It’s been 6 months since I bought a Google Pixel Tablet, and I’m going to take you through the best features, the downsides, and issues I’ve run into. Ultimately, I’ll share if I think it’s been worth it.
The Pixel Tablet is a device that is really trying to act as two devices in one: a general Android tablet and a Nest Hub Max replacement. Overall, I think it accomplishes both of those things pretty well, though there are caveats.
By far, one of the best features is its design. It’s like a Nest Hub Max, but one where you can pull off the screen and use it as an Android tablet. When it’s not in use, it stays useful by turning into a digital photo frame while it charges. This, in turn, gives you more utilization of the tablet overall. When you want to use the Pixel Tablet as just a tablet, it’ll be fully charged. This design fixes one of the biggest issues with tablets today — when you finally go to use your tablet, you pick it up, and the battery is either dead or critically low.
Speaking of battery life, it’s rated for 12 hours of video playback. In my experience, when I tested it during my normal use, I got 8 1/2 hours of screen time when the battery was just charged to 90%, and without battery saver turned on, which is pretty decent.
The Pixel Tablet also makes a couple of improvements over the Nest Hub Max. Its display is a lot crisper, and it comes in a version with a black frame around the screen. However, it doesn’t have everything the Nest Hub Max had, like the mute mic switch at the back, and the Pixel Tablet is missing quite a few software features as well.
Pixel Tablet vs. Nest Hub Max
The next big feature that makes the Pixel Tablet great is, of course, Android. You get access to all the main Android apps that you know and love. Even if they aren’t optimized for a tablet size, Android has a full-screen mode that will just resize the app for you. This actually works okay in my experience. Having access to Android apps is a huge benefit over the experience you get with the Nest Hub Max. It’s just way easier to control things like my smart home with the actual smart home apps. Now you can control things that aren’t available in the Google Home app, like my Sonos speakers via the Sonos app, or you can use the Philips Hue widgets to trigger specific scenes on your Pixel Tablet’s home screen or use an entirely different platform to control your smart home via the tablet.
Android also made the setup experience easy, though I did find the setup to be a bit better if you have an Android device because it’ll pull your Google account credentials automatically, which did not happen when I tried to set up the tablet with my iPhone.
Now, let’s talk gaming. The Tensor 2 chip in the Pixel Tablet is not the most powerful tablet processor out there. For most tablet games, it’s been adequate for the games I’ve tested, though do note I’m not a huge tablet gamer, and the Pixel Tablet’s large width might make it uncomfortable for some players with games where you need to stretch your thumbs towards the center of the screen. I was specifically asked by a subscriber how Minecraft runs, and overall, it runs very smoothly. Now, keep in mind the display is only 60 Hz, but I haven’t noticed any lag in gameplay. Because this is an Android tablet, you can also add mods to your games, like with Stardew Valley, for example.
Another huge benefit you get with this tablet is because it runs Android, it supports multiple user accounts, which can be a big deal for families and couples. The last benefit you get with this being an Android tablet and specifically a Pixel tablet are the Pixel Software Feature Drops, which are software updates that include new features that you get with your Pixel devices throughout the year.
The next benefit of the Pixel Tablet is its consumption experience. Because it runs Android, you get access to most streaming apps. You can watch TV shows and movies on it, though do note there’s no HDR quality or anything like you’ll find with an OLED or Micro LED display. The Pixel Tablet has just 500 nits of max brightness, so this isn’t a tablet you’d want to bring out in the sun. The back material of the tablet feels pretty good. It doesn’t feel like a cheap plastic tablet. The Pixel Tablet also doesn’t have a dedicated Ambient EQ sensor like the Nest Hub Max did, which makes its white balance adjustments less noticeable than the Nest Hub Max. Now, there’s another downside to be aware of when you watch something on the Pixel Tablet, and that is glare. This tablet doesn’t have as good of an anti-reflective coating as my iPad Air, for example, which will make it harder to see what you’re watching in bright rooms.
Now what about audio quality? The four built-in speakers are adequate for what you’re paying for, but don’t expect miracles for audio quality. They do sound a bit tiny, don’t have as wide of a sound stage compared to something like my iPad Pro, which also has four built-in speakers. But the speaker dock will significantly improve the built-in speaker audio, giving you way better mids, although no deep bass.
Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse Support
Now what about productivity? Can you use this tablet to get work done on? You can use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with the tablet, and overall, connecting to it and using those accessories has been okay. If you’re like me and you prefer Apple’s default natural scrolling, there wasn’t a way I could find to quickly adjust the mouse scroll direction in the Pixel Tablet settings.
