A Comprehensive Review of Google Pixel Tablet: Is It Worth It?

  • Comfortable to hold
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Speaker dock sounds great
  • Poorly designed charging dock
  • Basic, 60Hz display
  • Terrible speaker placement
  • Poor battery life
  • Extremely buggy software
  • Limited first-party accessories

There are several firsts for Google with the Pixel Tablet. This is Google's first tablet release in over five years. This is the company's first Android tablet in over eight years. Furthermore, this is the first tablet from Google that attempts to conflate the functions of a smart home display with an Android tablet.

That's a big order with high expectations, and I applaud Google for being prepared to give tablets another go, especially in light of the lackluster reception the Pixel Slate and Pixel C had in the past. But after a few weeks of use and adjustment, I'm beginning to believe that Google would have been better off sticking to its original course and exiting the tablet market entirely.

Google Pixel Tablet: after half a year

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Shortly after publishing this review, I stopped using the Google Pixel Tablet, but I made the decision to take it out of my closet and give it another go in early November. Since I last used it in June, things must have improved, right? That hasn't been the case as of late December, a month and a half after using the Pixel Tablet.

Regretfully, in December 2023, all of my initial criticisms of the Google Pixel Tablet remain valid. App crashes, sporadic UI freezes, and the Tensor G2 chip heating up more quickly than I'd like are still issues I'm having. Instead of appearing as a tiny window with thick black bars, Twitter (X) now fills the whole screen, however other programs, including Facebook and Duolingo, still have terrible visuals.

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Google Assistant is another item that hasn't improved. The Assistant has been continually unreliable even after all these months. I can't always rely on it to react the way I expect it to, whether I'm asking it to manage smart lighting, check the weather, or provide me with an update on a Lions game that's still going on. It implies that the Pixel Tablet isn't a decent smart speaker/display, which is unfortunate because it was meant to be one of its key selling factors.

Though I'm interested to see what Google accomplishes with the Pixel Tablet moving forward, I'm still not ready to suggest it for purchase just now.

Google Pixel Tablet: layout

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Since Google initially unveiled the Pixel Tablet in 2022, I haven't been a fan of its boring design. I do, however, now find myself appreciating a lot of Google's design choices.

The Pixel Tablet is coated with a "nano-ceramic coating," so even though it has an aluminum frame, you wouldn't know it until you picked it up. It retains the strength and durability of the aluminum casing beneath, giving the Pixel Tablet a pleasant, rounded feel that is delightful to grip.

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The fingerprint sensor built into the top frame of the Pixel Tablet's power button has also pleased me. It was simple to set up, operates quickly, and has been dependable for me over the review time.

Additionally, I think the Pixel Tablet's colors are fine while being rather boring. The only model with a black bezel surrounding the display is the Hazel model that I own. A white bezel is included with both the Rose and Porcelain hues. I appreciate that Google offers you an option in this case, and I believe the subdued colors are a good fit for a gadget that will likely be resting on your kitchen counter or end table for extended periods of time.

Google Pixel tablet: speaker dock and charging

Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The Pixel Tablet is just one part of the story here; we'll talk about it in more detail in a moment. Additionally, each Pixel Tablet has a built-in charging port in the package. The plan is to dock the Pixel Tablet and leave it there anytime you aren't really using it as a tablet. This achieves several goals: Your Pixel Tablet receives a unique smart home-focused interface, charges anytime it's on the dock, and makes advantage of the dock's superior speaker.

The sound of the charging dock is my favorite feature. It has a single 43.5mm full-range speaker, yet it sounds excellent in my opinion. It sounds great on everything from YouTube TV to Apple Music, gets really loud, and has decent depth to the audio. Not much to complain about, especially since it's something that comes included with the Pixel Tablet for free.

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That compliment, though, is limited to the auditory quality. The charging dock falls short in several areas.

In my testing, I found that the magnets used to secure the Pixel Tablet onto the charging station are quite weak. The Pixel Tablet totally slips off its dock and lands on my kitchen counter several times when I touch the power or volume rocker buttons when the tablet is in docking mode. The number of times the Pixel Tablet has abruptly removed from its charging station only to change the volume is beyond me.

The Pixel Tablet’s charging dock disappoints.

The other problem is that when the Pixel Tablet isn't connected to the charging dock, it becomes inoperable. The dock doesn't even work as a Bluetooth speaker and doesn't enable voice commands or Chromecast targets for audio streaming. I'd want to utilize the charging dock's excellent speaker system more frequently, but I can't do anything with it if the Pixel Tablet isn't connected to it. Rather, it's only a piece of cloth and plastic taking up room in my kitchen.

