Pro tip: The Pixel Slate with Celeron doesn’t reflect the whole product line

If you haven’t seen it yet, one of the best tech reviewers has just reviewed the Pixel Slate. I’m talking about Marques Brownlee, also known as MKBHD. I’ve long been a subscriber of his YouTube video reviews as they’re often top notch. His latest though? It’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

Take the 9-ish minutes to watch his video review of the Pixel Slate and then I’ll explain why I think this.

MKBHD bought the Pixel Slate with his own money, which I respect. I generally put more stock in reviews when reviewers outlay their own cash for a device. Here’s the thing though: I also put more stock in reviews when the reviewer actually uses the product, service or platform on a regular basis. For example, I wouldn’t first go to a Windows-centric site to read an iPad review; instead, I’d go to iOS-related sites because the writers there presumably use iOS quite a bit.

And I don’t think MKBHD is a daily Chrome OS user. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. I’ve only ever seen him review two other Chrome OS devices, the Google Pixelbook, which he was not a fan of, calling it “$1,000 of weird”. He also reviewed the Chromebook Pixel 2 LS, saying it’s the “most beautiful laptop you shouldn’t buy”.

I get why he’s not a fan: Aside from some of the then-valid software quirks noted in the Pixelbook review, Chrome OS doesn’t fit within his daily workflow. MKBHD doesn’t have a blog, for example; he churns out super-high quality video reviews, which are fantastic to watch.

What devices does he use for those? Obviously not a Chromebook. Instead, early this year he was using a first-gen iMac Pro but at that time had ordered a maxed out, iMac Pro that costs $6,999, which makes complete sense for his workflow and the quality of his work. He carries a MacBook Pro when he’s on the go. His favorite camera is a Hasselblad X1D, which currently retails for $9,000. Why does this matter? Because MKBHD is what I’d call an “extreme power user” and buys the best devices that do what he needs. Which he should! But clearly, a Chrome OS device isn’t one of those.

And that’s why I was initially stumped to see that while he bought his own Pixel Slate, he chose the $599 Intel Celeron with 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage. That’s the base model. After thinking it through, I get why he bought that one though: Why spend more money than needed on a device that’s he’s really not going to use every day?

He says he thought the Pixel Slate might replace his new iPad Pro, which appears to be (in the video) a 12.9-inch model. Note that the device starts at $999. I really wouldn’t expect a $599 tablet to replace a $999 tablet, but that’s just me.

Yes, clearly MKBHD’s video shows a large amount of what I’d consider unacceptable lag. It’s awful. But it’s not just the device that’s part of this equation: It’s how the user is actually using it and what the user’s expectations are. For many device owners, a Celeron does what they need it to do. However, had you asked me if MKBHD’s needs would be met by a Celeron, I could tell you that without even watching this video.

MKBHD says he had high expectations for the Pixel Slate. But the difference between those early expectations and the reality of actually using the device had a very wide delta or difference. As a result, you’re left with the impression that nobody should buy the device. I’d argue that a large part of this problem is unrealistic expectations.

What I mean by that the expectation of a Celeron-based computing device to expertly handle the type of multitasking and use cases MKBHD likely experiences with the iPad Pro. In the video, he’s got 6 to 8 apps and such running and who knows how many browser tabs. On a Celeron…..With 4GB of memory and a 3000 x 2000 resolution touchscreen display…..

I do agree with MKBHD that perhaps Google shouldn’t have made a Celeron version. Or maybe that model should have followed the others a few months later. But Chrome OS is all about choice: A range of devices for different budgets and use cases, so I can see why Google went this route.

As I said in my Pixel Slate buyers guide, even before I had a device in hand, the Core m3 would be the “sweet spot” when it came to performance and value. As for the Celeron? Here were my thoughts then, which I still believe in today:

“Is there a market for Celeron options? I’d say yes but those are going to be a tough sell. Why? Because this is entry level performance for the most part and you can get entry-level performance for under $300. Put another way: You really want the tablet form factor if you’re going to spend $600 for a Pixel Slate without a keyboard.”

