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Pixel C deep-dive review: A terrific tablet that tries to be more

JR Raphael | Dec. 9, 2015
Google's new device sets a new bar for high-end Android tablets -- but as a convertible, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

At its core, the Pixel C is a 10.2-in. tablet -- and in that regard, it's a pleasure to use. The metal casing feels smooth and luxurious under your fingers. At 1.1 lb., it isn't the lightest tablet around, but it seems strong and sturdy and is quite comfortable to hold (using two hands, which is pretty much par for the course with a device of this size). The slate is relatively thin, too, at 0.28 in. -- a touch slimmer than Apple's original iPad Air and just four-hundredths of an inch thicker than the newer iPad Air 2.

Staying true to the Pixel name, the Pixel C's display is gorgeous -- a 2560 x 1800 LCD panel that's impossibly crisp and detailed. It's super bright, too, to the point that I've actually found myself using it at the lowest possible brightness setting most of the time.

The usual qualifiers associated with LCD displays do apply: Colors on the Pixel C's screen are a bit less vibrant and saturated than what you'd see on an AMOLED panel, and blacks appear somewhat grayish instead of being fully dark and deep. But honestly, that's picking nits when we're talking about a display of this caliber. This thing looks fantastic, and unless you're studying it side by side with an AMOLED device (or are a professional display snob, like yours truly), you almost certainly won't think about those differences or have any cause for complaint.

The Pixel C's display uses an unusual aspect ratio of 1:√2 (about 1:1.4142), which is comparable to a standard sheet of A4 paper. That makes it more box-like and less widescreen than the 16:9 or 16:10 ratios that are more common on Android tablets. The result is a less elongated shape that shows you more content from top to bottom in landscape orientation and a wider viewing area in portrait mode. (Fittingly, it's pretty similar to what you get with the also-unusual 3:2 aspect ratio of the Chromebook Pixel.)

In real-world terms, the setup feels quite natural for tasks like browsing the Web or scrolling through text-centric apps like social media services, word processors and news reading tools. It's less ideal for watching videos, which tend to be created with widescreen displays in mind and consequently end up playing in the center of the screen with prominent black bars on the top and bottom. Aside from that outlier, though, I've found I rather enjoy the more balanced shape, as it meshes nicely with most of my day-to-day use.

The Pixel C's aspect ratio also suggests some interesting advancements that might be on the way for both this device and Android as a platform in the future, but that's another story -- one that isn't directly relevant to the product as it stands today.


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