The Pixel C Tablet Is Google’s Answer to the iPad Pro
While Android tablets sell plenty well, outside of the Kindle Fire and (arguably) the Nexus 9, the platform hasn’t had a marquee product to take the iPad head-on. The Pixel C, available later this year, hopes to change that, while putting the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface in its sights.
Like its namesake, the Chromebook Pixel, the Pixel C (which stand for Convertible) is a high-end device with productivity in mind. It also looks like the previous Pixel, or at least, like the Pixel would if you sawed off its bottom half and made a tablet out of it. It also includes an important accessory: A keyboard attachment, available in aluminum and leather, that charges automatically when closed over the device. There’s no kickstand here, though it can still be adjusted between 100 to 135 degrees, and the keyboard and tablet communicate via Bluetooth rather than connectors. Interestingly, the tablet also features the same pitch as a traditional laptop, despite a smaller screen size. Also interesting, or at least uncommon? The Pixel C’s aspect ration of the square root of two (roughly 1.42 to 1), the same as that of a sheet of A4 paper, compared to the 4:3 iPad Pro. It’s closer to square than you might be used to in a tablet, and it also happens to be ideal for viewing the web, which is where Google hopes you’ll be spending the bulk of your time.
Functionally, that puts the Pixel C in the same world as Microsoft’s Surface Pro and Apple’s iPad Pro, hybrid tablet devices that bridge the gap between work and home. The similarities don’t go much further, though. While a powerful Intel Core processor, the same kind you would find in a thin and light laptop, powers the Surface Pro, the iPad Pro and Pixel C both rely on less robust mobile processors. Where the iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface are both 12-inch devices, the Pixel C inhabits a more diminutive (and, arguably, more practical) 10.1-inch display. And the Pixel C will run Android 6.0, versus the Surface Pro’s full Windows prowess.
But don’t mistake the Pixel C for a wimp. It has an Nvidia X1 quad-core processor, a “desktop-caliber” Maxwell GPU, and 3GB of RAM, which should be plenty to power most everyday tasks. Its display packs in 308 pixels per inch, well beyond the iPad Pro’s 264. It has stereo speakers on either side, as well, though that doesn’t mean much without hearing them. You can also have voice interactions from across the room, thanks to far-field microphones embedded. Its USB-C charger gives some future-proof assurances, and will let you charge and transfer data through the same port. It starts at $499 for the 32GB tablet, $599 for the 64GB tablet, and $149 for the keyboard attachment.
Horsepower, though, can only get you so far. What the Pixel C really needs to prove is that Android is optimized not just for tablets, but for productivity as well. Neither of those is a guarantee, especially next to the iPad’s smooth operability and the Surface Pro’s enterprise-ready features.
It’ll be some time before we know whether Pixel C is a niche product (like its Chromebook predecessor), the breakout tablet Android hasn’t yet found, or something in the vast, shrugging middle. It won’t even be available until November. However it plays out, what’s clear is that Google, Apple, and Microsoft all share the same vision for the future of computing. What’s less clear, so far, is whether consumers agree.