With the debut of the Pixel Slate, Google has kicked off a tablet war against its heated rival, Apple. Starting at $699, the new 12.3-inch detachable has a premium aluminum design and comes with the latest Intel processors.
As a tablet that turns into a laptop when connected to a keyboard accessory, the Pixel Slate is a direct competitor to the iPad Pro. Google has its work cut out for it if it wants to dethrone Apple — the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is one of our favorite tablets, receiving a 4.5-star rating and our Editors’ Choice award. The sleek device has excellent battery life, great performance and a brilliant display.
The Pixel Slate won’t ship until later this year, but here is an early look at how it compares to the current 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Just keep in mind that a new iPad Pro is reportedly on the horizon.
The Pixel Slate is a sexy device, even if there’s nothing remarkable about its design. It is, like other tablets, a thin, rectangular slab of aluminum and glass.
The dark blue metal shell sports a Google logo in the upper left corner and an 8-megapixel camera on the opposite edge.
On the front of the device, positioned on both sides of the display, are two speaker grills designed to provide a wide soundscape. A power button doubles as a fingerprint sensor on the top edge of the Slate, and a front-facing camera is centered above the display.
From the front, the iPad Pro looks almost identical to the Pixel Slate, apart from the Apple slate’s Touch ID sensor and four speakers, positioned at each corner. On the rear of the iPad are a 12-megapixel camera and a centered Apple logo. Apple sells the iPad Pro in Space Gray, Gold and Silver color schemes, whereas the Pixel Slate is available only in Midnight Blue. The smaller, 10.5-inch iPad Pro also comes in a Rose Gold finish.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a larger surface area than the 12.3-inch Pixel Slate. Measuring 12 x 8.7 x 0.3 inches, the iPad is a sleek device, but the 11.5 x 8 x 0.3-inch Pixel Slate is even more compact. Oddly, the larger iPad Pro, at 1.6 pounds, weighs less than the 1.5-pound Pixel Slate.
|Google Pixel Slate||Apple iPad Pro|
|Accessories||Pixel Slate Keyboard ($199), Pixelbook Pen ($99)||Smart Keyboard ($169), Pencil ($99)|
|Display||12.3-inch, 3000 x 2000 pixels||12.9-inch, 2732 x 2048 pixels|
|CPU||8th Gen Intel Celeron, Core m3, i5, i7||A10X Fusion|
|RAM||4GB, 8GB, 16GB||4GB|
|Storage||32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 256GB, 512GB|
|Ports||Two USB Type-C||Smart Connector, Lightning port, headphone|
|Colors||Midnight Blue||Silver, Gold, Space Gray|
|Size||11.5 x 8 x 0.3 inches||12 x 8.7 x 0.3 inches|
Google spent much of the Pixel Slate’s unveiling touting the tablet’s 12.3-inch LCD display. The screen has a resolution of 3000 x 2000 pixels for a dense pixels-per-inch measure of 293. That edges out the 12.9-inch display on the iPad Pro, which has a 2732 x 2048 resolution at 264 ppi.
When it comes to display brightness, the iPad Pro is the undefeated champ. The tablet’s display reached 555 nits of brightness, which is significantly more luminous than the average tablet gets (422 nits). Google rates the Pixel Slate’s display brightness at 400 nits, which is below the tablet average and much dimmer than the iPad, though we’ll have to see how the Pixel shakes out on our lab tests.
We’ll need to put a colorimeter to the Pixel Slate to see how much of the sRGB color gamut this tablet’s display can reproduce. The iPad Pro covered 122 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is more than the 110 percent tablet average.
You’ll want to sit for this news: The Pixel Slate does not have a headphone jack — a bewildering omission Google conveniently failed to mention when it unveiled the device. This means that if you want to listen to music on the Slate, you need either a dongle or Bluetooth headphones. Of course, Google wants you to buy its own Pixel Buds, but we say to stay away and try these wireless headphones instead. At least the Pixel Slate has two USB Type-C inputs on the right side.
You’ll want to sit for this news: The Pixel Slate does not have a headphone jack.
The iPad Pro doesn’t have a USB port, but it does preserve the 3.5mm jack. The only other port is a Lightning connector on the bottom. For what it’s worth, the next iPad Pro is rumored to drop the headphone jack as well.