For Chromebook owners that currently use a Celeron-based device, moving to a Celeron-based Pixel Slate is more a change in form-factor than a change in performance and usability. And you’ll pay a premium for that different form-factor unless you decide that premium isn’t worth it.

Frankly, I think this review does a bit of a disservice to the Pixel Slate because it’s not clear until 2/3rds of the way through that this is the Celeron model. This is mentioned in the description but if you get the YouTube link from a social media channel or some other way, the video is likely to begin playing long before you read, if you ever do, the description. You probably will see the video title though, which doesn’t mention anything about the lowly Celeron: It’s titled “Google Pixel Slate: This Ain’t It Chief”.

Without a little more clarity up front, or actually buying a higher priced, more comparable model of the Pixel Slate for comparing to the iPad Pro and other devices, people will see this video could assume that the entire Pixel Slate product line is laggy and unusable. That’s not my experience with the Core i5 version. And it’s not the experience of my podcast co-host and his Core m3 Pixel Slate.

Multiple Chrome tabs, a PWA, Google Play Music Android app and Linux humming along.

Are there still some bugs and issues with my Pixel Slate? Sure. Not enough to keep me from being productive all day and then consuming content on it every night though. I also evaluated my needs before choosing my Pixel Slate configuration: The ability to have at least 20 tabs open, some occasional Android apps and a few Linux packages for my CompSci classes. I knew going in that a Celeron with 4GB of memory and 32GB of storage wasn’t the answer for me.

To be clear: I don’t think the Pixel Slate is the right device for everyone. In fact, I don’t think it’s the right device for most people. You have to:

  • Be satisfied with the Chrome OS platform, or you’re already barking up the wrong tree.
  • Understand that the primary use case is Chrome OS, not Android or Linux. Both of those latter features need work or are still in development. If you’re expecting a great, full-time Android tablet experience, I don’t think this is it. Maybe someday it will be, maybe not.
  • Want or need a detachable slate enough to justify the premium cost of a thin computing device, otherwise, you should just consider a standard or a 2-in-1 Chromebook, which can be had for the same amount or less and with better performance.
  • Have the budget for the configuration that will meet your needs. Hey, I’m sure we’d all like the performance of a Core i7 with 16 GB of memory, but we all don’t have $1,599 to spend. And if you only have $599 to drop, then you’re likely better off with the new Dell Inspiron Chromebook 14 or Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630.

Regardless, as much as I do and will continue to love MKBHD’s videos, I think on this one, Marques missed the mark.

36 thoughts on “Pro tip: The Pixel Slate with Celeron doesn’t reflect the whole product line

  • December 22, 2018 at 4:05 pm
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    I don’t understand this post. Google is selling this model to end users…it perfectly reflects the line. If it’s underpowered maybe Google shouldn’t sell it. They are overpriced for what they are and do.

    Reply
    • December 23, 2018 at 2:56 pm
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      I completely agree. The writer of the post is reluctantly agreeing with MKBHD when he should be enthusiastically agreeing with him. The issue is simple – the Celeron based Pixel Slate is not (currently) fit for service and should not have been released. That a user who isn’t an expert experiences definite problems with the device is precisely the threshold test of whether the device is ready for prime time. Google needs the kind of feedback provided by someone like MKBHD. The version of ad hominem attack against MKBHD is more sophisticated than most but is still quite uncalled for and does not lead anywhere. Clear criticism of sub-par products, that MKBHD has provided, is what can benefit users in the longer term not half-hearted defences of these products.

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  • December 22, 2018 at 4:19 pm
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    I watched this video today and was scratching my head too. I thought mine is not performing this way (I got the $999 model). I have been playing PUBG for hours without hiccup. I did a lot of the same tests he was doing and didn’t see the lag he was getting.

