Chromebook tablets: it seems we always come back to this topic, don’t we? I’ve waxed poetic about tablets in the past, bemoaning the fact that they don’t always have a place between my large-screened phone and my portable Chromebook, yet they always find a way to be alluring nonetheless. I won’t get into all that again, but I think many consumers find themselves drawn to the tablet form factor as a device that could have wild potential for consumption and production all in one piece of hardware when done right.
Yet, so many times manufacturers get it wrong. Even the vaunted iPad misses a massive user base (that would essentially canibalize their Macbook sales numbers) that want the tablet/keyboard form factor and the ability to simply get a few more things done from that device. After all, the latest iPad Pro has the same processor in it that big boy Macbooks have, so why do they limit the productivity with software limitations?
But that’s just one example. On the Windows side of things, tablet mode is still a hit-or-miss proposition and the app selection is simply not there for a handheld device. Production levels are fantastic, obviously, but I’d imagine few Surface Pro users actually kick back and consume a bunch of content on their device in tablet mode on a regular basis.
For ChromeOS, the frustrating reality is that Google has put together a pretty nice desktop and tablet OS in one neat package, but the inconsistent Android app experience and lack of robust tablet hardware has been a severely limiting factor. Google themselves tried with the Pixel Slate, but it was simply too soon and the keyboard case was awful. That device in 2023 with better internals, a better keyboard, and this current version of ChromeOS could be a whole different outcome.
And then, of course, you have a slew of Android tablets that just can’t make a dent in iPad sales due to developer apathy surrounding large-screen Android apps. There are loads of reasons why this is the case, but the fact of the matter is the app ecosystem for tablets in the Google Play Store is still weak when compared to what Apple offers. And this creates a sort of chicken-and-egg scenario where we want better tablet support so manufacturers make better tablets, but who goes first?
OnePlus has thrown their hat in the ring
Enter OnePlus who looks ready to set the Android tablet world on its head a bit. Their new tablet – the OnePlus Pad – is affordable, attractive, powerful, and a great example of what people really want in these tablet sort of devices. It has a 144Hz screen, a powerful MediaTek Dimensity 9000 chip, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a slick keyboard folio case, and a magnetic pen that you can buy to go with it. And the most enticing part? It only costs $479.
Whether or not the OnePlus Pad truly shakes anything up is neither here nor there, but I think this tablet represents an ideology that continues to affirm the fact that Chromebook manufacturers need to go after the tablet market with a bit more gusto. If OnePlus can deliver something this good on this sort of budget, why can’t we get that in a Chromebook?
Sure, we have solid tablets like the Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3 and Duet 5, but compared with the OnePlus Pad, those are wildly under-powered. And the frustrating part of this is the fact that the same chip maker – MediaTek – makes Chromebook-specific processors that benchmark faster than the Dimensity 9000 found in the OnePlus Pad. Why aren’t we seeing Chromebook tablets with this chip inside?
Yes, I know the slightly-less-powerful tablets based on the ‘Geralt’ baseboard are on the way and I do have high hopes for them, but I’m also cautiously optimistic at best. We’ve been waiting so long for the first truly great tablet in the ChromeOS market for a long time, and there is always some sort of corner cut that goes too far. Whether it’s slow performance, a crappy keyboard folio case, or poor build quality, we’ve yet to see a manufacturer go after the tablet space for ChromeOS the way OnePlus is doing for Android. And I’m aggravated about it.
Everything is there for this to happen, and I really do hope one of the tablets that spawns from ‘Geralt’ will be what we’ve been waiting for. The MT8188 inside those devices won’t be as powerful as the Kompanio 1380, but it will be in the same ballpark and should have stellar battery as well. And as excited as I am about those devices, I’m also left wondering why we can’t get the Kompanio 1380 in a tablet, too? Why not give buyers the option of the most power available in an ARM-based Chromebook chip?
It just feels like the ChromeOS tablet space was nearly abandoned and though we’re seeing some hope that Chromebook makers might return to it, I’m worried we’ll once again get half measures. And if that happens, I fear the general public may just write off Chromebook tablets once and for all. If all we can get are devices littered with shortcuts, I’m afraid the consensus will become Chromebooks don’t make good tablets. Period. And that would be a real shame.
So, if you are a Chromebook maker reading this right now and you are planning on bringing out a new ChromeOS tablet in the near future, please think it through. Please make sure the keyboard cover is solid, make sure the screen is great, and make sure the speakers aren’t terrible. Make sure there’s a solid USI pen to go with it and don’t skimp out completely on the internals. Make your tablet the way OnePlus has, throwing in every possible perk you can on a budget. I promise if you do, there are tons of people interested in buying it, and you’ll sell a bunch of them. Just don’t do it half way. Please don’t.