Tablets and Android have had a mixed history… and by mixed, I mean pretty poor. In all my time reviewing Android gear and general technology, I’ve really only come across two Android tablets that I genuinely enjoyed and regularly used. One was the 2nd Gen Nexus 7 tablet – which I bought two of back in 2013 – and the other was Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S5e.
Besides that, most Android tablets have simply not been great, and the general consensus out there is that if you want a serious tablet for work, play or both, then you buy an Apple iPad variant.
With the Google Pixel Tablet, Google is trying to re-position the tablet as more of a home-bound offering, less a larger Android phone in a tablet shape, and more of a home entertainment / coordination type thing, designed primarily to live in your office, loungeroom or kitchen perhaps.
It’s an interesting strategy, and one that I’m not 100% sold on … but let’s take a look at what the Google Pixel Tablet offers, does and does not do.
What is the Google Pixel Tablet?
The most obvious thing about a tablet is its size, and the Pixel Tablet boasts a 10.95-inch LCD display with 2560 x 1600 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate and inobtrusive bezels wrapped in a soft-touch case.
It has Google’s own Tensor G2 chip inside – the same you’d be familiar with from the recent Pixel 7 and Pixel 7a mobiles – paired with 8GB RAM and either 128 or 256 GB RAM at your option. As with most Android devices these days, there’s no option to extend the storage with a MicroSD card.
The other most notable thing is that the tablet is not alone in the box – it comes with a magnetic charging dock which serves many purposes besides just being a charger.
This brings us to the key selling point for the Google Pixel Tablet – it’s not just a tablet, it’s a home hub if you will, which can not only meet your tablet needs, but home automation, entertainment, cooking, reading and more.
The charging dock first and foremost keeps the tablet charged when not in use, and it does this intelligently so as not to ruin the battery. By default, it’ll only charge to around 90% to prevent shortening the battery life, but it keeps the tablet topped off and ready to go. No need to look for charging cables, it just belongs on the dock, and Google is hoping you’ll leave your tablet there when not in use so it’s always ready to go.
It also positions the tablet at a natural angle for many uses – you can use apps while docked, watch streaming video, listen to music, read a book, make a video call, and run your smart home… and with Android 13 under the hood, you can do many of these things at the same time.
The hub also houses four speakers that automatically come to life when the tablet is docked, giving the somewhat middle of the road tablet audio a noticeable boost. Google says it can fill a room, and I guess it kind of can, but to me it still sounds a little tinny. You’d probably be better off with a dedicated sound system if you really want to enjoy your music, but for casual listening, this’ll do the job.
Besides the charger, the Google Pixel Tablet is a fairly standard tablet affair; there’s a volume rocker and power button (with built-in fingerprint reader) on the top edge, speakers on the side, and a USB-C charging port on the right so you can charge the tablet when you’re out and about without needing the dock.
What’s the Google Pixel Tablet do?
It’s an Android powered tablet, so while the sarcastic, mean-spirited person within might answer this question with “nothing much”, that answer isn’t exactly true these days. Straight up, the Pixel Tablet runs a Google TV interface, bringing all your streaming content options into one easy-to-use interface. Not being much of a tablet media consumer, I didn’t use it extensively, but it does what it promises, allowing you to browse all streaming services and – with one click – deep-link straight into the required app to watch your chosen show.
The screen is well suited to the task, as the resolution and brightness make for a pleasant viewing experience in dark, light and in-between. A higher refresh rate might be preferable – 120Hz on mobiles is becoming common – but it does the job.
I touched on this above, but with audio the Pixel Tablet really comes to life when paired with its charging dock, giving you the high notes with a suitably punchy bass response also. I’ve been using this at work for the last couple of weeks to get some tunes into our site office and it’s .. pretty good. I’ve certainly heard punchier sound out of similarly sized audio gear, but considering this is coming out of a tablet and a fairly small dock, I’m not complaining.
