Google Pixel 7 review: The same, but different - MrLiambi's blog

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Sunday, 16 October 2022

Google Pixel 7 review: The same, but different

In 2021, Google ripped up its own playbook in so many ways with the Pixel 6. It delivered a striking new look with completely new software, and even teased and showed off the phone months in advance to get ahead of the leakers. 

With the Pixel 7 in 2022, the name of the game is refinement, but with the same approach to marketing. We've known what the Pixel 7 would look like for months. What we didn't know was how it would build on the performance of its predecessor, and if it could deliver a significantly better experience. We've spent some time with it to find out.

Design: What's changed from the Pixel 6? 

  • 155.6 x 73.2 x 8.7 mm - 197g
  • Gorilla Glass Victus front and back
  • IP68 water/dust resistance 
  • Obsidian, Snow and Lemongrass colours

With Pixel 6 Google changed its design language for Pixel significantly, so it wasn't ever likely that things were going to change drastically for the Pixel 7. 

Look at them from the front and you'll see the two are basically identical in terms of having that rectangular shaping with straight bezels and minimal rounding in the corners. Plus, there's that now instantly recognisable camera bar across the back of the phone. 

And here is where the biggest visual change has occurred. Because, instead of having a glossy glass panel running along that bar, Google opted for a solid aluminium bar, giving it a much more seamless look, and cutting out a pill shaped area for the two cameras. 

One other small difference is the fact that the two-tone colours scheme is gone. Both the glass above that camera bar and beneath are the same. On this white model, it's a very clean overall look and one that we think is just a tad tidier and more refined. 

That's also reflected in the slimmed down size. It's shorter, narrower, thinner and lighter than its predecessor, making it seem a bit less chunky in the hand and the bezels less prominent around the display. It just feels like an all-round more polished and high-end phone. 

We also really like the solid feel of the phone. It feels well made, and the IP68 rating will ensure that dust and water will be kept at baydcd. 

Display, features and software 

  • 6.3-inch AMOLED - 1080 x 2400 - 416ppi 
  • HDR10+ - 1000 nits/1400 nits peak - 90Hz 
  • Stereo speakers
  • Android 13 

The joy of using the Pixel 7 is the same as what made the Pixel 6 such a pleasure to use. It's just so fluid and effortless, swiping around the user interface, with its big, friendly icons, clean look and whimsical - but useful - widgets that were updated as part of Android 12's major revamp. 

Most of that has remained unchanged on a surface level with Android 13 on the Pixel 7. And the elements that have changed will also be made available on older models of Pixel with the Android 13. 

As we noted in the Pixel 7 Pro review, one new addition is the addition of facial recognition for unlocking the phone. Like many other Android phones, this is purely camera based, and so doesn't have the added security that comes with depth sensors. This means you can't use it to do things like authenticate payments, or unlock banking apps. It's a shame, but not entirely unexpected. 

The updated camera is built into the display, in form of a hole-punch cutout near the top of the display. Interestingly, when in use for unlocking, the cutout area seems to expand and flashes a little white ring, to let you know it's working. In a very basic way, it reminds us a little of the Dynamic Island on Apple's latest iPhones, but just nowhere near as complex. 

As a display, the 6.3-inch AMOLED screen on the Pixel 7 is an enjoyable panel to watch movies and game on. It's vibrant, and with peak brightness up to 1400 nits (1000 nits typical), it's really bright. 

It doesn't have the QuadHD resolution of its sibling, but in our experience, that's not something you miss all that often. It's also 90Hz refresh, rather than 120Hz, so it's just the slight step down from the Pro model. Despite that, it's a great screen for pretty much anything. Colour saturation is high without pushing too far and over-egging reds and oranges, and contrast is impactful without crushing the detail in an image. 

With the 90Hz refresh you get nice and smooth animations. It's smooth enough that everying gets that fluid and responsive feel. At least, in the parts of the interface that are optimised for it. Some games and videos still don't go above 60Hz. So for most things you'll use the screen for, it's more than good enough to match the necessary refresh rates. 

