We’re looking at every pixel of the new Pixel
While the Android ecosystem comes with a plethora of devices from an always-increasing number of manufacturers, brands like Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, LG, and a few others get pretty much all the love.
Needless to say, they are also the companies with the biggest sales in the world, as Samsung is currently the global leader in terms of smartphone shipments, while Huawei is the runner-up aspiring to the first place.
But when it comes to buying an Android phone, there’s also a brand that everyone has in mind, but which never makes it to the top of device sales. It’s Google, the maker of Android, which builds the phone that every enthusiast loves.
The Google Pixel is, by all means, the smartphone that Android fanboys typically get. Although it’s not selling in super-high volumes, the Google Pixel has long been considered the pioneer of Android, and it happens for a good reason.
It’s the model that’s always getting new Android versions and updates first, and it comes with pretty much everything Google has to offer in terms of a mix of latest-generation hardware and software.
For the 2018 generation, Google Pixel has received a treatment that fueled quite a controversy even before its launch.
The search giant joined the notch frenzy, so the Google Pixel 3 XL comes with the controversial design choice invented by Essential and made mainstream by Apple. The smaller sibling, however, sticks with a more traditional appearance that doesn’t feature a notch and comes with smaller bezels.
If you’re not a big fan of the notch but still want to have the best of Android, there’s no doubt that the Pixel 3 is worth a look. And as you’ll find out in the paragraphs below, there’s quite a lot to discover under that cute case.
In terms of looks, I’d say it all depends on the angle you’re looking at the Google Pixel because, in the end, it’s all a mix of good and back.
When viewed from the front, the Pixel 3 isn’t really a head-turner and, in fact, it leaves a lot to be desired. Just look at it this way.
The Pixel 3, with a 5.5-inch display, has nearly the same dimensions as the iPhone XS, which boasts a 5.8-inch screen (145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm / 5.73 x 2.69 x 0.31 in versus 143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm / 5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 in). This means it has quite big bezels at the top and bottom, so it’s pretty clear that Google still has a lot of work to do here.
However, at 148 grams, the Pixel 3 is really easy to carry around in a pocket, and it’s actually one of the lightest phones with a screen this big.
When moving to the back of the phone, the magic begins. Thanks to Google’s typical two-tone Pixel design, the new model still looks delicious, especially in white. With a mint green side button, Gorilla Glass 5 for protection, and a super-soft feeling when touching it, the Pixel 3 is one device that you may not bother to cuddle with.
Despite the said bezels, the Pixel 3 has nearly perfect dimensions and it feels excellent in hand. In fact, it’s one of my favorite devices I’ve ever tested and when using a genuine Google case, you get the perfect mix of grip, premium quality, and eye-candy looks.
As the father of Android, Google just couldn’t afford not to offer a compelling hardware package on the new Pixel. But as you’ll discover below, the search giant somehow neglected certain parts. And I really can’t understand why. Let’s take everything one at a time.
As the rest of the world, including here Apple, Google is betting big on OLED panels, so the Pixel 3 features a 5.5-inch OLED screen with a 1080x2160 pixels resolution and 18:9 ratio. This is one of the last phones with this standard resolution, and it’s the effect of not having a notch, which I absolutely love right now.
But on the other hand, the 77.2 percent screen-to-body ratio shows the Pixel 3 comes with pretty large bezels. This is unexpected, to say the least, especially given that there are companies out there that are getting close to launching phone with a 94 percent ratio.
On the other hand, the good thing is that Google is offering Gorilla Glass 5 protection, so despite being such a small and cute phone, it’s also a toughie.
The display offers remarkable performance, and it’s getting amazingly close to the iPhone XS, for instance. Furthermore, Google has implemented an intensive tuning treatment to address the criticism that made the rounds lately, so everything on the screen looks more vivid thanks to increased saturation that the search giant is offering on the Pixel 3. There are several modes available in pure Android fashion, and if you want, you can go back the rather controversial settings offering that Google considered to be a natural look.
The processor is pretty much the most powerful option available at launch, namely the Snapdragon 845 also used on several other flagships right now. The chip is built on a 10nm platform, and it is paired with just 4GB RAM.
