The Google Pixel Slate is a Chrome tablet of the future

The Pixel Slate is one of the most confusing products I used during my stay at Android Police. On one side, it seems to be maturing: Chrome OS is really a real operating system in 2018, and using the Slate as any other Chromebook is a very good experience. On the other hand, it is also frustratingly incomplete: Chrome OS is not really a tablet operating system in 2018, and it will not change overnight. This can give the following impression to the entire slate part of the Pixel slate. (Note: this is not our criticism, which will come online later in the week, because I want more time with this thing.)

And of course, you could easily have predicted it as soon as the detachable hybrid announcement last month. These are obvious things for anyone who has used an Android Chromebook or tablet in recent years, and slapping your exoskeleton on the other will not produce the magic you would not expect. Which is to say: when it comes to software, Pixel Slate is no more surprising than the sum of its parts. Google has not released a rabbit hat. But I do not think it's necessary either.

Good things

Pretty good is good enough, at least to start.

The Pixel Slate is exactly the "pretty good" product that Google desperately needs to catch up with Apple and Microsoft in the sexy but mostly techno-reputable detachable segment – and "pretty good" enough, at least to start. There is no way for Google to stay out of this market, and Slate is a perfectly competent, if not revolutionary product. This also seems logical given the state of the space, halfway between the Surface Pro "I live literally in Excel and Outlook" and the "it's for emails that are too much long to type on my phone, "the iPad Pro. The Slate has a beautiful screen, powerful stereo speakers, two USB-C ports (alas, no headphone jack), a selection of Intel zippy processors (my control unit is an i5) and excellent battery life .

But it runs on Chrome, so it's here that opponents of the Chromebook invariably distort comparisons with "serious" computers, claiming that the platform did not have the basic credibility needed to justify one. A persistent drought of applications for video editing, music creation, design, image manipulation, and "serious productivity" (which is not a thing) remains an easy target, but one that I think is not quite right. First of all, the most obvious calls come from those who have invested in platforms for which they have no serious interest to leave, people who would not switch to Chrome OS even if they could. Secondly, I do not understand why Google is trying to convince these people to abandon Windows, MacOS or even iOS. The basic argument that Chrome OS does not allow the release of targets on other platforms is increasingly debatable.

A computer for the next billion

The vast majority of computer buyers have no idea how to do anything in Adobe Premiere, disk-processing software or any other very serious software – and they will never do it.

You may not know it, but millions of American schoolchildren use Chromebooks every day. Keeping them on Chrome OS for up to 20 years and beyond is of paramount importance to Google. To argue to a deeply rooted tribal public that they should try something new is … no. Forty business people will probably never be interested in a Chromebook "at work", any more than independent musicians and designers who demand a wide range of highly specialized software, available only on iOS and Mac. But oddly enough, it's these people and their workflows that get the lion's share of product ads – though they're a tiny fraction of consumer sales. Indeed, the power of suggestive marketing is compelling: the support of the latest version of a series of well-known creative applications is a prominent reserve, and a vivid demonstration of a partner can convince the habitual consumers to realize their creative dreams – if only they buy in an ecosystem.

Yet, the vast majority of computer buyers have no idea how to do anything in Adobe Premiere, disk-processing software or any other very serious software – and they will never do it. These cases of use are, for most people, totally imaginary.

However, Chrome OS asks us a simple question: how much time do you spend in a browser window?

Still, it's always the things that appear without fault in Apple and Microsoft ads, pasted on billboards and product pages, as if that's it Everybody uses a computer for. However, Chrome OS asks us a simple question: how much time do you spend in a browser window? For virtually everyone, the answer is "a lot – and more than ever". Think about it. In a browser, you can watch just about any movie or TV show. You can do your banking, pay bills, do all your shopping online, manage your trips, send emails, use all your chat platforms and use unlimited content. And, more and more, you can do even more if you invest in Google's platforms.

Google Photos is a perfectly usable image editor. Its storage in the cloud and its ease of search make it a more practical tool than local photo management for most people. Google Docs went from being a laughing stock to being as unenthusiastically accepted as Microsoft Word for its ubiquity in the workplace. Google Duo finally brings native video chat to Chrome OS. Android messages on the web allow you to send text messages from your laptop in a rather simple experience. Most current web applications support notifications, offering a more native feel. Plus, the new Pixel Slate Assistant integration is incredibly fast, giving Google's unmatched AI a boost in platform performance. Google's Project Stream even teases what might be a browser-based streaming game, and for the most part, that sounds pretty promising. And for what you can not do in a browser, Android apps have been surprisingly capable, albeit far from perfect, of increasing the sleek sensitivity of Chrome OS.

