The Pixel Slate is one of the most confusing products I've used in my time in Android Police. On the one hand, it feels mature: Chrome OS is really a real operating system in 2018, and using the Slate as you would with any other Chromebook is a great experience. On the other hand, it is also frustratingly unfinished: Chrome OS is not an operating system for tablets in 2018, and that is not something that will change overnight. That can make the whole "blackboard" part of Pixel Slate look like a last-minute idea. (Note: this is not our review, which will be published later in the week, because I want more time with this thing).
And sure, I could have easily predicted it by the time the detachable hybrid was announced last month. These are things that are obvious to anyone who has used a Chromebook or an Android tablet in recent years, and putting one exoskeleton on top of the other is not going to do any magic that you have not expected. That is, when it comes to software, the Pixel Slate is not unexpectedly more than the sum of its parts. Google has not taken any rabbit out of the hats. But I do not think it's necessary either.
The right thing
Good enough is good enough, at least to begin with.
The Pixel Slate is exactly the product "good enough" that Google has desperately needed to catch up with Apple and Microsoft in the very sexy demountable segment, but mostly for tech journalists, and "good enough" is enough Well, at least to begin with. Google can not afford to stay out of this market, and Slate is a perfectly competent product if not changing the rules of the game. It also makes sense considering the state of space, extending the intermediate terrain between the Surface Pro "Literally alive in Excel and Outlook" and the "Pro for emails that are too long to write on my phone". The Slate has a wonderful screen, strong front stereo speakers, two USB-C ports (unfortunately, no headphone jack), a selection of Intel Zippy processors (my review unit is an i5) and excellent battery life.
But it runs Chrome, and this is where the Chromebook's detractors invariably derail comparisons with "serious" computers, claiming that the platform lacks the basic credibility to guarantee one in the first place. The persistent drought of applications for video editing, music creation, design, image manipulation and "Serious productivity" (which is not a thing) is still an easy goal, but I do not think it is entirely fair. First of all, the loudest cries here come from those who invest in platforms that they have no serious interest in leaving, people who would not move to Chrome OS, even if they could. Secondly, I do not have the feeling that Google is trying to convince these people to abandon Windows, MacOS or even iOS, so the whole point, that Chrome OS does not publish targets from other platforms, feels every more debatable time.
A computer for the next billion.
The vast majority of people who buy computers have no idea how to do anything in Adobe Premiere, DAW or any other very serious software, and never will.
You may not know it, but millions of American school children use Chromebooks every day. Keeping them on Chrome OS in their 20s and more is of great importance to Google. Arguing before deeply rooted tribal audiences that they should try something new is … no. It is likely that the 40-something corporate demographic group is never interested in a Chromebook for "work", and neither will independent musicians and designers who demand a variety of highly specialized software, often only available on iOS. Mac. But, interestingly, it is these people and their workflows that receive the most attention in product announcements, even though they constitute a small portion of consumer sales. This is because the power of suggestive marketing is convincing: the trumpet's support for the new version of a suite of well-known creative applications is a key resource, and a striking demonstration by a partner can convince regular consumers that they will also realize their creative dreams. If only they buy in an ecosystem.
However, the vast majority of people who buy computers have no idea how to do anything in Adobe Premiere or DAW or any other very serious software, and they never will. These use cases are, for most people, completely imaginary.
However, Chrome OS asks us a simple question: How much time is spent in a browser window?
However, these are still the things that appear without fail in the commercials of Apple and Microsoft, pasted on posters and product pages, as if this were what everyone is using a computer to. However, Chrome OS asks us a simple question: How much time is spent in a browser window? For practically all of us, the answer is "a lot, and more than ever". Think about it. In a browser, you can watch almost any movie or TV show. You can perform your banking, pay bills, all your online purchases, manage trips, email, use all your chat platforms and consume unlimited content. And, more and more, you can do even more if you invest in Google platforms.
Google Photos is a perfectly useful image editor, and its cloud storage and search capabilities make it more practical than local photo management for most people. Google Docs has gone from being an object of laughter to being accepted without enthusiasm for its ubiquity in the workplace as Microsoft Word. Google Duo is finally taking native video chat to Chrome OS. Android messages on the web make text messages from your laptop a rather painless experience. Most of today's web applications support notifications, providing a more native feel. And the new integration of the Pixel Slate Wizard is incredibly fast, which gives Google's unrivaled artificial intelligence a much needed performance boost on the platform. Google's Project Stream is even making fun of how the games might be transmitted by the browser, and for the most part, it looks pretty promising. And for what it can not do in a browser, Android applications have proven to be a surprisingly capable, though far from perfect, increase in the reduced sensitivity of Chrome OS.
