The tale of two keyboards: Which Pixel C typing cover is for you?

The new Pixel C has a couple of keyboard covers available for it. Both are $149, and both are currently the only official way to protect the display of the tablet. The good news is that both are pretty capable — and technologically interesting — keyboards. The question is whether you really need one to make the most of the Pixel C as a product.

And that's always been the case with Android tablets. This hardly is the first one to have a dedicated keyboard — the Nexus 9 we've been using for the past year had one as well (and similarly priced at $129). That may well go into your decision whether to update to the Pixel C, and whether to shell out for a keyboard.

The two currently available are in many ways similar, but they also have very different functionality.

Let's take a quick look.

More: The first things to know about the Pixel C

The Pixel C Keyboard

Pixel C Keyboard

The plainly named Pixel C Keyboard is the simpler of the two options in some respects, and more complicated in others. It's a single piece that magnetically connects to the tablet. As a cover — that is closed, with the keys facing the display — it only fits one way, with the tablet's four-color light bar on the same edge as the keyboard's space bar. The back is done in the same anodized aluminum as the Pixel C itself and has four rubber feet, and when closed the whole thing looks like a tiny little laptop.

You break the magnetic bond by sliding the tablet sideways, then lifting it off. You then flip it over and affix it to the top couple inches of the keyboard, which is where all that magical magnetic stuff takes place. It's a little odd at first but you'll quickly get used to it. Once things are in place you lift the top edge of the tablet to raise it up into viewing position. The written specs say you get 35 degrees of viewing angle, and that's just about right in practice — nearly vertical to nearly flat. It's not a bad stand for gaming, though there is a good bit of bounce as you stab at the screen with your fingers.

The magnetic connection remains ridiculously strong. You'll be hard-pressed to shake the things apart. (You can if you really try, but still. It's impressive.)

As a not-quite-full-size keyboard it's pretty competent. The keys have 1.44mm of travel and are pretty good for something this size. As a cover, it adds another 5.5mm of thickness — about 78 percent more thickness, actually. So it goes from svelte tablet to thicker laptop thing, something you'll need to consider if you're trying to lug it around alongside a full laptop. This keyboard weighs in at another 399 grams on top of the Pixel C's 517 grams.

The Pixel C Folio Keyboard

Pixel C Folio Keyboard

The one's for you fans of leather. (And who's not, really?) This folio cover has the same keyboard but also a plastic back plate, and both sides are covered in "full-grain leather." And it's not a bad look. To prop the tablet up as a display you just open the thing like a book, and adjust to either 127 degrees or 146 degrees for viewing.

There are cutouts in the back cover for the camera (should you need to be taking pictures with your tablet) and the Pixel C's light indicator. The volume rocker, power button, speakers and microphone holes are all uncovered as well. All in all it's a very nice folio cover. But it more than doubles the thickness of the tablet to a total 14.5mm. Again, that makes sense if you're carrying the Pixel C around on its own, but it's hard to justify if you also need to have a full laptop with you.

Connecting and charging

Pixel C Keyboard

This is where the differences end, and things get fun. To connect the tablet to the keyboard via Bluetooth, all you have to do is open them up like you're going to use them. There's a "Hall sensor" that'll detect when they keyboard is in the typing position, and it'll initiate the first Bluetooth paring.

Charging is even cooler. All you have to do is close the keyboard and tablet together. The tablet then charges the keyboard via induction, so there's no having to plug it in. In fact, it's theoretically possible to never have to worry about whether the keyboard's 0.5 WHr battery is charged. (We're still in our initial testing, so we've yet to run it down. Will update if there's anything to update on that front.)

The bottom line so far

Pixel C Folio Keyboard

Do you need a keyboard cover for the Pixel C? You do not. It's plenty obvious — and was from the outset — that the purpose for the Pixel C got a little mixed up somewhere along the way, and what we have now is a sexy Android tablet with a keyboard rather than some other (dual-purpose?) device. Not the end of the world, we suppose.

And while the Android OS itself still isn't quite ready to become a full-time tablet-based mobile solution, the Pixel C is very much ready for it to be. Question is which keyboard is going to get you there.

Pixel C tablet (opens in new tab) Pixel C Keyboard (opens in new tab) Pixel C Folio Keyboard (opens in new tab)

