Android laptops had their fifteen minutes of fame years ago with the release of several third-party clamshells, like the Asus Transformer Book series. For the most part, the attempts to marry computing with Android were abandoned because early versions of the operating system weren’t up to the challenge. But years have passed, Android has matured, and Google is ready to give the idea another go.
The result is the Chromebook Pixel C. As a tablet, it offers reasonably impressive specifications including an Nvidia X1 quad-core processor, 3GB of LPDDR4 memory, and a 10.2-inch display with 2,560 × 1,800 resolution (that works out to 308 pixels per inch).
These specifications are pretty similar to other high-end Android tablets available today, but the screen is a bit different due to its unusual “square root of 2” aspect ratio. This results in a display that’s taller than a typical 16:9 or 16:10 tablet, and more similar to the 4:3 ratio used by Apple’s iPad.
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Connectivity and charging are enabled through a USB Type-C port, but that’s not involved in connecting the keyboard. In fact, there’s no physical, mechanical connection at all. Instead the keyboard communicates over Bluetooth and is kept in place by magnetics. Clever positioning makes it possible to use the keys as a protective cover or swing them to the tablet’s rear for storage when they’re not in use. The keyboard does have a battery, but it’s charged by the tablet through inductive charging, so no wired connection is required.
A hinge on the keyboard makes it possible to maneuver the tablet when it’s in laptop mode, with a range of rotation between 100 and 135 degrees. And there’s no kickstand used to prop the tablet up, as in Microsoft’s Surface line of computers. Instead, the Pixel relies on the balance between the keyboard and tablet to keep it upright, just like a normal clamshell notebook.
Google says the Pixel C has a “full sized” keyboard, but in fact it’s a bit smaller than what you’d normally find on a notebook. This is due to a smaller gap between each individual key and the removal of some lesser-used symbol keys, which are instead made available through an on-screen software utility. A touchpad is missing, as well.
Because it’s a Pixel product, the C has the same colorful LED light bar found on the Chromebook Pixel. Below this bar you’ll find four microphones, which Google says enable “far-field voice input.” In other words, you should be able to use Google Now from across a room — as long as it’s relatively quiet.
Google says the Pixel C will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and it’ll hit store shelves sometime this holiday shopping season. The tablet alone will be $499 for 32GB of storage, or $599 for 64GB. The keyboard will add an additional $149.