Reviews
Pros

-Iconic pixel design/build quality
-Large vibrant display
-Dual stereo speakers
-Android 6.0 Marshmallow
-Keyboard is easy to type on
-USB Type C

Cons

-Lacks micro sd expansion
-Mediocre camera
-Expensive price tag
Keyboard responsiveness can be laggy

Rating
Our Rating
Battery
8.9
Display
9.1
Camera
7.8
Performance
8.7
Software
9.0
Design
9.4
Bottom Line

The Pixel C is a fantastic tablet, and apart from one of the most beautifully-designed and well-built tablets currently available, it is a lot of fun to use when it comes to media-consumption and gaming. That said, it unfortunately isn't yet the productivity machine it is meant to be.

8.8
Our Rating
You have rated this

Along with the new Nexus smartphones, Google announced the latest addition to their tablet portfolio in late September. However, in a rather surprising move, this tablet doesn’t feature the Nexus branding, but is instead the latest addition to the Pixel series, despite being an Android device.

Confusing nomenclature and differing operating systems aside, the Pixel C, like its laptop counterpart, is being touted as a device designed with productivity in mind. Quite a few tablets this year have targeted this niche, but is this curious device really a viable alternative to your laptop/computer? We find out, in this comprehensive Google Pixel C review!

Buy the Pixel C from the Play Store

Related: Google Pixel C first look and hands-on

Design

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Having been designed by the Pixel team, it isn’t surprising that the Pixel C shares a lot of its design language with its laptop counterpart, and in fact, with the additional keyboard attached to the tablet, the device almost looks like a mini Chromebook Pixel. The tablet features the iconic minimalistic Pixel design language, including the brushed aluminium build, along with the multi-colored light bar on the back. Like with the Chromebook Pixel, this light bar can be used to check to battery status by tapping on it.

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The power button and volume rocker are also made of metal and feel very click-y, and with a good amount of tactile feedback. Dual stereo speakers are found on opposite sides of the tablet, which are beautifully machined into the frame, and the headphone jack is on the upper right side. Like the new Nexus smartphones and the Chromebook Pixel, Google has adopted the latest USB Type-C port for the Pixel C, for syncing and fast charging.

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Admittedly, the design of the Pixel C isn’t more than the standard slate form that we are used to, and it may not be the lightest tablet in the world, but its elegant minimalism is what is sure to catch the eye. It also feels absolutely solid, and with every inch of this tablet put together very well, this device certainly screams high quality.

Keyboard

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If you’re looking to get the most out of this tablet, it is definitely a good idea to pick up the optional keyboard that is available. The tablet attaches to the keyboard using some very strong magnets, and you can then adjust the “screen” to whatever angle you find ideal. It does not close like a laptop however, and instead, you will have to detach the tablet and place it face down on the keyboard to close it.

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If you want to use the Pixel C as a tablet without detaching the keyboard completely, the keyboard can be hooked onto the back, but this does make the device even heavier and quite thick, resulting in a very cumbersome handling experience if you are planning to continue to use it in this manner for longer than a few minutes.

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The keyboard may not be full-size, but it is still quite easy to type on. The keys are spacious and with a good amount of travel to them, and there is enough separation between the keys to make them easy to find and identify by feel. Even though the keyboard connects to the tablet via Bluetooth, it can only be used when magnetically attached to the tablet along the hinge, which is great way to ensure there won’t be any accidental or unwanted key strokes. Another nice thing about this keyboard is that it gets its power from the tablet itself, which removes the hassle of carrying around any additional charging cables. The keyboard charges wirelessly when it’s closed in the fashion mentioned above.

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If there is a negative about this keyboard, it is the fact that it’s nothing more than just a keyboard. There aren’t any dedicated Android shortcut keys to be found, and neither is there a trackpad, which means that the majority of your interaction with the tablet is still going to be via touch input. This results in a somewhat disjointed experience, and apart from being able to physically type instead of relying on on-screen keyboards, the keyboard doesn’t provide any extra value or functionality.

Display

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The Pixel C comes with a 10.2-inch IPS LCD display with a 2560 x 1800 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 308 ppi. As is the case with the rest of the tablet, this display is absolutely top notch and looks fantastic. It is very sharp and easy to read, colors are vibrant and saturated but without being overly so, and it gets bright enough to allow for comfortable outdoor visibility. The large display is perfect for browsing the web, watching videos, and playing games, and with an unusual aspect ratio of 1:√2, you get plenty of width for media-consumption in both the portrait and landscape orientations.

