PROS / The Pixel C is powered by an excellent NVIDIA processor that handled games and work easily in our hands-on testing.
CONS / Google's keyboard accessory isn't included with the Pixel C.
VERDICT / The Pixel C readily earns its billing as the definitive Google tablet. With stellar performance and specifications, it can handle home and business applications with ease.
As popular as Google's Android operating system has been for tablets, the company has conspicuously lacked a recent flagship tablet. Outside of the Nexus 9 – which was released back in 2014 – Google hasn't manufactured a tablet that can go head-to-head with the best models in the market. For most consumers, tablets like Samsung's Galaxy Tab series have been more synonymous with Android than anything directly made by Google.
From the inside and outside, the Pixel C decisively reverses this status quo. While it's not without some design and accessory-related blind spots, the Pixel C's mix of stellar build quality and specifications help the tablet earn the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
Internally, the Pixel C is built on a NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor that provided superb testing performance. During our benchmarking with the performance and graphics tests Geekbench 3 and 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the Pixel C produced respective marks of 4,328 points and 40,436 points. Geekbench 3 evaluates general performance through a variety of synthetic processor and system tests, while 3DMark uses simulated gaming scenarios to stress the tablet's graphics processing ability.
The Pixel C's earned the best 3DMark score among the tablets we evaluated, and its high Geekbench score was comparable to other premium tablets on the market. In our hands-on testing, we found that the Pixel C could readily handle multitasking and high-end gaming in titles like "N.O.V.A. 3: Freedom Edition" with no slowdown issues.
The Pixel C's specifications are stellar on paper, with a 10.2-inch display that has a resolution of 2560 x 1800 pixels. It's a marginal but beneficial bump in resolution compared to other top tablets, which generally reach the 2048 x 1536-pixel range. In our hands-on testing, we were impressed by the Google tablet's phenomenal screen and display performance. During testing from our colleagues at Laptop Mag, the Pixel C had a top-in-class brightness rating of 509 nits, which is a unit of measurement for the luminance of a screen. Text and images were displayed with excellent fidelity and virtually free of noticeable pixilation. Overall, the Pixel C's display abilities deservedly place it in the same league as other premium tablets we reviewed.
The Pixel C also performed solidly during battery benchmarking tests from our colleagues at Laptop Mag. In their testing, a tablet loops through webpages at a constant brightness until it powers down. With its mark of 11 hours and 8 minutes, the Pixel C's tested battery life falls in line with comparable premium tablets, which regularly break the 10-hour mark in Laptop's testing.
Physically, the Pixel C's design falls generally in line with comparable premium tablets, but with its dimensions of 9.5 x 7 x 0.27 inches and weight of 1.14 pounds, the Pixel is marginally heavier and thicker than other top tablets. Still, we found the tablet to be excellent to use in our hands-on testing thanks to its stellar build quality. The tablet is built around a sturdy aluminum body that has a nice heft to it and which is cleanly designed. Seams between the screen and body are imperceptible, and the case is free of noticeable flex. The Pixel C also has a multicolored lightbar on the back for decoration, and it functions as a battery life indicator.
The tablet relies on a USB Type-C port for data transfer and charging, and it has a basic stereo speaker setup with average audio quality. Note that this tablet supports neither mobile data connectivity nor microSD cards. However, the Pixel C can be configured with 32GB or 64GB of internal storage.
The Pixel C's keyboard dock accessory – which has to be purchased separately during the checkout process – manages to solve most of the pitfalls tablet keyboards typically fall into. The sturdy dock features the same style of metal used on the tablet and a full plastic keyboard with a comfortable level of key travel, which refers to the distance you have to press a key down. While the keyboard smoothly integrates with the tablet in some areas (for example, the dock can be charged wirelessly through the tablet), it can be awkward in other places. For instance, the Pixel attaches to the dock via a rotatable magnetic pad that provides functionality somewhat like a tablet.
While the pad provides a full laptop-like range of viewing angles for the Pixel C, detaching it from the tablet requires a forceful tug. In addition, the keyboard's narrow dimensions force the Enter key to be aligned vertically instead of horizontally. Still, the physical strengths of the Pixel C make up for these occasional quirks and make it relatively friendly for business and student users.
As with other mobile operating systems that have tried to move toward a tablet PC experience, the Pixel C and Android are still going through some growing pains. App optimization remains a mixed bag for Android computer tablets, as programs like ESPN's Fantasy Football and Instagram still default to menu layouts meant for mobile phones. In these situations, you'll frequently find issues like a lack of support for horizontal views and menus with large amounts of unused screen space, since these apps were originally designed for a phone display.
Google includes a standard 8-megapixel (rear) and 1.2-megapixel (front) pair of cameras on the Pixel C that provided standard image fidelity in our hands-on testing. We took a variety of outdoor and indoor test images, and they had reasonable color reproduction and detail. Google includes several software tools for functions like panoramic, close-up and 3D-like 360-degree photos. The cameras aren't especially remarkable, but provide enough fidelity and features for most home users.
Help & Support
By default, Google offers a one-year warranty on the Pixel C. The company also offers support through a variety of channels, including phone agents, live chat and social media. The company's online support section features a standard FAQ-style layout that covers issues like charging questions and keyboard configuration guides.
As bifurcated as the Android tablet market can be for general users, Google deserves some credit for attempting to bridge this divide. And it's bridged it well, considering the Pixel C is competitive with the best flagship tablets on the market. While – as with competing premium tablets – the Pixel C's tablet PC features are still a work in progress, the Pixel C merits its status as Google's flagship tablet thanks to its stellar specifications and build quality.