Pixel, See? Why Google’s latest tablet is (mostly) all it’s cracked up to be

by: Matthew BensonDecember 30, 2015
1.1K

Pixel C-14

Since it was first announced in September, the Pixel C has confounded customers, if not the industry-at-large. Why isn’t Google releasing a new Nexus tablet, yet is releasing a Pixel tablet? The former goes hand in hand with Android, the latter with Chrome OS. To this day there exists confusion among customers who are unclear as to what operating system the new product runs.

Reviews and editorials for the Pixel C have also been highly divisive. While some sites have praised the product profoundly, others have taken a far more critical, analytical view. We have also offered our own take on the product. Given the dual dichotomy of dissent going on here, it seems particularly pertinent to analyze the Pixel C with respect to the nature of criticism it has received.

Let’s get started with a look at why the Pixel C is actually not as bad as some might suggest.

Pixel C

The “premier” Android tablet?

To this day there exist very few Android tablets that can truly go head-to-head with Apple’s iPad, at least in terms of design and build quality. This is not to suggest Cupertino has a superior offering mind you, rather just the reality that is demonstrated time and time again by mainstream consumer’s overwhelming decision to purchase iPads over anything else.

samsung-galaxy-tab-s2-8-3

Samsung’s 2015 flagship tablet, the Galaxy Tab S2, does indeed pack some super solid specs, yet it’s ultimately still using a plastic back and running TouchWiz which is decidedly not everyone’s cup of tea. Google itself has released some very popular tablets over the years, namely the Nexus 7 (2012) and Nexus 7 (2013), as well as some more overlooked considerations, the Nexus 10 and Nexus 9. The criticism has always been about the build quality though: they are just not on-par with an Apple offering.

The Pixel C is, hands down, the most solid and solidified tablet Google has produced. With an all-metal casing, the device feels substantial in the hands – a bit too heavy perhaps – and has stereo speakers as well as USB C connectivity. It truly looks less like a traditional tablet and more like a convertible tablet computer, something that evidence suggests may have been Google’s original intention.

In defense of Google: the Pixel C is “perfect” (almost)

While comments relating to Pixel C’s lack of multitasking and software bugs are valid ones, it may be that – especially with the former of the two – critics are being a bit too harsh with the product. Let’s explore why.

Pixel C’s intended market

Nexus 9 Keyboard Folio-16

The Nexus 9 with its official Folio Keyboard.

Much of the criticism for the Pixel C has stemmed from a perception that its new tablet is specifically targeting a productivity-minded customer. The reason? It has an expensive keyboard add-on. And yet. The Nexus 9 also has an expensive keyboard add-on, and yet that tablet seemingly didn’t receive anywhere close to the near-universal trashing of the product’s productivity in reviews. For that matter, just about every tablet on the market has some form of keyboard add-on, be it Bluetooth or otherwise; official or not.

Where is it explicitly stated Pixel C is specifically aimed at corporate customers or those who want a laptop replacement? Just because Google launched it showcasing the keyboard should not automatically imply it will have all kinds of modified software components to significantly alter the Android user experience for the tablet.

Pixel C’s actual market

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Why do some people seem to think the Pixel C is supposed to be Google’s Surface Book?

Despite the vocal crowd typically commenting on tech-related stories and coverage, the mainstream majority of the world’s population doesn’t actively care about tech. They don’t actively follow tech sites and check for updates multiple times throughout the day. In fact, even mainstream Apple customers don’t necessarily know their company has announced a new product until it’s literally in front of them at a store or a major headline on a general news site.

It is well established that the Nexus line has never achieved mainstream success, with some evidence suggesting it doesn’t even achieve niche success. There is a very limited number of customers who want such products, especially in the face of a thousand other OEMs making their own. Those who want a Nexus device are very much about having the cleanest, most simplistic form of Android possible. Those who want a Nexus are also, more likely than not, individuals who are more knowledge about devices than the average customer, and/or who actively follow Google related news.

Jide Remix Ultra Surface tablet keyboard

Would the Jide Remx Ultra be a better crowd pleaser for those upset with the Pixel C?

