Full Review: Google Pixel



www.avgguytech.comFirst Week with the Google Pixel

It’s been a week since I bought a Google Pixel, I chose the Very Black 5 inch 32GB version.  I am switching from the Samsung Galaxy S6 Active that was also a 32Gb and made that work just fine.  I didn’t see the need to pay another $120 for another 32GB of storage.  So how has the phone been performing for me?  So far so good, let’s take a look at some of the great, the good, and the not so good.

My friends at Chromeunboxed.com did an unboxing and early review of the Pixel XL. Here is their video:

The Great

This phone is fast.  There is no wait for any of the apps to launch or any hesitations when switching between screens and apps.  Everything happens as fast as I touch it.  The screen is crisp and responsive and the phone feels great in my hand.  The materials used for the construction feel premium because they are.  For a $600+ flagship phone that Google is putting their name on, I would expect nothing less.

Google Pixel

The back of the phone features two halves, top, and bottom.  The top is glass and houses the fingerprint reader, the camera, and flash.  I also assume that since the upper half is glass, it is where the antennas for the cell phone, WiFi, and GPS are housed in order to avoid interference from the aluminum chassis.  The aluminum has just enough texture to not feel slick.  I feel confident holding the phone in my hand.  I have since added a silicone case for a little extra grip and protection.

The fingerprint reader on the back has to be one of my favorite features of this phone.  All you have to do is touch the sensor and the phone unlocks, no fumbling to type in a pin or accidental unlocking from sliding the phone in your pocket.  You can even set the sensor to read multiple fingerprints.  I am right handed so I usually unlock the phone with my right index finger.  I also keep the phone in my left pocket, so it is helpful to also unlock with my left index finger as I pull the phone from my pocket.  The reader itself is large and is fast to unlock.

Google PixelThe screen is fantastic, it is a full 1080p HD panel and it shows.  It renders colors accurately and crisply.  It’s a pleasure to watch HD content on this screen.  I have pulled up a couple of 4K videos from YouTube to attempt to fully experience the screen.  The colors are amazing.  the 5-inch panel probably isn’t enough for serious media consumption, but great for shorter videos.  The 5.5-inch screen that is also offered has even better resolution and pixel density (makes the screen look sharper).  The larger Pixel would be better for those wanting more of a tablet experience on their phone.

The battery life is also great!   I easily take it off the charger in the morning and have all day battery life.  I don’t stream a lot of videos or play games.  For normal use, Social Media, Email, Internet Browsing.  It’s not uncommon to be heading to bed with around 10-15% battery life remaining.

The Good

The camera is good.  I probably don’t have all the skills necessary to take those breathtaking smartphone shots that others do.  I do take pictures a lot indoors so I need a good low-light camera.  The Pixel handles low light situations really well and can brighten up a picture with pre-flash that doesn’t give the subjects red-eyes.  Also, low light pictures usually end up a little blurry since the shutter stays open a little longer to capture more light.  I have not found this to be as big of an issue with the camera on this phone.

Also with the camera, you get unlimited storage in your Google Drive Account for Pictures and 4K video you take with the Pixel.  So go ahead, take all the HDR shots and 4K videos you want.  It will always be backed up to the cloud.

Set-up and menus.  The Google Pixel runs the latest version of Android (7.1.1 as of Dec 2016) there have been a lot of material changes in how this version of Android looks and feels versus previous versions.  The biggest difference I have seen is the notification bar.  It has been a small learning curve for me.  Once you figure out where everything is, it runs great, you can also customize the buttons in the notification bar.

The speakers.  Normally with a smartphone, the speakers are tinny and not very loud.  The Pixel brings the noise with some great sounding speakers.  Now, you won’t fill a concert hall with sound, but they do sound good in a small room.  The bass is a little flat, but that will always be an issue with small enclosed speakers.  There have recently been some reports around the web about there being an issue with the speakers hissing a high volume.  I have not had this issue.

Bluetooth pairing is simple and quick, so it’s easy to overcome the smartphone speaker issues if you need room filling sound.

Google Assistant was one of the most talked about features of this phone.  I have used it, she is good, but I have not really explored the depths that it could be useful.  I so will hold total judgment on this feature so far.  But her speech recognition is good, and more conversational back and forth is nice.

The Pixel’s native Google Drive support also makes it ideal for syncing with my Acer Chromebook 14.  As I take pictures on the phone I can almost instantly see them on my Google Drive.  This makes sharing media between my phone and my laptop that much easier.  I can also use the fingerprint unlock on my Pixel to unlock my Chromebook.

 

The Bad

The only thing I have found that I don’t like about this phone is the WiFi setup.  I don’t blame this on the Pixel itself, but rather the Android UI in the latest version.  In Android 6 I could tap the WiFi icon in the notification bar and see a list of networks to connect to, Android 7 from what I can tell, doesn’t do this.

Other than that I have not found anything else that bothers me about this phone.

Everything else

Day to day, this is a great phone.  Calls sound good (AT&T Wireless) and no one complains that they have a hard time hearing me, or that there is a noise in the background.  I make calls both with the phone and with my Bluetooth headphones. Either option works well for making and receiving calls.

USB-C charging has become my new favorite.  I love that I can much more easily plug in the phone, which I don’t have to do often, in the dark without worrying about which end of the cable to use or if it is right side up or down.  The included charger and cable bring the phone from 0 to 70% battery life in about 15 minutes.  The box the phone comes in includes a USB-C to USB-C cable and a USB-A to USB-C cable.  So you don’t have to run out and buy all new accessories when you get your phone (cough, cough Apple).

Texting is easy with the on screen keyboard and the phone is comfortable to hold for extended periods.  The Screen, as I said before, is bright and I do not have any trouble seeing the screen outside on Sunny days.

The lock button and the volume button are on the right side of the phone and easy to reach and use.  The top of the phone has the 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom has the two speaker ports and the USB-C charging port. The left side of the phone has the SIM card access.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for something different than the Samsung Galaxy line or want to switch from Apple, then the Google Pixel is a great way to go.  It is feature rich and Google has put a lot of time and energy into their phone, while this isn’t Google’s first pass at a phone, it is the first they are really putting their name on.  It has been designed from the ground up to be one of, if not the best smartphone out there today.

More Info

It is available from the Google Store, Verizon (Unlocked), and from Best Buy.  You can also find them on Amazon and eBay.

I ran a comparison of the top three phones today: Google Pixel vs. Apple iPhone 7 vs. Samsung Galaxy S7 edge – GSMArena

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  • Mike, great review, quick question. Agreed that it is a good phone but is it great enough to justify its price tag? (Considering Google pixel range is more expensive than the previous nexus range)

    • It really is not more expensive than the current generation of Samsung Galaxy flagships. It was actually cheaper than the Galaxy S7 Active. It is also cheaper than the iPhone. So I think for a flagship level phone it is worth the price. I think most people are immune to the actual prices of phones since they are used to buying them from their carriers on a payment plan. As for the Nexus line, those phones sold new for comparable prices.