Last month I published my review of the Pixel C. While I thought it was a very interesting tablet, in the end I was unable to give it any sort of recommendation due to the severe software bugs that were present. To me, this was quite surprising, as Google has a relatively good track record when it comes to the software on the Nexus devices. During the review process I reached out to Google to voice my concerns about the issues. What both concerns me and gives me hope for the Pixel C is that Google was readily aware of most of the problems I brought up. It concerns me because I think the appropriate decision would have been to delay its release, but it gives me hope that these issues will be fixed. 

During my discussions with Google, I was offered the chance to test a new unit that would run a new unreleased build containing fixes that Google planned to release to the public in the future. Given the fact that the Pixel C has solid hardware that's only let down by buggy software, the chance to see Google's improvements before they are officially released presented a great opportunity to revisit the Pixel C and determine if Google's upcoming changes can change my original verdict about the device. It seems that instead of releasing a large patch, Google has instead included these fixes with their February security bundle for the Pixel C. With it, the build number has changed from MXB48J to MXB48T, and we're looking at a slightly newer version of the Linux kernel.

Before getting into my testing and experiences with this updated Pixel C, it's worth going over the major issues that I identified during my initial review. By far the most significant problem was the dysfunctional touch input. Taps wouldn't register, swipes wouldn't register or would register as taps, and in general the touch screen was just not usable. This is something that Google was aware of, and has claimed to address in this new firmware. The second big issue was the stability and performance of the software. I encounted so many app crashes and entire OS crashes that I ended up losing a page of the review that I was writing on the Pixel C, and I was forced to abandon any attempts to do so due to the high likelyhood of it occurring again. 

While the app and OS crashes seemed to happen at random, there were two very important applications that consistently had problems. The first was PCMark, and the second was our build of GFXBench with an infinite battery test. PCMark consistently crashed at some point during its battery test, leading me to abandon my attempts to get a final result after having the test crash several times. GFXBench presented an issue where the detection of charging would cause the test to stop. I suspected that this related to the inductive charging used for the keyboard, but I couldn't confirm it.

The purpose of this article is to take a look at the new Pixel C unit provided by Google, and compare it to the one sent for the original review with the launch firmware. The main area of focus will be Google's work to fix the performance, touch input, and connectivity problems, along with some comparions that we rarely get to do due to the nature of single device sourcing. After looking at the areas where Google has made improvements, along with the areas where work is still needed, I've be able to reevaluate my original verdict on the Pixel C, and hopefully the changes will be enough to make it a tablet that is worth recommending.

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  • polygon_21 - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Very very disappointing from Google
  • ImSpartacus - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Yeah, I feel like there's a story behind this that we might never get to truly learn. Very odd.
  • parzival - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Try checking this out.
  • CurbedLarry - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Google is behaving like the US auto industry in the 70s

    We're number 1, we can put out any old trash and people will still buy it
  • kurkosdr - Monday, March 21, 2016 - link

    Or was it Nvidia? Most of the bugs seem driver-related. Stay away from any Android device featuring a Nvidia SoC. Nvidia chips almost killed LG. You 've been warned. Fortunately there aren't many Nvidia-powered devices them around, but Google still wants to throw them a bone once in a while to shake the Qualdroid stigma inthe hi-end segment, so you occasionally see an Nvidia chip shoved in a Nexus/Pixel tablet. Always the last Nexus to get updates or doesn't get them correctly
  • psychobriggsy - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Google needs to learn that sometimes you just need to can a product, even if it's 90% complete and otherwise quite nice. Android is just a shitty tablet OS.
  • jabber - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Either that or you just put the release back another couple of months to get it 99% right rather than 75%. People will wait for a finished/fully working product.
  • xthetenth - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    That goes double or triple for a tablet that puts that much of its weight budget into and focuses so hard on its keyboard. The only OS that would make sense with that hardware is W10 (after a nub mouse was added). Even iOS is coming at it from a different direction that would make a hypothetical iPixel C a conflicted mess. An OS that's limited to tablets as oversized phones and a keyboard that's more than a sixth or so the overall weight of the device can not work together and should not be tried. For reference it's more biased towards the keyboard than the Surface line, and those run a full desktop OS.

    Honestly this and the OS in general is making me sad again that Android has done well.
  • xenol - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Well the good thing about Android is it's open source and free software. So some people went out of their way of creating a more proper desktop based OS that fits this formfactor:
  • xthetenth - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    That would be a good bit closer to right, and I'd consider the device with that, although I'd likely want W10.

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