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Google Pixel Review

Google Pixel 9

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Google Pixel Review

Introduction


One of the trickiest considerations for a company making smartphones is just how many options it should give shoppers. How many mid-rangers do you launch each year? How many flagships? What screen sizes do you hit, which phones get the best cameras – there's no shortage of questions these companies need to answer when putting together their lineups.

As shoppers, we might say that we want a whole lot of different phones to choose between, so we can come away with the one handset that meets all of our needs, but is that really what ends up happening? Or do too many options overwhelm us, and we end up just going with some big-name flagship, not necessarily because it's everything we were looking for (and nothing we weren't), but because it represents a seemingly safe, reliable option in a sea of unknowns?

But choice needn't be a bad thing – you just have to execute it well.

Google Pixel Review
Last year, Google brought us a pair of Nexus phones for the first time in the line's history, the 5.2-inch Nexus 5X and the 5.7-inch Nexus 6P. But the question of which model to pick up was a lot more complicated than preferring the big Nexus or the little Nexus, as the phones had different processors, different amounts of RAM, different storage options, were made by different companies, and just straight-up didn't look all that alike. That's a whole lot of factors to weigh for a set of phones that seem like they should be two peas from the same pod.

Now in 2016, not only has the Pixel lineup arrived to replace Nexus phones, but Google's seriously simplified the decision-making process for choosing one model or another. With the Pixel and Pixel XL, we once again have a “big” and “little” Google phone, but this time around that really is the extent of the decision shoppers need to make: from camera, to processor, to RAM, storage, design, connectivity, and more, you're getting largely the same hardware regardless of which Pixel you choose. The only differences are ones closely tied to hardware size: a bigger phone affords room for a larger battery, and a bigger screen makes sense to stuff with more pixels.

At least, that's how it all looks on paper, but how do the two Pixel phones really compare? We've already brought you a full review of the larger Pixel XL, and now we turn our attention to the smaller five-inch Pixel.

In the box:

  • Google Pixel
  • USB Type-C to Type-C cable
  • USB Type-C to Standard-A cable
  • USB Type-C to Standard-A (Quick Switch) adapter
  • Power adapter
  • SIM tool
  • Intro cards (hardware, thank you, Google Assistant, Play Music 3-month trial)
  • Warranty booklet

Design

The smaller Pixel strikes a great balance between solid build and pocket-friendly size

Google Pixel Review
Google Pixel Review
Google Pixel Review
Google Pixel Review

Crafting a smartphone these days that offers a unique look is no small feat. As some brands churn out featureless slate after featureless slate, or others find themselves repeating variations on the same standard design over and over again, a breath of fresh air can be hard to come by. But with Google's new Pixel phones, the company may have done just that.

Maybe the first thing you'll notice about the Pixel – and the larger Pixel XL, as well, which shares the same basic design – is this glass panel consuming the upper third of the phone's otherwise metal back. We've seen smaller adornments like this before (think: the camera “stripe” on last year's Nexus 6P), but the Pixel pushes it to a whole new level. At first, it's a look that may inspire some push-back; after all, it's easy to think of metal as a particularly robust and premium smartphone material, while glass just seems all sorts of damage-prone.

Google Pixel (left) and Google Pixel XL (right) - Google Pixel Review

Google Pixel (left) and Google Pixel XL (right)

While time will tell just how well the Pixel holds up to a little use (and abuse), it didn't take long for us to come around to the phone's partially glass-covered back. One real benefit is the tactile effect the use of multiple materials affords, making it particularly easy to reach into your pocket and instantly know which direction the phone's facing. And while we can't deny that the glass is more fingerprint-prone than the metal making up the rest of the back, even its aesthetics have really started to grow on us.

Moving around the hardware, we've got a USB Type-C port and the phone's (mono) speaker on its bottom edge, the SIM tray on the right (with no hybrid microSD functionality – this is Google, after all), an analog headphone jack up top, and the power button and volume rocker on the right. The edge sports a hybrid design of its own, with a smooth curve transitioning to the phone's back, an angled bevel marking the move to the handset's face, and a solid, flat stripe in the center. The effect there makes for a phone that feels seriously nice to hold, while also offering a comfortably solid grip.

Though still made of metal like the Pixel XL, the smaller Pixel is noticeably lower-weight, and at 143 grams, it comes in about 15 percent lighter than the XL. And while the exterior dimensions of the phones are understandably different, they both display precisely the same thickness (varying between 7.31 to 8.58mm over the body of the handsets), further helping to unify them under a shared Pixel design.


Google Pixel
5.66 x 2.74 x 0.34 inches
143.84 x 69.54 x 8.58 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Google Pixel

Samsung Galaxy S7
5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

Apple iPhone 7
5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches
138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
4.87 oz (138 g)

Apple iPhone 7

HTC 10
5.74 x 2.83 x 0.35 inches
145.9 x 71.9. x 9 mm
5.68 oz (161 g)

HTC 10


To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.


