Of all the devices that Google showed off at I/O last week, the Pixel Tablet was the first I ran to pre-order. While I’m certainly interested in testing a Pixel Fold and have been deep in testing a Pixel 7a for a couple of weeks, the Pixel Tablet was the device I could see seamlessly slotting into my day-to-day life as a multi-purpose unit that would also let me ditch the Nest Hub Max in my kitchen that has become increasingly more annoying to use.
But since the Pixel Tablet was unveiled and all details spilled, it seems like Google cut a couple of corners or at the very least didn’t quite fulfill the true potential of the idea. There’s been a couple of opinions already written about this, and I hate to pile on, but man, I just couldn’t help but share some concerns of my own.
With the Pixel Tablet, Google is giving us a device that can act as a stand-alone tablet, play media through an included speaker, and then (in theory) become an improved home hub controller over something like a Nest Hub. The Pixel Tablet has a decent set of specs that pulls from the Pixel 7 line, but does lack a high-refresh rate display we see from Samsung’s best tablets. At 11-inches, it might be the perfect size for a large screened device you’ll use for lengthy periods of time, plus there’s a fingerprint sensor, multiple speakers, and most of the other goods required from a close-to-$500 tablet.
Where the Pixel Tablet falls off from meeting the mark it should have set is in the docking station that comes included with the tablet in the box. You see, this docking station that charges and also acts as a speaker, is a worthless powered paperweight when your tablet isn’t attached. Let me explain that further.
To use the included docking station, you need to attach the Pixel Tablet to it. Once you slap them together, the dock then charges the tablet (slowly), can trigger a home hub mode on the tablet to give you smart home controls, and then will play music or other media out of the speaker within that was initiated from the tablet.
What happens if you detach the tablet? Again, the docking station, which would cost $129 if you bought it by itself, isn’t capable of anything. While always plugged into a wall, that speaker – on its own – can’t take Google Assistant commands like your $49 Nest Mini. If you were playing media through it and then removed the tablet, audio would stop on the speaker and only carry-on through the tablet. Without the tablet attached, you also can’t Cast audio to the dock, add it to a speaker group, take a call, send a broadcast, or anything else you might use a Nest Audio for. It does nothing without the tablet connected.
You might want to respond with, “Yeah, but Kellen, the whole point is to attach the tablet, not use the Charging Speaker Dock alone!” To which I would respond – this is the whole point of this piece. It should do more. It costs $129 on its own! You could get a Nest Mini, Nest Audio, or Nest Hub for less than that! And those are actual smart home devices.
You might now want to respond with, “So buy those if you want a smart speaker!” Bro, you aren’t getting it. Google made a $129 speaker dock that has constant power that could have also included a mic, that would act as a speaker on its own, and that could have done everything those Nest products do, plus it could still feature all of the tablet connectivity fun. Like, why the hell does the dock cost $129 if it can’t do anything? It doesn’t even have Bluetooth.
Google is including the Charging Speaker Dock with the Pixel Tablet, so knowing the price, maybe this isn’t a $500 tablet and is instead more like a $400 or less tablet. The thing is, you can’t buy the table on its own. Google says specifically in its FAQ for the Pixel Tablet that this isn’t a possibility, but that you may “soon” be able to buy separate docking stations. So if you want a Pixel Tablet and see no need for a speaker dock that does nothing without a tablet attached, you are out of luck. This is the package.
Should you spend $129 for another dock to put in another room, like in your bedroom, that dock will do nothing unless you go track down your Pixel Tablet, carry it back into your bedroom, and then slap it on that dock. You’ll then have to leave it attached to get use out of it. You see the missed opportunity, right?
Look, I’m still pretty excited about the Pixel Tablet and can see it working its way into my house in a much more useful manner than my Nest Hub Max. I can’t wait to just slap it on the dock to charge overnight and to use a true tablet to fire up a recipe or call someone or see Google Photos from. I’ll use it on the couch to game, to watch YouTube, and to put away my iPad for the most part. Your boy loves his Android still. But I can’t help but ask Google what it was thinking here with the dock. You were so close, Google.