As expected, Google announced its first house-branded Chrome OS tablet, the Pixel Slate, a few days ago. It looks like a great device, but how does it compare to the Pixelbook when it comes to a high-end Chrome OS machine?
Before we get into the comparison, it’s probably worth talking about what this means for current Pixelbook owners. To put it plainly, if you already have a Pixelbook there’s very little reason to consider getting a Slate—it isn’t even an upgrade, but more of a lateral movement from the Pixelbook. It’s an incredibly similar device in a slightly different package.
The only reason I could see a current Pixelbook owner wanting to shift to a Slate is if its primary use is going to be as a tablet. The Pixelbook is a convertible, but you can still feel the keyboard when it’s flipped around into tablet mode which is offputting to a lot of users. I get it.
If you’re not looking for a dedicated tablet or don’t use your Pixelbook as a tablet often, there’s absolutely no reason to think about picking up (or switching to) a Slate.
If you were waiting for Google to announce the Slate to see what it’s all about before buying a Pixelbook, however, there’s a lot more to consider. A lot.
How is the Pixel Slate different than the Pixelbook?
Aside from the obvious—the Slate is a tablet with a keyboard accessory, where the Pixelbook is a laptop that is also kind of a tablet—there are also some subtle differences between the two devices.
For starters, there are five versions of the Slate, and it starts at just $599. Compared to the Pixelbook, which has three versions and starts at $999, there’s a pretty big gap between the entry-level models. In fact, the entry-level Pixelbook is comparable to the third most expensive Slate. Here’s the breakdown of each, spec-wise:
- $599: Celeron Processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB storage
- $699: Celeron Processor, 8GB RAM, 64GB storage
- $799: 8th gen Core m3 Processor, 8GB RAM, 64GB storage
- $999: 8th gen Core i5 Processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage
- $1599: 8th gen Core i7 Processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB storage
- $999: 7th gen Core i5, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage
- $1199: 7th gen Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage
- $1649: 7th gen Core i7, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage
Right out the gate, it’s obvious that the Slate covers two different dynamics: those who want a tablet primarily (the lower-end models) and those who are looking for a workstation (the high-end models), where the Pixelbook is a racehorse even at the base model. It’s also worth considering that the Pixelbook comes with 7th generation Intel chips, where the Slate (naturally) uses 8th gen.
But the differences under the hood are only part of the story here: the display is also something to consider. While the Pixelbook has a gorgeous 12.3-inch 2400×1600 panel, the Slate ups the pixel count to 3000×2000 in the same 12.3-inch package. Google calls this a “Molecular Display.” It’s probably just marketing jargon, but damn if it doesn’t sound cool.
That pretty much covers the differences between the two devices on a hardware level, but there’s also the fundamental usage to take into consideration here. If you’re just looking for a simple tablet—perhaps to replace an aging Android tablet, for example—there’s no reason to spend $1000 on a Pixelbook. You’d be fine with the $599 or $699 Celeron Slate for that.
But if you’re looking for a tablet that does more, then the $799+ versions of the Slate are going to be great. It can be a tablet when you want it, but paired with the optional keyboard accessory, transforms into a full productivity workhorse when you need it.
Speaking of the keyboard, there are two versions available for the Slate: Google’s in-house Slate Keyboard and a beautiful third-party option from Brydge called the G-Type. If I had my druthers, the latter would be my personal choice—it turns the Slate into a full-blown laptop in an incredibly sleek package. It’s also $40 cheaper than Google’s offering ($159 vs. $199).
But that’s also something else to consider when it comes to price: the Slate doesn’t come with a keyboard, so it’s an additional charge. Even though the $999 Pixelbook and Slate are comparable in spec and price, you have to factor in the additional $160-$200 for the keyboard. The Pixelbook, you know, comes with a keyboard. Because it’s attached. Heh.
That brings me to another point: the Pixelbook’s keyboard is phenomenal—it’s one of the best-feeling laptop keyboards I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Seriously. I haven’t had the opportunity to go hands-on with a Slate or either of its keyboard offerings yet, but it’s hard to imagine them being better than—or even on par with—the Pixelbook’s keyboard. Maybe I’m wrong, but previous experience suggests that add-on keyboards for tablets rarely have the robust and solid feel provided by a laptop keyboard that’s part of the device.
Let’s Not Forget About the “Pixelbook 2”
I’d be remiss not to mention the forthcoming Pixelbook 2—which is almost certainly coming—codenamed “Atlas.” While current information and leaks don’t provide a lot of information, the common threads are pretty consistent: similar specs, better display, and smaller bezels. Also, like the Pixel Slate, the PB2 is rumored to have a fingerprint reader, if that sort of thing is important to you.
Now, I’m generally not one to put all my faith in rumors (and neither should you), but the Pixelbook 2 was expected to get announced at this year’s Pixel event, where there was nary a word about it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t coming, but rather that it will just be coming later. Speculation suggests that it could be before year’s end.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t buy the device you want based on rumors and speculation—but I am suggesting that it’s at least worth taking into consideration that an updated Pixelbook could show up in just a few weeks. It would be silly to drop a grand on a new ‘Book today, only for a new one to come out in five weeks.
So, Which One Should You Buy?
Putting rumors aside for a second, you may still be considering the current-generation Pixelbook, which is completely fine—the updated version will likely be an incremental update at best anyway, so buyers remorse should be minimal at worst.
And if you want a high-end Chromebook, it’s the best choice for just that. If you’re looking for more of a secondary device that can function as an excellent tablet and an exceptionally nice Chromebook, well, the Slate is the right device for you. Again, I’d personally pair it with the Brydge G-Type keyboard for maximum laptop-ness, but you’re welcome to disagree with my opinion and go for Google’s official keyboard.
As a current Pixelbook owner (and lover), I won’t be shifting to Google’s new laptop as my main portable powerhouse device. That said, if I weren’t a Pixelbook owner and was considering making a move today, the Slate would be a very tempting offer—and probably the choice I would ultimately make.
For me, it would be a win-win: it’s a current-generation device with all the bells and whistles one could want from high-end Chromebook, there’s no chance of it getting replaced with a newer model in just a few weeks, and it’s an excellent balance between tablet and laptop.
But if you only want a laptop, the Pixelbook is incredible, and I have no regrets about buying one. Highly recommended.
You can join the Pixel Slate waitlist to get notified on availability in the Google Store or buy the Pixelbook now. Or, you know, just wait and see what happens with the Pixelbook 2. We just want you to be happy. <3