    It makes more sense that he got the low end version. Which if you compare to the iPad Pro it is not apples to apples (no pun intended)

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    • December 22, 2018 at 5:23 pm
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      Same here, Brett: I have the same model as you and unless I’m REALLY pusing the system, I don’t see any lag.

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      • December 23, 2018 at 4:38 pm
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        Kevin, you are a complete idiot. A $600 tablet should not have comparable performance to a $250 one. Google shouldn’t be selling this Celeron garbage in the first place.

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        • December 23, 2018 at 4:53 pm
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          I agree with your second and third sentences.

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        • December 28, 2018 at 12:22 pm
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          Who said you had to buy Google’s cheapest slate? And yet you blame Google? Hopefully customers review devices before purchasing. For some, the celeron is perfect for them. maybe they want a straight up Google device without the crap Samsung throws on their Tab S4, maybe they want a tablet that updates montly. That alone my friend would be the reason the buy the celeron (if my budget demanded it). People want choices and price points at all levels, and when Google delivers, “holy shit, wtf you thinking Google?”

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  • December 22, 2018 at 4:26 pm
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    Kevin thanks so much for this. I’ve been eyeing the Pixel Slate since I had a brief hands-on at the Google ‘pop-up’ ‘hardware store’ in Manhattan in October. Have total respect for MKBHD reviews (and yours 🙂 ) but have to agree that he missed the mark with his review.

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    • December 22, 2018 at 5:22 pm
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      I totally respect Marques as well; I think he’s one of the best reviewers on video out there. And I don’t doubt the lag he experienced – clearly it’s there on video. I still think the m3 is the sweet spot though; the new tablet UI paired with the high resolution screen may be too much for a Celeron in general for all but the most basic of Chrome OS users. MKBHD is not a “basic” user of devices, of course, but he does make a good point about the base model. I just wish he we more clear up front that it was the Celeron but hey: It’s his video! 😉

      Reply
  • December 22, 2018 at 4:51 pm
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    I watched this last night as well. Via Shield TV – so no description to read – and was not aware it was the Celeron until he says it quite a ways in, as you point out.
    It was a lot of lag. I’ve seen other reviewers show off the lag, though not usually to this extent.
    While the post points out you are a blogger mainly and not a producer of video reviews I’d have to say that a video showing what kind of lag you do get and can be seen on the m3 version would be great.

    Reply
    • December 22, 2018 at 5:19 pm
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      I have the Core i5 model and I’m not seeing lag. I’ll see if I can get my podcast co-host, who just bought an m3, can do some video.

      Reply
      • December 22, 2018 at 8:05 pm
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        I would be interested in seeing this, too. We use Chrome devices at work without any problems, but then, we aren’t producing videos.

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  • December 22, 2018 at 5:18 pm
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    I used to watch Marques Brownlee’s reviews because I found them to be entertaining if not informative. I stopped watching them months ago because I personally came to feel that he demonstrates a strong bias against Chrome OS. That was based on my opinion of some of the remarks that he has made that I felt were clearly unbalanced, disingenuous, or hypercritical considering that they were coming from such a highly touted reviewer. Chrome OS is a small market and thus easy to abuse as a means of working himself up into a frenzy to enlarge viewership. That’s just my own harsh opinion though, and I reached long ago. I wish him well with his business. There are other more balanced reviewers out there that feature Windows or Mac OS. A good one is Paul Thurrott at thurrott.com.

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  • December 22, 2018 at 6:58 pm
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    Dieter bohn the verge complained of the SAME lag Marques does in his video and he was NOT using the celeron model. How do we explain that away? Imagine apple releasing an iPad with similar performance, no one would accept that.

    Mkbhd never stated that it should fit his needs of video editing or being a poweruser. He actually said “It’s just not fun to use” He discusses performance issues throughout the OS. Basic things like scrolling a webpage.

    In this article you seem to think that 4gb of ram justifies such performance – and how much memory does an iPad have again? That’s right, 4gb.

