Google Pixel Slate: first impressions

This is me typing this blog post at this time, on the train to NYC.

For a longer, more technical evaluation, this review from The Verge is great.

The Pixel Slate is an odd machine, and I am still trying to determine how to use it, and then, whether I enjoy it or not. The center of the oddness is that it’s actually equal parts notebook and tablet — if the keyboard is connected it feels and behaves like any other Chromebook. With the computer keyboard detached, it seems like an Android tablet — really running mobile programs from the Google Play store. (I did not realize this until today, but apparently this is also true for other new Chromebooks)

It’s the back and forth between tablet style and notebook mode that’s odd, and takes a reasonable number of cognitive overhead. Same goes for the rest of the apps — you need to make about which adventure you need, when, and then adjust accordingly. Often times this means multiple programs doing the exact same thing simultaneously (or more specifically, a Chrome web version and a mobile app version).

However, to take a step back: what got me interested from the slate was precisely this mixture of form factors:

By way of instance, for long-form reading, I enjoy tablet-mode, where I could get whole focus on the content, and page through with my finger (such as reading a paper in my lap). Same is true for short-form emailing. Fundamentally, I like the inclusion of the”lean back” mode the pill form variable gets you.

High fidelity interaction with emails, docs and sites. The slate does all that basically fine, although the significant question is that keyboard. The key and trackpad actions are amazingly good, but the dynamics round holding and folding the keyboard take a little getting used to — the attachment is floppy, and the magnetized folding holder on the back takes up extra space. Another choice is that the Brydge keyboard, which plans to deliver more of a”notebook feel” when using it in notebook mode — I’m curious here about the important action and the quality of the Bluetooth connectivity.

Another wonderful feature of the tablet+notebook is fingerprint unlock — this is exactly what you would expect from a telephone or tablet, but do not normally see on a notebook. It’s a wonderful convenience.

So, I’d say that the jury is still out. The actual questions are whether”tablet mode” and the fingerprint unlock are worth the general cognitive load of a system that is neither entirely here .

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