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It is the first #madebygoogle flagship by the developers of Android.
And it has a hefty price tag attached to it as well. It is not cheap.
So how does it perform on a day to day basis?
Is it worth its premium price tag?
Is it the the best Android experience you can have as some reviewers suggest?
If you are in the market to research or want to compare any other device with the Google Pixel (or Pixel XL), you have landed on the right article. I have been using the Google Pixel for over 2 months now and just before as I am ready to say goodbye to it, I want to summarise its strengths and weaknesses for the benefit of those who want to know more about it.
Every smartphone has its pros and cons and Pixel is no different. While most of the reviews and tech-enthusiasts are raving about the phone, let us see in this article if this is justified or if I have a different opinion to share with you.
I will split it into Pixel’s strengths, weaknesses and passes. Let’s start with the strengths first.
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Pixel comes with a primary camera which is a 12.3 megapixels sensor with an f/2.0 aperture. Note that the camera boasts both phase-detection and laser autofocus features for quick and accurate focus generally. While the megapixel count is not huge, it is the quality of the final images which matters.
And yes, Google Pixel does not come with the optical image stabilisation (OIS). Instead, it relies on the electronic image stabilisation (EIS) which is more applicable for videos. Google has explained here why the lack of the OIS is not a major concern for camera users. And frankly speaking, I agree, I have not found this to be an issue at all.
“I have taken hundreds of images with its camera and I am not hesitant to say that it is the best Android camera experience that I have enjoyed to date.”
It is fast, it is accurate and it produces rich and crisp images.
I wrote a detailed article on Pixel’s camera performance and included 20 sample images in my recent review. Have a read and look at the still images that it produced for me. You can clearly see that the colour reproduction, exposure and overall depth and richness of the photos are exceptional in most of the results.
The default camera app itself is simple but highly effective and to-the-point.
It is not overly complicated and designed with a common user in mind. It is glitch-free, responsive and reliable. The full set of manual controls is not available (as Google’s tradition coming from the previous devices). However, this time, you can control the brightness (exposure) and the white balance from the shooting screen which is useful.
As an average consumer who likes to take good photos every time I shoot with my smartphone, I enjoyed the Pixel a lot. If you are in the market looking for a smartphone which excels in photography, Pixel and Pixel XL should definitely be on your list of options.
There is no doubt in the fact that Android has refined itself over the years.
Google Pixel comes with Android Nougat on board. Note that the Pixel range has a slightly different version of Android Nougat (7.1) instead of the main release – Android Nougat 7.0. This adds a few Pixel-specific features to the smartphone. At the time of writing this article, I have the version 7.1.2 installed on my device.
If you want to read more about the Pixel-specific additions in Android Nougat 7.1, head over to “Google Pixel exclusive features explored: A cut above the rest of Android?”, written by Chris Hall for Pocket-Lint.
This is the beauty of the Google devices. You get the latest Android OS experience without much delay. I already have 3 over-the-air updates (OTA) to my operating system in Pixel. To keep it in a tip top form.
I found the Pixel to be fast, glitch-free and very stable.
It gives me a feel that the OS is not half-baked or rushed to release. The controls, menus, transitions and settings are all well-engineered and give a feel of a polished operating system. Google has paid attention to detail and made every effort to give the end-user a pleasant experience through its OS interface.
Things like dual screen mode, choice of wallpapers and sounds, rotation of the home screen and opening the apps drawer with an upward flick, no matter how small they seem, actually make a difference.
I will go as far as saying that in Pixel, it is the first time ever for me that I have enjoyed the Google’s stock Android experience. It is not bland any more, it is refined, looks elegant and feels agile.
“I used to be a critic of the Google’s overly-simplistic user interface. Not any more after using the Pixel. I strongly hope that this trend continues.”
A minor gripe is that I found the phone to become hot in certain situations. Particularly when the camera is used or sometimes, even without that. Perhaps, an area where software manipulation can be further enhanced to keep it checked.
It is that extra attention to detail which matters sometimes in making or breaking people’s opinion.
Google Pixel is not a stunning design.
In fact it is on the bland side (check my detailed Pixel design review here). It lacks flare and does not stand out on design and look. The half glass panel on the back looks awkward in my opinion and does not fit in well.
The construction and build quality are excellent though.
The metal chassis feels premium and easy to handle on a day to day basis. The controls and ports are sturdy and feel robust. The material finish is acceptable and easy to handle. The Pixel with its 5 inch full-HD screen and 143 grams weight feels just about right in hand. So full marks on that front.
After two months of normal use without any protective case, I did not find any marks or scratches (wear and tear) on the phone’s body. This demonstrates that good quality and resilient material is used in construction.
Colour options are not generous but perhaps ample.