    I am a chrome OS user myself, and I have very little doubt that had the slate been enjoyable to use, performed well and not crashed all the time, marques world have had zero problem recommending it. Hes not so out of touch with the needs or ordinary users he can’t see the value in different devices, despite his power user status.

    I think this review review misses the mark too.

    Reply
    • December 22, 2018 at 7:09 pm
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      I appreciate the thoughtful comment Willem. As far as your question on the lag of ” How do we explain that away?” Maybe the Slate isn’t running the latest Stable software update that arrived this past week; I don’t know. All I can tell you is that I’ve been using my Pixel Slate for a month, 7 days a week, all day and most nights. No lag. I’ve seen many comments on the Pixel Slate sub-Reddit of Slate owners with an m3 or better saying the same. How do we explain that away? 😉

      I agree that MKBHD never said it should fit his needs for video editing. My question is: Then why did he buy it at all (and why buy the base model)? He did say he hoped it might replace his iPad Pro 12.9 and that’s where I raise my eyebrow. He’s a smart guy. He has to know that a $599 Celeron with 4 GB in any tablet isn’t going to compete well against a $999 iPad. That’s where I found this a little disingenuous. And you’re right that the iPad Pro has 4 GB, but….. if it’s not the same OS, how does that even matter? I wouldn’t recommend a 4 GB Windows device to most folks either for the same reason: The OS needs more to meet the needs of most.

      As I said in the article, the performance of his device is awful. No argument. The bigger issue to me is that folks are equating all Pixel Slates with his experience in the video comments, social media, etc…. that’s the point of this article. Cheers!

      Reply
    • December 23, 2018 at 10:15 am
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      Watch both videos again. The lag on the Verge video is not at all the same. Marques seems correct to me in his video when he says the lag he is seeing is enough that the device is all but unusable. Dieter shows much, much, much less lag. Not pretty but fully reasonably usable.
      Marques clearly does not really get the Chrome OS thing too well. His review of the Pixelbook last year shows that same leaning. He said it was great hardware but could only recommend it for a small group because primarily – Chrome OS. That’s just silly. The small group would actually be the people using all the apps on Windows that these reviewers constantly reference as adding so much capability.
      They go on with this same idea that Chrome OS was meant for cheap hardware and has very limited capability. That if you are going to spend so much money you should get Windows or Mac. It does not seem to occur to them that people might see Chrome OS in a better light than either of those.
      He also offers that two-in-one machines will never excel at either tablet or laptop (though I fail to see how pixelbook does not excel at laptop). OK.. So the solution is I should just buy an ipad pro and a $1000 laptop and have my choice in any minute? Also a silly idea.
      Here Marques says think about ipad Pro. Why? Yes for the tablet aspect it is much better. That’s great but it also is completely incapable of some of what the Slate does. It doesn’t do it worse. Not even much worse. It is not capable of it. So no – I’m not interested in buying an ipad pro instead, regardless of how stunning a product it is in so many ways.
      Anyway…
      tl,dr: I disagree with you

      Reply
      • December 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm
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        This this and more this. It’s a real shame that someone as smart as Marques can haphazardly throw so much shade on our favorite chromeos devices, and we’re left sitting here arguing with other nerds while so many ppl are being turned off the entire platform. And I feel like it’s largely because, Marques doesn’t really care. He’s only “reviewing” these because #madebygoogle is a hot item and he knows he’ll reach a large audience by featuring the devices. But he doesn’t actually use them. Heck, he really isn’t someone who cares much about laptops in general. I doubt he spent more than a few hours with the slate, and he knew he wouldn’t, hence getting the cheapest model he possibly could, throwing everything he could at it, and then telling the world that it sucks.

        Reply
      • December 25, 2018 at 6:27 am
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        But yet there are also things the iPad Pro can do but the Pixel Slate is incapable of, not forgetting the many things it is way worse at.