Performance and hardware

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Under the hood, the Pixel C comes with a quad-core Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, clocked at 1.9 GHz, and backed by the Nvidia Maxwell GPU and 3 GB of RAM. This processing package provides ample power for any tablet, and even more so in the case of one that is running a stock version of the Android software. Swiping and scrolling through the various elements of the user interface is extremely smooth and snappy, multi-tasking is a breeze, and the device even handles graphically-intensive games very well. The only time there was any indication of a stutter or slow down was unfortunately when using the keyboard. Sometimes, the key presses would lag by several keystrokes, and was an issue that was particularly prominent when using Google Docs.

The Pixel C comes with 32 GB or 64 GB built-in storage options, but with no expandable storage via microSD card possible, users that have storage concerns will have to opt for the higher choice, despite the hefty premium that it warrants.

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The dual speakers of the Pixel C may not be front-facing, but still sound amazing. They get incredibly loud and the audio is crisp and clean, which means that you will rarely find yourself needing to reach for your headphones. It really makes for a far better media-consumption and gaming experience on a tablet when the speakers are this good, and they are also positioned well enough that you won’t end up muffling the sound when holding up the device.

On the battery front, the battery life of the Pixel C has proven to be pretty good, with the device able to comfortably make it through a full day of use with heavy usage, that involved a lot of watching videos and playing games. With heavy usage, the device lasted for around 12 to 15 hours, with around 5.5 hours of screen-on time, and with more standard use, you should be able to push the tablet for a few days without needing to recharge.

aa-shield-k1_front_6See also: Best cheap Android tablets (November 2015)101

Camera

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The camera has never been one of the highlighted aspects of the tablet experience, and the 8 MP rear camera and 2.1 MP front-facing unit of the Pixel C aren’t going to change that notion any time soon. The primary camera does a good job in daylight and well-lit situations, but as expected, the quality deteriorates quite quickly as lighting conditions worsen, with shots in low-light having a lot of noise and very little detail. The front-facing camera is serviceable for the occasional tablet selfie and video calls.

As far as the camera application is concerned, what you get here is the standard Google Camera app, with all of its usual modes, like Lens Blur, Panorama, and Photosphere to be found. Taking pictures with a tablet is still an awkward experience in public, and while you will likely not be taking a lot of photos with it, the camera will do in a pinch.

Software

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The Pixel C is being marketed a device that is intended for both work and play, and that is where the software experience comes in. The device is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, and that means you get access to all the latest features, such as Doze, user defined App Permissions, and Google Now on Tap. The experience is as pure as it gets, but there are a few minor differences to be seen that aren’t available with the Nexus devices.

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To start with, the placement of the notification drop down is contingent on where you swipe down on the display. The on-screen navigation keys have been split to the bottom left and right corners of the screen, which was most likely done to help prevent having to reach over the top of the keyboard to reach them. Other than that, this is the same stock Android experience that you may be familiar with from Nexus devices.

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It is definitely possible to be productive on the Android operating system, and the availability of the keyboard means that it is very easy to write up emails, word documents, or create spreadsheets. However, without split-screen multi-tasking, it is quite difficult to do two things at once. Jumping back and forth between applications can start to feel very cumbersome when you’re trying to work on multiple projects at once, with the only multi-tasking option available being via the Recent Apps screen.

The biggest problem that Android still faces is that a lot of third-party applications aren’t optimized for tablet use. Many apps, like Instagram or Snapchat, are just blown up versions of the smartphone app, and those that don’t support landscape orientation can be quite awkward to use when you have the Pixel C paired with the keyboard. Android is a great OS as a whole, and Android 6.0 Marshmallow is its best version yet, but it unfortunately still has a long way to go before it can be considered an OS meant for hardcore productivity.

