At its Made by Google event in New York a few hours ago, the Palo Alto giant unveiled its latest flagship smartphones, featuring the best of the company's AI and imaging technologies. But the Pixel 3 wasn't the only thing Google was excited about unveiling; it also took the wraps off its first ever 2-in-1 tablet running Chrome OS.
From its magnetically attached keyboard to its stylus and, of course, its premium pricing, the Pixel Slate is a thinly veiled attack at Microsoft's Surface line, often hailed as the cream of the crop when it comes to productivity in a flexible form factor. While there's quite a lot to unpack here, first let's take a look at how the two compare on paper:
At first glance, the two tablets actually seem almost identical. Yes, the Pixel Slate is slightly thinner than the Surface Pro 6 and, yes, it's got a slightly more pixel-dense screen, but many of the other specs on both devices are actually quite similar.
Where the two differ are their starting configurations, their pricing and, of course, the OS they run. The Pixel Slate is Google's attempt at proving to the prosumer world that Chrome OS, too, can hold its own against Windows 10, all while offering the kind of security that Windows may never have due to its open nature.
The Surface Pro 6, on the other hand, is powered by the omnipresent Windows 10, and that means you have access to all the power tools and productivity apps you can ever want. Photoshop, Premiere Elements, AutoCAD, full versions of Office, it's all here. The most exciting productivity-focused app Google announced at its event was Adobe Acrobat, allowing users to create PDF files.
Then, there are the internals. Microsoft's latest update to the Surface Pro line features an eighth-generation Intel Core i5 in the base model (there's also a Core m3 version, but that just seems to be a rehash of last year's model, and is not even featured on Microsoft's own store). That comes in at a starting price of $899, and also nets you 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage.
Google's Pixel Slate, meanwhile, comes in at a relatively modest $599, but has only an Intel Celeron under the hood paired with a measly 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage for that price. Google's pricing strategy for the Pixel Slate seems rather odd, as the same device can also be found for a whopping $1,599 and decked out with the latest Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Regardless of which of the myriad options you opt for, the Pixel Slate is consistently priced higher than the Surface Pro 6, not a wise decision when you're the new entrant into a market that is dominated by a giant like Microsoft. For one, the Pixel Slate Keyboard costs $199 compared to the $129 starting price of the Type Cover for the Surface Pro 6.
The pricing for comparable Pixel Slate and Surface Pro 6 variants is also skewed in Microsoft's favour. The Core i5/8GB RAM/128GB storage Pixel Slate will burn a $999 hole in your wallet. A similar Surface Pro 6 from Microsoft can be had for a full $100 less. Adding those differences up, the full Surface Pro 6 package should be $170 cheaper than a Pixel Slate + keyboard combo.
The Pixel 3 does have a few things going for it, however. For one, it has access to an incredible library of Android apps that, as unoptimised as many of them may be for tablets, are miles ahead of where the Microsoft Store stands. It's also got two USB-C ports, while Microsoft chose to sit out on the exciting new interface technology entirely.
Even with those merits in mind, at first glance at least, it's hard to justify paying $170 more for a new, untested device in comparison to an established, mature product line. Even more, both devices are aimed at the prosumer market, and there, Windows' superiority in professional software is simply unshakeable. When you add in the three more hours of battery life according to Microsoft, it's just no longer a competition anymore, if the only things driving your decision making are the specs of each device.
The Pixel Slate is a strong first showing by Google, but it may need a little more than what it currently has to offer in order to make any kind of dent in the Surface line's impressive hold of the 2-in-1 segment.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this feature incorrectly stated that Adobe Acrobat Reader was among the highlighted features for Google's Pixel Slate. It has since been corrected.