The world of Android tablets has been a strange up and down ride over the past decade or so. I remember Google’s awesome 7-inch Nexus tablet back in 2012. The Chromebook was noticeably less successful with the Android Pixel Slate OS, a sort of touchscreen laptop/tablet hybrid. This was the previous entry for the Google Tablet PC.
the Pixel Tablet is a return to Google’s Android tablets. But her competition never shied away. Samsung’s ongoing series of tablets, for example, and Amazon Fire tablets (Which can download Google Play Store and are affordable). Hopefully, Google’s new Pixel Tablet will be a return to excellent Android tablet software and features, too: The $500 Pixel Tablet looks like a good iPad alternative for folks in the Google ecosystem. Google also took a unique approach by making it a dockable home hub, something Apple should someday steal for its iPad lineup.
Google Pixel device
You do not like
There are only two gripes I have: the Pixel tablet, while it’s fast and really well built, doesn’t have a Google Keyboard tray when booting up, nor any stylus option. This shareable tablet for home and family is more of a tablet for getting work done, though you can totally bring your own accessories and make them whatever you want.
At $500, this Pixel isn’t quite a budget tablet, and if you want to add more storage beyond the base model’s 128GB, the 256GB version is $100 more. Add another $80 for a protective case for your Google Pixel tablet. It’s a more expensive package than Apple’s entry-level iPad. But, if you are looking for a premium Android tablet for families than Amazon fire options Or Samsung’s Tab A series, this seems like your best bet.
Read more: Best Android tablets of 2023
Design: clean and comfortable
Google’s Pixel tablet has an iPad-like feel, with a roughly 11-inch screen and a sleek aluminum enclosure. At just over a pound, it’s comfortable enough to hold but leans towards the heavier side with the case.
The screen resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels gives you a clear and bright picture as well. The side speakers are good enough on their own but not as big as the base speakers provide (as you might expect).
There’s no headphone jack, so you’ll need USB-C headphones or an adapter, or switch to Bluetooth. There’s a fast-acting fingerprint sensor in the power button that unlocks the Pixel Tablet as quickly as a Pixel phone. Overall, this is what I want from a tablet, and it looks good when docked. The entire design ends up feeling like a larger Google Nest Hub or a smart picture frame.
The pricey Google Case (there are less expensive third-party options as well) is pretty nice too, with a soft-touch finish and protective edges, and a metal ring-like kickstand that adjusts to any angle and still docks into the speaker hub. It’s not a keyboard case, but you can add your own Bluetooth keyboard for office typing.
The dock is awesome
Google includes a dock that the Pixel Tablet magnetically attaches to this charge and acts as a stand so the tablet can be a home picture frame, smart home interface, speaker/screen connected to YouTube features, or whatever else you might need. The speaker-equipped dock has a fabric covering much like other Google Home products and is small enough to pack easily for travel. Its speakers seem booming for playing music indoors, too.
Picking up the tablet on and off is relatively easy, though sometimes the magnetic pins can be difficult to locate, and pulling the tablet off the dock can sometimes cause the lightweight dock to drag with it. The charging plug and cable are also proprietary, not USB-C. The Pixel Tablet has a USB-C port for charging, but you’ll need that docking cable to connect it to your home, and the cable length isn’t exactly long.
The Pixel Tablet supports sending audio from another device to the tablet when it’s connected, but the speaker dock won’t work when the tablet isn’t docked and doesn’t have Bluetooth. This is kind of a glitch if one person wants to use the speaker while another person is using the tablet.
Performance and software: Fast and optimized, for the most part
Google Tensor G2 chip, similar to what’s in the newer one Pixel phonesIt’s nimble in a tablet and generally works well. There were a few moments where apps seemed to lag a bit in split-screen multitasking, but that could also be because it’s a beta device running early software.
Google’s renewed interest in tablet software offerings, with Apple-like multitasking iPadOS; Applications can be easily dragged from the application’s taskbar to another window, and two applications at a time can be modified to fit a few predefined size settings. Google has also added a series of tools that help customize information, which I found sometimes useful and other times not flexible enough.
Videos from another app, such as YouTube, can appear and hover in a small window on top of these split windows, too. It’s great to work in these modes, although not all apps work with the Pixel Tablet yet. Google has focused on improving a handful of popular apps as well as its core apps first, but hopefully more will come. There are also some Google Play apps that don’t work at all on the Pixel Tablet, including Geekbench, which we use to test tablets for performance comparisons.
The Tensor G2 offers some tricks that Google has on its Pixel phones, too, notably the Magic Eraser in the Photos app, which removes people or objects from shots. Dictation works well, too: I can see myself typing a lot phonetically with the Pixel Tablet, even if I’m still missing a dedicated keyboard case (hint, hint). The on-screen Google keyboard is fine, but I didn’t like it. I also found that some multi-finger swipe gestures got a little weird at times in apps like Google Earth. For example, some swipes and two-finger pinches weren’t always recognized, but perhaps a future software update could address that.
The front-facing 8MP camera looked good for selfies and video chatting, and it came out sharper than your average laptop video chat expectations. Google has placed its camera on the long edge where it needs to be, like Apple’s latest 10th-generation iPad. This means that this tablet can easily be used for video chatting when docked. But, subject tracking and auto-framing didn’t seem to work on my review unit, and video quality looked better right now using Google Meet than it did on Zoom.
Google makes additional accounts very easy
Another advantage of Google tablets over iPads is account swapping. Like a Chromebook, you can add additional accounts and switch to others easily enough here, even going into guest or child mode. This underscores the family sharing concept that is at the core of this tablet, and I love it. I can easily see the Pixel Tablet as a casual option to grab a tablet in the living room where anyone can pick it up as needed and check some stuff, watch a video, or play a game.
I miss Google’s Slate-focused work, though
I’m missing some of the insights Google had in its previous Slate tablet, which was more of a Chromebook with Android perks. The Pixel Slate made the keyboard and trackpad one of their big built-in features. This time around, the Android-focused Pixel tablet went the other way, toward a tablet that’s shareable, video-playable, game-browsing, and app-browsing, but without any great ideas for how to add a keyboard or access ChromeOS-type features in a new, useful way. Anyone who wants a Chromebook will still want a Chromebook — or a laptop. You can add a keyboard here, or a stylus, but your mileage won’t be the same as on another Android tablet. Plus, with other options from Samsung, OnePlus And Amazon, keyboard accessories already exist — or even built in.
Yes, it can be a home hub too
I haven’t tested this tablet’s smart home features, but you can connect Google Home devices and services just like you would on a Google Home Nest Hub. This is the Pixel Tablet’s greatest success as a device, and where Google has focused this time around with its design. Voice response through its microphones was quick, and I was able to quickly play music, ask questions, play audiobooks, and play YouTube videos using voice commands. Once my kids realized this thing could play videos, they gathered around it like a mini TV. It can be a great choice for the kitchen, especially since the tablet moves around when it’s on the dock (avoid contact with counter tops). The dock won’t adjust beyond a slightly raised angle, but I found it easy enough to look out over a counter or nightstand.
A great start for Google’s return to tablets
Don’t stop, Google: keep building on the Pixel Tablet, add a keyboard case, and maybe lower the price a bit (with a case and 256GB storage option, which costs an extra $100, you’re suddenly paying about $700). But this is the Google tablet you’re probably looking for, despite the price. The only question is whether Google sticks to its software and performance over time. Google tends to suddenly change focus on product lines, especially tablets. But the Pixel Tablet is a great addition to its lineup and an ideal non-phone option. Please keep it.