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    Google Pixel pre-review: These are the droids you’ve been looking for


    PaulOBrien

    Introduction

    I have only had a Pixel for a few days now, so I’m not ready to do a full review, but I can give you my first impressions. I’m also taking questions on Twitter, so feel free to hit me up.

    I have the Pixel XL, the 5.5” model which is also joined by the 5” ‘regular’ Pixel. As well as the smaller screen, the junior model also has a FHD rather than QHD screen and a 2770mAh battery rather than the 3450mAh cell in the XL. Those tweaks aside, the specs are the same - you get a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB or 128GB storage, a rear mounted fingerprint reader, metal chassis with a glass panel, a choice of silver or black (I have a Silver XL) and, of course, Android 7.1, currently a Pixel exclusive and with exclusive Pixel features too.

    Although not a Nexus in name, let’s be honest and say that the Pixel is the next in a long line of Google devices that started with the original G1, a HTC built device (just like the Pixels). It’s fair to say that despite some very fondly remembered devices (the Nexus One being a particular highlight, again a HTC device), Nexus phones have often disappointed. Despite Google making big noises about photography, the cameras have generally been pretty poor (let down by a weak camera app too). Battery life has been underwhelming and there have been other issues too… but in generally they have been good value, or even cheap. The Pixels are not, starting at £599 for a 32GB Pixel and rising to an eye watering £819 for a 128GB Pixel XL.

    So, premium pricing for sure, but do you get what you pay for?

    No compromises

    Good news folks. These phones are the real deal.

    A record breaking score of 89 on DxoMark is completely synthetic, but in my testing so far, the Pixel camera is exceptional. I'll post samples pictures in the review of course, but the phone seems to easily hold its own against the Galaxy S7, which is a really great camera phone. That's impressive. The camera app is finally upgraded too, part of an Android OS release that feels tightly integrated, well featured, clean and modern. I like the Nougat refinements to an already well matured Marshmallow OS and the little changes in 7.1 add some visual refinement.

    So far, battery life is on par with what you’d expect given the capacity - no weird battery drains in use and excellent screen off performance (thanks Doze). The phone feels exceptionally smooth to use, with no noticeable glitching or lag (save for what is surely an early bug related to scrolling in some apps).

    Build quality is exceptional and although I think the black would be my preference over the silver (particularly as it's better suited to VR use than the white-fronted model), it’s a good looking phone. It’s unfortunate the blue isn’t in the UK though. The lack of Pixel cues is a bit disappointing (i.e. no light bar to match the Pixel C I'm writing on right now) but it is interesting to see only a simple ‘G’ so far as branding goes.

    Really, I think the only feature you could argue is missing is wireless charging, which still seems to elude metal bodied phones. Since Google’s dalliance with the technology in the Nexus 5, 6 and 7, it seems to have disappeared from the spec sheet, which is a shame I think.

    About that price

    The biggest problem for the Pixel phones is pricing. Sure, they are great phones, but is a £719 Pixel XL 32GB worth the outlay? Obviously that’s very personal, but there are a number of similarly specced phones that are hundreds of pounds cheaper. With the alternatives you won’t get Google’s own interpretation of the Android OS, fast updates and everything else that Nexus / Pixel stands for of course. You pays your money and you takes your choice I suppose.

    Right now, I maybe for the first time have a Google phone in my pocket where I don’t feel like another manufacturer’s Android offering will service me better in a key way and that really is the headline for so far. If you've pre-ordered a Pixel, I don't think you are going to be disappointed.

    Stay tuned for my full review.

    Edited by PaulOBrien


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    Looks and sounds like a really nice version of what a flagship can be. And hopefully what something in my price range soon will be. 

    By the time OnePlus or similar are churning out something as well integrated as this though, I'd like to see it with waterproofing, wireless fast-charging (just make it ceramic and a bit fatter if the metal case is adding problems) and maybe an sd slot. 

    Looking forward to hearing what you make of Assistant.

     

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