Notetaking and Stylus Support
Now what about note-taking? Well, you can actually use any USI 2.0 stylus to write on the Pixel Tablet screen. I bought a Penoval stylus from Amazon, and I’ll leave a link to that in the description below. It’ll actually magnetically attach to the back of the Pixel Tablet, which is pretty legit. Overall, the stylus experience on the tablet works better than I was expecting. You can even hover over items before tapping, just like a Samsung S Pen. Gboard has a handwriting mode that works pretty well, though I wish you could just write where the text input box is. Note-taking, I’d say, is average — not bad, not great either. I still prefer handwriting notes on my Kindle Scribe as my dedicated note-taking device. But if you want to occasionally just take notes with this tablet and then use it for other things, I think you’ll be fine.
Another standout feature of this tablet is actually the fingerprint unlock. While not new technology on the Pixel Tablet, it’s worked quite well and is very fast.
The last huge benefit of getting the Pixel Tablet is that it can act as a digital photo frame, connecting to a Google Photos account, and the photos on it look great. You just hit the power button to bring up Hub mode when the tablet is on its speaker dock, and you can easily select what albums you want to display in Hub mode settings. Now, unfortunately, the Pixel Tablet cannot do everything a Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max can do, like showing who’s at your door when someone rings your Nest doorbell.
Missing Nest Doorbell Integration
And that brings us to the downsides I’ve encountered with a Pixel Tablet, and the biggest one by far is this is a tablet made by Google, who, for whatever reason, cannot seem to ship new software features and bug fixes very quickly to this tablet. You would think it wouldn’t take 6 months to roll out feature parity with a Nest Hub Max for something like answering a Nest doorbell, but that’s what happened. At the time of recording, the Pixel Tablet still doesn’t have that feature. Another example of Google being slow on this tablet’s software was with the auto-brightness bug, where when you put the tablet onto its speaker dock, it would dim the display way too much, overriding the auto-brightness setting the tablet had when it wasn’t on the speaker dock, which was actually fine. It took them months to fix this issue that should have been flagged before the tablet was ever released.
Display Aspect Ratio Issues
Another downside with the Pixel Tablet is its slightly weird aspect ratio. This is especially noticeable if you want to use it as a handheld tablet. Don’t get me wrong, for a tablet that mostly sits in its dock at your desk or in a kitchen, the aspect ratio is perfect. But if you want to be able to use it for a lot of handheld gaming or flip it into its portrait orientation to read a web page, I find the ergonomics to be a bit lackluster, especially for typing on the software keyboard. Thankfully, because it’s powered by Tensor 2, it gets excellent on-device speech recognition, which is what I use in lieu of the software keyboard most of the time. And the Google Assistant on the tablet works really well for things like opening apps, replying to messages, and general search queries. And it’s nice for the times when the Assistant tells you it found something on the web because it actually has a good web browser to view the results on. But I’ve noticed over the past 6 months, it has a habit of not answering on the Pixel Tablet when I say the wake word, but my Nest Hub across the room will answer. Also, the Google Assistant is not aware of the photo currently being displayed in Hub mode, so you can’t ask things like where the photo was taken. And you don’t have the ability to view the photo in Google Photos so you can share it with someone or favorite it, which I think would be a really cool feature to add.
All right, so that’s everything I’ve liked and disliked about the Pixel Tablet. Do I recommend getting one? Yes, but for certain situations.
- As a home tablet where it sits in your living room as a photo frame and a smart home controller and then a tablet your kids can play some games on when they’re done and they put it back on its dock, it turns back into a useful digital photo frame.
- The next case is using it as a desk tablet, and that’s what I personally have used it for. It’s a digital photo frame for your office, a secondary small display that you can watch YouTube on, control a podcast, have the news up, or have a quick video call on because the camera is looking up at your face. Though it’s not going to be the most flattering angle to have a video call on versus having a camera mounted above a desktop. But overall, the camera quality is actually quite decent. I’ve also used mine to control my Sonos speakers for my at-home office, check threads, my calendar, control my smart home, and use the Google Assistant.
- The last scenario I think this tablet is perfect for is being used as a kitchen tablet. While the Nest Hub can give you recipes, it’s a limited feature. What’s better is just having access to full cooking apps and a great web browser, which is what you get with the Pixel Tablet.
The Pixel Tablet retails for $499 but has already been on sale for $3.99 here in the US and comes in three colors: Porcelain Rose and Hazel, which is the color you’ve seen in this article and the only one with black bezels.
So those are all my thoughts on the Google Pixel Tablet. If you think I got it right or you think I got something wrong, let me know down in the comments.