The Pixel C, at the moment at least, is not being sold in stores. The Pixel C is, at the moment at least, only available directly from Google. To this end, there is an extremely limited number of consumers who will potentially even know about it, much less who will want it, and even less still who will actually purchase it.

Criticism of a $500 device not having adequate software is subjective at best when considering that those who purchase the product arguably know what they’re getting from the get-go. Google never promised multitasking support, nor did it ever mention an optimized Android experience for the Pixel C. Just because Microsoft and Apple have something hardly means Google must suddenly unveil it as well.

The Android environment

Android-Tablets-Sizes-Compared

Perhaps the most fundamental defense of Google’s Pixel C is the competition, specifically within the Android hardware community. There are hundreds of tablets on the market, and with that means hundreds of Android on tablet experiences. Those who absolutely must have multitasking now can easily get a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, or an Xperia Z4 Tablet, or many others for that matter.

The brilliance of Android is, and has always been, choice. If you don’t like one, get another instead. If you want a specific feature, buy a specific product. Simple and sublime. And you know what? Google knows this and therefore doesn’t need to care if its custom made creation is up your alley…or not.

Irrational Wants

Pixel C-39

I want that one!

Ironically this particular idea can best be seen in a recent opinion piece Engadget had about the difficulty reviewers often have in actually purchasing a product. In it, Managing Editor, Dana Wollman, muses that:

I’ve come to love gadgets, and have strong opinions about them. Which is why I’m not good at shopping for them. I suppose some of my readers are equally picky. For each of you who chooses on principle to be an early adopter, there are some who have been putting off a purchase for months, or years, all because you’re too discerning for your own good. You’re not gadget reviewers, but perhaps you too have done a little too much research. And perhaps like me, you’re perpetually waiting for a product that doesn’t yet exist.

Her story is perhaps shared by many in the tech-enthusiast crowd. The idea that people are always waiting for a perfect product is definitely a sound one, as is the notion that for every early adopter there can be just as many who agonize for ages to buy but one “simple” smartphone. As applied to the Pixel C it also works wonders: the reviewers around the globe are being too callous to Google’s creation. They are blasting it for expectations of what they want and believe a product should be, even if that’s not the product Google itself sought to create.

For every reviewer that may blast the perceived missing features in this new tablet, there may just as well be scores of potential customers who don’t give a crap and absolute adore the Pixel C for everything it is. A premium tablet. A Google tablet. An Android tablet. A Pixel tablet. The same even holds true to the iPad Pro: reviewers quickly chastised it for not running a “full OS” and cited wasted space and other issues. Yet it’s safe to bet most people who buy the extra-large fruit form won’t care in the slightest.

Pixel C-24

Although…

It is worth mentioning, for the sake of argument, that the “C” in the Pixel C, means “Convertible”. It implies that the device is meant to be used in two different ways. Perhaps even more importantly, in the AMA on reddit, the Pixel C team itself dropped some bombshells in terms of mentioning multitasking support and other tid-bits. Clearly there is a concerted effort to do perhaps more with the product, but for whatever reason, things didn’t work out for the launch.

At the very least, Google could have included the keyboard with the product if it really wanted to push the convertibility factor.

The earlier idea comes back up though: just because the Pixel C can’t do multitasking and doesn’t come with a keyboard doesn’t make it a bad tablet.

Wrap up

Pixel C-35

The Pixel C is a fascinating new product from Google, yet one that many might argue fails to live up to its potential. Unfortunately said commentary is largely based on a self-perceived notion that the device should have “standard” features like multitasking and an included keyboard. Funny how Microsoft also showcases the Surface tablets with their respective Smart Cover keyboards and yet doesn’t include one in the box.

It may be a fair consideration that Google has yet to make Android for tablets a truly productive environment, but that argument should not be the basis on which one seeks to knock the Pixel C. It is a rare, truly premium Android slate that has excellent battery life, a high resolution display, runs the latest build of the OS, and won’t break the bank to buy.

The Pixel C may not be truly a perfect device, but who is to say it’s not every bit the sum of its parts?

  • monkey god

    This article pretty much sums of my thinking of the Pixel C. I’ve always thought of the Pixel C as the Nexus 9 2.0 but apparently a lot of people don’t view it that way.

