Google Pixel 4 & Pixel 4 XL hands-on

Google Pixel 4 & Pixel 4 XL hands-on
It’s here, folks! After months of leaks (and some from Google itself), the Pixel 4 has been officially announced. I had the chance to play with it for a while at Google's event, and here are my first impressions from Google's latest Pixel phones.

Design



The phone is a sleek, oblong shape that fits neatly into the hand. I was prepared to call the Pixel 4’s thick top bezel the elephant in the room, but seeing it in person changed my mind. Yes, the bezel is pretty large, but from the time I spent with it, it doesn’t seem any more noticeable than a notch would be.

That top bezel is there to house one of the most exciting new features – the Soli radar chip, which makes gesture control and helps with speeding up face unlock – more on those later.



The phone is available in customary Google colors, including Just Black, Clearly White, and limited edition Oh So Orange. The white and orange versions of the phone have a slightly rubberized, soft-matte finish that’s very pleasant to hold. The black model is slipperier, with a glossy finish. Unfortunately, just a few seconds showed that the shiny back was a huge fingerprint magnet. 



The Pixel 4’s look from the back is hardly a surprise given that Google itself leaked the design some months ago. It’s smooth and flat, with no protrusions or markings except for the square camera bump, which is mere millimeters thick, and a small Google logo.

Unlike last year’s Pixel 3, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL are visually indistinguishable save for the size difference.

Display


The Pixel 4’s 5.7” OLED display boasts a Full HD+ resolution (444 ppi). It also stands out with its 90Hz refresh rate, matching the displays of recent OnePlus phones. With more tech magic, the Pixel’s display will vary the refresh rate based on the content on-screen to give the best performance and maximize battery life. 

The Pixel 4 XL is the same, except the screen is 6.3” and the resolution gets a bump to QHD and a razor-sharp 537ppi.

The display seemed plenty bright when I used it, and colors were vivid but natural and altogether quite pleasing. 



Interface


The Pixel 4 will launch with Android 10, of course, with speedy updates guaranteed for years (but it isn’t the first phone on Android 10).

A big change from the previous Pixels is the fingerprint reader – or lack thereof. The Pixel 4 uses facial recognition as its only form of biometric authentication, and this is thanks to a bunch of sensors confined within the top bezel. Next to them is the new Soli chip which speeds up the unlock process by detecting your presence. The Soli chip uses radar to accurately and quickly detect motion in 3D, and Google says it has the fastest face unlock yet. I wasn’t able to try it personally, but the demos make it seem like it has a legitimate claim.

Also coming with the Soli chip is Motion Sense, or gesture control. The phone can recognize swipes above the display to control media or snooze alarms. It sounds similar to the Air Motion technology on the LG G8 ThinQ, but it’s based on different mechanisms entirely. The Pixel 4’s version seems to be more fluid – the gestures worked on the first try after a quick learning curve, and the feel fast and intuitive. 



Another incredible software feature is Recorder – a voice memo app that taps into Google’s AI and speech recognition to transcribe speech with almost scary accuracy. Recorder easily picked up pauses and adds punctuation, and it has a smart search feature that allows you to search the audio specific words or phrases.

Performance and battery


The Pixel 4 and 4 XL launch with top-tier flagship specs – no surprise there. Both models have a Snapdragon 855 to power to the whole thing, along with a respectable 6GB of RAM.

Pixel 4 actually has a small decrease in battery capacity at 2800mAh compared to the Pixel 3’s 2915mAh. On the other hand, the Pixel 4 XL has received a modest bump to 3700mAh from 3530mAh. Google says the software is optimized to maximize battery life as well.

Like previous Google devices, the Pixel 4 has Titan M chip for enhanced security on sensitive information.

Camera



Top-notch camera quality has always been a highlight on the Pixel series, and the Pixel 4 is no different. Unlike the single-lens setup Google has stuck with for past models, the Pixel 4’s square camera bump features a dual-camera setup with standard and telephoto lenses. There’s also a new ‘hyperspectral sensor’.

Of course, Pixel’s photographic prowess is based on Google’s camera software, and at the center of it is machine learning. Live HDR+ offers a real-time look at HDR photos, resulting in improved performance in shadows and highlights, along with reduced noise. Machine learning also kicks in for white balance, so Pixel 4 can automatically correct color casts.



Another new photo feature is Dual Exposure, which allows you to control both brightness and tone mapping right on your smartphone. I used Dual Exposure to create a silhouette portrait, and it was fast and seamless. The new feature is mostly software-based, but Google reps said it will be Pixel 4-exclusive, for now at least.

