Google Pixel: my thoughts after 3 months
After using the Google Pixel for a quarter of a year, how good is it really? I have thrown myself on my sword in sacrifice for this review and will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the expensive Pixel here. I also don't shy away from comparisons to other top smartphones.
In 2016, I was very spoiled. At first, I received the Nexus 6P as a permanent device and I was excited by it. Camera, work speed and battery life were incomparably better than with the Nexus 5, which was thereby replaced.
In the course of the same year, I was able to review the Galaxy S7, the Huawei P9, the iPhone 7, the Huawei Mate 9 and now also the Google Pixel. So, I got a good overview of what the smartphone manufacturers could make possible that year – and what they couldn't. Significant improvements were frequently seen, but not always including several important aspects, which we will talk about next.
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In 2016, Google put all of its experience from the Nexus series and all the so-called flagship devices of the other manufacturers together. The result of this Android primordial soup is now the Pixel and its big brother, Pixel XL. The latter carries the code name Marlin, which I am still convinced is an allusion to Hemingway.
The Pixel camera is actually famous
No question: the Pixel camera delivers excellent photos. My first digicam can pack its bags. Of course, you should not zoom, because then it wobbles. But the photos that result from a simple snapshot are undoubtedly top notch.
Both the sharpness, as well as the colors, the details and the black values are mostly set straightaway. And my satisfaction with a smartphone camera rises and falls with the success rate. If I have to retake too many pictures, I no longer like to grab the phone for photos.
The battery holds a charge only so well…
While the Pixel XL has quite a lot of praise for its great battery life, it is not so good for the Pixel without the XL. Compared to the Mate 9, or to the earlier Nexus 6P, I had to take a step backwards. After exactly 24 hours, it was not funny anymore. You should either fully recharge before you go out for the evening, or leave the Pixel on its charger every night. After all, thanks to the Type-C connector, you can quickly charge the Pixel with a charging device like the Anker PowerPort+ 5 USB-C. Within 90 minutes, the device is full again for one day, although it heats up more than the Mate 9.
The build quality is just good enough
Metal and glass didn't impress me anymore in 2016. Sony has been able to achieve splash protection for a long while. But wait…the Pixel can't. A pity, as that little extra offers inconceivable amounts of added value. In the rain, in the kitchen or in the bathroom, IP68 has quite a calming effect, because you simply do not care whether the mobile phone might get wet. Once you get used to mobile phones with protection against splashing water, this extra is noticeably missing from the Pixel.
During the review period, we scratched the front screen badly when we had the Pixels placed together in a bag simultaneously with an iPhone 7. The sapphire crystal of the Apple camera is simply not to be underestimated.
Fortunately, the software is still open
We had a lot of trouble with the software of the Pixel. Does Google now throw all the Nexus virtues overboard, or do we still have the chance of a root or even mods? After all, in the edition freely available for purchase, the bootloader can be unlocked; the Verizon model does not allow this. There was not a long wait for TWRP and SuperSU. Driver binaries are also available online. So modders can breathe. As one of the first test balloons, the mod CarbonROM is already live for the Pixel.
No fun without mods
The Assistant still seems pretty stupid to me. Apparently, it is only improved in large steps and not continuously. Perhaps Google wants to avoid Twitter users turning its AI into a racist. After a short time, I stopped using it because its error rate was too high and, therefore, its operation in most cases was embarrassing.
Conclusion: the Pixel is not exceptional
The Pixel does not bother me as much as I would expect it to as an outsider. Google vigorously promotes it and the cell phone service providers are doing well with it. But here in the editorial department, it's just another good smartphone. To be honest, I feel the Mate 9 is much faster and its battery life much better in everyday use..
Another alternative to the Pixel would be the Galaxy S7. The Samsung flagship is waterproof, has a similarly good camera and can also store the photos on a MicroSD card. Moreover, the compact darling is now cheaper than the unrestrained, permanently overpriced Pixel.
What are your thoughts on the Pixel? Are there any aspects you wish Google would change in the next generation?
Interesting article: I expect the Pixel to have many more qualities, but this real presentation is useful to me because I will turn to other phones, which at the same price or even lower offers all the features I need.
Great article. I feel close to the same about the Pixel XL. I also have a Moto Z Force and pretty much use it day to day over the Pixel. It's camera is very close in quality (but slower) and it just feels more like a full featured phone, especially when having the options for the mods. I also feel the Pixel's camera, while more stable, is not "all that."
Zuk Z2, €170 has the same SoC, and with open source drivers some custom roms. But still lacks (As the Pixel and not the Nexus) Sailfish and Ubuntu Phone images. And ZUK is a Lenovo's brand.
Much better water resistance, stereo speakers of some sort, OIS, improved battery life for the regular size pixel, improve availability drastically.
I have a pixel xl 128Gb and I enjoy it a great deal, but I won't be overlooking some shortcomings on the pixel 2 that they should have gotten right to begin with on the first pixels.
Thanks for your comment, Doug. Better water resistance is high on my priority list too.