Display

In need of a brightness boost, but still a largely satisfying screen

Google Pixel Review

While the Nexus 5X had an LCD panel to the Nexus 6P's AMOLED screen, this time both Pixel phones get the AMOLED treatment. As a result, the screen on the Pixel displays the same sort of over-saturation that we experienced with the XL.

If you dig that bolder-than-real-life AMOLED effect, feel free to leave things just as they are, but as we recently pointed out, tucked away in developer settings for both Pixel phones you'll find a setting to switch the display over to an sRGB color space, resulting in much more accurate colors.

Besides its physically smaller size, the big difference with the screen on the five-inch Pixel is that it offers a 1080 x 1920 resolution display, to the XL's 1440 x 2560 quad-HD panel. If you're doing the math, that means a pixel density of 441 ppi to 534 ppi, or about 17 percent lower for the five-inch Pixel. In using the phone for several days, though, it never really came across to our eyes as having an appreciably lower-res screen, and with arm's-length operation at these high densities, the differences are hard to spot.

The arrival of Daydream may change our opinions on the importance of resolution in the Pixel phones – looking that close-up, every pixel matters – but for now, we're no less satisfied with the sharpness of the Pixel's screen than we were with the XL.

One interesting difference did come up in our analysis, though, with the Pixel's screen just a bit dimmer than the Pixel XL's. Considering we already had issues with outdoor visibility with the XL, that situation's only compounded with the smaller Pixel. That's clearly not great, but the five-inch display on the Pixel does appear to also offer one big benefit over the XL – though we'll get to that just a bit later on.

All display measurements for this Google Pixel review have been done using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Google Pixel 398
(Average)
1
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7347
(Good)
2.18
6.32
(Average)
4.74
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S7 484
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6852
(Excellent)
2.07
1.26
(Excellent)
2.09
(Good)
Apple iPhone 7 632
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
1:1254
(Excellent)
6692
(Excellent)
1.84
2.96
(Good)
5.44
(Average)
HTC 10 432
(Good)
7
(Good)
1:1594
(Excellent)
7442
(Good)
2.13
2.62
(Good)
5.11
(Average)
View all


36 Comments
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posted on 31 Oct 2016, 08:53 1

1. Carl3000 (Posts: 230; Member since: 11 Oct 2014)


Not sure if this battery benchmark is accurate. All the boys over at XDA are reporting a good 5.5hours of SoT before their Pixel dies. 7.75 hours for you guys here? What kind of battery benchmark you running?

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 08:57 14

2. Tyrion_Lannister (Posts: 796; Member since: 21 Oct 2016)


SoT has no relation with the result of a battery benchmark. Those guys at XDA are keeping their phones on standby and using throughout the day with the phone being off and on syncing with the internet. In a battery benchmark on the other hand the phone stays on for the entire duration with no background process running and with constant signal/airplane mode.

That all being said, PA's battery benchmark is garbage at best. According to the benchamark, the small iPhone 7 outlasts the S7 edge, a scenario that only PA can produce. Not to mention the million other cases others will inevitably point out.

You want reliable battery benchmarks, there are sites like GSMArena, Anandtech and tweakers which show their testing procedure and are actually representative of real world testing.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:05

6. Subie (Posts: 1274; Member since: 01 Aug 2015)


Here's a quote from phonearena's benchmark page:

"We measure battery life by running a custom web-script, designed to replicate the power consumption of typical real-life usage. All devices that go through the test have their displays set at 200-nit brightness."

This might not fully answer your question though.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 10:06

13. Scott93274 (Posts: 5218; Member since: 06 Aug 2013)


There are so many ways a phone's battery life can be measured and in no way are any of them a fair representation of what to expect with real world usage. That being said, you should familiarize yourself with the parameters of each test and use multiple sources to best gauge how the phone would perform with your typical usage.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 12:23 5

16. westicktogether (Posts: 31; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


Some of you guys just want the pixel to suck and samsung to have the best phone.

Get over it - Google Pixel is the best phone out right now.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 12:26 10

18. Tyrion_Lannister (Posts: 796; Member since: 21 Oct 2016)


WTF are you talking about. I'm just hating on PA here, with no relation to pixel or Samsung.

Either way, the S7 and S7 edge exynos variants destroy the pixel in all battery benchmarks.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 15:21

21. KParks23 (Posts: 675; Member since: 13 Oct 2010)


Agreed I always check the GSMarena before I buy a phone lol

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 19:34

24. dimas (Posts: 2451; Member since: 22 Jul 2014)


He was too lazy to read your whole statement.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 23:01

26. joey_sfb (Posts: 6407; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


The rise of the Google Pixel fanboy!!

posted on 01 Nov 2016, 09:17

32. mahima (Posts: 403; Member since: 20 Nov 2014)


i don't belive their brightness test if its not for an iphone since lumia 950

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 08:59

3. phonehome (Posts: 793; Member since: 19 Dec 2014)


-(MINUS) Very deceptive when shows all that bezel space to allow it, but no physical front home button (seems like Apple and Samsung have a copyright on it), and because looks like a modular design with (unpleasantly surprising) no user-replaceable battery.

