Pixel Slate Hands-On: Google's First Detachable

Google is taking a page out of Microsoft’s hardware book with the Google Pixel Slate, a Surface-like detachable Chrome OS tablet with a 12.3-inch, pixel-dense (3,000x2,000 pixels, or 293ppi) screen, dual front-firing speakers, a fingerprint reader that doubles as a power button and a keyboard with strange-looking circular keys. There’s also rear and front-facing cameras here for shooting photos and video chats.

It starts at $599 with an Intel Celeron processor (4GB RAM / 32GB storage or 8GB/64GB), $799 with an 8th Gen Core m3 (8GB of RAM, 64GB of storage), $999 for an i5 with 8GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage or a whopping $1,599 for a Core i7, 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Those higher configs push the boundaries of what people expect to pay for Chromebooks.

Starting Price
$599
CPU
Up to Intel Core i7
RAM
Up to 16GB
SSD
Up to 256GB SSD
Battery
48Wh
Ports
2x USB Type-C
Display
12.3 inches, 3000 x 2000
Size
11.5 x 8 x  0.3 inches
Weight
1.6 pounds
Camera
2x 8MP (f/1.9 aperature on front, f/1.8 on back)
Keyboard
Extra, $199
Pen
Extra, $99

Google says the Pixel Slate will be available later this year, though you’ll have to pony up a very-hefty $199 more for the keyboard, while a Pixel Pen will also be available for $99. We still argue, just as we have for years with Microsoft’s Surfaces, that a device that’s designed to be used with a keyboard, should include it in the box. And while the $599 starting price sounds enticing, $800 in total with the keyboard is still a lot to ask for a computing device that, for most, probably won’t be their primary computing device. And that's with the weakest processor.

The Pixel Slate also borrows something from a few recent smartphones, in that it has USB-C but lacks a headphone jack.That’s bound to annoy some potential buyers. But with the ubiquity and affordability of Bluetooth speakers and earbuds, you can probably afford (or already own) a Bluetooth audio device if you’re considering a premium Chrome devices like the Pixel Slate.

Of course, this isn’t exactly the first detachable Chromebook. HP recently released its Chromebook x2, and Acer has its education-focused Tab 10 (which lacks a dedicated keyboard). But we like what Google’s done with the design here. It’s a compact, pleasing portable device.

About that keyboard: While the keys are striking in their roundness, they’re surprisingly big for a keyboard on a 10-inch slate, and backlit for typing in dim environments.The keyboard clicks in magnetically, without any need for pairing, and there’s lots of angle adjustability thanks to the keyboard’s folio design. The keyboard feels shallow, but I felt that I could use it day to day without any problems. It's super easy to adjust the screen angle, because the magnetic back section slides up and down and stays right where you leave it.

Google has also tweaked Chrome OS for the Pixel Slate. It’s been optimized for touch input, and the launcher provides suggestions for your frequently used apps, rather than having to type or swipe to search for them. There are also new Do Not Disturb and Night Light features, because Google knows we just can’t put down our devices at night. In my time with it, I found the contextual menu and app drawer to be well executed features that could make the Slate far more useful as a tablet.

We’ll have to wait for a full review to pass final judgement. But if you like detachables and do most of your work in a browser or Google’s apps, it’s clear that the Pixel Slate is certainly worth considering.