Google's Pixel C tablet is sturdy like a laptop

google pixel C graphic

Sturdy with hard edges and brushed aluminum, the Pixel C is a subdued entry into the growing hybrid tablet market.

The 10.2-inch Pixel C is the first Android tablet designed and made entirely by Google. Built for productivity, its key feature is a hard cover that doubles as a keyboard. At just over two pounds with the keyboard, it feels surprisingly heavy. That heft is either one of Pixel C's biggest drawbacks or a smart design choice, depending on what you plan to use it for and where.

First announced in September, the Pixel C goes up against Microsoft's (MSFT) Surface Pro 4 and Apple's iPad Pro. All have focused on making tablets more work-ready with great keyboards.

It's almost quaint that major computer makers are competing to make the best keyboard. An old school rectangle of keys that doubles as a cover is, apparently, the magical ingredient that will transform a fun-loving tablet into a work device.

What is Google (GOOG) bringing to the keyboard party?

The rigid $149 Pixel C keyboard is bare bones but feels well made. Outside is the same anodized aluminum as the tablet, and inside are real plastic keys that click and clack.

It cleverly attaches to the screen using a wide magnetic strip that instantly makes the two objects work and feel like one device. It holds the "laptop" shape even while moving -- something not possible with soft cover keyboards. The Pixel C's keyboard recharges directly from the tablet when attached as a cover.

Unfortunately, its performance doesn't live up to the design. While typing at normal speed in a Google Doc, there was a noticeable lag. Various letters got stuck while writing, which made the keyboard stop working and the tablet switch to an onscreen keyboard. Google did not say if it was an issue with my specific unit or something more widespread.

As on the Chromebook, the Pixel C's Caps Lock button has been frustratingly replaced with a dedicated Search button. Like Apple (AAPL), Google seems have declared the trackpad and mouse unnecessary without fully considering the ergonomics. Without one, you end up constantly reaching up to touch the screen.

Turning a tablet into a work computer is a bit of a pickle, and the Pixel C faces many of the same issues as its competitors. Tablets have grown out of smartphones and often run somewhat modified versions of their simple operating systems. It can be difficult to multitask without full versions of your productivity software, or the traditional multitasking features of a desktop.

The Pixel C definitely has the power of a work laptop. It runs on a Nvidia Texgra X1 processor and its battery will last more than 10 hours. There is one USB Type-C port, which acts as an all-in-one port for charging, transferring data, connecting to an external display, and can even power up your phone.

The bright 2,560 by 1,800 pixel screen is great for videos, but this is not primarily an entertainment device. If you only want to watch Dora and check sports scores, there is no shortage of sub $100 Android tablets. For $499 for the 32 GB model or $599 for 64 GB, the Pixel C is designed for doing more.

Most Chromebooks and Android devices are made by third parties like HTC and Samsung. But Google likes to make select high-end versions of hardware to serve as examples of what the products can be at their very best, like the Chromebook Pixel laptop. The Pixel C is a showcase for Android 6.0 Marshmallow as a hybrid OS. The hardware has its inspired touches, but is something that other manufactures will hopefully improve upon.

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