Google Pixel Slate review: So close, yet so far, from being a perfect Chrome-Android tablet hybrid

Reviewing the Pixel Slate was like reviewing two devices. Out of the box, it’s something of a high-end Android tablet running full-screen Play Store apps and a touch-friendly interface. But when you attach it to the Pixel Slate Keyboard, it transforms into a premium Chromebook, with a large multitouch trackpad and PC-like multitasking.

The Pixel Slate appears to be a dream 2-in-1, the rare hybrid device that truly conforms to your immediate needs. Where the iPad Pro and various convertible PCs fail to consider the jarring interface changes when switching from a touch-based UI to a keyboard-based UI, Google has designed Chrome OS’s new hybrid interface specifically with the Pixel Slate in mind. Google understands that you’ll use your Chromebook differently as a tablet than you would as a laptop.

So the Pixel Slate deserves to be taken seriously as the next generation of both Chromebooks and Android tablets. It’s the culmination of a three-year evolution from the Chromebook Pixel to the Pixel C and Pixelbook. At once a tablet that wants to be a laptop and a laptop that wants to be a tablet, it’s better at doing both than anything else out there.

But it’s also a work-in-progress saddled with frustrating limitations, flaws, glitches, and a bit of tug-of-war between the Android and Chrome sides of its personality. All these issues conspire to prevent the Pixel Slate from being all it could be.

Pixel Slate pricing and features

The Pixel Slate comes in several configurations, ranging from an Intel Celeron and topping off at an 8th-gen Core i7 processor. That’s a wide performance spread, with the low end delivering less horsepower than the $399 Surface Go and the high end competing with the Dell XPS 13.

I tested the $999 Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which represents the mid-point between the $599 entry-level model and the $1,599 top-of-the-line model. Unfortunately, LTE isn’t an option on any of configs, which makes the Pixel Slate less of a road warrior than the iPad Pro or Surface Pro.

It’s impossible to look at the Google Pixel Slate and not see shades of the iPad Pro. They both have a flat back and slim, uniform bezels, so orientation isn’t an issue. They both have gorgeous 12-inch-plus screens that feel much smaller than they are. And they both have enough embedded magnets to stick to a refrigerator door.

pixel slate fridgeMichael Simon/IDG

The Pixel Slate has enough magnets to stick it to the front of a refrigerator.

The Pixel Slate is also very much a Google device. It looks a little like a giant Pixel 2, right down to the dust-trapping speaker grilles flanking either end of the screen and the missing headphone jack. The only cosmetic similarity the Pixel Slate lacks is a two-tone back, which would have been a classy addition to the otherwise plain aesthetic.

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