The speakers on the hub get loud enough to fill a medium-sized room, and they sound robust, with surprisingly decent bass for their size. I found the max volume comparable to my first-gen Nest Hub, but the speakers on the Pixel Tablet’s hub sounded richer to my ears.
In Hub Mode, you can have the screen display photos or choose from a few snazzy clock designs. When I called on Google Assistant, the array of three far-field mics in the tablet adequately picked up my voice from the other end of the room. My favorite Hub feature is the Google Home icon that you can tap on the lock screen. It opens up basic controls for your favorite smart home devices—thanks to Google’s recent redesign of the Home app—and acts as a quick way to toggle on devices like fans, lights, and TVs.
You can also use this mode to look at the feed from a video doorbell or Wi-Fi security camera, but this feature is specifically disabled when the tablet isn’t docked to prevent randos from looking at your camera feeds. Anyone can talk to Google Assistant when the tablet is docked, but only the primary user can get personal results, and they’ll still need to authenticate with the fingerprint sensor to see those.
That brings me to one of the best parts of the Pixel Tablet: multi-user support. You can load up to eight different profiles on the tablet, and with a simple tap, the entire slate will switch to someone else’s profile, complete with their custom apps, layouts, wallpapers, and widgets, all protected by their fingerprint. That includes kid accounts too, and there are parental controls to limit screen time and block apps and websites on accounts accessible by children.
I had my wife set up her profile in case she wanted to try it out. She rarely wants to try any gadgets that fly into our home. Color me surprised then: one day when I was playing a video game on the TV, she took the Pixel Tablet off the dock and started casting YouTube videos to the slate as she played The Sims 4 on her laptop. I was shook. The Pixel Tablet is the only tablet with built-in Chromecast, so you can cast pretty much anything like you would a smart display (except Netflix as it’s not supported).
This has quickly become the way I use it too, since she’s more often the one hogging the TV. I’ll just … stop using my phone and use the much larger screen on the Pixel Tablet to browse Reddit (RIP Reddit Sync) or catch up on the news. I wish you could adjust the angle of the tablet when it’s on the hub, but there is a Google-approved third-party attachment that enables this functionality for $25.
Perhaps my biggest concern is battery life. It’s difficult to gauge this because I always put the slate back on the hub to recharge. Right now, after four hours of constant use, it dropped from 90 percent to 45 percent. I think it should be good enough for most use cases, though that battery performance doesn’t seem particularly remarkable.
My issue is more to do with battery longevity. If it’s constantly staying topped up, I expect the battery to degrade more quickly. Google has added some battery optimization software so that the tablet stops charging at 90 percent, which slows the creep of battery fatigue. But a year of use will tell how much the battery capacity changes with everyday surfing, streaming, docking, and charging. At least this tablet will be supported for a good length of time; Google promises it will get three OS updates and five years of security updates.
Before the Pixel Tablet came my way, I was miffed that Google didn’t provide a stylus so people could doodle on it. I was also peeved that there wasn’t a keyboard cover to easily turn it into a workstation. At least bundle in the kickstand case! I still think those would be nice additions, but this slate already feels like it’s doing quite a lot in the home, and sitting on a dock or in your hands is where it feels most comfortable.