Google Pixel Review

Google Pixel

Posted: , posted by Stephen S.




An understated camera UI continues to wow us with really beautiful pics

Google Pixel Review
Camera interface - Google Pixel Review
Camera interface - Google Pixel Review
Camera interface - Google Pixel Review
Camera interface - Google Pixel Review

Like a lot of other recent flagships, Google's making some big claims when it comes to the Pixel's camera performance. In its promotion for the handset, the company doesn't mince any words, calling this “the highest rated smartphone camera. Ever.”

Around back we've got a 12.3MP camera with an f/2.0 aperture lens and big 1.55μm pixels. And up front there's an 8MP selfie cam. But more than resting the Pixel's reputation on the camera hardware itself, Google turns to software and additional sensor hardware to really get the most out of these sensors.

Image quality

You don't have to be a photo pro to get some great-looking shots

Google may be aiming for the stars with the Pixel's camera, but to a large extent, it really does deliver. The camera's fast as hell to use, grabbing focus in a snap thanks to both its phase-detection and laser-assisted modes, and even HDR processing doesn't really slow things down.

About those HDR capabilities, though: while they work well and produce some nice-looking shots, we couldn't help but notice Google being a little heavy-handed in steering users towards them. While camera settings like your flash preferences or what resolution you want to shoot in are recalled for future photo sessions (as right they should be), every time you jump back into the camera app it defaults to auto-HDR; there's no way to force the phone to remember that you'd prefer to always have HDR off (on always on, we suppose). That's ultimately a minor quibble, thanks to how painless it is to have the auto-mode engaged.

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

Even some tricky exposures with blown-out backgrounds ended up looking pretty nice, and while the camera struggled with focus occasionally in extreme low-light environments, the images it grabbed were impressively low-noise, with nice clean blacks.

Selfies look pretty hot, too, and support the same auto-HDR mode as images taken with the phone's main camera.

We're not sure if it's really the best camera setup ever on a smartphone – that's one heck of a high bar – but the Pixel is very much up there among some of the best-performing models you can pick up today.

Video recording

Sharp, high-res video is only enhanced with exceptional digital stabilization

A lot of the good stuff from the Pixel's still-image performance carries over to video, especially in terms of focus speed – refocusing during video recording is fast and effortless.

The camera supports shooting modes up to 4K (as we'd only hope), but the real story is less about resolution and more about stability. While the Pixel doesn't offer an optically-stabilized camera, it does take advantage of Google's advanced stabilization algorithms, acting in concert with on-board sensors to digitally remove camera-shake from your footage.

We've seen plenty of software-stabilization efforts from other phones, but Google's implementation really does appear to live up to the hype. While the “laggy” effect on the viewfinder can be a little distracting while filming, the end results are incredibly impressive, especially compared to unstabilized video.


The Pixel can't quite capture the “oomph” of the XL, but still does a find job

Unlike the Nexus 6P, last year's Nexus 5X only offered users a single mono speaker – albeit still a front-facing one. So while we really felt the loss in transitioning from the stereo 6P to the mono Pixel XL, the sting's a little less severe with the smaller Pixel. We still don't like the move from a front-facer to a bottom-edge-mounted speaker, but it's a smaller adjustment to make.

What it lacks in lush stereo sound, though, the speaker goes a long way towards making up for that with really nice, clear, balanced sound. You get crisp highs and satisfying lows, all without much discernible distortion. And though this isn't the loudest speaker we've ever tested, it subjectively feels extremely powerful with its output – perhaps due to that great bass response. While the Pixel XL does a little better with bass frequencies in a side-by-side comparison, the smaller Pixel still sounds really good on its own.


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PhoneArena rating:
Display5.0 inches, 1080 x 1920 pixels (441 ppi) AMOLED
Camera12.3 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, Quad-core, 2150 MHz, Kryo processor
4 GB
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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