THE MUCH-RUMOURED (and leaked) Google Chrome Slate looks set to challenge the hugely successful Microsoft Surface and Apple iPad Pro with its flexible form factor and keyboard and pen add-ons.
We managed to get a quick play with the Chrome OS device at the launch - here's what we thought.
Following much of the design language of last year's Google Pixelbook, but with a definite nod towards its rivals, the Chrome Slate is a joy to hold. Not too thick, not too thin. There's no curved glass here, but rather a pleasing black design that owes more than a passing resemblance to its namesake.
The screen takes up most of the real estate on the front, aside from front firing speakers. The Molecular Display, at 12.3in, is designed to give a more fluid frame change, which in turn should give a more fluid viewing experience.
Although officially the folio keyboard is meant to be a homage to the Pixelbook, in reality, we thought it had a lot in common with recent Logitech efforts with its rounded keys. The fact is, it looks great and docks more or less seamlessly thanks to magnets. Lots of them.
It's a sexy beast, make no mistake.
The practicalities of the design are another matter, as it seems that Google has gone big on folio kickstands. We've never quite understood why these are so popular as they are specifically designed to make it harder to type on anything other than a table. We'd have preferred something hinged.
It's not helped by just how thin the keyboard is - it types beautifully but is more prone to bouncing up and down on a soft surface, like your crotch.
The pen is identical to last year's Pixelbook attachment. The only difference is that it's available in dark blue to match the keyboard.
The demo unit we saw looked stunning for content. Both the screen and speakers have been AI tuned to offer what Google claims is the best possible screen for content consumption and the light sensor actively adjusts the screen to suit your viewing environment.
And yes, it's all great. Is it 'the best'? No probably not, but based on a very quick look, we're confident that a few tweaks will make it hit the mark with most people.
The new browser was a bit harder to pin down as its entire USP is that it learns what apps you are likely to need and moves them to the top of the list. This is a neat idea, but not a new one and it'll be interesting to see how Google's algorithms work here - it could be lousy.
What worried us slightly was that the rotation of the device between vertical and horizontal was quite laggy and didn't feel buttery smooth. Of course, this is probably a software issue, but it's another example of something that would make us think twice about spending this kind of money.
Features and specs
There are a number of different configurations for the Pixel Slate. At the bottom end, there's a 4GB/32GB or 8GB/64GB set up, sporting a Celeron processor. Yes, that's right - the entry level doesn't even have a decent chipset.
If that's what you want, the Core m3 version (8GB/64GB) is £749, the Core i5 (8GB/128GB) is £969 and the i7 (16GB/256GB) is £1549.
Now remember those are "from" prices which suggest there may be package deals available, but as it is, it means that the full shebang will set you back £1849.
Taking stock - that's a tablet that runs Chrome OS with Android apps, and at some point, we should get Linux app compatibility and possible Windows dual-boot, but without those last two, it's an obscene price (and we thought the Pixelbook was bad).
Other things of note - 8MP cameras with wide field of vision on both sides, a fingerprint sensor on the power button, light sensors which tune the screen to the environment. Ports are two, both USB C with charging and 4K output.
It's too expensive. End of. If you're not fussed about Windows, the top-end Huawei MediaPad is £350. Justifying at least double that for Chrome OS device just seems bonkers.
Yes, the screen is lovely. Yes, the sound is above average. But when push comes to shove, it's a tablet. Google does it well. Others do it much, much better.
Of course, this isn't the end of the matter - we'll do a full review when we've had more than ten minutes with it, in a quiet room.
But in the meantime, buy a Surface. Download Chrome. μ