Google Pixel Slate vs. Google Pixelbook

There aren’t many options when it comes to premium Chrome OS devices, as the majority target the budget market. However, Google’s own premium devices, the Pixelbook and the Pixel Slate, offer high-end features for die-hard Chrome OS enthusiasts.

Google launched the Pixelbook in 2017, setting the standard for the premium Chromebook market. The Pixel Slate followed in 2018, a tablet ditching Android for Chrome OS. Add the $200 keyboard, and users have a thin and light Chromebook.

Given that both provide a premium Chromebook experience, which one is right for you? Which model has the best bang for the buck? Read on to find out.

Design

Google Pixel Slate
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Both the Pixel Slate and Pixelbook are premium machines crafted from aluminum and feature tough Corning Gorilla Glass.

The Pixel Slate features an aluminum backing in Midnight Blue, complementing a beautiful screen on the front. The Pixelbook presents itself as a laptop with a silver aluminum finish and a white glass accent on its lid. While both devices are forged from the same materials, their overall designs serve very different functions.

At first glance, the Pixelbook is a standard clamshell notebook with a built-in keyboard, trackpad, and display. Open it, and you’re treated to the standard laptop experience. However, push the screen back, and you’ll see its true 2-in-1 nature thanks to the 360-degree hinge. The screen rotates completely backward to sit flush against the keyboard and offer a tablet experience.

Meanwhile, we found the look of the Slate to be a bit too drab for our tastes, and it doesn’t fit well with Google’s other hardware, like the Pixel 3. That draws in comparison to the Pixelbook, which we really liked for its luxurious feel and the mirrored glass pane on the display lid.

On the other hand, the Pixel Slate is a tablet through and through. Out of the box, it does not include a keyboard or trackpad but is instead a flat slab controlled entirely by touch. The Pixel Slate Keyboard, sold separately for $199, can transform your experience into a notebook-style design, so you can get work done faster while protecting the screen on the go.

We really liked the Pixel Slate’s keyboard. It felt quite innovative, although its circular keys took some getting used to. It proved useful despite its limited travel between keystrokes, as it doubles up as a way to prop up the device. It emulates the feel of a real kickstand and allowed us to change the angle of the screen with just one hand.

As with most hybrid devices, both are typically better at one function over the other. If you’re looking for a traditional laptop, you’ll most likely be happiest with the Pixelbook. If you harness the true impact of having Android apps on your device, the Pixel Slate is far more versatile.

Those looking for a healthy port selection won’t find much more on either machine than a few USB-C ports. The Pixelbook features two USB-C ports, a fingerprint sensor, and a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the Pixel Slate offers two USB-C ports and the Pixel Slate Keyboard accessory connector.

The Slate doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack. Users will instead need to rely on wireless headphones, or the included USB-C adapter.

Performance

Google Pixelbook running Adobe Lightroom CC
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system that typically doesn’t require much under the hood, with many budget models packed with a suitable Intel Celeron CPU. However, Google’s flagship machines give you the option to go premium with respectably fast Intel Core processors. Add a healthy amount of RAM, and both devices are ready to tackle the web without issues.

The Google Pixelbook allows consumers to choose between three set configurations: Two with Intel’s 7th-generation Intel Core i5 chip and one with a Core i7. Sure, these CPUs are out of date, but they don’t show their age while powering Chrome OS. Backed up by 8GB or 16GB of RAM, the Pixelbook may now be long in the tooth, but its specs should still keep fans running for quite a while. Additionally, the Pixelbook offers massive storage options for a machine of its class with 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB.

The Pixel Slate is less powerful in its base configuration due to its Intel Core m3 processor but gives buyers the option to select a configuration with 8th-gen Intel Core i5 or i7 CPUs. Memory options are 8GB and 16GB, depending on the configuration. Likewise, storage is 64GB for the Core m3 setup, 128GB for the Core i5, and 256GB for the Core i7. Google currently only offers three set configurations.

We reviewed the Google Pixel Slate with the dual-core Core i5-8200Y processor and found it was fast enough for most tasks. For most people, that includes playing Android games as well as web browsing with up to 15 or 20 tabs open. We still think you’ll eventually hit a multitasking wall with the Core i5 and suggest choosing the Core i7 configuration.

Both devices should offer great entertainment experiences with 12.3-inch screens and dual speaker systems. The Pixel Slate provides a slightly better “Molecular” display with an improved sharpness of 293 pixels per inch (ppi) compared to the Pixelbook’s still respectable 235 ppi. The screens on both are capable of 400 nits of brightness, offer touchscreens with support for Google’s Pixelbook Pen, and cover 72% of the NTSC color space.

In our review of the Google Pixel Slate, we really liked the display. It was particularly sharp and was amazing for watching movies. The colors come with a cooler tint, and images look lifelike and not over-saturated.

Portability

Google Pixel Slate
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The Pixelbook and Pixel Slate are both designed for travel — they aren’t intended to live on your desk. With both devices featuring aluminum body constructions, they offer sturdy yet lightweight solutions for anyone on the move.

Best of all, the Pixel Slate packs improved battery life. In our testing, the Pixel Slate came home with roughly 10 hours and 45 minutes of web browsing before shutting down and about 12 hours when looping a video. The Pixelbook, on the other hand, came home with just about enough to get us through a workday.

The Pixelbook weighs 2.4 pounds and measures 11.4 by 8.7 by 0.4 inches. A neat and compact package, the Pixelbook won’t weigh anyone down and should be excellent for road warriors. In comparison, the Pixel Slate weighs in at 1.6 pounds and measures 11.45 by 7.95 by 0.27 inches. The keyboard accessory adds another 1.1 pounds and 0.2 inches of thickness.

We found the Pixel Slate to be a relatively portable device, with the rounded edges being easy to grab and the large bezels offering grip when using it one-handed. For us, it felt lighter than it is, especially since Google worked to pack heavy components toward the center of the device for a more balanced feel.

Users who purchase the Pixel Slate Keyboard can connect it easily via Google’s Quick Snap Connector and need not worry about recharging the case separately. Made of polyurethane, microfiber, and glass, the keyboard is an impressive add-on, but it doesn’t come cheap.

For individuals on the road who live off of video calls and conferences, both units pack onboard microphones with noise cancellation and front-facing cameras. The Pixelbook is limited to a 720p webcam, while the Pixel Slate offers an 8MP 1080p front-facing camera along with an 8MP 1080p rear-facing camera.

The Pixel Slate makes more sense

Google’s Pixel Slate is the newer device of the two. It’s less expensive but has more recent hardware, and it’s a better device for tablet use. It makes an interesting proposition as a tablet even though it’s best for web browsing.

Google has done a lot to improve Chrome OS, and features like the Google Play Store and split-screen mode make it feel a bit more like Android. Sure, Android apps might not be fully optimized for the Slate, but you’re getting two operating systems with one device. The Pixelbook is too heavy and thick to be properly enjoyed this way.

Though the Pixelbook excels in overall design, the Pixel Slate comes with a better display and battery life. Unless you’re attached to the look of the Pixelbook, we can’t think of many reasons to not opt for the Slate instead.

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