I’ve owned many tablets. My first tablet ran Windows 7 and was absymal. I recall my first Android tablet running Honeycomb, which didn’t really spark joy, as they say. The first tablet I ever liked was a Surface Pro 4, but I spilled some water on it and killed it. My last tablet, a Samsung TabPro running Windows 10 was my running favorite; it was the best of the Surface, but with USB-C and a thinner, lighter build. It was great at everything, except Windows kinda sucks at power management still, and Chrome was a slow resource hog.
Enter Pixel Slate, where Chrome is a first class citizen finally and if I live within it I can generally expect 10-15 hours of battery life. These are estimates I could only dream of on any Windows device, let alone a Surface. It’s power management is great, too. On a Surface, if you leave the thing lying around for a week you can expect it to be dead unless you configure it to go into hybernation. Even then, it takes minutes to boot and oftentimes doesn’t even work. If you want to try and save the battery if you pick it up and put it down alot, there’s really no good configuration. With the Slate, where there is no configuration for this at all, it just naturally acts like it’s always on and hasn’t been a problem. You can walk away from it for a week, come back and see it’s at 70% (which is like 8-9 hours).
I’ve had the Slate for a couple of months now, but when I was considering it there really wasn’t a lot of press on it. The famous MKBHD video destorying the Celeron version was out, and many other review videos on specifically the Celeron version. By the time I worked up the nerve to buy one, Best Buy was only selling the m3 model. So I picked one up, and it was perfectly fine. My biggest concern was Crostini, the Linux layer that’s getting GPU support and already can run most Steam games, and it worked. It didn’t feel slow, but the Shell, the desktop experience, felt very half-baked. Chrome itself could fly, but doing anything in the OS was laggy and slow. I’m a Linux user, at heart. I expect things to be half-baked, so I hedged by bets, returned the m3 and bought and i5, and here I am several months later. There still isn’t GPU support for Crostini, but it’s coming. It runs Docker though, and well enough I can replicate my work dev setup on my tablet without much effort. Pretty cool.
The biggest difference between a Windows tablet and say ChromeTab is the applications. Modern Windows Apps are cool and all, but nobody uses them and the store is an utter wasteland. You certainly not likely to find the control app for my TV, or your doorlock, or even your lightbulbs in a Windows store. No, those kinds of things are targeted towards Android and iOS. Luckilly, ChromeOS runs Android, making it dramatically more useful than a Windows system. I don’t want to give you the impression that it runs Android apps well, but it does run them, and for a device I mostly use in the Living Room this is a good thing.
In all, the hardware is great. The keyboard cover is what it is. The software could stand some improvements, but it runs Chrome better than a Surface, and that should be a convincing sell for most people. If you own a Surface, and you use Chrome for the most part, and realize you can’t swype-type a sentence into a textbox in your browser and that bugs you, then this is basically the only option. Or switching to Edge. It’s adopting Chrome, you know. I just like the Slate hardware better. If the software doesn’t pan out, it looks like you’ll be able to install Windows 10 on it soon enough.
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