Last week Pixel Slate started shipping to customers. Google has promoted Chromebook devices as productivity machines for years but up until announcing support for Android Studio at the 2018 Android Developer Summit this was not the case for Android developers like myself. When I started coding in 2014 I looked forward to being able to write and use the same apps across my phone and computer via a powerful and portable Chromebook. The Pixel Slate is that Chrome Os device.
Pixel Slate Is Great For Android and Web Developers
With the balance of software flexibility, power, and design, if I knew I was solely developing for Android and backend moving forward I would make the leap from my current Macbook Pro to the Pixel Slate.
What’s Enticing About Pixel Slate
- Run almost any development software via native Linux support.
- Powerful enough processors are becoming more common with high end Chromebooks such as the Pixel Slate, Pixelbook, and Acer Chromebook Spin 13 leading the charge. Although Pixel Slate is not in the same league as a fully decked out Macbook Pro, the Slate seems to have plenty of fire power for compiling and running apps. As context, according to the processor benchmark scores from Geekbench 4 below, Pixel Slate has almost 3x the power of my 10 year old 2009 13’’ Macbook Pro which I’m still developing Android apps without issue.
- Test Android apps directly on the device potentially compared to using an emulator.
- Test real-world usage with touchscreen without using a physical device.
- Save your neck without taking up a whole table. No one should want to be the shmuck in a cafe using an entire table with a laptop stand and bluetooth keyboard. Elevating the screen is great because it puts less strain on the neck. The Atlantic highlights how staring down puts additional weight on the neck and spine which is not healthy. With the Pixel Slate tablet form factor elevating only the screen uses half the space as a traditional laptop. With a laptop there are 2 keyboards worth of space, the keyboard attached to the laptop and a separate keyboard for typing. Brydge, a popular keyboard for iPads, makes a Pixel Slate keyboard which is better than the Google keyboard because it offers a firm hinge when connected.
For All Users
More functionality with Android apps that is not possible with web apps.
Naming a few features:
- Gmail and Google Calendar: View inboxes for all accounts at once.
- Google Tasks: No standalone web app.
- Instagram: Messaging.
- Pocket: Listen to converted text to audio content.
- Pocket Casts, YouTube, Netflix: Offline content.
Note taking with the pressure sensitive pen by Google seems like a great solution for those who love to take hand written notes on the go.
Fingerprint sensor for unlocking the device and potentially passwords and payments.
Charge on the go with a USB-C battery pack.
Fast charge other devices, thanks again to USB-C.
Why I’m Not Buying One
Max Storage Option is Low
This is not a deal breaker. Considering similar device’s specs and the fact that the fully spec’d Pixel Slate is $1,599 I’d hope to have 500 GB. Last year’s Pixelbook offers 500 GBs and the new iPad pro offer a 1 TB option.
I could still make the max 250 GB Pixel Slate work. With my estimate based on current phone and Macbook usage I’d use 146 GB leaving me at 58% capacity. A lack of storage can cause performance issues according to CNet so to start off at 58% capacity is workable, but not ideal if you’re aiming to the device for years to come.
’Hacky’ Solutions for iOS Development
This is a deal breaker. I view purchasing tech as a long term investment. As I said above, I’m still using my 2009 Macbook Pro with many components updated. Currently I’m writing Android apps which would be great with the Pixel Slate. However, if there is any possibility of getting into iOS development in the future there is no way to do so cleanly on a Chrome Os device. Xcode is restricted to macOs only.
The options for iOS development on a Chromebook are:
- Running macOs off a virtual machine thus breaking Apple’s End User License Agreement.
- Using a cloud solution such as macInCloud which even if it doesn’t have performance issues, if you use a cross platform solution such as Flutter or ReactNative you’ll have to do that all in the cloud environment to run both Android and iOS at the same time.
Therefore I must bend the knee to Apple.
Potential iOS Development Solutions (not likely in the short term)
- Either Google’s Flutter or Facebook’s ReactNative creates a process to submit iOS apps without requiring Xcode on your local machine.
- King Cook opens up Xcode for non macOs devices.
I’m Adam Hurwitz — hit the clapping hands icon and check out the rest of my writing if you enjoyed the above. Thanks for reading!