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Review: Google's Pixel C tablet is perfect…except for one thing (and it's not the software)

Reviewing Google's Pixel C, a nearly perfect Android tablet hybrid.

Google Pixel C review Android tablets
Credit: Google

The Google Pixel C is absolutely fan-freaking-tastic.

Except for one earth-shattering problem – and the software, despite what every other review on the Internet is saying, is not it. But we'll talk about that later. First, let's talk about all the amazing things about this tablet.

Well. It's not really a tablet. I mean, it sort of is. It's also a big netbook.

The screen is gloriously sexy. 2560x1800 resolution jammed into a 10.2-inch screen – continuing the Google Pixel tradition of amazing-looking, super high-resolution screens. No light bleed around the edges, crisp and clear. Just fantastic.

And the outside is so choice. A solid hunk of aluminum with beautiful edges. It feels like the sturdiest tablet I've ever laid my hands on. It doesn't bend. It doesn't creak. It feels like you're wielding an iron sword forged in the heart of a volcano. By Thor. The only way they could have made me like the exterior of this beauty any more would be if they made the bezel around the screen out of polished mahogany. 

(Seriously. Stick with me. It does have a down side. I'm getting there.)

The Pixel C's guts are comprised of the Tegra X1 from Nvidia, with 8 CPU cores and 3GB of RAM. Which is the same as what powers the Nvidia Shield TV – which is a hell of a beefy gaming console. So it's fast. And, because this is a device from Google, it's pretty safe to assume it will get the latest Android versions at least as quickly as the Nexus line.

The cameras are pretty average (8MP on the back, 2MP on the front). Don't have much else to say about that. I'm totally fine with them, but I'm not going to be using this as a camera often. No biggy.

So: huge bright screen and very high-end guts… the battery life just has to be terrible, right? That's gotta be the problem with the Pixel C…. the battery. Nope. Turns out this has the longest battery life of any tablet or laptop type device that I own. Hands down. I can play games on this thing for nearly an entire day on battery alone. 10 hours? No problem.

The software running this tablet, Android 6.0 "Marshmallow," is… 

… not at all a problem. Even though this "tablet" has a keyboard that turns it into more of a laptop, Android's touch-centric lineage doesn't actually pose a problem here. (Oh, note to self: Remember to talk about the crazy-nice-to-type-on keyboard.)

The screen is only capable of showing one application at a time. Is that limiting? Yes. Would I like resizable, movable, and stackable windows when using this as a laptop? Of course I would. I'm a man. A man with needs. A man with feelings.

But it is absolutely, 100% usable as a primary computer. As a laptop replacement. I can Alt-Tab between running applications. Which all share a common clipboard. And there are very few types of software that I miss when I spend a full day living in Android on the Pixel C.

Are there any great video editors? Not really, no. And that means I always need to have another computer available. Are there any great graphic design applications available to replace the glory that is Inkscape and The Gimp? Ok. I see your point. There really aren't great Android apps to replace those things. But most software is there.

Heck, you can even get Photoshop and Microsoft Office on here (if you need them). And every streaming content service under the sun. I can do all my daily work and play on here – without any difficulty – save for design, audio, and video work.

The operating system could provide a better experience. But it's already quite good. So I'm happy with it.

Oh! Right! The keyboard! It has full-sized chiclet keys (for the most part – the quote and tab keys are thinner than normal, but not too thin) with good travel and feel. Definitely as easy to type on as the majority of laptops. Which is impressive considering how thin the keyboard is; It also doubles as a surprisingly capable stand for the tablet (which has a reliable feeling, freely adjustable angle, and never feels like it's about to tip over) and a screen cover. 

The keyboard (which runs $150, the tablet itself starting at $500 and going to $600 for the 64GB version) attaches to the tablet with nothing but magnets.

Crazy, crazy strong magnets. Almost magically strong. When the keyboard is covering the screen it feels firmly in place and never threatens to fall off. When the tablet is attached to the keyboard in stand mode it feels like it is welded right on. In fact, it takes a fair bit of force to pry the tablet free from the iron grasp of the keyboard.

The magnets are so powerful that you can attach the tablet portion to just about anything – refrigerator, whiteboard. Anything. This thing would probably stick to a cupcake. I tried it on my fridge. This actually worked. The damned thing didn't slip or budge in the slightest. 

All of which… is actually pretty amazing. The way the keyboard and tablet attach is nothing short of black magic.

And it keeps pinching my damned fingers.

I've spent the last few days practicing the flip, snap and bend maneuver to change the Pixel C between "My screen is protected, I'm ready to be carried around!" mode and "Ta-Da! I'm a laptop!" mode – and, I tell you what, half the time it makes me feel like a high-tech, graceful ninja. The other half of the time I feel like Steve Urkel playing Jenga while drunk.

And then, once or twice each day, those mystical, all-powerful, inter-dimensional magnets cause the two halves of this sharp-edged, aluminum beauty to come slamming together with enough force to cause cupcakes to turn into diamonds. (Note to self: make cupcakes.) And it does so right on the fleshy part of my fingers.

At which point I cast the devil beast down on the table and curse its unholy name. Moments later we have reunited. Holding each other close; Whispering "why do we fight, baby?"

Maybe I need more practice in doing the flip. Maybe it's the Pixel C's fault. I don't know. All I know is that I love this machine. And I'm willing to work through our differences.

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