Pixel C review: This pixel perfect tablet lacks for software

Pixel C is the best of all tablets, but Google's software teams didn’t do it any justice

pixel c wall
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

Tablets are interesting market. They are fine as consumption devices, but Apple, Microsoft, and Google all are botching it as a work device. And as far as I can tell, the problem lies in the software.

I have, at various points,  owned the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, Nexus 7, Nexus 9, iPad Mini, iPad AIR 1 and 2. I recently bought the iPad Pro and gave my iPad AIR 2 to a friend. (And boy did I miss the iPad AIR; Pro is way too big to carry around the house comfortably.) I also  didn’t like the Logitech CREATE keyboard, which at the time I saw as the lesser of two evils, but without a physical keyboard I can't really do much work on the iPad Pro. So I sent the Logitech keyboard back and pre-ordered Apple’s Smart Keyboard, which may arrive in January, but also lacks everything that one would expected from a $170 iOS keyboard.

Last week Google sent me a review unit of Pixel C, along with the keyboard, and I have been playing with this device for almost a week now.

When I first got the Pixel C, it reminded me how much I needed a portable tablet. And it’s a beautifully designed device.

Look and feel

Pixel C is an all aluminum and glass device. There is no gap between the body and the display. Everything is pixel-perfect.

pixel c tablet mode Swapnil Bhartiya

The device shares the design DNA of Pixel Chromebooks, which are squarish. It has slightly rounded corners, though not as round as the iPad's. I have used many Android tablets, going all the way back to the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 and the latest Nexus 9, and none felt this great.

Pixel C reflects Google’s minimalistic approach to hardware.  There is hardly any Google branding anywhere on the device, despite being made by Google and not by partners, like the Nexus family of devices.

The only branding you see is at the back of the tablet in form of a light strip that serves many purposes. When the tablet is being used it shows four colors (blue, red, yellow and green), discretely reflecting Google’s branding. When the tablet is not in use, the strip serves as a battery indicator: just tap twice and it will show the battery status. Interestingly, and potentially confusing for users, the strip isn't touch-sensitive. It seems to work with the accelerometer, users have to tap it as you would tap on someone's shoulder to get their attention  and not the way you tap on a touch screen.

dsc 4655 Swapnil Bhartiya

Light strip on Pixel C

The back of the device also has an 8 MP main camera. There isn’t much to say about the main or front-facing cameras. The front -facing camera is good for Hangouts, and the main camera serves well if you are using it for anything other than photography, but that is true of all tablet main cameras and isn't unique to the Pixel C. The camera isn't totally useless, though. One good use of main cameras on tablets is for sports. Your trainer or coach can record video during practice and immediately show you how you are doing.

There is USB Type C port at the bottom of the left side of the device. On the top left is the volume button. The power button is on the top, above the main camera. There are four microphones on top as well. Yes, not one, not two, but four microphones.

You would think that with four microphones, you'd have a better Ok Google experience. But that is not the case. First, unlike on phones, Ok Google works only when the Pixel C's screen is on. Second, the detection is not great. My Nexus 6P responds to OK Google better than Pixel C. I believe that the problem lies in the software and not the hardware . A software update may improve things.

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