Google’s Pixel Slate wants to be both your laptop and a tablet — here’s how it works


At an event Tuesday in New York, Google announced the Pixel Slate, a tablet-laptop hybrid that runs on the Chrome operating system.

The Pixel Slate is Google’s first premium tablet device, and a large one, at that: The 1.6-pound tablet has a 12.3-inch display. Though according to Google, it put work into making sure a tablet this gargantuan wasn’t awkward to hold.

“We wanted to build hardware as inspiring as what we’d done with the operating system,” Ben Janofsky, senior product manager at Google, told Mic in a phone interview. “Since the device was so big, we made sure the center of gravity was right in the middle, to make it evenly balanced when being held.”

The device also has cameras on the front and back, storage space ranging from 32GB to 256GB and a battery that lasts up to 12 hours. Unlike some tablets, buyers can select how much RAM goes in the device, with options for 4GB, 8GB or 16GB. The Pixel Slate is reminiscent of laptop-tablets before it, like Apple’s large, keyboard attachment-supporting iPad Pro. The difference here is that Google’s take on the hybrid device runs their laptop operating system, Chrome OS.

“The Pixel Slate’s operating system is optimized for touch,” Omri Amarilio, product manager of software at Google, said in a phone interview. “You won’t find any minimize or maximize window buttons here. Like mobile, we use gestures to control the user interface.”

The Google Assistant is available, too, for the first time in a Google tablet. A button on the keyboard summons Google’s voice-enabled, AI-powered virtual assistant. While Google AI often handles the heavy lifting off the device and in the cloud, certain AI-related tasks are handled on-device like determining which commonly used apps go below the Google search bar, or the floating keyboard that detects your handwriting to turn your scribbles into letters, Amarilio noted.

The Pixel Slate is also the first Chrome OS device to offer a built-in fingerprint sensor, embedded inside the power button. “Today this is exclusive to the Pixel Slate, but it won’t be an exclusive feature long term,” Janofsky said. The device can hold up to three fingerprints for each user.

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The Pixel Slate leaks were right — here’s what they didn’t include

Chances are, you’ve already heard a lot of this. Usually, tech companies work all year long in secret to stage grand reveals of new products in the fall — most recently, we saw Apple and Microsoft do just this. As for Google, its fall fanfare was deflated by the internet due to product leaks. The new Pixel 3 phone was fully unboxed in August. A new Google Home/Chromecast bundle hit the web early too. More than a week before Google’s big event, Best Buy mistakenly sold to a customer a standalone version of the new Chromecast. As for the Pixel Slate, the device was leaked in detail via an exclusive report by MySmartPrice.

Here’s what we didn’t learn early.

For one, the 73.9mm-by-102.7mm trackpad is multitouch. “It’s bigger than the vast majority of detachable keyboard trackpads out there,” Janofsky said. Janofsky also emphasized the keyboard: Not only are the keys quiet (Google’s trademarked the phrase Hush Keys for this), they’re also backlit. Users can adjust the level of brightness depending on what they need. When folded, the keyboard case acts as a cover for the tablet, just like competing hybrid devices.

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Not every feature on the Pixel Slate is laptop-inspired. Like Google’s Pixel phones, the Pixel Slate can automatically back up your photos onto Google’s Cloud to free up space on your device. Additional mobile features like Do Not Disturb mode to silence notifications and Night Light, Google’s screen color-altering mode for nighttime use, will be available on the Slate as well.

Ultimately, Google sees the Pixel being useful for a wide swath of users, from college students to traveling professionals, according to Janofsky. The Pixel Slate will start at $599 and go up from there, depending on the processing power, storage or memory. The keyboard attachment will be sold separately for an extra $199 and the PixelBook Pen is available for an extra $99.