Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Smart Phones

Google Pixel Tablet vs Apple iPad 10th gen: preview and initial impressions


Intro

Google has finally given the Pixel Tablet a launch date — coming on the 20th of June, the slate will try to reimagine how we use tablets around the house. Instead of trying to push into the laptop replacement niche, the Pixel Tablet doubles as a Nest Hub with a screen. And its price tag is not too bad, coming at $499 with a Charging Speaker Dock included in the box.

When it comes to tablets that are on the affordable side, Apple’s iPads also have something to say. The base $330 iPad may look aged on the outside, but offers tons of power and iOS features to make up for that price tag. Then, there’s the newer iPad 10th gen — it mimics the looks of an iPad Pro or iPad Air, but cuts some corners to land softly in the $449 price range.

So, what’s the better deal here — Google’s new tablet or Apple’s tried and true? Believe it or not, these two devices are aimed at different niches and types of users, so the answer takes a while. Also, we do have a pet peeve with the iPad 10 itself, but we’ll get to that.

Let’s explore what we know — design, displays, extra features, battery, and try to make sense which of these tablets is the better choice for you.
Pixel Tablet vs iPad 10th gen in a nutshell:

  • Pixel Tablet doubles as a Nest Hub, supposedly has meatier audio
  • iPad 10th gen will have more raw power on tap
  • Pixel Tablet will have the smart pixel features thanks to Tensor G2 – Magic Editor, 
  • iPad 10th gen has an excellent keyboard accessory (sold separately)
  • Both tablets support a stylus — Apple Pencil for iPad, 3rd party for Pixel
  • iPad has a richer ecosystem of tablet-centric apps

Table of Contents:

Design and Display Quality

Creamy versus colorful metal

Both of these slates can look fresh. The Pixel Tablet is covered with a textured nano-ceramic layer for a soft, classy look. You know, it’s meant to blend with your home furniture. It also comes in three colors — Porcelain, Hazel, and Rose. Not a huge choice, but they are soft, mature colors that can look quirky and fun without offending your senses.

The Pixel Tablet also has very rounded corners and should feel very soft to the touch. The iPad’s angular industrial design will feel a bit more jabby in your hand, but we can’t say it’s in any way hard to hold or handle. The iPad also comes in Blue, Pink, Yellow, and Silver — that’s one extra color, but the last one is the boring one so that’s that.

As for screens, they are quite close. 10.95-inch on the Pixel Tablet, 10.9 on the iPad. The aspect ratios differ a bit — they are off-kilter ratios, so let’s just say that the Pixel Tablet is a slightly wider 3:2 ratio, the iPad 10th gen is a slightly taller 3:2 ratio (in landscape).

LCD on both and 60 Hz on both. We already know that the iPad’s screen isn’t laminated so you can see the thick layer of glass that’s separating you from the display. But that aside, it’s a pretty good-looking screen with nice colors. We don’t really expect Google to disappoint in that regard, but we haven’t had our hands on a Pixel Tablet yet.

Here’s something special — both tablets support a stylus. Apple, of course, still sells the Pencil gen 1, which works with the base iPads still. The Pixel Tablet, on the other hand, comes with support with USI 2.0 — the Universal Stylus Initiative is an allied standard for interoperable active styli. Meaning, you can buy an USI 2.0 stylus from a 3rd party and it will work with the Pixel Tablet.

Of course, we can’t go on without mentioning the Charging Speaker Dock. This is meant to be the “home” for your Pixel Tablet and it ships in the box. You just slap the tablet on it, it will begin charging, and it will enhance its audio with a built-in speaker (slightly larger than the speaker in a Nest Mini). The Pixel Tablet locks up and will display Nest Hub-like controls on the screen, so you can now use it to command your smart home. It also has a bult-in Chromecast, so you can cast your Android phone to it with a tap. Or simply have it show your best photos as a digital photo frame.

Performance and Software

Optimized for AI vs optimized for raw performance
The Pixel Tablet will have Google’s Tensor G2 chip humming under the hood. It’s not the best performer out there right now, but it has been made to enhance the on-device AI and photo processing capabilities of Android. You know, Google playing to its strengths — the Photo Deblur, Magic Editor, the upgraded speech recognition, and all the smart trickery that will be coming out this year, shown off at I/O.

The iPad 10th gen is powered by the Apple A14 Bionic — the same chip that was in the iPhone 12 almost three years ago. Yes, it’s aging but the Apple A-series chips are known for being quite powerful and future-proof. Now, in 2023, we’d say the Tensor G2 is almost as potent as the A14 in benchmarks.

But that’s all raw numbers. The rest is optimization. We have no doubt that Google will be able to tune its Android in the Pixel Tablet to perform snappy and responsive as it does in the Pixel phones. The Tensor G2 may not be the best but it’s still a pretty good chip. And, of course, Apple is great at optimizing iOS for its hardware. So, we are confident, but jury is out until the Pixel Tablet ships.

