Call me crazy, but Chromebooks should be affordable. That’s how I came to love Google’s push for a browser-driven, lite-computing future years ago, and it’s how Chromebooks became a staple of school systems everywhere. No doubt about it: Chromebooks are great.
Now, $1,000 Chromebooks…I don’t know. Google’s made bleeding-edge Chrome computers for years, and the Pixelbook a year ago wowed us with an elegant design. The Pixel Slate tries to take on iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface territory by blending tablet and Chromebook into one device. It’s the right direction, but the wrong product.
As I said after a week of using it, the Pixel Slate is the Mirror Universe iPad Pro. It has a full desktop-class browser and support for Bluetooth mice and keyboards with trackpads, which is great. Working on the Pixel Slate, with an optional keyboard, feels like working on a laptop.
This is the type of product I want future Chromebooks to be, but not at this price.
Tablet as full computer: Sure, of course
Sure, Microsoft’s been offering the same solution on the Surface and on countless Windows 10 two-in-ones. Google’s Chrome solution has some advantages in a lean OS that starts fast, automatic updates, excellent Google services and Google Assistant on tap, and support for the Google Play Store and Android apps, which run to varying degrees of success on the Pixel Slate.
The thin, cleanly-designed Slate is indeed a blank slate for running a lot of apps, and connecting to a lot of accessories. That’s not a new idea, though. And it’s not even the first Chrome tablet, either: the excellent HP Chromebook X2 is the choice I’d recommend instead, since it has an included keyboard.
Whoa, this gets expensive fast
That’s the biggest problem with the Pixel Slate (among several others): the $599 starting price for the tablet, with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage, isn’t upgradeable and lacks a MicroSD card slot. (My review loaner runs $1,000 for a Core i5 and 128GB of storage.)
That doesn’t include a keyboard, which you’d surely want, and maybe Google’s pressure-sensitive Pixelbook Pen stylus. Add those, and the entry-level price climbs to around $900.
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