Google’s new Pixel Slate is a sub-par tablet that can be transformed into a superb Chromebook. For most folks, that won’t likely amount to a screaming buy.
The search giant’s latest hardware gadget is stuck in a gray area: In tablet mode, it’s powerful, but buggy software prevents it from being a best-in-class device. Meanwhile, those who shell out to attach a keyboard to it will find themselves with what amounts to an exceptional, albeit overly expensive Chromebook.
The Slate starts at $599 and can run you as much as $1,599 if you beef up all the specs. And no — that’s not counting the $199 keyboard you have to buy if you want to turn it into a Chromebook.
If the Pixel Slate came with its folio keyboard in-box, it would be an easy recommendation based on its Chromebook specs alone.
Instead, the addition of the keyboard puts them in the neighborhood of $800 to $1,000 for the models with the weakest specs. At that price, it’s difficult to advise a purchase of the Slate over a high-end laptop in a similar price range.
Out of the box, the Slate is a handsome, sturdy tablet that behaves more like a super-sized Pixel smartphone than any other tablet I’ve encountered.
Using the Slate in its Chromebook mode, which can be achieved by attaching its magnetic keyboard, I was able to quickly go through my e-mail, watch YouTube videos and read news articles.
The 12.3-inch “molecular” display was vivid and sharp, and the Slate’s front-facing speakers deliver impressive sound considering the device’s size.
In fact, after I docked the Slate to its keyboard, I was never inclined to disconnect it again, instead preferring to use it as a Chromebook instead of a tablet.
Though I was able to run Web apps just fine, the Slate ran into problems with Android apps from the Google Play store that weren’t optimized for its large display, resulting in a large amount of wasted screen real estate and some buggy interactions with apps.
Using the Google Pixelbook Pen, which was introduced last year with the Pixelbook and is purchased separately for $99, was a mixed bag.
When the stylus worked, it provided a sharp, responsive writing experience that accurately captured my pen strokes.
But the Google Notes app frequently became overwhelmed and started to jitter and lag, making writing and drawing difficult, forcing a restarting of the program.
Where the Slate did stand out was in its battery life. The Slate reliably gave me close to 10 hours of juice with heavy use.
The Pixel Slate is an interesting device that has more in common with the future of computing than the past. But unless you have the extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, this 2-in-1 is best left in limbo.
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