Specifications

 Google Pixel C
Display10.2-inch LTPS LCD display
2560 x 1800, 308ppi
500 nits
√2 aspect ratio
ProcessorNVIDIA Tegra X1 64-bit processor
GPU256-core Maxwell GPU
RAM3GB, LPDDR4
Storage32/64GB, non-expandable
Battery34.2 WHr
WirelessWi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2x2 MIMO, dual-band (2.4GHz, 5.0 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.1 + HS
AudioStereo Speakers
Quad microphones
SoftwareAndroid 6.0 Marshmallow
Cameras8MP rear camera
2MP front camera
Ports and connectorsUSB Type-C, 3.5mm audio
SensorsGyroscope
Accelerometer
Ambient Light Sensor
Proximity Sensor
Compass
Hall Effect Sensor
MaterialsAnodized Aluminum
Size and weight242 x 179 x 7mm, 0.517kg

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The Pixel C is priced starting at $499 for the 32 GB version, requiring an additional $100 to double the storage. The keyboard will also set you back an additional $150, which means that the overall package can be quite expensive, but depending on how much you value the Pixel hardware, you might find it worth the cost.

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There is no denying that the Pixel C is a fantastic device. Apart from being one of the most beautifully-designed and well-built tablets currently available, the Pixel C is a lot of fun to use when it comes to media-consumption and gaming. That said, the fact that it’s running Android, instead of something like Chrome OS, means that it isn’t ideal with regards to productivity; in this respect, the Pixel C doesn’t offer any more functionality than what you can get with any other Android tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard.

You will be able to deal with emails and write word documents easily, but multi-tasking is an issue, and more complex tasks, like advanced video editing, aren’t possible yet. Rumors of Android N featuring split-screen multi-tasking may help the Pixel C be the productivity machine it’s touted to be, but for now, it isn’t quite there yet.

Buy the Pixel C from the Play Store

Next: Best Android tablets 2015

  • Diego

    Who is this tablet for?

    • Alex

      Me. Two week trip lugging a MBP when all I needed was a browser, some android games, access to google drive/docs/apps, and a real keyboard. Been using the Pixel C for a week now, and I’m happy as a clam. MS OneNote is pretty sweet with it too, so perfect for meetings.

      • Mark Armitage

        I am a very happy owner of a Pixel C with keyboard, which is fantastic. I don’t understand all the reviews which slate the software because it is not suited to the larger screen of a tablet. I must have an unusual selection, as almost all, inclduing third party apps, are very well adapted to the larger screen. Also how is Chrome OS more productive when all it is is a glorified web browser? There is a far better range of software on Android and this beats the Pixel Chromebook hands down in my opinion.

        • Sweet Note

          Some people are picky, and reviewers tend to use and tell an opinion that targets the largest audience of people, possible. Of course, because of productivity users and android lack of multitasking “haters”, this tablets software wasnt so good. What we need is real opinions, from users, that own this tablet. Its great that your liking it, i would gladly purchase it for myself, but they dont sell it here where i live.

    • Mark Armitage

      Me. Absolutely love it!

  • ldsands

    Not one mention of the Surface which is clearly the reason for the Pixal C’s existence.

  • Karly Johnston

    Rated on value it gets a 2.

    • Mark Armitage

      Not so. It is about the same as an iPad Air and the keyboard is fantatsic. It’s expensive yes but that doesn’t mean it is of poor value. I’d give it 8/10.

      • Karly Johnston

        iPads can actually be used in landscape orientation. Android tablets are just like using a big phone.

        • Mark Armitage

          That’s not my experience. There are loads of Android apps which make use of the larger screen of a tablet. Also, having previously used an iPad, many apps are iPhone only and look truly dreadful scaled up on an iPad, far worse than Android phone apps on a tablet.

          • Karly Johnston

            For every load of Android apps that can go landscape, there are 10X more for iPad. This is the only reason iPads are still relevant, they have better app support.

  • m ross

    I think it’s worth mentioning that Android does have shortcut keys for navigation (search+enter = home screen etc). Alot of apps also have plenty of shortcuts (Docs is quite robust). I know that’s not specifically been said in this review, but a lot of reviewers critise Android for lack of navigation buttons but this simply isn’t true.

    Some clever soul needs to make a browser app that splits in two. That’s all you need, an in app split screen experience, to fix a large amount (not all) of the split screen requirements)

    • astrola_otec

      Yes, that counts as having short cuts keys for me. Good Point.

  • Jaime Cruz Sosa

    I think the device itself is amazing. That said, we need a more robust version of Android in order to make it a viable PC replacement. A keyboard alone is not going to make it be on par with the likes of the Surface. Same thing goes for that humongous iPad Pro. Just like we have greatly modified versions of Android for wearables and TVs, we need one for PC-like devices. Jide is doing the exact opposite. They have a pretty capable Android fork running on crappy hardware.

