Pixel Tablet with Charging Speaker Dock: Strengths & Weaknesses

    It has been 8 years since the last time Google released an Android tablet with the Pixel C launch.

    Will the new $899 Pixel Tablet be as much loved as the Nexus 7 tablet which was Googles first entry into the Android tablet market over 10 years ago?

    If you’re wondering who the Pixel Tablet is aimed at … a Product Manager for the Google Pixel Tablet commented online that:

    “We wanted to build a tablet that offered our users something unique. Most tablets stay in the home and are used in the home. So we are designing tablets to exist in that space and to integrate seamlessly with the rest of the Google hardware and Android ecosystem”.

    Unboxing Impression

    Inside the box you’ll find the Pixel Tablet, quick start guide, power adaptor and the Charging Speaker Dock.

    The power adaptor for the Charging Speaker Dock unfortunately has a proprietary plug which is disappointing because it is only supplying 30W and could easily have been a more useful standardised 30W USB-C PD adaptor.

    You can charge the tablet via it’s USB-C port but only at a relatively slow 15W.

    The Charging Speaker Dock fits in my large hand and holds onto to the tablet in Hub Mode via magnetic pogo pins. This also enables the dock to charge the tablet and take over as speaker in Hub Mode.

    Unfortunately and inexplicably when the tablet is not attached, the dock is functionally useless as it can’t act as a standalone Google smart speaker or a Zigbee/Matter/Thread smart home hub.

    Key Features and Design Decisions Explained

    The Google Pixel Tablet product team answered some customer questions on 23/6/23 and I’ve chosen the most informative ones:

    • May somebody compare sound of dock with Nest Hub Max? Especially bass. The Charging Speaker Dock’s audio is comparable to Nest Hub (2nd generation). So relative to Nest Hub Max, there’s a little less bass, but it’s still enough to fill most rooms with audio.
    • Any chance of adding facial unlock when using it in tablet mode? It will unfortunately be tough for Pixel Tablet given the specs of the front camera.
    • The tablet supports the USI 2.0 standard.  Are there any plans for unique features for the pixel tablet to take advantage of the stylus support? Pixel Tablet will work well with USI 2.0 styluses.
    • Do you have to use an official Google keyboard? Any keyboard that supports the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) HID Profile is compatible with Pixel Tablet.
    • Will a future software update ever make the base speaker usable without the tablet docked? Unfortunately not. The speaker has no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, and needs the tablet to function … The Charging Speaker Dock isn’t a standalone smart speaker, so the tablet needs to be nearby to carry out your voice commands. Not making the speaker dock a Nest Mini allowed us to focus on the best experience for the tablet and dock together, and to also offer the dock at a lower price for customers.
    • With the Pixel Tablet dock providing a more Nest Hub experience, I wonder if there is any scope for the dock to become a Thread Border Router?  The dock does not have a thread radio inside, but we’ll keep the feedback in mind for future docks.
    • Given the likely use of this in a “communal” space (family room, kitchen, …), are there recommended best practices for enabling/exposing “family” features that are visible by default and having an option to temporarily enable other user-specific features only when a password/pin is entered, or through some other secure, but easy, user-verification process?  Set up a profile for every family member. You can have up to 8 profiles, and child profiles are supported. Each profile can have their own apps, and are only accessible with a PIN, pattern or fingerprint.
    • Is Google coordinating with third party developers (mainly for popular apps) to optimize their apps for the big screen tablet experience for both the Pixel Tablet and Fold? We’re partnering with many of the top apps on Android to optimize their apps for large screens! Examples of some top apps that work great on the Pixel tablet include Whatsapp, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Peloton, Disney+, and more. We’re continuing to work with more third party apps and look forward to seeing more updates from them.
    • In the future will Hub Mode act more like a Nest Hub Max? We focused on the most loved features of Nest Hub for our initial launch: Photo Frame, smart home control, Chromecast built-in, and hands-free help with the Assistant. But this is only the beginning
    • In the future will we be able to use the camera for security cam when docked? We have no plans at this time. As mentioned in another comment, this one was debated a bit within the team, but ultimately we decided that due to the narrower width of the front camera and because the tablet wouldn’t always be on the dock, we would not pursue this use case at launch.

    Hands On Usage

    My thoughts and observations based on real life usage as a tablet and docked in Hub Mode on the kitchen dining table are as follows.

    Using the tablet for reading websites or watching videos is very smooth since it’s powered by the same Google Tensor G2 as the Pixel 7 Pro.

    A good way to think of the tablet is basically a larger version of the phone but without a SIM card for outside use. It’s optimised to be a tablet content consumption device you use while sitting on a couch or watching videos in Hub mode while having breakfast.

    When you dock your tablet, battery protection limits the charge to 90% to protect the battery lifespan, this is fine and quite sensible. This can be overridden in the settings.

    It’s really annoying that there is no face unlock because Google chose to use a front camera that doesn’t support dual-pixel auto-focus (DPAF). PIN or Fingerprint unlock are fine while holding it but a pain when it’s docked. Google would prefer everyone in a family setup their own profile and use their voice to control the device but I don’t want to do that.

    Compared to the Echo Show 15 inch smart display which usually sits on our kitchen table the Pixel Tablet 11 inch screen is a lot smaller.

    Whether this is an issue for you depends on your eyesight and it might not bother you at all if you’re already used to a smart display like the Echo Show 10 or Google Nest Hub Max, which are both similarly sized to the Pixel Tablet.

    The dock speaker is frankly a disappointment, with just a single 43.5mm driver and no tweeters it sounds similar to a Nest Mini. It’s fine for podcasts or talk radio but not for music.


    You cannot buy the Pixel Tablet without the Charging Speaker Dock and this decision by Google means the cost is increased. This will make it harder for the Pixel Tablet to compete on price with standalone tablets from Apple and Samsung.

    Since the Charging Speaker Dock costs $189 separately it means the Pixel Tablet could in theory have been sold for about $709 by itself instead of as a $899 bundle.

    For those who want it the dock experience could easily have been enabled with any basic tablet stand plus pairing the tablet via Bluetooth with a decent sounding nearby speaker.

    I wonder if the Pixel Tablet will struggle for sales because tablet buyers will compare it to the Apple iPad or Samsung Tablets, while smart display buyers may look at the Echo Show and Nest Hub Max that are better optimised as smart home displays.

    This is a shame because the Pixel Tablet by itself is a great Android Tablet for things like watching Youtube, catching up on news sites, planning holidays etc. I’m not a gamer so can’t comment on that aspect.

    The Pixel Tablet is available for $899 (128GB) or $999 (256GB) and both options include the bundled dock. Pixel Tablet can be purchased from the Google Store, JB-HiFi and Telstra starting in Hazel and Porcelain.

    Neerav Bhatt
    Neerav Bhatt
    Thanks to his broad general knowledge, research skills and ability to explain complex issues Neerav Bhatt has appeared in the online, print, radio and TV media including: ABC (Online, TV, Radio), SBS (Online, Radio), BBC World Service (Radio), 10 News TV, Sky News TV, Australian IT, Technology Spectator, Ausdroid, iTnews, APCMAG, IDG CSO and a variety of other publications. In 2023 he joined the techAU team and represents them at Sydney events.

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