Google Pixel Tablet: screen and audio

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Returning to the Pixel Tablet, the experience with the screen and audio is similarly perplexing.

An 11-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and 500 nits of brightness powers the Pixel Tablet. The display appears excellent overall. Everything is crystal clear, the colors appear great, and there are no problems with the screen's brightness. I've never had any issues seeing what's on the Pixel Tablet when using it indoors, even in well-lit spaces, so it's probably not the ideal option for outdoor use.

However, the 60Hz refresh rate of the Pixel Tablet seems bad. On the Pixel Tablet, navigating through menus, applications, and other content appears sluggish and jagged, as do any system animations. On a phone like the Pixel 6a, I could get used to a 60Hz display, but an 11-inch screen this big makes a slower refresh rate more noticeable. It doesn't feel good to be trapped with a 60Hz panel on the $499 Pixel Tablet, especially when Lenovo can put a 120Hz display on the $335 Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2.

You’re always going to be covering the Google Pixel Tablet’s speakers — and it’s always going to sound bad. Joe Maring/Digital Trends

I'm also left scratching my head about the speakers on the Pixel Tablet. The tablet has four speakers, two on the left and two on the right, and they both provide fantastic sound! Nevertheless, only while the Pixel Tablet is not in your hands.

When holding the Pixel Tablet, two of the four speakers line up exactly where my hands land, which causes the music to sound incredibly muffled. Playing games or viewing YouTube videos has become unpleasant for me since I can't hold the Pixel Tablet comfortably without somehow warping the speakers.

Google Pixel Tablet: photo features

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Nothing here really requires too much of your attention, so I won't spend too much time on the cameras. The 8MP sensor with f/2.0 aperture is used by the Pixel Tablet's front- and back-facing cameras. Also, neither camera has autofocus; instead, they are both fixed-focus cameras.

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The front-facing camera is probably what you'll use the most, and it works just well. Though it's not the worst I've ever seen, it's also not the greatest that I have either. It's more than capable of taking a quick selfie or making a Google Meet call.

The back camera performs just as well. It will do the job if you have nothing else available and you need to scan a document or snap a picture. However, you shouldn't rely on its camera for anything important because of its lack of focusing, poor low light performance, and grainy detail.

Google Pixel Tablet: functionality and capacity

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Google's Tensor G2 processor, which is also included in the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel 7a, powers the Google Pixel Tablet. Additionally, the Tensor G2 in the Pixel Tablet is a mixed bag, just as in those other devices.

Tensor G2's performance is its greatest feature. Tensor G2 is faster than Qualcomm flagship CPUs, but it's still quite quick for all I need to accomplish. The Pixel Tablet easily supports streaming 4K movies on Max (the artist formerly known as HBO Max) or live TV on YouTube TV. Because of the 8GB of RAM, it can also run two programs simultaneously without experiencing any issues. Additionally, apps launch quickly and don't take a long time to load. Additionally, I've had a great gaming experience. The Pixel Tablet plays Call of Duty: Mobile at 60 frames per second (fps) without any issues when the game is played at Very High visuals and Max frame rate settings.

However, the Pixel Tablet's battery life is somewhat lacking, just like it is in other Tensor G2-powered gadgets.

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

In just one hour, streaming a 4K film at maximum display brightness depletes the battery by more than 15%. And video games are even worse. After just thirty minutes of Call of Duty: Mobile, the Pixel Tablet's battery life dropped by 11%, setting it up to drain more than 20% after just one hour of gaming.

According to Google, the Pixel Tablet's battery can last for "up to 12 hours of video streaming," but in my tests, I found that it could be fully charged in less than seven hours by just streaming a 4K film. And the Pixel Tablet may die in less than five hours if you're playing a graphically demanding game.

The counterargument is that you most likely don't play video games for five hours at a time or stream videos for seven hours nonstop. The idea is that the Pixel Tablet should always have a full (or almost full) battery when you want to use it as a handheld device, especially if you plan on using it in shorter bursts and can simply place it on the charging station once you're done.

You could theoretically kill the Pixel Tablet in less than five hours.

That's a valid point, but I don't think it fully justifies the Pixel Tablet's objectively short battery life. The Pixel Tablet's battery may run out quickly if you're traveling or going somewhere else. This might happen on a lengthy flight, road trip, etc.

