Google has finally released its iPad Pro competitor to reviewers. The Verge is one of the first to run it through its paces. Unfortunately, things don’t start well. The title of the review is simply “Slapdash.” The final rating was 5.5. For the good stuff, they listed good speakers, two USB-C ports, and a nice screen. The bad stuff included software bugs, Android apps still feel alien, and folio keyboard is awkward.
That said, you would be wrong if you feel like they just dismissed the Slate out of hand. In fact, much of what they said about the Slate is exactly what they said about the iPad Pro. It is an expensive solution in search of a problem. Both products have a bit of an identity crisis and are outshined by their more mature siblings: the laptop.
The reviewer, Dieter Bohn, found that the Slate simply didn’t make sense when last year’s Pixel Book was still an excellent product, easier to use, and a lower price. The Slate wants to be a laptop. And there is already an excellent Chrome laptop from Google.
The iPad Pro is also trying very hard to be some type of laptop replacement. But Mac laptops are much better at being laptops. So the value proposition for these new form-factors is questionable.
Bohn was a fan of the screen, but not of the keyboard.
“The keyboard attaches via a magnetic connector, and the Slate is pretty smart about switching between tablet mode and laptop mode, depending on whether it’s connected or if the keyboard is flipped around. This is all very good, but Google whiffed the details on the keyboard deck. It’s so flimsy that if you have it balanced on anything but a perfectly stable, flat surface, it can flex so much that the trackpad actually clicks. And it’s attached only by that single flap, so the whole thing can wobble around if, again, it’s not on a perfectly flat, stable surface.
By way of contrast, the iPad keyboard lacks some functionality but is otherwise well-executed and very sturdy on the lap. Neither device has a headphone jack. Both have USB-C. According to the review, what the Pixel lacks is much of an app ecosystem. You can run Android apps on the Slate. But they provide a subpar experience. While the iPad ecosystem is prodigious, it lacks professional offerings that would justify it as a laptop replacement for professionals.
Bohn lists a mountain of bugs and software issues. He concludes that the Slate just doesn’t feel ready at this time, even for Chrome enthusiasts who know their way around the system.
While the iPad Pro scored much higher and was deemed much better at execution, neither of the two highest ranking people at The Verge feels that either machine can live up to their billing without more focus on high-end workflows preferred by the professionals they are trying to attract.