    • FranchisePlayer

      I was thinking the same thing or even more like the ASUS Transformer devices.

    • Rob hoy

      I do t know why..it’s sane just better processor

  • Duder12

    I think you need to spend some time using multiple profiles before placing judgement.

    That’s where the nexus 9 shits the bed for performance

    • I just sent mine back for that very reason. I really wanted to like it but the hesitation after key presses or no response at all drove me crazy! It seemed like if I moved from one profile to another it needed about 3 minutes to get it’s thoughts together. It was moving slower than my breaking down old iPad2.

  • 29

    Surface is the only true tablet computer. Apple and Android tablets are just blown-up phones.

    • Guest123

      Tried surface, somehow i feel it’s lacking as a tablet, can’t put my finger to it but it’s not interesting. But if i look at it from the perspective of a laptop, it’s an amazing device.

      • 29

        Windows isn’t optimised for touch-only usage, yeah.

        • Claude Gohier

          So not a true tablet computer.

        • Ridge

          It was, until people started complaining about windows 8.1. Now it’s mostly pc with a little tablet.

          • Napalm_3nema

            Even on 8.1, it was still a sub-par tablet experience because of the app situation. Legacy (non-touch) apps on a tablet are a pretty big compromise.

          • Ridge

            Agreed. Hopefully windows 10 will change that.

    • Dusan

      I agree. Surface and Windows 10 are pretty darn amazing. But it comes at a premium price. You can buy 2-4 Pixel C for one Surface. Still, I’d rather save money and buy Surface.

    • Ridge

      #SurfaceProMasterRace

    • Richard Crossley

      Great product but actually a pretty poor tablet…through no fault of its own…just that windows isn’t tablet friendly yet… I own a windows tablet that never gets used as a result!

    • ScottinWinterHaven

      At over $500 Surface is not just another tablet. It’s a it’s high end laptop with a touch screen. Windows 10 layout sucks. I have to 2 android tabets and both together didn’t cost more than a Surface. I li

    • Zubair Shaik

      Maybe Apple and Android phones are just… shrunken tablets?

  • Name goes here

    “This is not to suggest Cupertino has a superior offering mind you, rather just the reality that is demonstrated time and time again by mainstream consumer’s overwhelming decision to purchase iPads over anything else.”

    Sarcasm? If not, there’s this river in Egypt you might want to investigate.

    “Yet it’s safe to bet most people who buy the extra-large fruit form won’t care in the slightest.”

    Is it possible to review a product without finding a need to bash the competition – or in this case the fans of the competitor’s products?

    I do have a question though… For all of you people with actual experience with the Pixel C, what’s the experience like when using the device in portrait mode?

    • Bill3

      Largely in portrait mode the experience is fine. Some apps don’t work in portrait mode, but they’re the minority.

      The only thing I would say is that the Nexus 9 tended naturally prefer portrait mode, but this table (like the Nexus 10) tends to prefer landscape.

      I think that’s mostly down to the aspect ratio and the size, though.

  • TechGuy

    I sent mine back when I realised that despite being a highly portable Android – Google decided not to include GPS although it has a compass. Despite amazing screen and performance, I want GPS in a mobile device for the price being asked.

    • Zepid

      GPS in a tablet? For those times where you get lost between your shitter and bedroom?

      • Android123

        I download topographical maps onto my Nexus 7 for off road navigation where no cell signal exist.

        • Zepid

          I have a real handheld GPS for navigating while camping/hunting. I’d never use a tablet with piss-poor battery life like a Nexus 7 for me in unfavorable situations like off-road navigation.

  • Airyl

    As a productivity device, it’s not really all too good, but it’s by far the best Android tablet out there, barring the Jide Remix Ultra which is great for productivity in my opinion.

  • Napalm_3nema

    The apologist is strong in this one. Is the OS comparable to competing tablets? Nope. Are there a lot of tablet-optimized apps available for it? Nope. If both of those are “nopes,” then what you have is what diehard Android fanboys used to accuse the iPhone of being: a pretty package with no substance. The hardware is nice, but without the software to fully utilize it, it’s just potential for $499.