A new version of Google Assistant provides a major upgrade to Pixel Slate's performance.

Taken together, these elements give the Pixel Slate an impression of the future; a manifestation of the broader vision of Google's first web platform. But if Chrome is not a platform that interests you, the Slate will not change that – and I doubt that a Chrome product can do that. And even if you're investing in Google services and you like Chrome OS, Slate remains a dubious choice: pay $ 600 or more for a tablet to watch Netflix, YouTube and display recipes in the kitchen excuse me, crazy. If you wish, buy a basic iPad: it is half price and you have native applications that you will like to use. And let's eliminate this argument before we start: the Pixel Slate is not the iPad of Android (even if it rivals the iPad Pro). There will never be an Android iPad. The iPad completely dominates the market of "people who want iPad". Even Samsung can not crack this 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 not there yet.

For all the beautiful things that I have to say about the Slate, I can not suggest anyone to buy a standalone Chrome tablet, at least not yet. Chrome OS is not a very good touch experience, especially on a screen of this size. The virtual keyboard is virtually unusable on a 12.3-inch screen. Tactile targets on web pages are often either insensitive or far too reactive (objects are depressed during scrolling, for example). Notifications are constantly obstructing and embarrassing to reject. All is clearly due to the fact that Chrome is a premier web platform. The mobile Web was designed for touch screens, but the desktop Web does not exist yet. As a result, Google Chrome's browsing experience in touch environments is extremely imperfect. Admittedly, it is still much better than five years ago, which shows how quickly the Web evolves and adapts to the capabilities of our devices.

The other side of the coin is that you probably buy the Pixel Slate because you want a Chromebook that doubles as a tablet, and not the other way around (but if you are, my advice is: no) – and so no. of them really matter a lot. The Pixel Slate is by far a better laptop than an iPad because it runs on a platform designed from the first day. for laptops. And here's the flawless truth about all these video editing and content creation apps on iOS: they never came under Android or Chrome OS (Google says that Adobe Premiere Rush comes, which is OK). This means that the only tablet tasks that really matter for Chrome are all about content consumption.

And when I want to use it as a tablet for Netflix, YouTube or just to read the news, the Pixel Slate is absolutely correct! It's not a sophisticated, forward-thinking touch of IOS, but it does not have to be to be able to achieve these things. Do you really need the native Netflix app to use Netflix? Or YouTube? Or the New York Times? Of course not, and anyone arguing otherwise has probably not used the web versions of these services for years and should be totally ignored. In the end, watching YouTube in 4K on the Slate Pixel on the Web is no different than watching it on the iPad Pro in the app, and who cares if you care at that point?

Understanding the Slate Pixel as part of this larger vision – of the evolution of the Web itself – requires taking a step back that a product review really can not afford.

I also argue that Chrome OS is getting faster faster than iOS, MacOS, or Windows, and that many of its roughest contours in touch-based applications will disappear over time (as has been evidently demonstrated with Chromebooks). . This is because the evolution of Chrome OS depends as much on the evolution of the operating system as the Web itself becoming faster and faster, rich and powerful. Of course, all platforms benefit – every computer has a browser – but this has a huge effect on Chrome OS because of this Web philosophy (for example, as desktop Web experiences become more user-friendly, a Chrome tablet becomes much more viable).

Understanding the Slate Pixel as part of this larger vision – of the evolution of the Web itself – requires taking a step back that a product review really can not afford. And that's why, when our review comes out, I will not recommend Slate to most buyers (it's way too expensive and limited as a stand-alone tablet, and the Pixelbook is the premium Chromebook to buy unless you really did want a huge, heavy, expensive detachable one). I still think that releasing him was the right call. The Pixel Slate is the dressing that Google has finally ripped off – and it will have to continue to rip off for years. It is necessary. It is for this reason that I feel that, even in just one 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 still count, and for now, Pixel Slate is expensive, compromised and probably more than confusing for your average consumer.

By for the course for a Google product, then.

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