But since we are on software experience. Both of these tablets are a bit basic, it seems — none of them will give you a desktop experience like the Samsung DeX or the Apple Stage Manager (exclusive to M-chip iPads). They do have an app dock and split-screen functionality which is limited to two apps on screen. The iPad has the ability to display a 3rd app in a floating window, but that sounds much more useful than it actually is. As for the Pixel, Google did not show any floating apps at the presentation, so we are still unsure.

It is worth noting that Google hasn’t really cared about tablets in a while. Yes, over the past couple of years, it has made many improvements in how Android handles large screens and at I/O 2023, it said it has redesigned 50 apps to work better on a tablet screen. However, compare that to the iPad, where Apple has had rules for tablet apps for years now. Yes, the iPadOS app ecosystem is still just better. Google is now on the right track, but for the time being, the tablet experience on the Pixel Tablet will just be slightly worse and more limited than on the iPad.

Then, you also have the Magic Keyboard Folio for the iPad 10th gen. Now, this is an excellent external keyboard that feels nice and tactile. The bad news is that it only works with this base iPad. If, at any point, you choose to upgrade to an iPad Air or iPad Pro — you will also need to buy a Magic Keyboard for them.

Camera

I can Center Stage too, except for I can’t
OK, obviously, we don’t have any samples to compare and critique yet, but we are definitely baffled by that one Pixel Tablet feature. As Google showed us on stage, when you are in a video call, the Tablet cam zoom in and follow your face around, so you are always in frame. Great, cool. But also — the Pixel Tablet has an 8 MP selfie camera with an 84-degree FOV, which we imagine is way too narrow to let it track you across the room.

The iPad 10th gen has a 12 MP wide-angle selfie camera that has a larger sight range to work with. Also, the selfie camera here is positioned on the right bezel of the tablet (so it’s on the top when in landscape mode), which the community has time and time said is the best location for a selfie camera. Too bad, most of the time, other components are in the way and don’t allow for this.

We’ve already tested the iPad’s cameras and both are pretty good. Not comparable to the best cameraphones out there right now, but definitely good and dependable when we have to scan a document or take a conference call.

The Pixel Tablet’s cameras don’t sound very promising on paper — both are the same 8 MP, 84-degree FOV spec — but we will have to wait for the tests and see.

Audio Quality

One of the Pixel Tablet’s major selling points definitely is sound. First, it comes with quad speakers set up for stereo sound in any orientation (hopefully). These, we think, will sound pretty great — the Pixel phones have had great audio for some years now. If Google translates that expertise in a large tablet body with four speakers, it should be an easy win, right?

Secondly, when docked on the Speaker Dock, the Pixel Tablet gets a 4-time bass boost for “room filling sound”. OK, specs-wise, the speaker in the dock is about the same size as the one in a Nest Mini. The latter, we think, sounds quite impressive for its small size. We can only imagine that one such speaker, augmented with 4 tweeters from the tablet, will definitely sound very, very pleasing. Again, jury is still out, but we are eager to try it out!

The base iPad 10th gen has two speakers — they are placed so the tablet outputs stereo sound when held in landscape, which will be most of the time when consuming any type of media. We find them to be ever so slightly hardsh, but they manage to keep it together, outputting enough bass and mids at a good volume. Definitely outshined by the iPad Pro, sure, but quite good for their class.

Battery Life and Charging

We expect similar performance

The Pixel Tablet’s battery is listed as being 27 Wh — we can’t know how that translates into mAh exactly, but if we assume the voltage draw is about 3.85 V, then the battery should be about 7,000 mAh. The Tablet can be charged when placed on its dock or through the USB C port on the bottom. Now, it does ship with the dock and a power adapter for the dock, but now with a wallplug for USB charging.

The iPad has a battery of around 7,600 mAh and, you know it — gives us “all day battery”. In seriousness, we always expect around 10 hours of screen time with mixed usage of an iPad. And hey — it ships with a 20 W wall plug still!

Specs Comparison

Here are some highlights to lay it out — it seems both of these tablets land on the same price if you decide to go for the 256 GB models. At their base tiers, the iPad is slightly cheaper, but that 64 GB of storage may feel… a bit constraining.

Summary and Final Verdict

The Google Pixel Tablet looks like it can be a fun and quirky casual device that’s always in use. When you don’t need it — dock it and it becomes your Nest Hub, there, done deal! Pick it up and it’s always charged — great! It does lack the “laptop replacement” features that other tablets are striving for, but Google doesn’t seem to be interested in competing in that market. For the time being, it’s more interested in “How do we make tablets more useful for what they are?”. Good question, great first answer!

The iPad 10th gen is neither here nor there — it looks like an iPad Air or iPad Pro, but at its core it’s barely better than the base $330 iPad 9th gen. You could argue “well it has a great Magic Keyboard Folio” but this one is not compatible with any other model in the line. For example, if you buy an iPad Air and get a Magic Keyboard for it — you can upgrade to a Pro further down the line and the same (pricey) keyboard will work just fine. If you want the full iPad 10th gen experience, it’s a hefty investment for accessories that are only compatible with this device.

So… summary? We are still waiting for the Pixel Tablet but we kind of believe there’s an argument to be made for the iPad Air here.



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