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Apple iPad Pro vs Google Pixel C: The best of each OS goes head to head

Perhaps inspired by Apple’s steady progression of first-party hardware, Google is ready to jump in with its own Android tablet. Both the iPad Pro and Pixel C are tablets at the top of their game – the fastest of their respective platforms in terms of speed and design.

But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Both tablets are aimed at replacing a laptop, which means supporting multi-tasking, demanding tasks, and productivity. They’re still tablets though, so they’ll need to have the battery to last the bulk of a work day, and be thin and light enough to go with you everywhere.

Can the hardware newbie Google defeat the veteran Apple?

Update 1/11/15: Rewrote copy to reflect hands-on impressions with both devices, as well as declaring a winner.

Related: Google reveals the Pixel C, an Android tablet that wishes it was a laptop

iPad Pro

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Pixel C


Pixel C Thumb

Size 12 x 8.6 x 0.27 inches 9.52 x 7 x .28 inches
Weight 1.54 pounds 1.14 pounds
Display 12.9-inch Retina display, 265 ppi 10.2-inch 308 ppi
Resolution 2732 x 2048 Pixels 2560 x 1800 Pixels
Operating System iOS 9 Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Storage 32 or 128GB 32GB, 64GB
Processor Apple’s 64-bit A9X chipset, M9 motion coprocessor Nvidia Tegra X1, Maxwell GPU
RAM 4 GB 3 GB
Camera Rear 8MP, Front 5MP Read 8MP, Front 2MP
Video Rear 1080p, Front 720p N/A
Connectivity Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+, Bluetooth 4.2 Wi-Fi 802.11ac, 2x2MIMO, Bluetooth 4.1 + HS
Sensors Three-axis gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor,barometer, and Touch ID fingerprint sensor Gyrometer, accelerator, ambient light sensor (possibly more)
Battery Up to 10 hours Up to 10 hours
Charger Lightning USB Type-C
Marketplace Apple App Store Google Play
Price $800, or $1,080 with cellular $499 for 32GB, $599 for 64GB
DT review 4.5/5 3/5

Design

The Pixel C is a slim .28 inches thick without the keyboard, just a hair thicker than the .27 inch thick iPad Pro. That’s not a noticeable difference in thickness, although the Pixel C is noticeably smaller in other dimensions. That means a smaller screen, and a smaller keyboard, but a higher pixel density.

Google’s keyboard will run you $149, and to be honest, it’s a little cramped. The company is fully embracing the USB Type-C connection on the Pixel C, which will use this latest version of USB connection for charging and data transfer. It’s worth noting Google’s stock keyboard adds another .22 inches and 13 ounces to the setup.

The iPad Pro is much larger than both the Pixel C and all previous iPads before it. At 12 inches tall, 8.6 inches wide, and 1.54 pounds, it’s a big piece of hardware. But that extra size enables a larger, 12.9-inch Retina display screen, which is much larger than what the Pixel C is offering. That also means a larger keyboard called the Smart keyboard, which is $170. The iPad Pro has another pricey accessory in the form of the $99 Apple Pencil.

The Pixel C’s design allows for a greater degree of display movement with the keyboard attached. It works more like a normal laptop. However, its size makes the typing experience difficult for many users. Apple’s iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard is a bit unstable on certain surfaces (like your lap) because it works as a cover, propping up the Pro only at a few select angles. But it’s larger size makes typing comfortable for most people.

Apple’s device also benefits from its popularity, as a number of third party keyboards are already available. We actually like these better than Apple’s own keyboard, and some have a clamshell hinge that can effectively turn the Pro into a laptop.

Winner: iPad Pro

Power and productivity

Apple has continued to increase the power of its processors over the last few generations, and the A9X is no exception. It is paired with 4GB of RAM.

Meanwhile, the Pixel C has 3GB of RAM, and runs on an Nvidia Tegra X1. While benchmarks like GeekBench and FutureMark aren’t directly comparable across the two platforms, the Apple scores high marks on both tests, as well as in 3DMark.

The Pixel C is no slouch, though. In fact, it’s the fastest Android tablet on the market, pushing out the Nvidia Shield Tablet’s score by a decent margin. If power is key, either system will satisfy, as both are at the top of their respective platforms.

When it comes to battery, the iPad lasts about an hour and half longer in a Peacekeeper web browsing benchmark loop than the Pixel C. While the Pixel C called it quits at just over eight hours, the iPad Pro lasted almost nine and a half. The Peacekeeper test puts a lot of stress on tablet processors, so expect either of these tablets to last a full work day in more moderate usage.

Winner: iPad Pro

Related: Everything you need to know about Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Camera

The iPad Pro’s cameras put the Pixel C’s to shame. Even the 5MP front camera on the iPad Pro takes clearer photos than the 8MP rear camera on the Pixel C. That’s not a huge surprise, as Apple’s iPhones and iPads have always included some of the best sensors and optics around. That trend continues here.

Winner: iPad Pro

Price and Availability

Apple’s iPad Pro will run you $799 for the 32GB or $949 for 128GB, with another $130 on top for LTE. Accessories from Apple include the pen for $99, and the keyboard for $169. You’re much better off with a keyboard/case combo like the Logitech Create for $150.

The Pixel C costs $499 for the 32GB and $599 for the 64GB, plus $150 for the keyboard. The Pixel C’s price is actually a lot closer to the iPad Air 2 than the iPad Pro, but it provides a lot of the improved functionality of a tablet that strives to be more. That includes attachable keyboard, split screen support, and even mouse support, something the iPad doesn’t have.

Winner: Pixel C

Conclusion

With a sleek design, beautiful screen, and top marks in performance, the iPad Pro ultimately squeaks out a win over the Pixel C. It also has a better camera, a polished multi-screen experience, and the option for LTE that will mean a lot to business users. The Apple App Store is also a benefit of the Apple option, with a well curated and updated marketplace.

That’s not to say the Pixel C isn’t a solid offering in its own right. It’s the fastest Android tablet on the market by a decent margin, and boasts an refined design, especially for a first generation device. Mouse support is a big plus, even if it’s not always smooth, and a lot of users prefer side-loading apps.

Still, the Pixel C’s doesn’t seem quite as refined as the iPad Pro, and it suffers a bit from less fanatical support from both app developers and third-party hardware manufacturers. The iPad Pro’s larger screen also becomes an advantage, because it provides room for a bigger keyboard.

This is a close race. Both tablets have merit. But we must pick a winner, so we’ll go with the iPad Pro. It’s expensive, and it’s not perfect, but it feels more versatile and more powerful.