Google Pixel review
|Review: October 2016|
In a nutshell: The Google Pixel phone introduces Android Nougat 7, and gives you a phone that's very fast and has a great camera. But design-wise it's an ugly duckling. It's available in a choice of 32GB or 128GB versions, but misses out on a microSD card. For a phone that costs as much as the latest iPhone, it fails to match the hype.
Today's best buy: Google Pixel from Carphone Warehouse (£0.00)
Design & looks
Google is no stranger to phones, and the Pixel isn't even the first Google-branded phone, but it's the first phone with the #madebygoogle hashtag. It's also by far the most expensive and most hyped Google phone. Priced on a level with the iPhone 7, Google certainly wants us to believe that this is the best smartphone money can buy.
The Pixel may boast a "seamless" glass-aluminium body, but we've never before seen glass-aluminium that looks so like plastic. That camera cover at the back - what is it even for? And that bottom lip at the front that looks like it ought to have a physical button - why doesn't it? On the back of the phone you'll find the usual Android-style fingerprint sensor, but there's nothing to make the Pixel stand out from the crowd. if it didn't have the Google logo on the back, you'd probably mistake it for a cheap Chinese rip-off.
The Pixel is a good size, but other flagship phones are ultrathin, or waterproof, or have stunning designs. The Pixel thinks its enough just to show up. It's starting to look like #madebygoogle isn't so much of an asset at all.
The phone's display is rather good, however. 5 inches in size, with a full HD resolution giving a sharp 441ppi pixel density, it uses AMOLED tech and is bright, clear and easy to read.
Fast processor, shame about the 32GB storage
Read the specs and you'll find that the Pixel comes with a quad-core processor. If you're thinking "just quad", re-set you're thinking, because this is a blazingly fast Snapdragon 821 running at 2.15GHz. It's also equipped with a massive 4GB of RAM, so it eats any task that you throw at it. This is clearly one of the very fastest smartphones of 2016.
But when it comes to storage, we're back in the slow lane. 32GB just doesn't cut it when there's no microSD card slot available. Does that mean we have to pay more for the 128GB version? It might well do. Boo to Google for following Apple's refusal to allow users to add their own storage!
Android Nougat 7.1
Yeah, it's a Google phone, you didn't miss that did you? It's the very first to run Android N and obviously this implementation of Android is as pure as the driven snow. Google is pushing its new "Google Assistant" feature very heavily in its advertising for the phone. But guess what? The Google Assistant isn't much smarter than the old "Google Now" system. It's a nice-to-have feature that's sometimes useful, but it's nowhere near smart enough to run your life for you.
Android 7.1 is an incremental improvement over previous versions. We prefer the long-press action on apps to Apple's 3D Touch, but in most other respects, iOS is more intuitive and less fiddly.
The highest rated smartphone camera ever?
That's what Google claims. If only they'd said that it's a good camera, or just listed its features. Then we wouldn't be comparing it with the iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S7, both of which have better cameras.
As it is, it's a very good camera. Rated at 12 megapixels, with a very wide f/2.0 aperture, and unusually large 1.55 micrometre pixels, it performs well in low light. The focus is fast and accurate too. It's a good all-rounder. Pictures are sharp with plenty of colour saturation and accurate exposure. But it's not better than the latest flagships from rivals.
The camera also records UHD video, and has a fixed-focus 8 megapixel front camera.
The Pixel is a 4G phone supporting a wide range of LTE bands. It's also compatible with 3G and 2G networks, with support for HSPA.
Connectivity options are good, with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, a reversible USB Type C port, NFC, and a 3.5mm audio jack. GPS positioning is provided, as well as a very wide range of sensors.
"All day battery life" is another feature that Google claims for the Pixel. In reality the battery is smaller than rival flagship phones from other manufacturers. The claim of all day battery life is probably true, but it would be wrong to claim that the 2770mAh battery lasts longer than other phones. Most high-end Android phones in 2016 have batteries of 3000mAh or larger.
Conclusion - not as good as the hype
The Pixel is an excellent example of a good phone that's been over-priced and over-hyped. It's priced the same as an iPhone 7, yet if you put the two phones next to each other, the appearance of the iPhone's in a totally different league. The Pixel is super-fast and comes with a good camera and the latest Android release, but it's in no way remarkable. In fact, with no microSD card slot and a relatively small battery, it's not a stand-out phone by any means.
Only buy this phone if you are desperate to try out the new Android N features.
Google Pixel features include:
- Android 7.1 Nougat
- 12.3 megapixel camera with phase-detection autofocus, optical image stabilisation, HDR, UHD video recording
- 8 megapixel front-facing camera
- Display: 5 inch, AMOLED, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 441ppi
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, 2.15Ghz + 1.6Ghz, 64-bit quad-core
- Memory: 32GB or 128GB, 4GB RAM
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, USB Type C port, 3.5mm audio jack, NFC, GPS
- Sensors: Proximity / ALS, accelerometer/gyrometer, magnetometer, fingerprint sensor, barometer, Hall effect sensor, Android sensor hub, advanced x-axis haptics for sharper/defined response
- Networks: 4G LTE (Cat 12), 3G, quadband GSM
- Size: 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm
- Weight: 143g
- Battery: 2770 mAh battery
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Google Pixel user reviews
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Average rating from 1 review:
Reviewed by Chris
on 17th Dec 2016
Just get one. I did. Best android phone , period. No regrets, none. Expensive ?? Maybe. But the best never comes cheap. I put my cash where my mouth is . You decide.