Google Pixel Tablet review

Google Pixel Tablet review: a clean slate

100% human
8.3

Getting back into the game with a tablet that sort of doubles as a Nest Hub, the Google Pixel Tablet aims to be the one smart display to rule them all.

If you’ve followed Google’s hardware efforts over the years, you’ll have noticed it has a habit of dabbling in a product category and then losing interest. So it was with tablets: back in 2012 the Google Nexus 7 paved the way as an Android tablet reference device. The Nexus line saw a few iterations, but it’s been pretty slim pickings since Google’s tablets adopted the Pixel moniker.

After switching to Chrome OS for the 2018 Pixel Slate, Google turned its attention to the next, next-big-thing: smart displays. It kicked off with the Google Home Hub, later re-christened the Nest Hub, and tablets fell by the wayside.

After five years in the wilderness, Google tablets are back. Attempting to cross a tablet with a smart display, Google has delivered an Android tablet with a magnetic charging dock that holds the tablet upright like a smart screen, so it can roughly mimic a Google Nest Hub.

It would seem the best of the worlds, but whether there’s a spot for the Google Pixel Tablet in your home depends on exactly what you want from a tablet and a smart screen.

First impressions – Hub

Out of the box, the Google Pixel Tablet when attached to its charging dock naturally looks a lot like the 10-inch Google Nest Hub Max smart screen – sitting at roughly the same angle so you can see it from across the room. Look closer and you’ll appreciate that the Pixel Tablet is more petite – it doesn’t stand as tall, the bezels are thinner and the dock is completely hidden behind the screen.

Of course, the key difference to the Hub Max is that you can pluck the screen off the dock when you want to use it as a tablet around the house. If you lift the screen straight up, the dock stays attached thanks to the magnet’s strong grip. Instead, you need to grasp the tablet from the sides with both hands, use the tips of your fingers to hold the dock in place and pull the screen forward – with the magnets surrendering much more easily in this direction.

When it’s attached to the charging dock, the tablet operates in Hub mode. Similar to a Nest Hub, you can personalise the Hub screen to scroll through your photo library or a collection of art. Alternatively, it can display a large clock face or the weather forecast.

If you’re primarily after a digital photo frame, it’s worth noting that the horizontal viewing angles aren’t nearly as wide as a Nest Hub, so it won’t look as good from the corners of the room. In terms of picture quality, you might get better results from disabling Adaptive Tone, similar to killing the Colour Matching option on a Nest Hub.

Google Pixel Tablet rear
When docked, the Google Pixel Slate looks like a slimmed-down Google Nest Hub Max

The biggest frustration is the tablet’s overly-aggressive Adaptive Brightness settings, which often mean that it’s not bright enough when displaying photos in Hub mode. While that’s presumably to preserve power, there’s no reason the tablet couldn’t automatically bump up the brightness when it’s charging on the dock. 

While it’s docked, you can talk to Google Assistant just like a Nest Hub, and the Pixel Tablet shares its ability to both show and tell. Ask about the weather and Google Assistant tells you about today while the screen shows you the extended forecast. Check on your daily commute time and you’ll see a map.

While you can disable the front camera and mic when you want some extra privacy, using the drag-down menus, there’s no dedicated hardware kill switch as you’ll find on the Nest devices. You also miss out on the Nest Hub Max’s Face Match facial recognition for personalised notifications.

Like a Nest Hub, there’s also access to onscreen smart home controls for controlling your lights and other devices without needing to talk to Google Assistant.

Along with asking Google Assistant life’s tough questions, you can also ask it to play content from a range of streaming music and video services. Plus it supports Chromecast streaming of audio and video from other devices, as well as Bluetooth streaming. While charging, the tablet takes advantage of the dock’s more powerful speaker.

Of course, storing the Pixel on the dock, rather than letting it live on the coffee table, also means that it’s always charged when you want to use it.

First impressions – Tablet

Lift the tablet off the dock, tap the screen and you’re presented with the Android 13 home screen. Before you go any further, just like other Android devices, you need to enter your PIN, pattern or fingerprint via the reader built into the power button. Surprisingly, there’s no Face Unlock, even though it’s been reintroduced to the Pixel smartphone range.

Alternatively, you can tap at the top right to easily switch between users – up to eight – something which is incredibly important when it comes to a household communal smart device. Fast user switching means everyone can easily access their own Google account and apps, and then put down the tablet without fear of anyone else in the house snooping on their affairs.

That said, when you put the tablet back on the charging dock it doesn’t automatically lock and switch to Hub mode. This doesn’t happen until the screen times out which, to be fair, is only two minutes by default. This still means you could absent-mindedly walk away and leave the tablet on the dock unlocked for someone else to pounce upon.

When it is on the dock and locked in Hub mode, the tablet remains logged in as the most recent user. This means you need to consider which notifications you want displayed on the lock screen. Thankfully, it’s set to “Show sensitive content only when unlocked” by default to avoid giving away too many secrets.

Google Pixel tablet dog photo
Google’s first new tablet in five years aims to be a smart slate and screen

Pick the tablet up again and, at 493 gm and only 8.1 mm thick, it sits comfortably in your hands and is light enough to hold for extended periods. Its 16:10 aspect ratio is better suited to watching movies than 4:3 tablets like the iPad, which are better suited to running productivity apps.

As a fully-fledged Android tablet, you’ve got full access to the Google Play store with all your apps and games. Google promises Android version updates for at least three years and security updates for at least five.

When it comes to connectivity, there’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but no 4G/5G mobile broadband option because it’s designed for around the home.

