The Android tablet market had a bit of a stall. With the iPad dominating, laptops diversifying, and phones increasing in size rendering tablets like the initial 7-inch Google Nexus superfluous, there have been a handful of so-so attempts at making the ultimate product.
The Google Pixel Slate takes a different turn: this 12.3 inch tablet, which is billed as Android's iPad Pro competitor, is built from Google Chrome OS. Think of it like a tablet version of the PixelBook, which can be expanded into a full-on 2-in-1 with the addition of the Pixel Keyboard.
But with a hefty asking price that only increases when adding the accessories, is this plus-sized slate a premium tablet worth its cover price, and is Chrome OS really the bedrock of tablet form?
What is the Pixel Slate?
- Chrome OS tablet, starting at £549 (Intel Celeron) ranging to £1,549 (Intel Core i7)
- Keyboard dock sold separately (£189)
As we said up top, the Pixel Slate is a Chrome OS tablet, so its operating system is the same stripped-back, simplified system - just as you'll find in a Chromebook. It's not Android. It's not Windows.
Which, to our mind, means it's not eminently usable without a keyboard. You can add one to the Slate, but it'll add £189 to the asking price. And this keyboard accessory has the same circular soft-touch key design as those in the Google Pixelbook - and we're not that sold on such circular keys. Put together and the Slate's infinite stand does work very well, holding solidly into place, and wrapping around the tablet to function as a cover.
With the asking price starting at £549 for the baseline Intel Celeron model, totalling £738 with the keyboard, the Slate doesn't accomplish being a cheap laptop alternative. We thought the £600 Samsung Galaxy Tab S4 (£719 with its keyboard) was a lot, but the Google offering goes one further. The Pixelbook Pen stylus is sold separately, too, at £99.
Design & Display
- 12.3-inch, 3000 x 2000 resolution, touchscreen LCD display, 400 nits brightness
- Aluminium frame, Midnight Blue colour, Gorilla Glass 5
- Fingerprint scanner (built into power button)
- 2x USB-C ports (one doubles as charger)
- 202 x 290.9 x 7mm; 721g (tablet only)
- Dual front-firing speakers
- 8MP front-facing camera
Still, for the money the Slate does have a lovely screen. Got to give it that. That 12.3in panel has six-million pixels spanning across for sharpness and quality, while there's ample brightness and colour.
The tablet itself is an understated blue, called Midnight Blue, which is a dark shade. The only jump-out point away from this design is the white power button, which also functions as the fingerprint scanner - a neat integration point as it keeps the screen bezels down to a manageable size.
The power port is USB-C, so can be used for additional connections when not in use, while a second USB-C port is always available. Good job there's two, unlike the Apple MacBook which only has the one.
The keyboard dock connects very easily, magnetically clicking into place with ease, while the rear stand looks as though it would only have a couple of positions but can be pressed down for near infinite adjustments. Good job here.
Elsewhere dual front-facing speakers might sound good - we don't know, the launch venue was far too loud - and an 8MP front-facing camera for calls and snaps.
Hardware & Battery
- From Intel Celeron through Intel Core M to Intel Core i processors
- 4GB, 8GB, 16GB RAM depending on model selected
- 4000mAh battery capacity
- USB-C fast-charging
- Chrome OS
Some love Chrome OS, some loathe it. It's not necessarily the go-to software we'd pick for a tablet, but then it is lightweight enough to not typically kill battery life like a Windows tablet would.
This will all depend on the model you select, however, with the baseline Intel Celeron processor being an unexpected choice for a Google tablet. We suspect the step-up Intel Core M3 is the choice, doubling the RAM while adding a £200 premium.
From here on it things get a bit problematic: the Intel Core i5 model costs £969, while the Intel Core i7 model costs an eye-watering £1,549. And we just can't see how those chipsets, despite being 8th Gen and therefore fanless, will cope well in a 7mm thin tablet environment. Especially at this price point. And married to Chrome OS which, frankly, doesn't need such high levels of power. It seems like a mis-match.
The Slate's 4,000mAh cell is only about the same capacity you'll find in a top-spec flagship phone, too, which makes us wonder how it'll perform when used all day long for project work.
Overall, the Google Pixel Slate looks premium, feels great to use, and with the keyboard dock added it functions very well.
If, that is, you're ok with using a Chrome OS device all day - because the Slate is ultimately a fancy 2-in-1 Chromebook - and the considerable asking price. Both of which are big, chin-scratching questions.
Ultimately, the Google Pixel Slate is a bold proposition - just as we said of the Pixelbook in 2018 - but one that might not set the tablet world alight. At least Google is asking questions of the Apple iPad Pro though.