Google Pixel C review: Great tablet, not best for productivity
Google’s most premium tablet to date is enticing, but it’s still a better consumption than productivity device.
Every manufacturer is rushing to fill out its suite of products with a hybrid design. If you’re Microsoft, that means the excellent Surface Pro 4 and the slightly more awkward Surface Book. If you’re Apple, it’s the design-centric iPad Pro. Various Android OEMs have their take on a "productive" hybrid tablet, but it’s Google’s own Pixel C that comes the closest to realising the vision of a premium productivity-centric Android device.
Here are the basic specifications of the Google Pixel C.
|Display size||10.8 inch|
|Processor||NVIDIA Tegra X1|
|Resolution||2560 x 1800|
|Battery life||10 hours|
|Australian price||$699 (32GB) $829 (64GB)|
Upsides: Why you’d want the Google Pixel C
- Great industrial design: Plenty of Android tablets feel cheap and tacky, but Google has gone all out with the premium Pixel C, which has a smooth aluminium finish with a colour light bar at the rear that quickly displays battery power when tapped. It's simple, elegant, and about as close to iPad style as Google probably dares tread. Likewise, the keyboard accessory, which attaches magnetically to form either a screen protector when not in use or a flip-up keyboard when in use, is very nicely engineered once you understand how it works. As an added bonus, the keyboard connects via Bluetooth but charges inductively, so you never need to worry about it going flat.
- Clean Android interface: Like the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, a core benefit of getting a specifically Google-branded tablet is that you get the latest Android release ("Marshmallow"), and updates as soon as they’re available, as distinct from custom Android implementations that can be slow to upgrade, if they upgrade at all.
- Good performance: The Pixel C's Tegra X1 processor and 3GB of onboard RAM is a potent combination in real world use, whether you're crunching numbers in Google Sheets or running a high-end games title. It’s worth noting that the iPad Pro in a strict benchmark sense did trounce the Pixel C in the cross-platform Geekbench 3 benchmark. Benchmarks can be useful as part of a comparison, and there is a pricing gulf between the two devices as well, but the Pixel C is, in actual operation, a swift and enjoyable device to use.
Device Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better) Apple iPad Pro 3234 5499 Google Pixel C 1334 4052
- Solid battery life: The Pixel C’s battery is rated by Google as good for up to ten hours of battery life, and our tests concur with that. Using Geekbench 3’s battery test, which is more usually suitable for straight-up mobiles, it recorded battery life of 9 hours and 41 minutes with the screen dimmed. If you were using the Pixel C for productivity purposes, you should get a full working day’s battery life out of it.
Downsides: Why you might not want the Google Pixel C
- Ordinary keyboard: The Pixel C doesn’t come with the keyboard bundled. Instead, it’s a $199 optional accessory. For $199 you should expect a really decent tablet keyboard, but apart from its unique magnetic hinge, the Pixel C’s keyboard is only really average. There are obvious limitations on a keyboard that attaches to a 10.8 inch screen, but compared to other Bluetooth keyboards from makers such as Logitech, the Pixel C’s keyboard fails to impress at the core job of being an actual productivity-centric keyboard. On a lesser tablet at a lower price point we wouldn't be as fussed by this, but when you want to pitch for productivity, you've got to make being productive as easy as possible
- Android still lags in productivity terms: We said the same thing about the iPad Pro, because right now, tablets are great for consumption of media, but only acceptable at best for its creation. The Pixel C can’t manage proper multitasking the way a comparable laptop can, but it’s priced at that kind of level. There are Android productivity apps for a variety of tasks, but there's little reason right now to devote your working environment that way to speak of when the same kind of money could buy you a much more productive full laptop.
- It's surprisingly heavy: That's heavy for a tablet, not heavy for a laptop, to be clear. Still, add the 517g of the Pixel C to its 399g keyboard, and you're lugging around something that's as heavy as an ultrabook, rather than something that's as light as a tablet.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
If a lot of your productive work revolves around Google’s specific cloud-based apps, then the Pixel C could be a good match for your needs if your tastes veer towards the premium end of the spectrum, although there’s little doubt if all you want is an Android tablet there are many cheaper alternatives.
Within the Android ecosystem, Samsung’s excellent little Galaxy Tab 2 is an obvious contender, and outside it devices such as the iPad Air 2, iPad Pro or Microsoft’s Surface 3 are also worth consideration.
Where can I get it?
Google sells the Pixel C through its online web store in Australia.