First Microsoft mated a tablet with a keyboard, then Apple came late to the party. Now Google has done the same. From an engineering perspective, Google's new Pixel C slab looks to have left them both in the dust.
The central problem with trying to use a tablet with a detachable keyboard is the difficulty in using the devices on your lap. Microsoft's Surface kickstand is unstable balanced on knees and gives users very little room, while Apple's iPad Pro relies on a folding cover. The Pixel C relies on magnets, and is the only one of the three that looks to have cracked the lap slabtop use case.
The Pixel C looks very like a Chromebook Pixel, with a mag alloy case that splits to reveal a standalone 10.1-inch tablet weighing a pound that sits on top of a Bluetooth keyboard. The tablet attaches to a flap on the keyboard using magnets and sticks hard – hard enough to give the unit a good shake and it still won't fall off.
As designs go, it's rather a good one in that it allows the footprint of the device to stay the same size as the keyboard, while holding the tablet at an angle of between 100 and 130 degrees.
The keyboard charges inductively from the tablet and, fully charged, the keyboard has a battery life of two months. The tablet alone has a battery life of about ten hours, thanks in part to Android Marshmallow's Doze power conservation mode.
The tablet itself is thin and light, with a good 308 pixels per inch and 500 nits brightness. There are twin stereo speakers on the front of the unit, four microphones for voice control and/or noise cancellation, and cameras both front and back.
Inside, the hardware runs on an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, a Maxwell GPU, and 3GB of RAM. The unit is powered with a Type-C USB connector and Android Marshmallow will allow for fast charging to get a few hours of battery life from ten minutes spent plugged in.
It's not cheap, however. The Pixel C with 32GB of storage will set you back $499, or $599 for the 64GB version, and on top of that you've got to buy the keyboard separately for an additional $149 when it's ready to order at Christmas. But that's still less than a Surface or iPad Pro. ®