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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.

On the hardware front, the Pixel C has high-quality keys and an impressive amount of resistance -- but cramming a full keyboard into a space that's roughly 9.5 in. long is inevitably going to require a certain level of compromise. Typing on the device is akin to typing on a really good netbook: I adapt to it fairly quickly and can get by well enough, but ultimately, it's just not as comfortable as typing on a regular laptop. (The same can be said for trying to do actual work on a screen that's only 10.2 in. -- a size that's fine for casual computing but not exactly optimal for extended periods of concentrated work.)

The Pixel C also doesn't have a trackpad, which seems strange when you're using it like a laptop -- as you have to move your hands off the keyboard and then reach up to tap the screen every time you want to open a menu or "click" on something. Even just returning to your home screen requires an on-screen tap, as the keyboard has no such function keys. And while the magnets holding the tablet in place are extremely strong, the screen does still wobble every time you touch it -- just enough to remind you that you aren't using a holistic device.

It's hard not to compare the arrangement to Dell's Venue 10 7000, a similarly conceived convertible Android tablet that managed to implement a more fully equipped (and backlit!) keyboard as well as a trackpad into its lower half. The experience on that device feels far more natural and laptop-like as a result.

And though the Pixel C's method of tablet-keyboard connection is sleek-looking and intuitive, I can't help but think it's less practical than the more conventional method used on Dell's system. The top quarter of the Pixel C's keyboard attachment hides the connecting hinge behind a magnetic panel -- so when you want to attach the tablet, you touch the lower part of its back to that panel, and the two surfaces secure themselves together. You then pull up on the tablet, and it lifts the panel up from the base and allows you to position the screen up to a roughly 100 degree angle.

04 pixel c keyboard 
The top quarter of the Pixel C's keyboard attachment hides the connecting hinge behind a magnetic panel. Credit: Google

Attractive as it may be, the nature of that mechanism is what causes the space on the keyboard panel to be so limited, since so much of the surface area is taken up by the hinge-hiding panel. It also causes the device to feel decidedly like two separate pieces -- a tablet sitting on a keyboard attachment -- instead of feeling like a cohesive whole, as Dell's convertible does.


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