Google has announced it’s working on a 10.2 inch tablet called the Pixel C at its Nexus event in SF today. The slate was revealed by product management exec Andrew Bowers, who talked up both the “play” and “productivity” aspects of the forthcoming addition to Google’s Pixel line-up.
Unlike prior Pixels, this slate runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) not Google’s Chrome OS. It’s also, well, a tablet and not a laptop (like earlier Pixels) — although its flagship feature is a detachable keyboard accessory, which attaches via magnets, for a full Qwerty typing experience, too.
Tablets “often force you back to a laptop when you want to write a document or respond to a long email,” said Bowers, explaining Google’s thinking with the Pixel C’s snap-on keyboard design. “And while there are plenty of keyboard accessories, they are often just that — they’re accessories. They have cramped keyboards, require you to use them on a desk, or get in the way when you don’t want to type.
“In the case of tablets, we asked ourselves what would an ideal touch plus typing experience look like? Something where the screen and the keyboard complement each other,” he added, noting that the ‘C’ in the name stands for ‘Convertible.’
“We think the Pixel C’s tablet and keyboard experience really unlocks new ways to both play and be productive on one device.”
When closed, the keyboard and tablet are held together with “self aligning magnets.” When you want to convert it to tying mode, the screen lifts off and attaches to a flap at the back of the keyboard. This is adjustable so the screen angle can be tilted between 100 and 135 degrees.
“There’s no kickstand or clasp mechanism to get in your way,” added Bowers — taking a little side-swipe at Microsoft’s original Surface slate (which has a kickstand). “It’s very easy to use in your lap. You can use it on the bed, you can use it on the couch, wherever you want to use the device.”
The physical keyboard layout has been tweaked slightly to save space — with five lesser-used symbol keys removed so they are only available on the touchscreen keyboard.
The physical keyboard links to the Pixel via Bluetooth so it does contain a battery, but Bowers asserted that users will “never have to charge it” — because the tablet inductively charges the Pixel C’s keyboard when closed. If you forget to close it, the keyboard will still last for over two months of daily active usage on its battery before needing to be juiced, according to Google.
Bowers said the Pixel C will be released “in time for the holidays”, and sold via the Google Store, with a price-tag of $499 for the tablet and $149 for the keyboard. So that’s $648 if you’re going all in.
The original Chromebook Pixel was released back in February 2013 — with Google pairing its own-brand, high-end laptop hardware with Chrome OS in a bid to drive interest in its cloud-based operating system. There was a pretty high-end price tag too, although two years on the laptop was still as shiny but with a slightly squeezed price.
The Pixel C is no less premium in the looks department, with an all-metal enclosure — which Bowers touted as “sturdy and solid in your hands.” Indeed, it has a similar look to Microsoft’s Surface tablet, which also comes with a keyboard cover accessory (although the Surface keyboard is a little less high end/more colorful in the looks department).
On the specs front, the Pixel C’s high-res display packs in 308ppi — so Google is aiming for the kind of pixel-free viewing Apple touts with its Retina displays — and offers 500 nits on the brightness front. Under the hood there’s an NVIDIA X1 quad-core processor and a “desktop class” Maxwell GPU, and 3GB of RAM. “That’s a lot of graphics horsepower in a mobile device. You’ll see that games really shine,” added Bowers.
Also on board: stereo speakers on either side of the screen, with an eye on the movie viewing experience. And four microphones to power Android voice interactions “from across the room.” It also includes USB Type-C for charging. Battery life was not specifically quantified — beyond Bowers saying it’s “great” for a tablet. He added that Google would be revealing more details about the slate in the coming months ahead of launch.