I tried the new Google laptop — here’s why it’s a total dud

Google pixel c
The Google Pixel C. Google

Today, Google announced the Pixel C, a new tablet hybrid that runs Android, with prices starting at $US499.

An optional $US149 keyboard turns it into a laptop/tablet convertable that looks a lot like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

The big Pixel C reveal comes not very long after Apple announced the iPad Pro, its own tablet-with-a-keyboard. Microsoft is a trendsetter, apparently.

I got some brief hands-on time with the Pixel C at Google’s event. And I have to say, this thing is looking like a flop.

Without the keyboard, it’s a pretty standard, if super-high-definition, Android tablet. With the keyboard, it’s a half-functional laptop that’s not going to win over any converts.

In other words, the Pixel C is an Android tablet with a high-definition display and an optional integrated keyboard. That’s it, that’s all.

A Google employee explained that the idea with the Pixel C is really meant to show off to Android developers where their apps fall short with keyboard controls, and to push the market forward in that regard. If you’re not going to use the keyboard, this Google employee agreed, you may as well buy something like the slightly cheaper Nexus 9 tablet, which has a similar form factor.

Pixel C
The Pixel C, sans keyboard. Matt Weinberger

Indeed, the coolest part of the Pixel C is its form factor.

Closed up, it looks like a slim, svelte laptop. It takes its design cues from last year’s Google Chromebook Pixel laptop, down to the fact that you can tap the case to see a battery indicator.

Google pixel c
The Google Pixel C, folded up like a laptop with its keyboard case. Matt Weinberger

To make it into a laptop, though, you have to take the keyboard off it its magnetic connectors, flip it around, place the tablet flat on top of it, and lift it up to a good viewing angle.

Google pixel c
The Pixel C, taken off its keyboard base and placed onto the hinges. Matt Weinberger

The Google staffers in attendance were able to make the process look quick and slick, but attendees, myself intended, were pretty clumsy about taking it off and flipping it around.

Once it’s in place, it looks like…well, it looks like an Android tablet with a keyboard attached.

Google pixel c front
The Google Pixel C from the front, in laptop mode. Matt Weinberger

The keyboard, which connects via Bluetooth, has some cool features. It’s backlit, and it charges right off the tablet itself while it’s folded up, so you’ll never have to worry about charging it, in theory.

But I found typing to be a little difficult on it. A Google employee assured attendees that the keyboard was actually the same size and proportions as a standard keyboard, but everything just seemed off by a key or two.

Google pixel c rear
The Google Pixel C from the rear. Matt Weinberger

The Pixel C doesn’t even come with a stylus like Microsoft has on the Surface Pro and Apple introduced with the iPad Pro. That’s going to make it a harder sell in an enterprise setting, and leave it in the dust with the next wave of productivity apps.

So for your entry-level price of $US648, you’re getting an Android tablet with a cool keyboard, and a bunch of apps that won’t work super well with it.

Meanwhile, the Surface Pro 3 runs a full version of Windows 10, meaning that you get the entire range of Windows apps.

And the iPad Pro comes with some cool new multitasking features that make it easier to get stuff done, plus the support of companies like Microsoft and Adobe to bring specialised versions of itheir productivity apps.

I’m willing to be proven wrong, and I hope to get more time with the Pixel C soon. But at first blush, this looks like an interesting Google design experiment, and little more.

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