Why Do Pro Tablets Hate Storage?

Google made a return to the premium tablet market in a big way at their event today, with the announcement of the Google Pixel Slate. The device looks like it could be competitive in the premium tablet market.

One thing that stood out to me during Google’s announcement was the proposed cost of the Pixel Slate. Starting at $599, it seems fairly reasonable. But for that, you’re getting a Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and just 32GB of storage. Add in a $199 keyboard dock and a $99 pen, and the total platform cost balloons to almost $900.

Microsoft’s Surface line pioneered offering a premium tablet at a lower cost, but largely requiring several accessories to get full functionality. So how does the Pixel Slate stack up in terms of value and features? The big takeaway: None of these tablets offer anything in the way of storage at their base configurations.

Do You Like Storage? Too Bad
Tablet Cost (total) Cost (accessories) CPU RAM Storage
Surface Go $598.98/$748.98 $198.98 Intel 4415Y 4/8GB 64/128GB
Pixel Slate $897.00 $299.98 Intel Celeron 4GB 32GB
iPad Pro (10.5″) $972.76 $258.00 A10X 4GB 64GB
Surface Pro 6 $1128.98 $229.98 Core i5 (8th gen) 8GB 128GB

It’s kind of shocking that in 2018, these productivity-focused tablets don’t offer more than 128GB of storage for less than $1000.

What’s more, the Pixel Slate seems to offer a mixed value on hardware compared to Google’s Pixelbook predecessor. The tablet maxes out at a 256GB SSD at the $1599 tier (without keyboard), while the top $1649 Pixelbook offers a 512GB NVMe drive. Yeah, you’re trading that off for a higher resolution screen and a more versatile form factor. Still, it’s a step back in capacity and speed.

But more than the tradeoffs Google made for the Pixel Slate, all of these professional tablets offer storage capacities that are unusable for serious productivity at their base configurations, possibly excluding the iPad Pro.

To that point, the reason the iPad Pro can live with less storage is because of how tightly iOS integrates iCloud storage. Really all of these tablets are using a dearth of onboard storage to better leverage subscription storage services. This is abundantly clear with the Pixel Slate’s 32GB.

After surveying the options available, the value pick might have to be the Surface Go. At its top end config, it still comes in as the cheapest, but matches memory and storage capacity of base model competitors.

For me though, what stands out about the pro tablet space is the lack of value. There’s a lot of gadgety goodness in the category. They’re all beautifully designed machines with premium materials and dense screens. They’ve all got cool pens and keyboards that snap and click into place. But getting any kind of reasonable storage capacity requires paying through the nose.

Disclaimer: Yes, I left out your favorite tablet. It’s probably awesome. I’m sorry.