Night Sight has also been improved, which also offers enhanced astrophotography for some seriously stunning star shots.

Pricing and availability


The Pixel 4 is priced identically to last year’s Pixel 3, at $799/899 for 64/128GB, while the Pixel 4 XL is priced at $899/$999 for the same storage options. For the first time, the Pixels will be available from all major US carriers, including Google Fi, or course. Both models are available for pre-order today, with shipping starting October 24.

Related phones

Pixel 4
  • Display 5.7" 1080 x 2280 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 2800 mAh
Pixel 4 XL
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 3700 mAh

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16 Comments

1. tahnik

Posts: 201; Member since: Jul 17, 2011

The most disappointing phone of the year

4. jellmoo

Posts: 2654; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Ehhh, while not terribly exciting, I wouldn't go that far. I'd say the G8 is a solid contender there. The Mate 30 until it gets Google services as well.

2. waqarzec

Posts: 77; Member since: May 09, 2013

The best phone of the Year

7. Cat97

Posts: 1972; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

You mean...of two years ago. It doesn't look like a modern smartphone.

9. dnomadic

Posts: 437; Member since: Feb 20, 2015

I get it, but a phone is far more than looks (subjective)... Software is far more important, what good are looks if a phone does not perform well. I loved my pixel 3 xl more than any other phone I owned last year up through the my iPhone 11 Pro Max (G7, S9, S10, Note 9, OnePlus 7 Pro, Iphone xs (excluding my regular note 10)) and it definitely wasn't due to the devices looks.

10. Cat97

Posts: 1972; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

The Pixel 3XL was a child only its mother could love.

17. tuminatr

Posts: 1164; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

don't feed the trolls

3. Vadermando

Posts: 26; Member since: Dec 19, 2011

Extremely underwhelming for the price. They could've included a fingerprint reader, bigger battery, wide angle lens on the camera, newer (slightly) faster processor, more RAM, more storage and made it UFS 3.0 maybe even a nice cooling solution. Even with the cool software 'trickeries' they added to the overrated 'pure' Android experience this phone is not worth the cost.

5. Feanor

Posts: 1415; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Once more I'm sad; I love stock Android, I hate heavy skins and yet, once more Google disappoints me in design; top heavy, Sony Xperia style front, matt frame that makes even the Black version look like the phone wears a bumper, ugly rear camera module (though at least not quite as ugly as the new iPhone). Also the orange colour looks horrible to me. I also don't buy the argument that the face recognition is as practical and safe as a fingerprint scanner. Great software but not for me. I still somehow think that Google deliberately keeps the hardware modest in order not to make the ultimate Android and upset in the process the other Android OEMs

6. Whitedot

Posts: 863; Member since: Sep 26, 2017

Google made three awesome things for Pixel 4 this year: Flat screen Best smartphone camera in the solar system Superb disolay colour reproduction according to displaymate. And the last but not least they managed to make battery even smaller than current Iphone line. Bravo! What an oddly polarising OEM.

11. Cat97

Posts: 1972; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Well, since we haven't found any aliens yet to compare to, it's probably the best smartphone camera in the Universe.

8. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1166; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

I have mixed feelings about Pixel phones. While I'm super excited about some of the features like Soli, there are more than a few disappointments. IMO ; Pros : 1. Performance 2. Camera 3. Soli Cons : 1. Battery 2. Price 3. Base storage 4. Availability (Google is not launching it in India and few other markets due to regulations regarding Radar chips) Design is average at best. Display is great. I'm not a big fan of stock android. Say what you want but I personally love Samsung's One UI. I'm using OnePlus (Oxygen OS is pretty close to stock android) and I miss the features my Galaxy had. I wish Google could atleast give 128GB base storage and a larger battery. That would have made it a no brainer over any other phones in the market.

12. shawman

Posts: 79; Member since: Sep 18, 2012

I wish it had started at least at 128GB. Looks weird to see flagships launch with 64GB storage when chinese mid range have 128GB with hybrid dual sim. Especially after note series having 256GB. Otherwise its a good upgrade from Pixel 3. Especially with 90hz screen.

13. treypoundz

Posts: 92; Member since: Sep 05, 2017

Google phones suck. Only thing ppl say is ooooo the camera the camera

15. tokuzumi

Posts: 1953; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

Might as well place a larger bezel up top, because you usually hold your phone from the bottom. And with phones growing larger and larger, it's not like you can reach the top of your device with one hand. Plus it pushes the top of the screen closer to the bottom of the phone, so win-win.

20. jaidhakne

Posts: 14; Member since: May 04, 2016

No doubt pixel 4 line is King of mobile phone... camera.. display.. software..

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