Google Pixel C review

The best Android tablet around

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Our Verdict

Google's done it – it's made the best Android tablet around. The Pixel C has it all: a fantastic display, heaps of power and a premium design. Plus, for those willing to splash the cash, the keyboard is a great accessory.

For

  • Fantastic screen
  • Premium design
  • Solid power

Against

  • Heavy
  • Keyboard is pricey option
  • No microSD slot or 4G model

The Pixel C was launched a little half-heartedly by Google during its Nexus 5X and 6P event, giving us glimpses of the slate while at the same time giving very little away. Which is surprising really, as Google has made a rather compelling high-end tablet.

It's actually a new venture for Google, as the Pixel C is the first tablet designed and built by the search giant. Previous 'Google' slates sporting the Nexus brand have been made by Asus and HTC; this time round, though, Google's had total control over every aspect, moulding the device especially for Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

The 10.2-inch display and premium build means the Pixel C sits comfortably at the top end of the tablet market, above the Nexus 9. It bridges the gap between the Nexus slates and Google's Chromebook Pixel laptop.

That means it has the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 and Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet for company, not to mention the king of tablets in the iPad Air 2.

Google Pixel C review

There's an added twist though, as Google also offers (at extra expense) a rather clever keyboard dock which transforms the Pixel C from a standard Android tablet into a hybrid laptop. Suddenly, Google's also eyeing up the market currently being contested by the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and iPad Pro.

You can pick up the Pixel C in two models, 32GB and 64GB. The 32GB version will set you back £399, (US$499, around AU$680), while the larger storage size is available for £479 (US$599, around AU$820).

The Pixel C is comfortably cheaper than the iPad Pro and Surface Pro 4 then, while Google's matched the price of the 16GB and 64GB iPad Air 2s – although if you opt for the cheaper version of the Pixel C you'll get double the storage of Apple's entry-level slate.

Competition is fierce then – so has Google done enough to make the Pixel C stand out in a world which is still dominated by Apple? It's certainly given it a damn good go.

Google Pixel C review

Design

There's no mistaking that the Pixel C is a premium tablet. Finished in Anodized Aluminum, the Pixel C looks and feels like an expensive piece of tech as soon as you lay eyes and hands on it.

That style isn't light though, and at 517g it's considerably heavier than the similarly proportioned iPad Air 2, which tips the scales at 437g – although the Air 2 is narrower and thinner than the 242 x 179 x 7mm Pixel C.

There's a healthy amount of bezel surrounding the 10.2-inch display, and considering there's no physical home key it feels like wasted space. I'd have liked a larger screen, or tighter dimensions – but the tech has to fit somewhere, which probably explains the extra bulk.

Google Pixel C review

You don't even get a fingerprint scanner, a feature that Google's included in its latest duo of smartphones after providing dedicated support for the digit-reading tech with Android Marshmallow. It feels a little bit like a missed opportunity.

With the Pixel C held in landscape orientation, the power/lock key is located on the left of the top edge, while the volume rocker sits high up on the left, with a USB-C port at the bottom of the same side.

The USB-C port enables you to charge the Pixel C and transfer data to and from it, but it also has another use. Connect a phone or Pixel laptop to the Pixel C and the tablet can charge your other devices – handy if your phone is running low and there's no power outlet in sight.

Google Pixel C review

There are also dual stereo speakers on either side of the tablet, and a 3.5mm headphone jack completes the array of features on the right side of the Pixel C.

On the rear, the 8MP camera is joined by the iconic Chromebook light bar shining in Google's four trademark colours. It's Google's answer to the illuminated Apple logo on the MacBook range, ensuring that even in dark environments people know the brand of your machine. Thank God.

It is rather attractive, and it actually serves a purpose other than blowing Google's trumpet. Double-tap the light bar and it can display the Pixel C's battery level, even when the device is turned off – that's really useful if you want to see if it needs a quick charge.

Google Pixel C review

The flat edges mean the Pixel C doesn't sit particularly comfortably in the hand, and this isn't a tablet you'll want to be clinging to for extended periods of time.

The location of the various buttons, and the orientation of the light bar, signals that Google intends for you to use the Pixel C in landscape mode most of the time. But portrait mode is readily available, and is arguably better for activities such as web browsing.

The design then, is pleasing to the eye, but the Pixel C still can't hold a candle to the iPad Air 2. Apple's flagship tablet just feels nicer, looks slicker and weighs less. I really like the Pixel C's design, but put it next to the iPad and Apple still wins the beauty contest.