Want a 100% charge? You have to tap this button every time you dock the Google Pixel Tablet. Digital Trends

The Pixel Tablet's charging configuration is likewise peculiar. The Pixel Tablet only charges to 90% while it is in the dock. It can be made to charge manually up to 100% of the way, but only if you set it on the dock each time. Moreover, there isn't a useful pop-up that indicates this is achievable. You must launch the Settings app, select Battery, and then select Charge to full after placing it on the dock.

Once more, if you keep your Pixel Tablet at home, this shouldn't be a problem. It's likely that you are only using about 90% of the battery if you want to use it off the dock or move it somewhere else. And that only makes the already unpleasant battery experience worse for a tablet that isn't particularly power efficient.

Software for the Google Pixel Tablet

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Now, let's discuss software. The Google Pixel Tablet is expected to get at least five years of security updates and three years of operating system upgrades. It now runs Android 14, however it was shipped with Android 13. Though it has been tailored for the bigger display of the Pixel Tablet, this is the same Pixel software that you are accustomed to from Pixel smartphones.

Throughout the operating system, this is evident. Notifications are on the right of the notification panel, while your Quick Settings are on the left. Numerous Google apps have also been redesigned with multicolumn layouts and button reorganizations for the larger screen. These improvements are fantastic! Google Calendar, Photos, Maps, and Home are just a few examples of apps that make excellent use of the entire display and give the impression that they were designed with a tablet in mind. On the Pixel Tablet, even certain third-party apps, such as Microsoft Teams and 1Password, appear fantastic.

A calculator app! On a tablet! Take that, Apple. Joe Maring/Digital Trends

I also adore Google's multitasking strategy. When you're in an app, you can quickly access an app drawer shortcut and the applications from your home screen dock by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. This makes using programs in split-screen mode quite easy.

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Want to browse Twitter and use Google Chrome at the same time? Press and hold the Twitter app to shift it to the left or right of your screen when the taskbar appears. You're using Twitter and Chrome at the same time now. Applications automatically split the screen 50/50, but you may adjust it to a 75/25 split by using the bar in the center. Although I wish there was more flexibility in the amount of app resizing when using split-screen mode, the existing design is slick and simple to use. Additionally, your split-screen configuration will remain in your recent applications menu, just like any other program, even if you leave home after using split-screen software. Here, Google truly hit the mark.

However, there is still an issue that has to be addressed: third-party apps.

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"But Joe, you did mention that third-party apps have a nice appearance?" Yes, I did! But only for specific third-party apps is that accurate. Applications that are not suited for tablets appear as a little black window encircling the program. An unoptimized software cannot be made to fill the screen; it can only be moved to the left, right, or center. You must view an app as a little window when you launch it, such as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Duolingo, Chewy, Target, or Day One.

These aren't just any old applications! These are some of the most well-known mobile applications, and when seen on the Pixel Tablet, they are all terribly designed. It serves as an unappealing reminder that, despite Google's best efforts with its own applications, more work remains until Android truly shines on a large screen like this.

Google Pixel Tablet: errors and more problems

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Naturally, the Pixel Tablet offers a variety of software experiences, not only the Android tablet UI. It functions essentially like a Google Nest Hub and runs the same software when it is put on the charging dock. When the Pixel Tablet is attached, the UI looks just like a Google smart display. You may ask it questions about the weather, random topics, or to play a Netflix program.

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All of this makes sense in theory. The Pixel Tablet acts as a smart display when it is placed on the charging station. When you remove it from the dock, it becomes an Android tablet. This implies that you are essentially using two distinct software experiences at all times, which might lead to issues as you could anticipate.

Suppose you would like to watch Disney Plus or YouTube TV. This is a fairly typical request for a smart display! It displays "Opening" if you say, "Hey Google, open Disney Plus," or "Hey Google, open YouTube TV." but won't allow you use the fingerprint sensor to unlock the tablet or enter your PIN before opening the app. The reason for this is that, similar to other Android phones and tablets, it is attempting to launch the Android app for those services, which requires unlocking the lock screen before opening an app.

But still! Saying something like "Hey Google, open the smart display version of [a specific movie or TV show on Disney Plus" or "Hey Google, open the specific channel on YouTube TV" will cause the service to launch and play without having you to unlock your Pixel Tablet.

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When using the Pixel Tablet, Google doesn't clarify this anywhere. After many trial and error and some assistance from Ben Schoon of 9to5Google, I was able to figure it out on my own in the end, but I can only image how difficult this will be for anyone using the Pixel Tablet.

Not to mention all the sporadic malfunctions and issues I've encountered.

