There's been a theme to recent tablet launches and that theme is productivity. No longer is the tablet just about providing a second screen experience, or easy access to something you might have previously quickly done on a laptop. Now your tablet wants to make your laptop redundant.
The Apple iPad Pro was first to launch, expanding Apple's popular iPad line with a new larger size and adding features and accessories to create a more productive device. It was rumoured, it was expected, and it wasn't too much of a surprise.
Google provided the surprises with the launch of the Pixel C. This was less expected, but pushed the same message: this is a tablet that Google thinks will be useful for those working on the move. It's a premium Android tablet, again with clever accessories, looking to push your laptop aside.
So which is the best of this new generation of devices, Google's Pixel C or Apple's iPad Pro?
Pixel C vs iPad Pro: Design and build
These two tablets are the same but very different. They both offer a premium design and build. The design of the iPad Pro is familiar: it's the same as existing iPad models, just increased in size to accommodate the 12.9-inch display and adding additional speakers, with that aluminium casing to the rear. The iPad Pro measures 305.7 x 220.6 x 6.9mm. It's large but slim, and weighs 713g.
The Pixel C is smaller by nature of its 10.2-inch display, but it also has a high-quality aluminium body. There's little to choose between the two when it comes to build quality. The Pixel C measures 242 x 179 x 7mm and it weighs 517g.
Both are a little on the weighty side, the Pixel C especially given the size. However, the Pixel C is likely to be the most portable and easier to take on the move, but the trade-off is sheer display space.
Pixel C vs iPad Pro: Display
Google has crammed in a hefty 308ppi in its Pixel C display that pushes out a 2560 x 1800 resolution on a 10.2-inch screen. There are 500 nits of brightness and full sRGB colour gamut. It's a great display and we found it lovely to use when we reviewed the Pixel C, the aspect giving vertical height for documents over many Android tablets.
The iPad Pro is a larger 12.9-inches so its 264ppi resolution might be less, but it's still great for the size thanks to a 2732 x 2048 resolution. You likely won't be able to see the difference in pixel density, but you will notice that there's plenty of real estate on the iPad Pro display. The space is better used with split screen options, meaning simpler multi-tasking.
The iPad has another trick up it's sleeve, and that's the Apple Pencil, making this a great slate for drawing and designing freehand, making it much more versatile than the Pixel C.
Pixel C vs iPad Pro: Power and performance
The Pixel C packs in the Nvidia X1 processor with 256-cores Maxwell GPU and is backed by 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM. This is a hugely powerful tablet and Android flies on it. Everything is slick and fast, with plenty of graphical capabilities. We found a few stutters however, suggesting that there are some software weaknesses that need to be patched up to get the very best performance from the Pixel C.
Apple hasn't scrimped on power either cramming in a new A9X processor with M9 coprocessor. There's a noticeable boost over the iPad Air 2, so tasks fly. Apps are quick to open and you'll have no problems editing things like 4K video. It's certainly better positioned to power your productivity.
Both the Pixel C and the iPad Pro will see you through the average day of work. We managed to get in excess of 10 hours from the Pixel C and the iPad Pro gave us over 8 hours of average use.
Pixel C vs iPad Pro: Keyboard compared
Neither the Pixel C nor the iPad Pro comes with the keyboard. Yes, both are pitched at productivity, but you'll be asked to fork out extra for the keyboard to do so.
The Pixel C Keyboard costs £119 and is smartly designed. It's small because it fits the size of the tablet, but the keys are a good size, with a nice action for fast typing. It forms a screen protector when not in use and uses magnets to attach securely. It makes a great stand and is wonderfully finished, so looks just as high quality as the Pixel C tablet.
The Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro is larger and doubles as a cover, again, but folds into a supporting triangle at the rear of the tablet. That means there's no freedom to select the angle of the display, unlike the Pixel C. However, with more space, the Smart Keyboard offers a great typing experience. The Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro costs £139.
Neither keyboard offers a trackpad. The Pixel C's keyboard is perhaps more original, but the Smart Keyboard from Apple works really well.
Pixel C vs iPad Pro: Android vs iOS
This is a fight as old as time itself. Well, nearly. The Pixel C launches with pure Android Marshmallow, the iPad Pro comes with iOS 9. Both are mobile operating systems and both are slick, fast, and familiar, on these devices.
The iPad Pro offers more versatility with a native splitscreen option and a wider range of apps built specifically for the Apple tablet, meaning an expanded ecosystem. Although Android apps scale well, not all make the best use of tablet-sized displays and some don't work in landscape. That said, on a 12.9-inch display, there's plenty of unused space in iOS 9 that feels like it could be better set to task.
When it comes to productivity, although there are some great apps, neither iOS nor Android is a fully-fledged desktop environment, so heavier productivity apps aren't supported. Your laptop may live on still, or you might be tempted by a Windows tablet instead.
Pixel C vs iPad Pro: Price
The Pixel C costs £339 for the 32GB model and £479 for the 64GB version. There is no cellular option, it's Wi-Fi only. The Pixel C Keyboard is £119.
The iPad Pro starts at £679 for the 32GB model and is £799 for the 128GB variant. The cellular ready model with 128GB is £899. The Smart Keyboard is £139, the Apple Pencil is £79.
Pixel C vs iPad Pro: Conclusions
Designed with the same thing in mind, the Pixel C and the iPad Pro both have the same drawbacks. Both flirt with productivity, but can't yet deliver the software experience that you'll get on a laptop due to limitations of the mobile OS they run on.
The iPad has the edge with apps, with more apps designed specifically for the iPad and a handy split screen mode to make multi-tasking easier. Then there's the Pencil, adding a wide range of options for those wanting to sketch or draw. You get more screen space too, but you're paying a hefty price for it.
The Pixel C is cheaper, as you'll be able to buy the tablet and keyboard for less than the iPad Pro alone. It's more compact and lighter, making it a portable powerhouse, a great Android tablet, whether you're using it to work or not.