPN and attempt to use the manual configuration of Express VPN. I wish they'd come up with a more elegant solution but no joy as yet.