Google makes lots of Chromebooks. The Pixel ($379 at Amazon) Slate is an attempt to make a tablet that’s also a Chromebook, something like Microsoft’s Surface. Google wants you to think about the Pixel Slate in terms of its beautiful display, its full Chrome browser, its more tablet-like Chrome OS.
I just think about its keyboard.
I got to spend some time with the 12-inch tablet at Google’s New York event, where new Pixel 3 phones and the Google Home Hub also debuted. The Slate is clearly designed to go up against the Microsoft Surface and its workplace-meets-tablet design, but the Slate also seems to come within striking distance of the iPad Pro, especially in terms of price.
Now playing: Watch this: Google Pixel Slate tablet first look
Last year’s Pixelbook was an excellent but seriously expensive Chromebook. The Pixel Slate follows that familiar pattern, aiming for premium in a tablet-meets-Chromebook design.
The Pixel Slate starts at $599, but that’s only for the tablet, no keyboard or pen stylus included. The keyboard’s an extra $199; the pen, an extra $99. And, the Slate starts with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage (non-upgradable). You can pay more for extra storage and faster processors, all the way up to a crazy $1,599 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB storage.
The browser is its best software feature
The Slate seems to shine most when Chrome is open. The Chrome browser, as with any Chromebook, is like a PC, and extremely versatile. New split-screen options open up multiple panes or apps at once, like the iPad ($345 at Amazon Marketplace) or Surface.
The Slate looks pretty, but it’s big for a tablet; with a 12.3-inch screen, this is more like a laptop. The display does look crisp, but the general UI, which aims for a Pixel Android feel, didn’t move all that smoothly at the event’s demo devices. The interface flow just wasn’t as fluid as I expected. Or, just, not iPad-level buttery-smooth. That’s a bit concerning, especially for this price. At a polished product demo event experience, I’d expect the Pixel Slate to be on its best footing.
Yes, as mentioned above, the Chrome can now do split screen, showing two panes at once. Sometimes it seems helpful. The new Slate pen is pressure sensitive and feels like the Surface Pen, but it sometimes seemed to make digital ink spots on the display when the pen hadn’t even made contact yet.
Sarah Tew/CNET And the keyboard’s the best hardware feature
The keyboard — a separate $200 purchase — feels great, though. The snap-on accessory has solid circular backlit keys with generous spacing, a large clickable trackpad and a rear magnetic stand that can be angled to almost any necessary tilt. The case can fold up while staying attached and double as a folio case. This is pretty ingenious.