This is one of the biggest letdowns on the Pixel 3, as Google offering just 4GB RAM is totally unexpected. Just think that Samsung is already offering 8GB RAM on its flagships, which by the way are rivals to the Pixel 3, and other companies are currently preparing 10GB models.
So Google, the maker of Android, somehow decided that its flagship doesn’t need more than 4GB. Truth be told, most of the time you won’t feel the need for more memory, though you may see its limits at certain times, especially during heavy gaming. So yes, more RAM would have been welcome, but if you’re not interested in hardcore tasks, you should be good to go anyway.
The other unpleasant surprise is the lack of a microSD card slot when only 64GB and 128GB storage versions are available. With photos, videos, and apps growing in size at an insane rate, expandable storage is always a welcome feature, so the Pixel 3 leaves a lot to be desired here too.
Google tried to compensate for the lack of microSD by offering unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos. Sure, you need a fast Internet connection to upload your gigabytes of data to Google’s servers, but it’s pretty much the best way to make sure the internal storage remains available for the rest of the stuff.
The third bad thing in the hardware department of the Pixel 3 is the lack of a headphone jack. I know, we’re already in the point where living without a 3.5mm audio connector should be an easy thing, but I still think that ditching this super-popular port was a bad thing and the industry is heading in a direction that does no good to customers. We always have to carry adapters with us, and this is exactly Google’s solution for the lack of a headphone jack on Pixel 3 too.
Now let’s move to the good parts. First and foremost, the Pixel 3 features stereo speakers, and the audio is absolutely brilliant. I’d say the quality of the speakers is at least at the same level with the one offered by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9, which feature AKG tuning for perfect optimizations.
However, just imagine you get this sound from this tiny phone, and Google says the speakers are 40 percent louder than on the Pixel 2. Truth be told, you can easily notice the upgrade, and this is without a doubt a welcome improvement for heavy gamers and those who want to watch YouTube videos and movies (though given the small display, there shouldn't be too many of these).
Then, the device comes with the typical feature package that you find on a modern smartphone, like an NFC chip for payments, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, and a fingerprint sensor.
Somewhat contrary to the trend embraced by the rest of the industry, Google isn’t offering facial recognition on the Pixel 3, but sticks with the fingerprint reader placed on the back. While 3D sensing cameras would obviously be more difficult and expensive to implement, Google has even removed the standard facial recognition system powered by the front-facing cameras and previously available on the Pixel 2 as well.
This is believed to be part of Google’s promise on improving the security of its device, as this particular approach has never been considered truly reliable in terms of protection. It continues to be available on the Pixel 2, and despite the Pixel 3 featuring 2 different RGB front-facing cameras, Google just doesn’t think a facial recognition system would be secure enough on the new model.
Whether or not this is going to be a problem it’s only up to you, but I have no problem living with a fingerprint sensor. Sure, facial recognition is much more convenient, but I’m with Google on this. If a feature like this isn’t secure enough to be unbreakable, it’s better not to offer it at all. Any potential hacks would only hurt Google’s image, so there’s no need to take a risk with it.
One of my biggest issues with the Pixel 3 is the small battery. And, to be honest, it can easily become a deal breaker. With a 2,915 mAh battery, the Pixel 3 can hardly get me through the day, and there were times when I had to recharge the phone before I even went to bed.
This shouldn’t be a problem by any means given that Google uses USB Type-C, 18W fast charging, and Qi wireless charging, but it’s still not as convenient as having a larger battery all the time. On the other hand, the battery gets a full charge in less than an hour.
The camera arsenal on the Pixel 3 is what sets this phone apart from the rest of the market. And when I’m saying this, I’m thinking about the entire smartphone business, and not just the Android ecosystem. Let’s see why.
First of all, the technical specs. The rear-facing 12.2-megapixel sensor features an f/1.8 aperture, wide support with 28 mm, and 1.4um sensor size, as well as extra tools like OIS. The selfie configuration comprises two different 8-megapixel cameras, one with f/1.8 and wide support and another one with f/2.2 and ultrawide support.
On paper, this camera system doesn’t sound very impressive, but the magic in Pixel 3’s camera goes beyond the hardware and is also powered by Google’s software innovations.
