Google Unveils Google’s Pixel C tablet and keyboard

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The Pixel C’s key feature is a sold-separately keyboard case, which powers itself through induction when connected to the tablet. Source: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / The Wall Street Journal

For the first time in three years, Google isn’t introducing a new Nexus tablet. Instead Google has unveiled a tablet, designed by the same team behind the Chromebook Pixel laptop. The $US499-and-up Pixel C, as the tablet is called, runs Android, not Chrome OS. Like its chief competitors, Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface, it is designed for productivity, and will sell alongside a connected keyboard.

The keyboard, which will be sold separately for $145, attaches to the Pixel C tablet magnetically. It can prop the tablet up at angles ranging from 100 to 135 degrees. When not in use, it can serve as a cover for the display, or click to the back of the device. The keys themselves are wider than usual, because Google put a few less-used peripheral keys up on the screen to make room for the important ones. Typing on it was responsive but it had a plasticky feel, like a Chromebook keyboard.

There’s no need to charge it, said Andrew Bowers, the director of product management on the Pixel team. The keyboard refills its battery when attached to the Pixel C, via induction charging. The keyboard’s battery would be able to last two months with daily use before dying, though the constant charging makes that point moot.

The tablet itself has a squarish 10.2-inch display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,800 pixels. Google chose the aspect ratio so that it would look equally well in both horizontal and vertical orientations. The screen is high quality, with nice viewing angles and rich, balanced looking colours.

The Pixel C has stereo speakers at the edge of the display, and a four-microphone array, which would allow users to issue voice commands to the tablet from across a room, Mr. Bowers said. The tablet is powered by a Nvidia Tegra X1 quad-core processor with 4GB of RAM. Like the new Nexus 5X and 6P phones, it will have a single USB Type-C port for two-way power and data. There are no other USB ports or SD card slots.

It’s no surprise that Google is entering the performance tablet market at a time when interest is high. Media tablet sales remain stagnant, except at the extreme low end where as little as $50 will get you a usable device. Google’s rival, Apple, is pushing toward the premium end, with an enterprise-friendly iPad Pro that has, yes, an auxiliary keyboard (and a stylus, too). At the same time, Microsoft is expected to announce its most recent, made-for-Windows-10 Surface tablet.

Mr. Bowers didn’t say when the Pixel C would go on sale, but it will be out before the end of the year. We should “expect to hear more about the Pixel C in the coming months,” said Mr. Bowers. When it does arrive, Bowers said the Pixel C will sell for $499 with 32GB of storage and $599 with 64GB.

Wall Street Journal