Google's Pixel Is The Most Advanced Android Available
The first phone developed entirely in-house by Google packs top-shelf hardware and advanced software features.
BY Stefan Vazharo | Nov 1, 2016 | Technology
Google's Pixel and Pixel XL are the first Android smartphones developed entirely in-house by the tech giant. As their model names suggest, the devices differ in screen sizes—a 5-inch for the Pixel and 5.5-inch for the Pixel XL.
The first Google phones arrive eight years after the debut of Android as a mobile OS. Before them, Google partnered with top-tier hardware manufacturers to release Nexus-branded devices.
To separate its phones from the rest of the Android pack, Google offers a number of exclusive software features on them. They include a Google Assistant powered by artificial intelligence, unlimited cloud storage for full-size photos and videos, and an exclusive Pixel homescreen launcher, among others.
In the Metal
Save for their size, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL look completely identical. Design-wise, the phones look decidedly understated in the metal. The only bits that add a touch of visual flair are the glass element and the Google logo on the back of the phones.
There are three colours to choose your Google Pixel from: Very Silver, Quite Black, and Really Blue. The last one is a limited edition colour, so it might be tough to get a hold of.
The build quality of both is top-notch. The Pixel and Pixel XL have aerospace-grade aluminum bodies, coupled with displays covered by Corning Gorilla Glass. Their finish and tactility fall in line with the expectations set by their price points.
As solidly crafted as they are, the Pixel and Pixel XL lack the ability to withstand being fully submerged in liquid that some of their Apple and Samsung rivals offer. Their bodies are only rated as splash-resistant, which means that rain or accidental spill won't damage them.
Both smartphones feature high-quality AMOLED display panels with vivid colors, infinite contrast levels, and great viewing angles.
The smaller Pixel packs a 5-inch Full HD unit (1,920 by 1,080 pixels), while the Pixel XL features a sharper 5.5-inch Quad HD panel (2,560 by 1,440 pixels).
Performance and Battery Life
The Pixel and Pixel XL are equipped with Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 821 chipset and 4GB of RAM, so the performance they deliver is nothing short of exceptional. Both devices make quick work of any task thrown at them without even a hint of hesitation.
The fingerprint sensor on the back of the phones is also excellent. It doubles as a scrolling surface too—sliding your finger down when on the home screen will open the quick settings and the notification area.
The sole speaker on the bottom of both devices delivers a quality sonic experience for such setup. However, it's nowhere near the quality of stereo speakers found in some of the Pixel's rivals.
Google promises all-day battery life on each Pixel phone. In real life, we were pleased to find our that both devices delivered on their maker's claims by handily making it through a day of normal use.
Both devices support rapid charging via USB Type-C. Heavy users will appreciate the feature, as it enables them to get up to 7 hours of use after only 15 minutes of charging.
Android 7.1 Nougat
Google ships the Pixel and the Pixel XL with Android 7.1 Nougat—the latest and most cutting-edge iteration of the popular mobile platform. For the time being, these are the only two smartphones that run this OS version.
The all-new Pixel launched introduces a different take on the stock Android setup we've become used to. Accessing the app drawer now requires a neat swiping gesture, thus saving space for an extra icon on the home screen.
The Pixel duo will get a number of exclusive Android features. Those include the Pixel launcher, unlimited full-size photo and video storage, and real-time on-screen customer support, among others.
The all-new Google Assistant is handily the most important new features that the Pixel Family introduces. Powered by artificial intelligence, Google Assistant harnesses all the tech giant's features and knowledge into a sleek interface controlled by your voice.
The sheer breadth of the virtual assistant's abilities is spectacular. Once it gets the proper permissions, Google will guide you through your daily routine, your travels, and everything in between. It can perform tasks, send messages, set calendar events, and answer questions. Even its sense of humour is a good sport.
Of course, being a Google offspring, the virtual assistant is also excellent in searching the web. Searching for images is particularly amazing. By utilising a neural network, Google can be incredibly accurate in finding the exact images you are looking for (for example, bunnies with only floppy ears).
In case it cannot directly perform a task you requested, the Google Assistant will simply display related web search results.
Google Pixel and Pixel XL feature a 12MP camera with f/2.0 aperture and large 1.55μm pixels. Naturally, it can record 4K video. The front-facing camera can capture 8MP selfies.
The quality of the images captured by the Pixel and Pixel XL is excellent, especially in conditions with good lighting. Photos have accurate colours, good dynamic range, and plenty of resolved detail.
As far as low-light performance goes, the Pixel performed in a stellar fashion as well. However, we're inclined to think that a brighter lens and optical image stabilisation would have taken the quality of the images to another level.
Overall, the main camera of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL is handily among the best in its class. For a deeper dive into all its abilities, check out this in-depth analysis by the prestigious camera testing service DxOMark. Currently, the Pixel is the highest ranked phone to date.
The Pixel and Pixel XL by Google are the most advanced Android smartphones available today. The pair delivers and exclusive, cutting edge user experience on Google's mobile platform that's bound to get even better going forward. Android users who are looking to experience the mobile platform's cutting edge should look no further than these two phones.
The hardware performance and build quality of the smartphones are excellent, too. Some might find the design a tad too subdued, though in our opinion Google has opted for a restrained appearance in order to focus the user's attention on the software.
Speaking of software, it's worth noting that Google intends to keep the Pixel family's smartest feature, the virtual assistant, exclusive to the two phones. The same goes for other Android 7.1 tricks, such as smart storage, the Pixel launcher, and phone chat support with real-time screen sharing.
Fully water resistant body and stereo speakers are two major features that the Pixel family notably lacks. Neither one is a dealbreaker, though, considering the pricing of both smartphones, we feel it's reasonable to expect such features these days.
In terms of size, hardware, and market aspirations, the Pixel smartphones are placed squarely against the iPhone 7 family. Even their pricing is exactly the same as Apple's, with the Pixel starting at USD649 and the Pixel XL going for USD769 and up.
Google offers cool, customisable Live Cases for both phones like the one above (priced at USD40), as well as an optional extended warranty for USD99.
Photos by Stefan Vazharov
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