Where the Google Pixel Tablet is quite cool is that it offers a “second screen” experience. Kids using the TV and you want to watch something else? Can’t agree on a movie? Well, grab the Pixel Tablet and head to another room and you can access the same content through a similar, familiar interface somewhere else. It’s quite handy.
Video calling is also a natural fit for tablets, with a larger display to see your friends / family / colleagues a little better, and twin 8MP cameras to clearly see you or whatever’s behind your tablet. Bear in mind that these cameras really are designed for video calling though – taking photos with a tablet makes you look like a goose, and the quality just isn’t there compared with what’s probably in your pocket anyway.
One let down for me is that the Google Pixel Tablet does not have a 5G / cellular capability. It’s WiFi only, meaning you’re stuck using it at home, WiFi somewhere else, or tethered to your mobile. Google says this isn’t a big deal, considering that WiFi is available pretty much everywhere, but it is a noticeable omission.
How is it?
Ultimately, this tablet sits squarely on the line between a home hub (think Google Nest type device) and a tablet, but with WiFi only, a charging dock that kind of wants to be used with the tablet, and its focus on home entertainment, this really isn’t a tablet designed to go everywhere with you, unless you mean everywhere around the house.
At home, you can use Google Assistant to access all your smart home stuff, use the tablet as a smart speaker, set it up as a digital photo frame, and so on, and this is the unique selling point really.
It also features Google Chromecast built in, so you can throw your music and video content to the tablet without having to load it there yourself. Have the Google Pixel Tablet on your coffee table and feel like some tunes? Fire up Spotify, throw your music to the Pixel Tablet, and get on with it. Great.
Sure, with a 12-hour claimed battery life, you could load the Pixel Tablet up with content and take it on an international flight, but it just doesn’t feel that this is what Google has in mind for this product even though it would be rather good at it.
As a tablet, I couldn’t fault the Google Pixel Tablet. It’s comfortable to hold and use, the screen works everywhere you need it to, the audio quality is fine and there are a range of useful tablet-optimised apps available so you can do everything you need to do. I had no difficulty installing and using a range of apps from media, email, games and more and they all just worked. No issues.
Would I buy the Google Pixel Tablet?
Honestly I’m torn here. At $899, the Google Pixel Tablet is a rather affordable 10.95-inch tablet that’s great for consuming media around the house. If you couldn’t be bothered to sit up and watch a movie in the lounge, it’s light and comfortable enough you could easily watch a movie on it in bed without dropping it on your face.
If you’re prone to bash out a few emails while watching TV at night, it’s great too – the big screen gives you plenty of room to see what you’re doing while giving you a decent keyboard to tap away at also.
For reading the news, playing a casual game, or anything in between, the Google Pixel Tablet fills a nice little gap.
However, it still feels just a little like Google trying to make tablets work, in the same way that Gretchen tried to make fetch happen.
Google has undoubtedly put a bit of consumer research into what tablet users want, where the pain points are, and how to address those – the inclusion of the home dock / charger is very clever and expands the usability of the tablet without needing to resort to a 3rd party case, some flimsy foldable screen protector arrangement or a kick stand.
Offering that combination of a home hub of sorts, with the portability and usability of a tablet form factor as well seems like a natural evolution for the tablet and one that ultimately makes it a little more useful. By contrast, I don’t see Apple competing in this particular niche any time soon, though there are a multitude of third party options to make an iPad do basically the same thing if you must.
If you’re looking for a new tablet and – looking at your use case for a tablet honestly – you’re primarily going to be using at or around your home, then the Google Pixel Tablet is a great option and well priced.
If you’re more of an on-the-go user, though, you might find an alternative a bit more appealing or useful, especially if you want or need a 5G / cellular connectivity option.
Google’s Pixel Tablet is on sale now via the Google Store, as well as in store at JB HiFi and Telstra stores. It’s $899 for the 128GB variant, and $999 for the 256GB model.
Google has allowed Ausdroid to hang onto the Google Pixel Tablet to assess its use over time.