  • Rob hoy

    I have a nexus 9 and It’s fast..no stutter…software will be the same. …What’s the need to upgrade….I’ve seen no side by side comparisons…

    • Hhhh

      Try loving in to !multiple gmail accounts at the same time. The tablet slows to a crawl

      • Rob hoy

        Mine doesnt

        • Android123

          Nor do my Nexus 7 2012 or 2013. I use either one too access four email accounts simultaneously with no problem, not to mention the many other apps I switch back and forth from during the same session. No problem at all with multitasking. For the record, I also am updating Microsoft Excel spreadsheets through Google Docs constantly. No, I don’t create elaborate spreadsheets on them but the portable form factor is great for updating existing sheets on the go.

  • T.J.

    It looks fantastic and I’d love to have one. But to me, a tablet is a tablet, and not for any serious computing. Just because it might work for it, no one gets any real work done on one.

    • Ewan

      That’s exactly the right way to look at it. The fact is that no one gets real serious work done well on 10-12″ ultra portables anyway, they’re far too cramped regardless what OS they run. The sane way to use any tablet, including Surfaces, is as clients when you need limited use.

      Android and the Pixel C suit that fine – sure, you can’t run Excel or Photoshop on it, but you’d have to be crazy to want to on something that size.

  • Axel Delgado Rodríguez

    I’m writing from the Pixel C. Some people really need to leave the fanboyism at home before trying to join a discussion.

    This Christmas I received the Pixel C as a present, while my gf received the iPad Air 2. It was paid roughly the same for both of them. And I like both of them. You may argue that Pixel C is still not perfect. But it doesn’t fall off against its competitor one bit. And I’m way more trustful regarding Google updates thatn Apple ones. I’m pretty sure my device will last longer and surpass the Air 2 with the coming updates for both devices.

    • tiger

      Seriously?! You wrote all that with a straight face?!

      More trustful of Google updates? In what way?

      Your device lasting longer? Pixel C has a POS processor dude. THus, it cannot do multi-tasking even tho that is Android’s call to fame! iPad Air2 has a really good processor that can run today’s and future software with ease. You think that your Pixel C will do the same, esp when Android introduces true multi-tasking like what Apple has done?

      • Martin Lane

        Have you suffered brain damage at some point tiger? You’re the one I’m having a hard time believing wrote that with a straight face.

        PIxel C uses Tegra X1 which is from nvidia so obviously the main focus is going to be the GPU.

        However, the multicore performance is about the same as Apple’s A8X, A8X has better single core performance because it has a weird tri-core setup whereas Tegra X1 is octa-core.

        Different approaches but the overall CPU performance works out the same, for true multitasking more physical cores is an advantage so I would still give the edge to the Pixel C.

        Tegra X1 has a faster GPU, no question about that unless you want to get into a discussion on onscreen and off-screen performance of devices.

        • tiger

          GPU is the focus you say…and that helps multi-tasking how again?!

          Single core scores has NOTHING to do with it being a tri-core setup! HUH????

          Do you even know what you’re talking about???

          Can Pixel C do split screen multi-tasking? No. Apple A8X can do this flawlessly with NO LAG and NO FRAMEDROP.

          With only 3 cores, it still manages to beat (slightly) X1 octa-core!!! That is just sad for X1!

          Kraken, Octane (favors Android), and Sunspider…all favor A8X over X1.

          • Martin Lane

            You really don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. :D

            Multicore performance for both SoC’s is basically the same, around 4400 on Geekbench,

            The PIxel C and other stock Android devices multitask just fine and have done for years, they just don’t support splitscreen, so far only Samsung and LG devices support this I believe.

            Learn the difference and stop making yourself look like an idiot.

          • tiger

            Lets play. You think Android devices have done multi-tasking for YEARS? You call lagging and stuttering when opening more than one window multi-tasking? No sir, that is NOT multi-tasking…that is shitty experience.

            Do you know why Android does not support split screen? Because their device will run like crap! And this is why Apple waited for hardware to catch up before introducing REAL multi-tasking.

            Samsung and LG do it but the experience is not good. I had a Note series too. Stutter and lag.

            So, you think that Pixel C can do multi-tasking on same level as Air 2? Yes or no answer please.

