Google just announced the introduction of the new Google Pixel Slate tablet at its hardware event in New York City. And while most Google fans are fixated on the also-about-to-be-announced Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Android phones, the Pixel Slate is a much bigger deal. It will be Google's first tablet to run on the Chrome operating system--not Android.
Google just held its new hardware event in New York City. Based on a generous supply of leaks, we knew beforehand that Google was introducing at least five new products. They turned out to be: Two new phones, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, a new Chromecast device for watching web content on a TV that supports faster wifi, the Google Home Hub, the first Google smart speaker with a touchscreen to compete with Amazon's Echo Show, and also some new smart light bulbs that can be controlled without a hub. But then there's the Google Pixel Slate, Google's newest tablet. And all I can think is what my stepdaughter was known for saying as a baby: "Want that!"
Some people can't bear to be separated from their phones, but I have that relationship with my Android tablet. It's the last device I turn off before I go to sleep and the first one I turn on when I wake up. I depend on it for reading, texting, playing games, email, shopping and pretty much everything else I do other than writing--and I wish I could use it for that as well. I've never wanted an iPad or a Windows tablet, and I've always preferred the purity and first-in-line-for-operating-system-upgrades you get with a Google branded product. So I was more than a bit perturbed when the Google Pixel C, introduced two years ago, was said to be Google's final Android tablet.
But the world was changing. Windows had already attempted to create a convergence between the world of laptops and the world of tablets, although the results have been mixed at best and clunky at worst. Now Google is creating that convergence with a few simple developments. First, Chrome went from just a browser to a web-based operating system that runs Chromebooks. Next, these Chromebooks became something of a tablet replacement when they were given touchscreens and the ability to load Android apps. Then Google came out with the Pixelbook, a gorgeous (and pricey) Chromebook. Google promised you could use it both as a laptop and as a tablet, not to mention as a viewing device for videos.
I wanted to want one. But in "tablet" mode, the Pixelbook still has a keyboard--it just folds around and lies flat against the back of the screen. I hated the idea of holding a tablet with a keyboard stuck to its back. On the other hand, I loved the idea of a Chromebook doubling as a tablet. I travel a lot, and it seems silly to drag along both a Chromebook and an Android tablet even though that's what I always do. I longed for a single device that could double as a Chromebook and tablet, with a full sized and functional keyboard, but not one that's permanently attached.
And that's exactly what the Google Pixel Slate. It's the first tablet to run Chrome OS, making it a full-fledged Chromebook, but also capable of loading Android apps. It doesn't come with a keyboard, but you can get one for $199 from Google, or $149 from Brydge. The Google keyboard has round keys which look cool and which the company claims reduce typing errors. It also has a dedicated button for the Google Assistant. It also works with the $99 Pixelbook Pen stylus.
Because the keyboard isn't attached, I wouldn't find myself twiddling with the keys as I try to read my book. In fact, the Google keyboard doubles as a cover that folds down and covers both sides of the Pixel Slate. It reminds me of the Microsoft Surface Pro, which this device is clearly meant to compete with. Best of all, I could finally stop traveling with both a Chromebook and a tablet, one for real work, the other for reading, games, and email. I could start leaving some of my technology at home. In other specs, the Pixel Slate has two USB-C ports, no SD card slot and somewhat surprisingly no headphone jack, although it comes with a dongle that converts one of the USB-C ports to one. Google apparently agrees with Apple that people would rather use Bluetooth ear buds than be physically connected to their devices.
Pricing for the Pixel Slate is a complex matter. One of its selling points is that is has a real Intel processor inside, giving it the power of a laptop rather than a tablet so how much you pay depends on which Intel processor you buy, along with whether you want 32 or 64 gigs of storage and 4 or 8 gigs of RAM. Depending on the configuration you choose, prices range from $599 to $1,599. Keep in mind that you'll have to buy the keyboard and stylus separately if you want them--this is not an inexpensive device.
The Pixel Slate will be available later in 2018 Google says, presumably in time for Christmas. I may wait to see if it turns up with any Black Friday pricing (though that seems unlikely), or if a refurbished or gently used one comes on the market sometime soon. Or I might just dive in and buy one. It's exactly what I've been wanting for a long time.