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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.

The tablet-using experience

The rest of the Pixel C's hardware is pretty straightforward: The device has decently loud but hollow-sounding speakers on both of its shorter side edges. And the tablet has just two ports: a 3.5mm headphone jack on one side and a USB-C port on the other.

The USB-C port allows you to plug in a cable in either direction, which is nice after years of fumbling with one-directional USB connectors. It also enables fast charging and the ability to charge one USB-C device from another (if you wanted to use your tablet to top off your phone, for instance). The standard is still fairly new, so you may have to stock up on extra chargers and cables for now, but it's expected to become the norm on many laptops, phones and tablets in the months ahead.

I should note that, unlike the Chromebook Pixel, the Pixel C's USB-C port does not presently double as an HDMI-out port (even with an adapter). Google tells me such a function might be added via a future update, but there's no guarantee. The Pixel C also lacks an SD card slot for supplementing local storage.

Performance on the Pixel C, meanwhile, has been flawlessly speedy for me, with nary a stutter nor sign of lag anywhere in the system. The tablet's stamina has been equally stellar: Even with several hours of active on-screen use, I've yet to come close to running low on battery within a single day. Plus, with the minimal standby power consumption that Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow software enables, the tablet can stay on all night and lose only a couple of percentage points of power. All said and told, most people should have no problem leaving the tablet on around the clock and getting multiple days between charges.

About the software: The Pixel C runs a pure and unadulterated version of Google's latest operating system, with none of the arbitrary visual changes or pointless bloat we often see added in by third-party Android manufacturers. The result is an attractive and intuitive environment, with no superfluous clutter and a consistent design language that extends from the system UI to the ecosystem of apps around it. The user interface makes an immeasurable impact in what a device is like to use, and that alone is enough to put the Pixel C in a league above most other Android products.

Technically, the Pixel C runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, but the changes from the base 6.0 release appear to be fairly minimal. The only significant visual difference I've noticed is that the main system buttons are now justified to the sides instead of being centered, with the Back and Home keys at the far left of the screen and the Overview icon at the right.


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