A new version of Google Assistant provides a significant performance update on the Pixel Slate
Together, these things make the Pixel Slate feel like the future; a manifestation of the vision of Google's largest platform. But if Chrome is not a platform you're interested in, Slate will not change it, and I doubt that any Chrome product will. And even if you're invested in Google services and you like Chrome OS, Slate is still a dubious choice for most: paying $ 600 or more for a tablet to watch Netflix, YouTube and show recipes in the kitchen is, you'll have to apologize , crazy If that's what you want, buy a basic iPad: it costs half and has native applications that you would really like to use. And let's eliminate that argument before it starts: the Pixel Slate is not the Android iPad (even if it competes with the iPad Pro). There will never be an Android iPad. The iPad completely dominates the "people who want iPad" market. Even Samsung can not break that nut.
The strength of Chrome is the weakness of Slate: the web itself
The mobile web was designed for touch screens, but the desktop web is simply not there yet.
For all the good things I have to say about Slate, I can not suggest to anyone to buy an independent Chrome tablet, at least not yet. Chrome OS is not a very good touch experience, especially on such a large screen. The virtual keyboard is almost unusable on a 12.3-inch screen. "Tactile targets on web pages often do not respond or respond too much (things are pressed during travel, for example). Notifications are constantly interposing and are unreasonably annoying It is clearly the result of Chrome being the first web platform, the mobile web was designed for touch screens, but the desktop web does not yet exist, and Chrome's browsing experience in a touch environment is very imperfect as a result. Of course, it is still much better than it would have been even five years ago, which shows how quickly the web is evolving and adapting to the capabilities of our devices.
The other side of all these problems is that you're probably buying the Pixel Slate because you want a Chromebook that doubles as a tablet, not the other way around (but if you are, my advice is: no), and none. They really matter a lot. The Pixel Slate is, by far, a better laptop than an iPad because it works on a platform that was designed from the first day. for laptops. And here's the plain truth about all the video editing and content creation apps on iOS: they never came to Android or Chrome OS (Google says Adobe Premiere Rush will arrive, which is fine). That means that the only tablet tasks that really matter for Chrome are reduced to content consumption.
And when I want to use it as a tablet for Netflix, YouTube or just read the news, the Pixel Slate is totally fine! It's not the polished and perfect iOS experience, but it's not necessary to do these things. Do you really need the native Netflix application to use Netflix? Or YouTube? Or the New York Times? Of course not, and anyone who says otherwise, probably has not used the web versions of these services in years and should be completely ignored. In the end, watching YouTube in 4K in the Pixel Slate on the web is no different than seeing it in the iPad Pro in the app, and who cares what you have at that moment?
Understanding the Pixel Slate as part of this larger image, of the evolution of the web itself, requires taking a step back so that the review of a product can not really be allowed.
It would also argue strongly that Chrome OS is becoming more capable more quickly than iOS, MacOS or Windows, and that many of its advantages in touch applications will be resolved over time (as has been the case with Chromebooks). This is because the evolution of Chrome OS is both a function of the operating system that changes as is the web itself, which is becoming much faster, richer and more powerful. And sure, that benefits all platforms (each computer has a browser) but it has a large effect on Chrome OS because of that web philosophy (for example, as desktop experiences on the web become more easy to play, a Chrome tablet becomes much more viable).
Understanding the Pixel Slate as part of this larger image, of the evolution of the web itself, requires taking a step back so that the review of a product can not really be allowed. And that's why, when our review is published, I will not recommend the Slate for most buyers (it's too expensive and limited as a stand-alone tablet, and the Pixelbook is the premium Chromebook to buy, unless you really want a huge difficult to handle, expensive removable). I still think that releasing it was the right decision. Pixel Slate is the Band-Aid that Google stole, and it's something that they'll have to keep cheating for years to come. Necessary. Because of that, I have the feeling that even within a year, it will not be the same product that was launched today, it will be better. And that's what makes Chrome OS so exciting. But the here and now are still important, and now the Pixel Slate is expensive, compromised and probably more than a little confusing to the average consumer.
Pair for the course of a Google product, then.