The Pixel Tablet is one of the most infuriating Pixels I’ve ever used.

The Pixel Tablet has repeatedly refused to open a YouTube TV channel when I ask it to, becoming stuck on the YouTube TV logo before informing me that the software has ceased functioning after a short while. In a similar vein, I can't even begin to count the number of times my Pixel Tablet has failed to respond to my repeated "Hey Google" instructions while it's streaming any kind of video, even at low volume, even if I'm standing right in front of it. The tablet's dark theme is set to change with the sun and sunrise, however every morning it gets trapped in dark mode and needs to be manually changed back to light mode.

When I ask it to launch an app, my Pixel Tablet likewise becomes puzzled about how to do it. It tried to start an application on my smartphone one evening when I requested it to. The order was heard and registered by the Pixel Tablet, which then said, "Okay, opening on your Motorola phone." I never altered any settings to cause it to behave in this way, and the moment it began acting strangely, it stopped the following morning - there was no pattern or explanation to any of it.

For Pixel products, malfunctioning software is nothing new, and the Pixel Tablet is no exception. In fact, it's grown to be among the Pixels that irritate me the most out of all of them.

Accessories for the Google Pixel Tablet

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Any tablet should have accessories, and the Pixel Tablet feels strangely lacking in this regard.

A $79 case is the sole official Google accessory available for the Pixel Tablet. In Google's defense, it's a really good case! In the case of a drop, the raised edges surrounding the display should provide adequate protection, and the outside silicone feels sturdy and firm.

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The metal ring on the rear, which you can adjust to any angle to support the Pixel Tablet on a level surface, is the best feature. Additionally, the stand extends to the top of the tablet, allowing you to hang it from whatever nail or hook you may have lying about your home. The stand is really well-made, feels great to move, and has an ideal cutout that allows you to use the Pixel Tablet's charging station with the cover on. Although the $79 price tag is a bit steep, this is one of Google's nicest cases in a long time.

But that's where the discussion about Pixel Tablet accessories starts and stops. Although the taskbar and split-screen multitasking are excellent productivity tools, they nearly seem pointless when used with the Pixel Tablet without an approved keyboard dock. It would be a loss if the Pixel Tablet didn't include an official keyboard, since the OnePlus Pad and the 2022 iPad have shown to be valuable peripherals.

The same can be said about Google not offering an official stylus accessory. The Pixel Tablet supports USI 2.0 styluses, but Google isn’t selling a Google Pen or Pixel Pen to go with the Pixel Tablet. If the support is there, why not actually do something with it? Third-party styluses will work fine, but with tablets from Apple, Samsung, OnePlus, and Lenovo all having official stylus options, it’s just one more thing Google doesn’t have an answer to.

Google Pixel Tablet availability and cost

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The Google Pixel Tablet is currently on sale, with the 128GB variant starting at $499. You will need to spend $599 to upgrade to the 256GB model.

Although a charging station for the Pixel Tablet is included in the package, you can purchase extra ones for $129 apiece if you'd like.

Google Pixel Tablet: conclusion

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

That brings us to the Google Pixel Tablet. I really think that the Pixel Tablet's concept is an excellent one. The idea of a smart display that also functions as a tablet excites me, as I have several smart displays strewn about my flat.

Though Google gave the idea some thought, the Google Pixel Tablet is a terrible example of how it could have been done. It's a classic example of a death by a thousand cuts, but there isn't one deal-breaker that jumps out at first. The speakers are arranged strangely, which degrades the audio quality of the tablet. The 60Hz display appears sluggish and antiquated. The charging port, which might have been so much more, was badly conceived. The Pixel Tablet's inconsistent software might be frustrating to use at times.

I’m not confident about where the Pixel Tablet goes from here.

For around the same price, the OnePlus Pad or Lenovo Tab P11 Pro Gen 2 are significantly superior Android tablets. In addition to having far better screens, longer battery lives, more intriguing designs, and better first-party accessories, both devices are also less expensive than the Pixel Tablet. In fact, you could get a Google Nest Hub in addition to the Tab P11 Pro Gen 2 and still come out ahead of budget for a Pixel tablet. And in exchange, you would receive an Android tablet and a smart display that are superior to those of the Pixel Tablet.

The Google Pixel Tablet may have a useful feature hidden away. Perhaps Google will improve it to become one of the greatest Android tablets available after one or two more generations. I'm not sure where the Pixel Tablet is headed, though, given that this is the company's first tablet demonstration after all this time.

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