The Pixel Slate has succeeded in one important respect: as a good laptop stand-in.
Review backgrounder: In this review*, I focus on the laptop-mode aspect. I’ve used the Pixel Slate with the Pixel Slate Keyboard for about a month and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2018) with Smart Keyboard Folio also for about one month.
The tl;dr: the Pixel Slate, released in October of 2018, works well as a laptop because of a full-sized backlit keyboard with trackpad (optional) and because of Chrome OS, which is a lot closer to a desktop OS than Apple’s iOS.
Tablet mode: the Google Pixel Slate tablet component has been covered by review sites ad nauseam so almost anything I write at this point is redundant/repetitive. But there are a few things** I will mention anyway:
- It’s a little heavy. At 1.6 pounds, it’s lighter than the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 (1.7 pounds) but heavier than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which is (amazingly) only 1.4 pounds.
- The stand-alone tablet looks somewhat generic, i.e., it didn’t get the attention to design-detail that 2018 iPad Pro got (or the Pixel 3/Pixel 3 XL for that matter).
- Chrome OS isn’t as polished as iOS in mobile/touch-only mode. That said, I don’t want to give the impression that the Pixel Slate is a lousy tablet. It isn’t. (It runs Android apps, after all.) It’s just that the iPad Pro is a better standalone tablet.
Laptop mode: the Pixel Slate (starting at $599) makes up for any tablet-mode shortcomings by being a good laptop with its optional Pixel Slate Keyboard ($199).
- Chrome OS handily beasts iOS in laptop mode. For starters, many critical productivity apps simply work a lot better with a keyboard/trackpad and pointing device. Also, lots of apps can be windowed with overlapping/floating Windows. And now in 2019, popular applications like Microsoft Office on Chrome OS come pretty close to what you get on a Windows laptop or a MacBook.
- Android: You can run Android apps and desktop apps simultaneously. A huge upside for me and probably the single biggest reason I keep coming back to Chrome OS.
- It’s fast. My Slate ($999) has an Intel 8th Gen Core i5-8200Y processor, 8GB of memory, and a 128GB SSD. But it feels like a high-octane Windows laptop. The upshot: Google Chrome OS is efficient and snappy.
- Stunning display: the 12.3-inch “Molecular Display” (3,000-by-2,000 pixels, 293 ppi) is one of the best I’ve used on any device. The display can be adjusted to a wide range of angles when attached to the keyboard.
- Long battery life. I usually get a day and a half or two days before the battery runs down for what I do.
- The fingerprint sensor is a huge plus. I like it so much that it’s hard for me to go back to my Pixelbook, which doesn’t have any biometric authentication.
- On your lap: resting the Pixel Slate with the keyboard on one leg is awkward because it doesn’t have a hard hinge but uses a flexible, soft material as a “hinge.” The awkward (unbalanced) one-leg mode bothers me but it’s something I can work around. (And it works fine sitting on both legs.)
Update: I should also mention that the Pixel Slate’s speakers are very good and rival the iPad Pro’s great speaker system.
Verdict: the Pixel Slate is better in tablet mode than Microsoft Surface Pro and better in laptop mode than the iPad Pro. And it has long battery life, incredible speakers, a good optional keyboard/trackpad, fast performance on Chrome OS, and the ability to run both Android apps and legacy applications like Microsoft Office.
Here’s the question: Do you need a tablet that doubles as a laptop or do you just want a tablet? If it’s the former, then you should seriously consider the Pixel Slate over the iPad Pro.
*I am using Google’s images of the Pixel Slate instead of my own because any photos I take are invariably worse than Google’s professional images. (I’m including one of my own at bottom.)
**One thing I’ve learned over the years is, long-term reviews are very different than standard short-term reviews. It typically takes me at least a month to truly get a feel for the pros and cons of a device. Things that I thought initially were downsides turn out to be fine (or even upsides) and things I thought were great out of the box later turn out to be not so great.