The Pixel Tablet is actually just a few spare parts in a half-empty body

by owner

The Pixel Tablet on the magnetic dock.
Enlarge / The Pixel Tablet on the magnetic dock.


Google and iFixit keep trucking along with their official parts store partnership. The latest device to get a parts selection is the Pixel Tablet, along with a whole bunch of repair guides with the usual lovingly detailed teardown photos. The Pixel Tablet did not draw a whole lot of attention when it launched in June, so this also counts as the Pixel Tablet teardown we’ve seen out there on the Internet, and, wow, is it interesting.

It’s hard to know how tough of a process a repair is going to be, since iFixit never gave the Pixel Tablet a repairability score. It looks like breaking through the adhesive is a lot of work, with iFixit recommending an “anti-clamp” screen-pulling tool, a hair dryer, iFixit’s “iOpener” heat pad, a suction cup, and a pick—they’re emptying the whole toolbox to get this thing open. The first 18 steps of every guide go like this: Step 1, turn off the tablet. Step 2: put tape on the display if it’s cracked. Steps 3 through 19: fighting the adhesive. iFixit’s photos after this step all feature shredded adhesive leftovers stuck to the separated screen and body halves, too.

You have a much better shot of winning that battle with this guide, though, thanks to detailed information about where the adhesive is the strongest and what cables you could possibly break while doing this. On the plus side, once you get it open, replacing parts looks really easy, because the inside of this tablet looks like it was made in someone’s garage with a 3D printer.

The interior photos of this tablet are stunning. It’s half empty. Usually high-end devices, and even low-end devices, all feature components that fit together like perfect puzzle pieces, maximizing the interior space and striving to not leave a single square millimeter of air. The Pixel tablet interior just looks like a box of spare parts, with miles of space in between each component. All of the white background visible in the interior photos are the back of the body. It’s just plastic. It’s nothing.

It gets worse the longer you look. There are big foam blocks that are just in there to fill up space and support the body, and ribbon cables that should be layered over other components instead stretch across chasms of empty space. Google could fit a dramatically bigger battery inside if it followed modern design principles or offered better cooling or bigger speakers or a million other things.

I have never seen a mobile device built like this from a major company, especially one that costs $500. Usually this style of “individual components sparsely mounted on risers” is reserved for counterfeit SSDs that are just thumb drives and a lead weight repackaged in a bigger box, or maybe “mini” consoles that end up being a single chip in a box. I cannot overstate how strange it is to see a major OEM just mount a few spare parts in a box and call it a day.

The interior layout is the latest in a series of ultra-weird decisions around the Pixel Tablet that makes the product look like some kind of salvage operation. The device closely follows the design language of Google’s smart displays, complete with a speaker dock that turns it into the spitting image of a large Nest Home Hub. It’s not a smart display, though. Like any Google mobile device, it has Google Assistant, but it doesn’t have a smart display interface or run the software Google’s other smart displays do. Android 13 even had a bunch of features built in to support the idea of an Android tablet/smart display, but these features were never really taken advantage of. Google’s smart display software is written in Flutter, a cross-platform programming language, so it could just run on Android with no modifications. All the puzzle pieces were there.

The evidence points to the Pixel Tablet starting life as a full-blown Google smart display, Google pivoting hard against the current idea of the Google Assistant, and then trying to ship this thing out in whatever state. During the development of the Pixel Tablet, Google stopped making new Google Assistant hardware, and third-party smart displays were shut down, probably because the whole voice-command idea was expensive and offered no ongoing revenue. The latest news is that the whole Google Assistant is getting a reboot around a ChatGPT-style large language model, and it’s doubtful current hardware will make the transition.

Now, it looks like the device shell also underwent a redesign at some point. The Pixel Tablet has an 11-inch screen, but these parts look like they were meant for a much smaller tablet.

Anyway, iFixit’s store has a few parts for this device now, including a screen for $207, a new battery for $67, the whole rear case for $200, four unique speaker SKUs for each of the four corners, and a few wires. There is even genuine Google tape to hold down the display wire, which will cost you four bucks. There’s nothing that covers the included speaker stand.

iFixit now has parts for most of Google’s lineup, with the Pixel 7, 7 Pro, and 7a all having some kind of official parts selection. The main holdout is the Pixel Fold, Google’s most delicate device. The Fold and tablet were released around a week apart in June, so hopefully we’ll see some foldable parts soon.

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