Also no SD card slot a minus, but not a dealbreaker to me personally.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:04

5. Tyrion_Lannister (Posts: 796; Member since: 21 Oct 2016)


Samsung and Apple do not have a copyright on the home button on the front. They might copyright that exact shape but not the design itself( except the rounded rectangle saga).

Case in point, motorola is doing it with the G4 plus. Also, iPhone 7 does not have a physical button. And if you consider capacitive buttons physical, then phones like HTC 10 and oneplus 3 are using it.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:02 11

4. therealestmc (Posts: 429; Member since: 23 Jul 2012)


This is by far one of the ugliest phone on the market.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 12:24 3

17. westicktogether (Posts: 31; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


It's the best phone on the market.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 15:11 6

20. nokia12 (Posts: 573; Member since: 19 Nov 2013)


It is the best ugly phone on the market

posted on 01 Nov 2016, 02:40

29. dimas (Posts: 2451; Member since: 22 Jul 2014)


Come to think of it, hc have bigger dimensions than pixel. Krystal lora said that the phone looks better in actual so I might wait for my pixel before judging if it's ugly.

posted on 02 Nov 2016, 19:25

34. Crispin_Gatieza (Posts: 1990; Member since: 23 Jan 2014)


It's still ugly no matter how good it is.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:17 3

7. DavMor0069 (Posts: 190; Member since: 09 Dec 2015)


Giving credit where credit is due.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:20

8. fyahking (Posts: 963; Member since: 28 Jan 2015)


So, it takes quicker picture, and louder speaker but same score as the xl?

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:57

12. jellmoo (Posts: 1896; Member since: 31 Oct 2011)


Well, the XL does have a brighter screen at a higher resolution with less distance between colours. Of course it also has a higher price tag...

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:35 10

9. ebilcake (Posts: 875; Member since: 16 Jul 2016)


9.0 seems to be the default score for any good device that's not an iPhone.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:37 1

10. fyahking (Posts: 963; Member since: 28 Jan 2015)


Ikr? No android will beat the iPhone scores for the foreseeable future.

posted on 01 Nov 2016, 02:50

30. ibend (Posts: 6306; Member since: 30 Sep 2014)


NO....
not it this site...

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 09:46

11. VZWuser76 (Posts: 4681; Member since: 04 Mar 2010)


I'm gonna call BS on the battery test. I've read pretty much every review that's come out on the Pixel/Pixel XL, and PA seems to be the only one that puts the smaller Pixel ahead of the XL in terms of battery life. Even user reviews show it's not getting anywhere near the same SOT as the XL, yet here it actually bests it. Go home PA, you're drunk.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 10:08 3

14. zeeBomb (Posts: 2287; Member since: 14 Aug 2014)


The software optimization is what I love best about this phone. The touch latency is much better on pixel devices and the overall house keeping Google did to keep this phone running fast paid off. It may be at a premium this time, but I assure you, you'll love it.

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 11:15

15. cnour (Posts: 1197; Member since: 11 Sep 2014)


9/100 no?

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 16:13

23. VZWuser76 (Posts: 4681; Member since: 04 Mar 2010)


So that would make the iPhone 7+ 9.3/100 then wouldn't it?

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 12:55

19. blueyzfr6 (Posts: 26; Member since: 02 Nov 2015)


I wish it had an IR...

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 15:45

22. TechieXP1969 (Posts: 13089; Member since: 25 Sep 2013)


The S7 display achieves 855 Nits of brightness on auto, which is its native default factory setting. Even if you take it off auto and just push it up to max, its over 700 nits.

So PA, why are you reporting the S7 brightness in NITS at 484? When its false!?

posted on 31 Oct 2016, 23:06

27. Tyrion_Lannister (Posts: 796; Member since: 21 Oct 2016)


It's not false. The 855 nits is achieved at 1% APL, which means the whole screen is black except 1% which is white. That small 1% dot reaches 855 nits.

If you make the whole screen white, the brightness drops significantly.

GSMArena:
max manual brightness: 395 nits, max auto brightness: 539 nits.

Anandtech:
max auto brightness: 532 nits.

I would say the tests by anandtech and GSMArena are closer to the actual brightness than PA is since PA is not reliable. But the S7 doesn't even reach 600 nits on 100% APL.

If you don't understand the issue, see this:

http://images.anandtech.com/doci/8795/Brightness%20vs%20APL.PNG?_ga=1.158344506.1000058810.1477972886

The nexus 6 was able to achieve 450 nits on 1% APL, but falls down to 250 nits when the screen is all white ( 100% APL),

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Google Pixel

Google Pixel

OS: Android 7.1
view full specs
Display5.0 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (441 ppi) AMOLED
Camera12.3 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, Quad-core, 2150 MHz, Kryo processor
4 GB RAM
Size5.66 x 2.74 x 0.34 inches
(143.84 x 69.54 x 8.58 mm)
5.04 oz  (143 g)
Battery2770 mAh, 26 hours talk time

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