Google Pixel Tablet: Hands-On Impressions

Google Pixel Tablet
The Pixel Tablet is certainly an interesting take on tablets – but will Google commit?

Ahead of the official announcement of the Google Pixel Tablet at Google I/O overnight, I had the opportunity at a media briefing for a little hands-on time with the search giant’s shiny new tablet.

Just to temper your expectations, however, this wasn’t quite like most hands-on opportunities. Typically I’ll end up with 10-30 minutes to test out a device in those situations, digging into what it can do. I usually can’t take photos away or install benchmarks or other apps or anything, but there’s little off-limits in terms of device appreciation.

This was simpler; it was basically just a photo op, because the Pixel Tablets were locked down.

As such, and because it was a pre-briefing, if Google did sneakily announce some new feature at I/O specifically  – it can solve world hunger, or knows who Carly Simon was singing about or something – then I didn’t know about it then, and the nature of writing this ahead of time means I still don’t. But I doubt it.

Anyway, based on my brief physical examination, here’s my early thoughts:

Google Pixel Tablet: The Good Stuff

Google Pixel Tablet

  • The charging dock is smart: Sure, it makes the Pixel Tablet look like a Google Nest Hub Max, and I’m sure that’s not coincidental. But it’s a smart way to ensure that the tablet is likely to stay charged within a home setting while also adding speakers, because, again, it’s filled with Nest DNA.
  • Feels decent in the hand: Google’s claim to me was that the Pixel Tablet is designed to “feel like porcelain”. I got more of a hint of plastic, to be honest, but it’s nicely grippy as a standalone item.
  • Good screen size: 11 inches is a pretty decent size for a home-based tablet; it’ll be interesting to see if Google does opt to go down to a regular sized Pixel tablet at some point in the future. I wouldn’t be holding my breath for that one to happen this year, though.
  • Google says it’s working to improve the Android tablet experience:  Generally I tend to advise folks wanting a tablet to go down the Apple path, because iPadOS – or iOS as it was back then – was forced to adopt tablet sizes from day one. Android wasn’t, and it’s led to a lot of screen experiences that just didn’t use that extra size sensibly at all. If Google’s now serious about this, that could mean a lot more competition for the iPad – and that’s a good thing.
  • Easy to pop off the dock: Sure, it looks like a Nest Hub, but if you tear the screen off a Nest Hub, it stops working. Removing the Pixel Tablet from its base is a fairly simple process, though I do wonder about pets or kids accidentally knocking it off its perch sometimes.

Google Pixel Tablet: The Not-So-Good Stuff

Google Pixel Tablet

  • The Pixel Tablet doesn’t always snap back onto the dock: The dock is a neat bit of engineering, but it’s not always a smooth matter getting it to clip on nicely. More than once I had the tablet simply slip down rather than magnetically attach. There’s probably a little muscle memory at play there, but it wouldn’t be wise to keep the Pixel Tablet dock near the edge of a desk or bench.
  • It’s not inexpensive: Pixel is Google’s premium brand, but at $899 (128GB) or $999 (256GB) it’s still up there in price terms. That’s low-level iPad Air money.
  • Google’s said it’s working on tablet apps for years now: It’s great that Google says it’s prioritising developers making tablet-friendly apps. But… well… it’s said that before, more than once. Equally, it’s had other stabs at tablets or tablet-style devices before, not that we’ve seen too many of those hit our shores. Does Google really have faith in the tablet form factor this time around? Time will tell.
  • Feels like wireless charging (but it isn’t): You might think that the Pixel Speaker Dock is wirelessly charging the Pixel Tablet. It’s not — pogo pin connections are involved instead. Why does that matter? Well, if you do get damage to those pins on either side, there’ll be no charging for you — or speakers either. Equally it means that if you’re travelling, you’re limited to wired charging only — though to be fair, I can’t think of a tablet that has actual wireless charging as a feature.
  • I couldn’t test much: Look, being Tensor G2 based, I can take a reasonable stab at how well the Pixel Tablet should run. But I can’t really say that it’s worth getting excited about until I can work out if Google really is onto something here. Stay tuned.

Google Pixel Tablet: Early Verdict

Like I said in the intro, my time with the Pixel Tablet was super-limited, nowhere near enough to draw too many definitive conclusions.

The Pixel Tablet won’t be available in Australia until the 20th of June 2023, though I’m hoping to be able to get one in to test before then. Stay tuned.

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