  • At that price, neither. But if money wasn't a factor I think I'd go 4 the leather one. Posted via the Android Central App
  • This is cheaper than the iPad Pro Smart Keyboard.
  • That's not saying very much. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Cheaper than something godly overpriced isn't saying much. It's like if you're a terrorist, and in court your defense is you're not as bad as bin Laden.
  • Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'd be more compelled to buy it if it really is meant to be a 2 in 1 kind of device like the Surface Pro series or iPad Pro. Until this fleshes out more, I'm going to wait for a bit. It does have some really nice hardware though...
  • IPad pro is not a 2 in one either. Just a tablet running a mobile os with a keyboard.
  • Oh yeah, that's true. Though Apple seems to market it like a 2 in 1. :p
  • Surface is a two in one. iPad Pro is NOT :P
  • iPad atleast works well unlike surface pro.
  • Seriously???
    This one. Includes a fingerprint scanner to boot. Typing feels better than SB keyboard too.
  • I have this for my SP3. It's amazing. The fingerprint scanner is as fast as my 6P. Posted via the Android Central App
  • What brand/model keypard is that?? need one with a good fingerprint scanner :)
  • I played with the pixel c with the magnetic keyboard and if you are going to spend the 150 for a keyboard... That is the one I would go with. It feels so damned good and it can be put at any angle. I do nott need the key board but I want it for sure!
  • I ordered both I am loving the keyboard on the folio one and I'm excited to test the regular one once it comes in. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I tried it at the Nexus event in Nyc and it is really sturdy. Stayed at any angle I put it at...very impressed
  • I was quite keen on the Pixel C... until I learned that the keyboard is missing the bracket/brace keys. I like to code on my tablet/laptop, and having to go to the on-screen every time I want to type [ ] { } characters would destroy my flow.
  • Actually, there's a "..." button on the keyboard that allows you to get those missing characters.  Look under the "Type more symbols" section.
  • OMG! What a HUGE mistake. Google has NO CLUE! Stick to advertising. Coding is one of the biggest 'productivity' activities people (students) do when on the go.
  • Is anybody saying whether or not a skin cover will be available to help protect the aluminum? Posted via the Android Central App on my Nexus 6
  • Think I'd buy myself a cheap Chromebook for that price, and wait for Google to develop the Pixel C software. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You could buy a cbromebook for the price of the Pixel keyboard. Posted via the Android Central App
  • "the Pixel C software" You mean Android?  If you're in the market for a tablet, this is a great option.  If you're looking for a laptop replacement, I don't think any mobile OS really does that yet. That said, I love having a bluetooth keyboard case for my Tab S, since it makes it easy to take notes or fix code bugs in a conference room, without having to haul around a laptop.  When I want to lean back on the couch, I just pop the tablet out.  A "laptop replacement" is not the only valid reason for having a keyboard on a tablet. I want to get one just because of how easy it is to attach/detatch the keyboard.
  • Yes i meant android and Google's sort of slow and dithering approach to multi window stuff... Posted via the Android Central App
  • Funny how when Samsung debuted mutli-window support on the Note 2, so many people said it was a useless gimmick.  Now, suddenly, the Pixel C is a failure for not having it.  My tablet (which I use regularly for my job as a software developer) has mutli-window and I never use it.
  • If you want a tablet that can be a real computer, you buy a surface. If you want a big android/iPhone phone you buy an android tablet or any iPad. That's pretty clear.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 . Enough Said . Honestly Samsung should re- release that product with same specs and update that software and lower the price . Update the design language to the newer stuff . 399.99 . that way all us early adopters will be happy and they also can get others looking at it .
  • I've *really* been eye-balling the Note Pro series, since I love my Note 3 and being able to scribble notes and sketches in meetings, but have thought about getting a Nexus 6P.  I'm just a little worried about the Note Pro's age, and that it won't be supported much longer.  I would love to see a refresh of those devices.  Are you still liking your Note Pro 12" and are their good keyboard cases for it?
  • How about get a real computer, and get a Surface Pro 4? This thing looks like another one of Google's awful ideas that they seem to get distracted with readily, which will be abandoned shortly. No mouse input (or trackpad), awful keyboard layout, no apps to do anything really productive, etc., etc. Even the iPad Pro would be a better purchase than this, this device probably will be unsupported in another year. At least Apple will continue to make updates, and it has a ... pencil. Nice try Google, but this thing is just awful.
  • I really don't understand it either. It's not a chromebook... A keyboard on Android is so limited. I had one way back when the transformer prime was released and I never used it. It looked cool and made a nice screen cover but it was virtually useless. I have since moved to a Surface Pro 3. I would never,m ever recommend something like this to anyone. If you want something that is much more useful for a similar price get a Surface 3.
  • It all depends on use case.  I've got a keyboard cover on my Tab S that I use all the time. It's great when I need something in meetings, but don't want to haul my laptop.  I can even remote back to my work PC, if I need to do something that requires Windows.  And, if you're really dying for a mouse, grab a USB OTG cable and plug one in and you can have an actual mouse cursor.
  • Question for the masses: I have a Nexus 9 and like it a lot. Aside from considering selling it along with my NVidia Shield TV, is it really worth it to upgrade to the Pixel C with the magnet keyboard or just buy the Microsoft Universal Keyboard for my Nexus 9? Note: I carry the Nexus 6p (on Project Fi) and carry a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (i7, 256SSD, 16GB RAM) I am wondering if the Chromebook Pixel 2 would be a better device in my arsenal, especially with the ability to boot to Linux. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Stay with the Nexus 9. You already have three great devices. Pixel C would just be a waste of money