Google Pixel Tablet specs

Display size10.95 inches
Display resolution2560×1600 resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio, 276 pixels per inch density
Display technology60 Hz LCD touchscreen, supports USI 2.0 stylus, 24-bit depth for 16 million colours
Brightness500 nits
ChipsetGoogle Tensor G2, Titan M2 security coprocessor
Rear camera8 MP, 1.12 μm pixel width, ƒ/2.0 aperture, Fixed focus, 84° field of view, 1/4″ image sensor size, 1080p video recording at 30 FPS
Front camera8 MP, 1.12 μm pixel width, ƒ/2.0 aperture, Fixed focus, 84° field of view, 1/4″ image sensor size, 1080p video recording at 30 FPS
AudioFour speakers
Three microphones
Noise suppression
Audio charging docksingle 43.5 mm full-range speaker
RAM8 GB LPDDR5 RAM
Onboard storage128 or 256 GB UFS 3.1 storage
microSD slotNo
ChargingCharging via Charging Speaker Dock 15 W (included) or USB-C charger (sold separately)
BatteryBuilt-in 27 watt-hour battery
Wi-FiWi-Fi 6 (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax) with 2 x 2 MIMO, simultaneous dual-band (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz)
Bluetooth5.2
Operating systemAndroid 13
SecurityPIN, Fingerprint reader, Titan M2 security chip
Dimensions258 width x 169 height x 8.1 depth (mm)
Weight493 gm
ColoursPorcelain, Hazel
Price (RRP)from $899
WarrantyTwo years
Official websiteGoogle Australia

Features

The Google Pixel Tablet is the first tablet to run Google’s new eight-core Tensor G2 chip, which is already built into the latest Pixel 7 smartphones. It’s accompanied by 8 GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of onboard storage.

As such, the Pixel Tablet inherits the Pixel grunt and a lot of the Pixel smart software features. This extends from Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser, for erasing distractions in the background of your photos, to a more powerful Google Assistant with faster and more-accurate dictation, transcribing and translating on the fly.

A range of apps have been optimised for the Pixel Tablet, from Google’s Home, Meet and Photos to third-party apps like Minecraft, Netflix, Canva and Microsoft’s Office apps. Tight integrations, such as Nearby Share and Cross-Device Copy and Paste, offer a slick user experience within the Pixel ecosystem.

The Tensor G2’s grunt also supports real-time relighting and auto-framing for Google Meet video calls. Thanks to its portability, the Pixel Tablet can make for a more practical video calling experience than the Nest Hub Max, because you can retire to the couch rather than be forced to stand/sit in front of the Max.

With a sharper screen and better front camera than the Max, the Pixel Tablet’s Google Meet video calls look great (although you’re obviously at the mercy of the quality of the device on the other end). Thanks to the Tensor G2, you can make the most of features like 360-degree virtual backgrounds to impress family and friends.

Quality

When it comes to measuring grunt, Geekbench 6 wasn’t available for the Google Pixel Tablet at the time of testing. It packs the same processor found in the new Pixel 7 smartphone range, meaning you can expect results around 1050 single-core and 3200 multi-core – more than enough to handle multi-tasking between demanding apps, with the advantage of the split-screen option.

When it comes to screen quality, the display doesn’t look all that impressive at first glance, but YouTube HDR content really helps it shine. It supposedly supports Netflix 4K HDR, but it didn’t seem to be working at the time of testing.

Unfortunately, the sound quality is much less impressive for both music and video. It’s not too bad coming from the tablet, at least for a tablet, with reasonable sound quality and decent stereo separation. Yet when attached to the charging dock, the dock’s built-in speaker doesn’t deliver the goods.

It sounds a bit harsh and flat, while lacking richness in the low end. It’s also underpowered – roughly on par with the standard Nest Hub, even though the Pixel Tablet features a much larger base. The dock’s sound quality falls well short of the Nest Hub Max which features two tweeters and a woofer. The sound from the Pixel Tablet’s dock is forgivable at close range but overall disappointing and you shouldn’t expect it to rock a room.

Google Pixel Tablet dock
Despite its bulk, the Google Pixel Tablet’s dock delivers disappointing sound and can’t act as a smart speaker when the tablet is detached.

Who is the Google Pixel Tablet for?

The Google Pixel Tablet has a lot going for it, but your impressions of it will really come down to what you expect from it.

If you’re primarily looking for a powerful Android tablet, while treating the Hub features as a nice optional extra, then it certainly delivers the goods. It’s not cheap, but the price is comparable to the Wi-Fi-only 11-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab 8. It’s a shame Google can’t offer a cheaper version without the charging dock for those who don’t need it.

But if you’re primarily interested in the Pixel Tablet as a substitute Nest Hub then you should just go out and buy the $299 Google Nest Hub Max. You’ll save a lot of money and get a device that’s a much better digital photo frame and pumps out better sound when it comes to listening to music. Admittedly, it falls short of the Pixel Tablet when it comes to the quality of video calls.

Also, keep in mind that one of the advantages of a Nest Hub is that it’s always right where you left it. If the Pixel Tablet lives in a busy household, you can never be sure that it will actually be sitting on the dock when you want to use it as a tablet or a Nest Hub. Keep in mind, the charging base is totally useless when the tablet is detached, it doesn’t even act as a basic Nest Mini-style smart speaker.

Android fans looking for a powerful tablet with the latest Pixel smarts and the convenience of a charging dock will get the most out of this. Just don’t expect high-end audio or a top-notch digital photo frame experience.

Google Pixel Tablet
The slick Google Pixel Tablet inherits the latest Tensor G2 grunt and smart features, but the tablet underwhelms when sitting on the charging dock in Hub mode.
Features
9
Value for money
8
Performance
8
Ease of use
9
Design
7.5
Positives
Powerful Tensor G2 and Pixel-only features
Charge dock
Hub mode when docked
Negatives
Underwhelming audio from the dock speaker
Disappointing digital photo frame experience
8.3