It all starts with the HDR+ system that was pioneered by the Google Pixel 2 and which continues to be available on the Pixel 3 too, obviously with a series of improvements. What this feature does is analyze the exposure of your photo and then stitch together multiple shots to get the settings right. This way, the result looks much more real than it would with a single photo, and after playing with the camera, I can confirm that the Pixel 3 gets everything right much more often than pretty much any other phone out there.
And it doesn’t stop here. The Pixel 3 camera also supports a new feature that’s called Top Shot and whose purpose isn’t so hard to guess given this name. Basically, with Top Shot the Pixel 3 takes multiple photos before and after tapping the shutter button and then uses a complex algorithm to eliminate the shots that don’t look correctly, like blurry ones.
The phone does the whole magic all by itself, but you’re also allowed to inspect each shot yourself should you think a better picture is possible.
Then, it’s the Night Sight mode that everyone seems to love these days and which we already described in detail here. In just a few words, Night Side relies on the super-advanced HDR+ system to take several photos, pick what’s the best from each of them, and then stitch all details together for a picture that features impressive brightness, reduced noise, better color quality, and optimized contrast.
The result is impressive, to say the least, and the public reaction speaks for itself. Everyone wants Night Sight, but for now, only the Google Pixel gets it, though camera ports are now in the works to bring it to other phones, including Samsung, too.
Overall, the Pixel 3 features one of the best, if not the best, cameras on the market, with excellent detail quality, sharpness, color accuracy, and white balance settings. It’s all thanks to the work Google has made in the software department and which once again proves that it doesn’t all just come down to a piece of hardware.
In terms of software, it goes without saying that the Pixel 3 gets the best from Google, including a bunch of features that the company demoed earlier this year and which use artificial intelligence to push the world to a world you probably didn’t expect ten years ago.
One of these features is Call Screening, a feature that puts Google Assistant to a smart use and has it answer your calls, provide a live transcript of the conversation, and make it possible to detect a potential spam call. Furthermore, the Pixel 3 will also get Duplex, the Google Assistant feature that will take care of things like booking restaurant tables for you, all by calling the restaurant and talking to the staff. That sounds creepy, to say the least.
However, it doesn’t all stop here, as Google has put a lot of effort into getting all the little details right too. For example, the overall experience with the phone has been substantially refined, and you now get short vibrations when browsing the OS, in typical iPhone style.
There are quick clicks thanks to a new vibration motor, and I’d say that when it comes to such feedback, the Google Pixel 3 is the only device on the market that gets close to the iPhone.
Needless to say, Pixel 3 runs on Android 9 Pie, and it’s always the first model to get monthly security updates. For some, this is a double-edged sword because getting updates so fast could mean bugs and possible performance issues. For me, it’s something I truly love, as frequent updates shows the parent company cares about its product.
Do you typically work at the office and need a phone that can be comfortably carried in your bag? The Pixel 3 fits in quite nicely. Do you wear a suit and want a smartphone that doesn’t look like a tablet? The Pixel 3 has got you covered.
And while it comes in such a small package, the Pixel 3 is quite a powerful device with latest-generation hardware, the newest Android version, and super-advanced camera.
There’s no doubt Pixel 3 has one of the best cameras on the market right now, and there are only a few alternatives I’d have in mind if I were to look for a new phone capable of taking perfect shots. The Pixel 3 is definitely one of them.
During my test with the Pixel 3, I found myself looking for a charger more often than I expected, but this also happens because I am a heavy user. The super-fast charging more or less addresses this problem, but it goes without saying that a larger battery would have been awesome.
Some people also complained about the front design of the phone with the somewhat large bezels, but I think this is more of a subjective matter. I’d gladly opt for this design than for a notch 24/7.
And last but not least, the lack of a facial recognition system, which oddly enough was available on the Pixel 2, could also be a problem for some.
It may lose the battle with other devices in specific departments, like hardware, but it wins in others, so overall, it’s “the most” complete package on the market in the Android ecosystem in 2018.
The camera is absolutely amazing and all the software gimmicks that Google implemented push its performance even further.
It’s just amazing how advanced this little phone can be, and if it weren’t for the setbacks mentioned here, I have no doubt it would’ve become the phone of the year. I really can’t wait to see what’s next for the Pixel lineup.