  • Jamal

    What about Gaming performance !?

    • Arch Angelos

      Should Be Great The X1 Is A Beast. Just Go To Gfxbench And Check It Out.

    • Martin Lane

      Taking resolution into account the performance isn’t that different to the Tegra K1 devices, but I’m betting as the complexity increases in games Tegra X1 will shine, unfortunately there is little to show off it’s capabilities on Android right now.

  • Thomas Waznis

    I currently run a Note Pro 12.2 tablet. Hi-res, 4 apps at a time, 128GB sdCard; Using OfficeSuitePro for office stuff. The tablet has a Logitech keyboard case with function keys and a micro BT mouse. I have no interest in downgrading to the PixelC.
    Would like to see you review OfficeSuitePro and other productivity software; just not on the PixelC. The Note Pro may even be cheaper by now.

    • Martin Lane

      I had a Note 12.2 and couldn’t wait to get rid of it, the performance was awful and it was the most awkward thing to hold.

      Add to that the display wasn’t very bright and the build quality was horrible, you could snap the thing in half with very little effort, same creaky plastic build quality as the Galaxy S4, the S-Pen felt like a kids toy.

      The CPU performance was okay, the GPU performance was pathetic.

  • Devan Antony

    without memory card option what is the point in having this?…waste of money…

    • me me

      It is Wifi only, so you can just stream off your NAS.

      32GB I agree isn’t that much, particularly if you really load up the Pixel C with lots of apps. I have a 32GB Nexus 9 and that 32GB is actually 25.61GB formatted encrypted showing of which apps easily became 9GB by the time you included their caches and data, so you’re left with about 15GB spare.

      At 1GB/hr, HD video space is thus about 15 hours. That is plenty enough for say a long flight or for a few nights in hotels. Still, you do have to keep an eye on space. For the price, 64GB should have been included, like I got on my OnePlus phones.

      So then at 32GB you end up looking at apps in size order and deinstalling / removing, e.g. I find disabled Sheets Presentation Docs. The irony is my phone with 64GB I have more apps on than my 32GB tablet, so the tablet has most free space to hold the HD videos the larger tablet is better for consuming.

      Android has got so big, now 16GB devices have to take more serious pruning, my N7 16GB I’m having to boot into TWRP recovery, mount /system rw and delete stuff so I can root and xposed and busybox more useful things ontop.

      As to waste of money, if you look back at Nexus 9 and 10 before, the 9 dropped 50% by July. So just wait.

      My Nexus 10 is 3 years old and its battery is fried, and not economic to repair so its tied to mains power for other than a few minutes unplugging to move around. Still getting used though, good bright screen and speakers.

  • me me

    Reminder of the launch price of the preceeding largest Google Android devices.

    The Nexus 9 32GB launch price Nov ’14 was $479 for 32GB or $599 for the LTE version, by July ’15 that LTE model was $340, so that’s 43% reduction, larger % if you factor the different way Google vs other charge tax and postage.

    The Nexus 10 32GB $499 launch Nov ’12.

    I have the Nexus 10 and 9. I paid $279 refurbished in Nov ’13 for the N10 and $340 July ’15 for the N9 LTE. The 10’s main problem I’d say was battery life, it didn’t last too many hours and took an age to charge, so it wasn’t the all-day type device. The Nexus 9 is better but then you lose the screen real estate.

    The Pixel C on paper and in reviews looks to have addressed the worst part of the Nexus 10 of battery life and doesn’t cause the cramped screen of the Nexus 9. So really its outstanding issue is its price.

    If you look at history, these large expensive Android tablets don’t sell too well, and if you were to guess if you waited til say July ’16 then I’d expect to see on sale by someone possibly initially as a brief daily deal around $300-$350 mark.

    I have a collection of Bluetooth keyboards, from my N10 and a Gpad I had, I don’t see a need to pay $149 for another keyboard.

    PS – my Nov ’12 Nexus 10 has a dead battery, it appears to be 100% then just goes to battery empty after 10mins and turns off, its unplugged briefly to move it but kept on power, and is still used such as to watch videos in bed, the big clear screen is still excellent. I looked up a self-replacement battery kit, its just not economic to repair, so that gives you a hint, these devices nearly dead after 3 years.