          • Bill3

            If you think there is any lag with this tablet, you are completely wrong. Don’t just trust your Apple fanboi review sites, have a look at the real thing. You may just be surprised. No lag! No Stutter! Just creamy smoothness…no matter how many apps are running at the same time.

  • nebulaoperator

    Its just way to expensive as media consumption device also google playing nasty game if you want larger memory than 32GB you have to pay 80 pounds premium. Let’s be honest who wants 32 when there is 64 :) It’s media device right? Just stack all photos, films, videos or whatever you have in it. No you can’t because there is not SD expansion slot. 64GB + keyboard comes in whooping total of 600GBP. Basically music and video player with browser and email box. I love Android I also happened to have Chrome book which is perfect little campaigner that cost on average 200GBP these days and has SD card slot. Why would I want to buy Pixel C? If I have buckets of cash and looking for another shopping therapy experience. Google is pushing something that many android fans hate about apple. Premium price tag, no SD card and yet still behind Ipad tablet experience. A little too early and premature to do so. At least, google, throw some goodies for a start.

    • Ewan

      Android devices for me are all about remote access to proper computers, whether that’s accessing Google’s various services, remote desktop logins to Windows, SSH access to Linux, or even just running a web browser.

      I don’t care about having hugely capable apps on the device, and I absolutely don’t care about not being able to lug a terabyte of crap around. What I care about is the bits of the system that I interact with – the point of the thing is not to be a general purpose computing system, it’s to be a screen and a keyboard. And the Pixel C is really good at that.

      • nebulaoperator

        Also true however what you do is very unlikely to tick the box for majority of users and even more unlikely out of tech nerd world. It’s is first and for there most designed as media device and targeted for this particular reason.

        • Ewan

          It’s really not. Granted, the SSH and RDP bits are rather unusual, but a very large group of users really do want pure client devices – they use Google Docs, GMail, Facebook, they read the news, and when they do do media it’s Spotify, YouTube, Netflix and Amazon.

          It’s people who want serious content creation tools or local storage for huge media libraries that are the niche now.

          • nebulaoperator

            It does not make sense what soever what you say. Majority of the average Joe would not even have a clue what you are talking about SSH RDP ( I know) . Google docs gmail facebook is a standart these days and it only supports media consumption device model that google aims at. I don’t know what world you live in but majority of people takes photos and does video recording. It piles up memory quick, very quick. Or for any other reason to use Tablets storage. That’s why many tablet OEM include SD card slot even Surface by MS does it. But google is

            Android apple and they want you to milk and milk it you big time. That’s the holly grail of the small storage. Hook you up on ecosystem and keep you in the loop. That’s the whole point Android user hates so much about apple. Even more that’s why apple does not allow you to upload anything apart photos on iphone or ipad. Comprende?

            I never came up with content writing it was you . Having said that google designed keyboard for the purpose one could type. Content, emails, social networking, work yes work too. etc.
            Take a look what google store says about C and what points it accentuates : Gaming, watching films , photos, videos. Enough said.

  • Jonathon Rios

    If anybody is curious I just bought the Nvidia K1 tablet and it just got 6.0 and it’s pretty damn solid for $200, it’s basically a nexus 7 3.0. If you find the pixel too expensive try the K1.

  • Richard Crossley

    I have got a pixel and love it. Although I’m currently using a OnePlus 2, I also own iPad and iPhone 6. I personally feel that iPhone is the best device for music as iTunes is great for that… Choosing what size for mp3 etc. Apple and iTunes are however terrible for any videos not bought from Apple. On the Pixel C you can download any files you want straight from NAS or internet with no itunes…and use KODI on it! So much more flexible then iPad. My line up is iPhone/Nexus/OnePlus depending on mood but then if just one be iPhone, pixel c for media and occasionally productivity (what is is designed for!) And serious work on the go MacBook Air and at home iMac or gaming PC. Know what this product is and you’ll love it!

