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Hands-on: the Pixel C is a great Android tablet that costs a great deal of money

The big surprise at today's Google announcement was the Pixel C, an Android tablet developed by the team behind the Pixel Chromebooks. The Chromebook Pixels have powerhouses of speed and wonders of design — and they definitely had the prices to match those outsized ambitions. The same thing applies to the Pixel C. It starts at $499, but you're also going to want to pony up for the keyboard, which costs $149. That's pretty-good laptop territory, so does the Pixel C actually compete with a pretty-good laptop?

Well, sort of. It's technically impressive. The hardware is brushed metal and the whole thing feels solid, if a little thick. Google has opted for an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor and a powerful graphics card to go with it. So in terms of raw power, there should be enough here to do what you need. The question is whether or not Android in tablet form can claim the same. It's possible, but we'll need to see the software ecosystem for full-fledged tablet class Android apps get a bit bigger before we'll believe.

Either way, it's powerful. But for that power you are sacrificing thinness and weight: the Pixel C doesn't seem to be anything to call home about in either of those categories. It has a 10.2-inch screen (with a square-root of two aspect ratio because ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) that looked pretty great in my short time with it.

But the big show is the keyboard, which Google is rather proud of. And in some ways, Google deserves to be proud. It's a Bluetooth keyboard, but it's perfectly sized to the Pixel tablet and has the same high-quality metal shell. It snaps on with a magnet on a hinge that you can rotate up to a 135-degree angle. It's a firm connection, and the tablet immediately recognizes when it's connected and hides the software keyboard.

The other clever thing is how it charges: inductively, off the tablet itself. A charge should be good to last two months, so as long as you close the thing up with the tablet from time to time you should never have to think about it.

But what's it like to type on? Good! But a full-sized keyboard this is not. Google emphasized keeping the main keys you use as close to full size as possible, chopping the width of the tabs and enters on the edges instead. Key travel is longer than you'll find on a Surface or even on the new MacBook, so much so I actually wondered why Google didn't just decide to make the thing a little thinner. It took me a minute to two to get past typos, but I could see how you could get used to it and not run into problems with just a little practice.

It's nice to see that Google isn't giving up on the high-end tablet, even though its recent Nexus efforts haven't really justified further investment. Maybe that's why the project got handed over to the Pixel team, who has a track record of making really nice hardware. And the Pixel C is really nice — but it's hard to say whether it's worth as much as a similarly spec'd iPad Air — which is in the same price neighborhood.

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