At the time of writing this review, we have Quite Black, Very Sliver and Really Blue variants available in the market. The one I use is the black version which is not strictly black but more like a dark grey or charcoal colour.
“At this level of competition, I expect a flagship to have the design which stands out. Which inspires.”
It should look and feel stunning in my opinion. Don’t forget that Pixel is not a cheap device. You are paying a premium tag here so why not demand or expect a device which is having an inspiring and innovative design. Unfortunately, Pixel and its larger brother Pixel XL do not fully satisfy on this front.
Talking about the built-in internal speakers, we have got one speaker in Pixel which is downward facing.
There are 2 grilles at the bottom at either sides of the central USB-C port. I have definitely experienced a better audio performance from internal speakers on other devices before (HTC One Series). Pixel’s sound is acceptable but not great if you are an audiophile. I believe that in this day and age where flagships are striving to make an impact in the world of audio, Pixel has taken a step back.
As far as audio via earphones/headphones is concerned, there is a standard 3.5mm audio jack at the top of the phone. This is perhaps the best location for an audio jack in a smartphone. The quality of sound is crisp and clear but perhaps can not match the high end of the competition such as HTC 10 from 2016 with its Hi-Res 24 bit DAC processing.
The quality of the full HD screen is excellent. The Google Pixel comes with a 1080p screen (FHD) however its bigger variant – the XL – comes with a QHD resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels. The AMOLED screen is bright, clear and immersive and does not exaggerate the colours as some other AMOLED screens do.
My mild complaint is that why such a big set of bezels on the top and bottom?
Could we not have a slightly bigger screen, perhaps a 5.2” or 5.3 “ with relatively smaller bezels?
The 2017 flagships such as LG G6 and Samsung S8 have already improved their screen sizes in relation to the overall size of the device.
Battery life is the same story as before.
Pixel comes with a mediocre 2770 mAh capacity battery however the bigger variant (XL) comes with a 3450 mAh battery – in both cases, the batteries are built-in.
With my Pixel, I can use the fully-charged device for most of the day with my light to moderate use. Hence the routine is to charge it overnight and use it through the day.
If the nature of use gets heavier (moderate to high use), the phone struggles to last for a day. I need to charge it again in late afternoons or evenings.
I have been an advocate of a robust battery life in flagship devices. Have a look at what my readers think about their most important factor in deciding for an Android flagship. This survey is based on 200 responses and was undertaken in November 2016.
It is the one important factor which many Android users are keen to consider seriously. I am afraid, Google has not done enough here to enhance the user experience of the Android fan around battery life.
The battery life is acceptable for a flagship of this quality but not exciting.
Pixel was released in October 2016.
More than 6 months from its release, it is still selling at £599 for the 32 GB and £699 for the 128 GB variant. These prices are from the Google Play Store UK. You can check other options such as your local Amazon and other online or high street stores.
The bottom line is that Pixel and Pixel XL are not on the cheap side of the scale.
They are premium devices and come with premium price tags attached to them. Yes, I agree that they boast quality on many fronts but if you think about the “value for money”, Pixel is not something that satisfies this criteria.
“I am personally an advocate of the competitive prices and value for the end user. I have seen it from some companies who have done a great job in not only keeping the prices down but have also given us a great Android flagship experience as well.”
OnePlus is one such example. Their OnePlus 3 and 3T were brilliant in 2016. All eyes are on their 2017 flagship killer now.
Unfortunately, Google has played the mainstream approach. Pixel is a great device but it is expensive. It will appeal to a relatively smaller market on price and value fronts. You can get a similar type of specs in other devices within reason at a much reduced price.
I personally feel that it is the only real weakness of the Pixel range devices.
They are expensive.
No doubt that I enjoyed using this phone.
The camera results were brilliant, in fact, the overall camera experience is excellent. Light, simple, reliable and produces results every time. You won’t be disappointed if you are a smartphone photography enthusiast.
The design could have been better. It is not stunning and it is not exciting. In fact, I won’t hesitate to call it boring and “just another flagship” on design and look. However, the build quality and material finishes are good.
The battery life is not disappointing but not something to write home about either. More could have been done to offer an improved battery life experience to the end user.
Overall, it is a responsive, fast and solid smartphone by Google.
It won’t let you down on performance front with your day to day handling and use of the device. The stock Android experience is a treat to use and there is a clear indication of refinement and improvement in the OS by Google.
Its price is disappointing for me though. I think it should have been cheaper. To stay competitive in this demanding market.
If you can afford it, go and buy it. It is an excellent phone overall.
It will get my 8 out of 10 for the overall user experience – feels extremely good.
Where do you stand?
If you have used this phone or have an opinion about it, share your thoughts with us in comments. I am keen to know what do you think as an Android user.