Google’s Pixel tablet ships with its own speaker dock

We knew Pixel tablet was coming. In fact, we’ve known it for over a year. Google teased the device at last year’s I/O. It’s one of those “don’t worry, we’re working on stuff” kind of deals with a very broad 2023 release date. The company gave a (slightly) better look at the system at its October event, offering a quick preview of the dock.

Honestly, the doc is the most exciting piece here. The company didn’t like it when I originally referred to it as a giant Nest home hub, but I wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last to draw the most obvious comparison. It’s honestly hard to argue that Google didn’t come up with this on its own, with a design that borrows liberally from its smart home line.

Based on the Pixel tablet

Image Credits: Brian Heiter

And why not? I’m convinced that the original Nest Hub remains the best-looking smart screen to date. The Pixel tablet effectively breaks in two. There’s the Android Slate Bit and the Dock Bit, which attach magnetically and have their own built-in speakers. It’s a nice bit of interoperability. Hold the tablet against the dock and it attaches magnetically, charging the device via a set of pins. A subtle animation flashes on the screen and the music you’re playing automatically transforms into the best speakers.

It’s a clever design, though not entirely novel. Amazon did something similar a while back with its Fire tablets, but it’s a much better-looking system, and Google is bundling the two together at a tidy $499 price point. It’s significantly more expensive than the Nest Hub Max’s $230, but if you think of it as two devices, it’s a great deal. Will there be people who want to buy a tablet on their own? i don’t know Maybe, I guess. But those people easily miss the best part of the whole thing.

Effectively the system does double duty. Like two for the price of one. This begs the question of the Nest Hub Max’s future, especially since there hasn’t been much in the way of Nest news for 2023 (or doesn’t seem to have anything to do with this event). Clicking in place switches to standard Android desktop hub mode, which prioritizes things like smart home control, including live feeds from connected smart cameras.

Pixel tablet

Image credits: Brian Heiter

With a 10.95-inch display at 2560 x 1600, it’s a decent way to watch a TV show or follow some cooking videos in the kitchen. The setup is also solid for teleconferencing purposes, with an 8-megapixel front-facing camera capable of recording 1080p at 30FPS (same on the rear). Remember when Facebook/Meta tried to build an entire product line around this functionality? It’s great as part of a much larger film set. There is also a physical toggle to turn off the mic and camera for privacy purposes.

Like the rest of the devices announced today (and the Pixel 7), the tablet runs on the Tensor G2 chip. That’s coupled with 8GB of RAM and 128 or 256GB of storage. For most intents and purposes it’s effectively a scaled-up version of the Pixel 7/7a. Google promises up to 12 hours of life on a charge. In addition to the dock’s four charging pins, you can always use the USB-C port. Google says charging speeds are comparable between the two, taking around 2.5 hours to get from zero to 100.

By any measure, the sudden return to pill-making is an odd moment. This is, no doubt, boosted by the L version of Android designed for larger screens. While companies like Apple, Samsung, and Huawei have been selling great tablets for years, the Pixel tablet is a market of its own. The hardware isn’t particularly premium, nor does it stand out from the pack.

Pixel tablet camera closeup

Image credits: Brian Heiter

Doc, on the other hand, suddenly makes it a much stronger proposition. “Tablets are basically designed like big phones,” a Google representative tells TechCrunch. “But they’re actually used more often at home. In fact, in our studies, more than 80% of the time, tablets are used at home. But neither tablet is really designed to work well at home. So we thought we could address both of those.

It’s an interesting point – especially since our device usage has changed in this post-pandemic world. Suddenly it’s not just a tablet — it’s a smart home controller/hub, teleconferencing device and video streaming machine. It’s not going to replace your television, but it’s definitely a solid option for watching some YouTube.

Oh, and a quick shout out to the clever case that features a metal stand that doubles as a handle. It has metal pins for passthrough charging, so you don’t need to remove it when docking – just move it around the dock and snap into place.

Read more about Google I/O 2023 at TechCrunch

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