Though he’s well-known around the Engadget office for being a Chromebook enthusiast, deputy managing editor Nathan Ingraham found little to recommend about Google’s Pixel Slate. It would appear, given the responses from our user reviews page, that many real-world owners feel the same. Despite having a lovely 12.3-inch display, a comfortable keyboard folio and solid battery life, the Pixel Slate floundered on the software side: Its poor implementation of Android apps ultimately earned it an embarrassing score of 69. However, the Pixel Slate owners in our user reviews section were a bit more forgiving, giving it an average of 77.
The Pixel Slate’s 3,000 x 2,000 display made a good first impression on Nathan, who said it was bright and pixel-dense. Users also enjoyed the screen; Victor called it fantastic and Markus said it looked “gorgeous” during his gaming and minor writing or coding sessions. Trenton was also appreciative, deeming the screen “the best I’ve seen on any Chromebook or tablet to date. It is a pleasure to use.” Not a single user reviewer noted any drawbacks when it came to this part of the hardware.
But when it came to the Brydge Bluetooth keyboard, feedback was mixed. Cody felt it “could have been done a lot better. It’s too flexible by the point it connects and seems to make the tablet heavier and as thick as a laptop.” Shirko also thought the keyboard could use improvements, as it wasn’t “connected well-enough to not wobble when using it on the laptop (you know, the whole purpose of a laptop).” Andy came around eventually, saying it “was weird at first but now that I’m used to it. I much prefer the round keys and solid feel of it. I actually prefer it to my old Surface Pro cover.” And jRodd66 said the Brydge keyboard “makes it feel like a full laptop.”
Another standout feature for users were the speakers, which Nathan called “extremely powerful and clear.” Trenton said they were “awesome,” while Joel went so far as to say that the speakers are one of the things that set the Pixel Slate apart from the competition. But Shirko said they had some QC issues with their Slate speakers, which “not only buzz, but also completely change the way they sound in the higher volumes, which is weird.”
The Pixel Slate disappointed the most when it came to software: Chrome OS with Android apps, a pairing that Nathan found cumbersome and “a letdown at every turn.” The tablet interface was slow, with very few apps built for the screen’s size. What’s more, choosing between a web app or an Android app became an exercise in frustration.
Users echoed this experience: Shirko noted that “apps like YouTube are clearly not properly optimized for the Chrome OS tablet experience” and that the UI “feels like a beta build due to too many bugs.” Erik said the “Android and Chrome OS integration often leave me confused with each app and their capabilities” and admitted that Google “has gotten me used to living with software that is terrifyingly close to beta.” Iason was more pragmatic, stating that “Chrome OS still needs a lot of work, but one can perform the majority of daily functions with no hiccups.”
When it came to the Android apps themselves, responses were still critical. Mark couldn’t get them to function properly, and found “the way the apps keep jumping into the Chrome browser the most irritating tech failure that I have encountered in a long time.” srslywtf said there was “a sharp learning curve for Android apps and tablet mode,” and recommended that the “users stay in Chrome as much as possible and use Android second” for a great experience. Trenton was matter-of-fact with regard to the apps, stating “the lack of tablet optimized Android apps remains as an issue but it did not upset me. It is what it is.”
However, Pixel Slate owners were split on how the device stood up to the competition. Shawn said it “replaced my iPad Pro and I don’t miss it a bit … I’ve had a Surface Pro and iPad Pro and for what I do the Pixel Slate is hands-down better.” John replaced his iPad Pro and Mac Mini with the tablet, and T said the Pixel’s “USB and memory card support clinched the deal for me.” Despite that, T also said that the “Slate’s interface doesn’t compare to the iPad.” Shirko agreed with “the argument that you can do more stuff with a Surface and a MacBook is significant — it’s one of the main reasons why I’m writing this on a Surface Pro 6.”
Like Nathan, who wanted to love the Pixel Slate but couldn’t due to the combination of a high price and buggy software, some users were unable to recommend the tablet. Mark “wanted to love it and hated it” so much that he returned it to Google after a week, while Shirko balked at the “unjustified” cost: “If I’m buying what’s essentially a low-powered Core-Y and e MMC memory, $1000 is a ridiculous price.” But Victor wasn’t dissuaded, saying he “gave this product a chance even after all the criticism, and am very glad I did. It did not disappoint.” Trenton likewise was “very impressed with the i5 Pixel Slate model…It meets all of my needs and then some.” And jRodd66 said it was “the first tablet that I would consider for my only device when traveling.”