Historically, Android tablets haven’t been well-received by both critics and consumers alike. There’s never been a single Android tablet that’s caught mainstream attention like Apple’s iPad line has, and Google knows that. Google’s aware that Android tablets have barely survived for the past decade, from poor commitments from hardware partners to bad app optimizations from software developers. The Pixel Tablet will help change all of that, at least in Google’s opinion.
We’ve already seen the Pixel Tablet, we know what it looks like, and we know that Google wants it to be a success. The $499 device was shown off again at I/O in Mountain View, where we also got a deeper look at how Google wants this device to work. It’s not going against the iPad on the entertainment or productivity fronts, it’s not trying to be a cheap beater tablet like Amazon’s Fire line, and it’s definitely not ushering in any new technologies that will fundamentally change the tablet market moving forward.
Instead, it wants to be a central hub for your home. It connects to a magnetic speaker dock which enables a smart display interface, emulating that of a Google Nest Hub–photo slideshow and all. When you disconnect it, the Pixel Tablet becomes just that, a tablet. We’ve seen this concept before from companies like Lenovo, but never from Google.
And I kinda dig it.
When the Pixel Tablet is docked, it looks just like a Nest Hub Max, except even bigger. It’s got an 11-inch 16:10 LCD display with a 2560×1600 resolution, and it morphs from tablet mode to smart display mode pretty seamlessly. It’s obviously powered by Android 13, and there’s a bunch of custom software built in that helps turn it into a Nest Hub alternative.
You can shout commands at it by saying “Hey Google,” you can control your smart home, you can play any music you want (pro tip: play music on the tablet first, then connect it to the dock and watch it automatically transition to the bigger speaker), you can ask it to pull up a recipe – you get the gist. This is a proper smart display, except the display can detach from the base.
Once you do that, you’re presented with a friendly-looking tablet with chunky bezels and powerful specs. Google threw in a Tensor G2 chip–the same one that powers the Pixel 7 and 7a–along with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage. The battery lasts up to 12 hours, and you probably won’t ever run it down to zero since it’ll constantly be charging on that dock. There’s no 5G or LTE, but you probably won’t miss that since this device is primarily designed for your home.
That takes me to my next point: the Pixel Tablet, for all intents and purposes, should be used for home things. Not “home office” things or “home creativity sessions,” but general home things. The software, while tuned to run two apps side-by-side and includes a floating app dock, isn’t designed for productivity. You won’t find any stylus support or external keyboard accessories here. It’s a simple, no-frills tablet with a big screen, stereo speakers, and curved corners.
All of that will make the Pixel Tablet a great content-consumption device, which is basically its entire point of existence. You can control your smart home and ask for the weather one second, then yank it off its dock and fire up your favorite Netflix show the next. It doesn’t become a tablet until you unlock it with your fingerprint; from there, it’s like any other Android device you may have used. Swipe around the home pages, scroll the app drawer, check your Google Now feed (is it still called “Google Now?”), and watch some content.
Google has also been hard at work convincing developers to optimize their apps for the larger display, which has been a huge issue on Android tablets dating back to the days of the Nexus 7, one of the most popular Android tablets of all time. The company says it’s optimized over 50 of its own apps to better fill the screens of large form factors like tablets and foldables, and here’s to hoping that more developers catch on.
The Pixel Tablet seems like an interesting experiment from Google. At $499, it’s certainly priced well, and the bundled charging dock will help to add new functionality and not feel like you’re simply buying an Android tablet. It’s much more of an experience than any of Google’s past tablets, and it has the potential to set new industry trends–we already know Apple might be working on something similar for the iPad.
I’m into it, and I’m anxious to get my hands on it to see how good it truly is.