Keyboard and Pen
The $199 Pixel Slate Keyboard connects to the left edge of the Pixel Slate via the tablet’s accessory connector. The backlit keys have a unique circular shape that’s reminiscent of a vintage typewriter. Google claims the keyboard’s “Hush Keys” were designed to be ultraquiet, so nearby co-workers don’t get distracted by your chaotic typing. But perhaps the Slate Keyboard’s best feature is the integrated track pad.
Google’s keyboard felt comfortable and provided a good amount of tactile feedback in our brief hands-on with the Pixel Slate, but we’ll reserve our final judgment.
The 1.1-pound Pixel Slate Keyboard transforms into a folio case that allows the tablet to contort into various orientations. You can prop up the back of the display to use it as a traditional laptop or fold the keyboard under the device when you want to view content. The keyboard accessory also doubles as a protective cover that prevents scratches and dents.
We aren’t impressed by Apple’s $169 Smart Keyboard. The shallow keys, with just 0.5mm of travel, forced us to adjust how we normally type in order to prevent our fingers from hitting the base.
Even worse, the keyboard doesn’t have a touchpad and is, therefore, not a true solution for turning the iPad into a laptop. That’s not surprising considering iOS doesn’t support a cursor, but it’s an annoyance, nonetheless. Also, typing under low lighting is tricky, because the keyboard isn’t backlit.
Like the Pixel Slate Keyboard, the 0.8-pound Smart Keyboard elevates the iPad Pro into laptop mode and folds into a cover when you’re not using the tablet.
The touch screens on both the Pixel Slate and iPad Pro feature stylus support. The Google Pixelbook Pen and Apple Pencil are both sold separately, for $99 each.
Google rates the Pixel Slate’s battery life at up to 10 hours. Even if the tablet reaches Google’s claimed run time, it would come up more than 2 hours short of the iPad Pro’s time. We’ll have a better idea of real-world endurance once we put Google’s new tablet through our tests.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro lasted 12 hours and 9 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi with display brightness at 150 nits. That outstanding result is well above the 8:51 tablet average and tops the Microsoft Surface Pro’s result (7:30).
Price and Value
The Pixel Slate’s price starts at a reasonable $599 but quickly rises once you add the keyboard and pen accessories. It’s also worth noting that the Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and 32GB SSD included in the base model won’t cut it for power users. Another $200 upgrades the processor to an 8th Gen Intel Core m3 and doubles both RAM and SSD storage.
With powerful components, a comfortable backlit keyboard and a high-resolution display, Google’s first detachable appears to be an intriguing alternative to Apple’s premium tablet.
But those specs are still below what we recommend for a device that costs more than $600. You have to spend $999 to reach our recommended configuration: an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The top-of-the-line config costs $1,599 and comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
The cost of a Pixel Slate doesn’t stop there. If you want to transform the tablet into a detachable, you’ll need the $200 Pixel Slate Keyboard. The Pixelbook Pen adds another $100.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro comes with 4GB of RAM and is powered by Apple’s own A10X Fusion chip. The entry-level model costs $799 and includes 64GB of storage. Upping the storage to 256GB raises the price to $949, and the high-end, 512GB model costs $1,149.
The smaller, 10.5-inch iPad Pro is priced more closely to the Pixel Slate, retailing at $649. The 256GB, midrange model costs $799, and the high-end, 512GB model goes for $999.
The Smart Keyboard for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro costs $169, but unlike Google’s version, it does not include backlighting or a touchpad. The optional Apple Pencil stylus accessory costs $99.
With powerful components, a comfortable backlit keyboard and a high-resolution display, Google’s first detachable appears to be an intriguing alternative to Apple’s premium tablet. The Slate’s keyboard already looks like a major improvement over the iPad Pro’s version, and, at $600, the Pixel Slate has a lower starting price than the larger iPad Pro.
But there are areas where the Pixel Slate appears to fall short. The tablet’s battery life is rated at 10 hours, which is already worse than what the iPad Pro achieved in our testing. Also, the Pixel’s display is dimmer than the iPad’s based on Google’s own ratings, and the tablet doesn’t have a headphone jack.
We won’t know for sure until we review the Pixel Slate, but for now, it seems the iPad Pro will retain its crown as the best tablet on the market. Of course, these two devices run on very different platforms, and your preference in operating system between Chrome OS and iOS should play a big role in determining which tablet is right for you.
Credit: Laptop Mag