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        • December 25, 2018 at 9:21 am
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          That’s true, but nobody involved is saying the ipad pro should not be purchased by anyone, which is effectively what multiple reviewers, including Marques, have said about the Slate. Incorrectly in my opinion.
          I should probably thank them. It’s easy enough to jump on a bandwagon of popularity without really considering how well a particular purchase will really suit your own needs. It gives one much more pause and need to reflect on a purchase which so many are saying is terrible. It really makes you think about exactly what you need/want and how that relates to the criticisms and advice. LOL.

          Reply
  • December 22, 2018 at 7:06 pm
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    Thanks for this article. I gave MKBHD’s video a thumbs down, which I hate to do because I’m a huge fan, but when it comes to chromeos, he’s always let me down…

    Reply
  • December 22, 2018 at 7:12 pm
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    Except… Many other reviews including the one from the verge demonstrated the exact same lag and performance issues on i5 models. Google shouldn’t even be shipping a product that ubuseable let alone a charging $600 for it. My surface go performs better with Windows 10 on worse hardware than the celeron.

    Reply
    • December 22, 2018 at 7:14 pm
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      Yup, many reviews such as the one from the Verge indicate lag. And yet I don’t see it on mine. It is odd.

      Reply
  • December 22, 2018 at 7:40 pm
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    I think he reviewed what he had accurately. Google shouldn’t even offer the low end model if it’s going to run that poorly. He even mentioned the higher end models could be better but he has to speak from what he bought. Someone getting the Celeron model after spending $600 isn’t going to feel better if you tell them to buy the more expensive option. Apple will sell you a $600 tablet that does run well. I say this as someone who has no interest in an iPad but was interested in the Slate but not the higher end one.

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    • December 22, 2018 at 7:56 pm
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      The Celeron slate will offer a higher resolution and desktop browser experience, that, while limited in advanced features like multi-tasking and certain android functionality, might still be attractive to someone who is trying to get a media consumption, productive, premium feeling device. I think it would have been much more fair to compare the celeron slate to a $600 ipad in MKBHD’s video though, certainly

      Reply
  • December 22, 2018 at 10:19 pm
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    I have a core i7 Pixel book and while it’s nowhere near as laggy as the tablet MKB reviewed there’s considerable lag when multitasking and opening the app drawer. That’s unacceptable to me especially for the priced I paid, the processing power that comes with the i7 and the light footprint of Chrome OS. Google has to do better than that. The Celeron Pixel Slate seems unusable but Google is selling it anyway. It reflects poorly on them.

    Reply
  • December 22, 2018 at 10:48 pm
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    I completely agree Kevin. The performance of the Celeron is horrible for the use case MKBHD is showing, so that needs discussed… But after finding the Celeron sucks he should have stepped it up closer to the price ($999) of the device he keeps comparing it to.
    A really poor review IMO.

    Reply
  • December 22, 2018 at 11:33 pm
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    The number of apps running on Marques’ Slate did not appear to be excessive, and you can’t argue about the response (or lack thereof) that you see in Marques’ video. I’d like to suggest that he reset his Chrome settings to get rid of any extensions that might be eating his cycles, but the odds are that there is currently something wrong with performance on the Celeron model. Hopefully, it’s something like hardware graphics acceleration not being invoked properly that can be fixed with software/firmware updates.

    Having said that, why oh why did he cheap out with the basement model? That’s NOT the way into a fair competitive review.

    Reply
  • December 23, 2018 at 12:53 am
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    This is peak fanboism. Call a trash a trash. Why even bother putting a Celeron processor on your flagship tablet? Do you see Apple using Mediatek CPUs on their iPad? Dont think so. Dont even get me started with the fact that Pixel devices are only available in about a dozen countries round the world. They’re behind even fecking Oppo in shipment orders 🙄

    Reply
  • December 23, 2018 at 2:18 am
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    This happens when companies don’t think of user experience. Base models should deliver the basic experience for the product and this should include user experience. Web browsing and task switching is very common to almost all devices. They have the power to choose the hardware and software features for their product yet they picked thisnset of hardware that clearly is a failure.