  • This is an excellent article, and is spot on. I have a Pixel C, and I really really do not understand the seemingly unanimous dislike of it across tech websites. I think it’s one of the best pieces of tech I’ve ever owned, and I’m looking forward when Google inevitably does update it with these “essential” features like multiwindow and a better tablet interface. I’m also looking forward to seeing how such an update would change the opinion of this tablet across reviewers

  • I think it’d be great if there was a trackpad on the keyboard. As it is, I’m returning the Pixel C and getting the ASUS Chromebook Flip

  • pierce500

    I’m a Nexus/Android crazy person, but this is a device I don’t need. I’ve got a Nexus 9 and the Chromebok Pixel. Can’t see where this would fit in. It is a strange addition to the lineup.

    • Bill3

      My Nexus 9 is now an ornament since I got the Pixel C. It knocks spots off the Nexus 9 in every way except in lack of LTE.

  • Adz

    What an insightful and timely article, thank you Matt! So many reviewers have completely missed the point when it comes to this tablet. As a pixel c owner, it is one of the most beautiful pieces of tech I have owned, and fulfills its function as an android tablet perfectly; it does not promise to be more than it is which is what so many seem to have misunderstood. As you wisely said, the nexus 9 didn’t get pidgeonholed as a ‘productivity device’ nor did ipads with their keyboard accessories, but reviewers stand to compare (and trash it!) standing next to the pro 4 and LAPTOPS? Totally off the mark. Thanks for the great article

  • Jomil

    I was THIS close to buying one. Here is why I didn’t:
    -non expandable storage (Why is this so hard?)
    -no GPS (what!?)
    -no provision for an active stylus (ala Samsung or Nvidia or Microsoft)
    -no multitasking (not a huge issue)
    -reviewer complaints about buggy keyboard connection. (A huge issue)

    For $700+ dollars with keyboard, I expect a fully-baked product that at least matches the competition. Sorry Google, I expect better. It is pretty though, I’ll give you that.

    I needed a new tablet stat, so I bought an Nvidia today.

  • Bill3

    Finally, a reviewer with some sense. I bought the Pixel C on the launch day, and absolutely love it. It knocks spots off every other tablet I’ve used.

    Comparing the screen to the new iPad Pro, shows just how poor the screen on that monster tablet is.

    I don’t care at all about multi-tasking. Yes, I use that on my multi-monitor Windows PC, but never use it on my Windows laptop. Small screens don’t do multi-tasking well, in any case.

    • tiger

      Wait…multi-tasking is Android’s call to fame, isn’t it? Yet, now, the apologist say that they don’t care for it…how weird!

      Yeah, you think that Pixel C has better display than iPad PRO?

      Let me guess, next thing you say is how much better the hardware is than Ipad PRO!

      • Martin Lane

        Not having split screen is odd in 2015 but it doesn’t mean the Pixel C can’t multitask.

        Yes, the Pixel C does have a better display, sharper and brighter with great viewing angles and colour. It’s the best Tablet display on the market.

        iPad Pro costs twice as much as the Pixel C.

        • tiger

          Why don’t we wait for a formal review of the display? LOL

        • tiger

          Uhhh, nope. Display may be bright and high contrast, it is horrible in reflection and colors fail to impress. See ANANDTECH review.

          • Bill3

            Don’t see the review…see the real thing. It doesn’t take two seconds comparing the iPad Pro display to the Pixel C to see how sharp and detailed the Pixel is compared to the muddy and dull display of the iPad.

            I have read lots of Pixel C reviews and most of them do not in any way tally with a hands on experience of this tablet.

    • tiger

      You may want to read ANANDTECH REVIEW of it.

      Pixel C is way behind iPad PRO in pretty much everything…processor, audio, display, etc..

  • Nick Bransford

    For me one of the biggest points of failure is the lack of expansion. Offering the flagship Android tablet with only 32/64GB and no microSD expansion is short-sighted to say the least. That, combined with the other pain points mentioned, is why I’ll be waiting for an X1-powered Nvidia Shield rather than getting the Pixel C.

  • tiger

    Check out Anandtech review. This is a HORRIBLE rushed product!

    • Bill3

      Are you on commission to to Anandtech? You seem to be very pushy with their reviews?

  • Mark Weiner

    Why is there no Pixel C with LTE 4G service? My Nexus 9 LTE is brilliant with this extra capability, I think the Pixel C units would definitely benefit from this..