    If they really want a Celeron processor to run the base model, why not just disable some features/processes to provide good user experience? (ex. Limit number of running apps. A stripped down version of the Chrome OS for lower spec devices.

    Yes, they are just providing users with options. People can just buy the top of the line model for better experience. But the Celeron version is simply just off. A money grabber version for those who are not that knowledgeable with computer specs and just want a multimedia device and was able to watch some videos from Youtube featuring the device with a higher spec.

    Reply
  • December 23, 2018 at 4:24 am
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    It might be useful to shoot a short video showing the *absence* of lag on your configuration, doing the same sort of things MKBHD and Dieter did in their reviews. I know you have already reviewed the Slate, but a short video focusing *entirely* on lag (or the absence thereof) in tablet mode might be useful.

    In any case, it is absolutely Google’s fault if they ship and market a non-performing config to end users. The reviewers are just reporting what they see. Just like The Notch ™ is absolutely Google’s fault (disclaimer: I own and love my Pixel 3XL, but the Notch is horrible).

    Reply
    • December 23, 2018 at 7:56 am
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      I asked the same to someone on Reddit who claimed that they have no lag on their i5 version. He posted a video and it was laggy. Their reply: “It only stutters, it doesn’t lag!”

      I imagine the same thing will happen here.

      Reply
  • December 23, 2018 at 7:47 am
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    The Verge demonstrated similar lag on a higher end version. Clearly, the product should not have been shipped in that condition. MKBHD cannot review every Pixel out there, nor should he. Buy his point still stands, the celeron version should never have been shipped in the first place.

    Reply
    • December 23, 2018 at 4:54 pm
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      I’ve seen this comment now multiple times – that the Verge video shows similar lag. It does not. Not when I watch it. It shows lag yes, but in no way similar to the lag shown by Marquees. At least not beyond them both being lag. One is way worse than the other.

      Reply
  • December 23, 2018 at 5:17 pm
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    I have to say I think a lot of the comments here are somewhat missing the point. Marques does not just conclude that the base model should not have been put out. He says perhaps the more expensive model works better but that you should not buy that either. You should buy an Apple ipad pro or a Windows Surface product or Mac laptop is the insinuation.
    That seems like an odd conclusion when he admits he barely used the version he does have due to performance issues. So the conclusion is basically – don’t spend too much money on *just* a Chrome OS device.
    Here is the problem with that advice for me:
    1. iOS does not do some of what I want. It doesn’t do it poorly or with a little lag or in any other way. It does not do it full stop. So – no.
    2. I have Windows devices (and long have had) and I have Chrome OS devices. My god am I more than happy to pay extra for Chrome OS over Windows. If you don’t need those apps everyone seems to think everyone needs then Chrome OS is far superior as an OS in my book.
    3. Mac doesn’t come in a tablet version at all. So why is it even in the discussion?

    So why spend the money on Pixel Slate even if it does have issues? Because it’s the only friggin’ thing on the market which does what it does. There are a couple somewhat similar Chrome OS devices, yes. But none with a fingerprint scanner. Few with as much memory and I don’t think any which are also silent and as powerful.

    Frankly I think Google will solve the software issues. Though I do plan on buying a more powerful model. Probably the i5. And while I agree perhaps a consumer shouldn’t have to wait for that it’s a trade I’m willing to make. I’m buying this device to last a few years. Four years from now I expect not only smooth Android operation but completely up-to-date Android operation. And that seems an OK trade to me.

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    • December 23, 2018 at 5:18 pm
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      Bingo!

      Reply
  • December 24, 2018 at 9:05 pm
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    Google have actually shot themselves in the foot here.. Why release a product with so many options and configurations? For £600 you can actually but a decent android tablet with hardly lag.. i.e. Samsung Tab S4 etc…

    Stick with a processor with maybe two memory options….

    Reply

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