Another benefit of the regular Pixel 7 is that the display is completely flat. That makes it tremendously practical for typing on, and means content doesn't curve or distort around the edges. It's just an all-round good display. 

Cool as a cucumber

  • Google Tensor G2 - 5nm 
  • 8GB RAM - 128GB or 256GB storage
  • 4355 mAh battery - 30W wired charging - 20W wireless

On the processor front, at least when it comes to raw power, not a lot has changed from the Pixel 6. It uses the second generation Google Tensor processor which is very similar to the first generation model, and it's paired with 8GB RAM. 

Digging into its specs and capabilities, it's clear - as with the last model - this processor wasn't built to be an all-powerful, all-conquering chipset. It's more about working smart than working hard, delivering intelligent capabilities that make the phone more useful. 

That's not to say it can't handle your favourite games. It absolutely can, delivering a smooth and reliable experience regardless of what game title we threw at it. Whether we played casual titles like Monument Valley or faster moving titles like Mario Kart Tour or Call of Duty, the experience was pain free. Sure it might not push the boundaries of frame rates and performance, but it's more than good enough for pretty much everyone. 

The thing we did notice - when compared to the Pixel 6 before it - was the cooling. Or rather, the lack of heat. Last year's model seemed to get warm down one side with virtually any task if done for long enough. With the Pixel 7 it wasn't anywhere near as noticeable. 

The battery capacity and charging speeds aren't setting any records, but again, thanks to some smarts, deliver a great experience all round. With it having a lower resolution display than the Pixel 7 Pro, we didn't feel like the lower 4,355mAh capacity negatively impacted the running time all that much. 

Even on busier days with lots of camera testing and gaming we didn't struggle to get to the end of the day at all. Having removed it from the charger at 7:30/8:00 in the morning, the phone still had a minimum of 30 per cent left over by evening with a mixture of use. Even on days where we listened to music for 5-6 hours with wireless headphones and a connected Pixel Watch, it still did well. 

Part of this is down to Google's adaptive battery tech which learns your use and optimises its power usage to ensure it's not wasting energy on things you don't typically use all that often. 

With its 30W Power Delivery charging capability you can refill the battery relatively quickly, but not as quick as you'll find with some flagship Xiaomi, Oppo or OnePlus phones. 

Most days we'd just plug it in at night, and let it refill, knowing that the optimised charging feature would ensure it wasn't sitting at 100 per cent for hours. Instead, it tops up the first 80 per cent and finishes the rest in time for your morning alarm. And that's on by default whether you charge with a cable or a wireless charger. 

Cameras 

  • 50MP f/1.9 primary camera with PDAF/OIS 
  • 12MP f/2.2 114-degree ultrawide 
  • 4K at 60fps/10-bit HDR 
  • 10.8MP selfie camera

We've seen a number of smartphone makers build phones with lots of cameras on the back, sometimes more than three or four, and with many of those lenses being essentially useless. For Google, that's not an option. Instead there are two functional, useful lenses and - like the rest of its phone - they're designed to show off the best Google has in computational abilities. And it's in the camera department that Google really does show those off. 

What it means for the end user is that it doesn't really matter what conditions you're trying to shoot photographs in, you'll get great results. All you have to do is point and shoot, and it'll use Google's algorithms to process the image and create a great-looking, sharp image with lots of colour and contrast. 

collection: Camera - Daytime

What we like is that - while definitely colour rich - the saturation doesn't veer too much into the realm of hyperreal like some Android smartphones do. It's exciting, without being over the top. And you get a natural sense of depth when you shoot close ups. 

It's in the processing and the brains behind the image that we see the most change from the previous generation. Because the lens/sensor hardware is essentially the same: you get a 50-megapixel main camera and a 12-megapixel ultrawide. However, this time round, the Tensor G2 processor has an enhanced image processing element, delivering some pretty great results. 

In low light, particularly when using Night Mode, we noticed the speed at which it captures and then processes the image is faster than on the Pixel 6 and the Pixel 6a, which are both powered by the first generation Tensor processor.

collection: Camera - Night mode

What's more, if you set it to Night Mode, mount it to a tripod and find a clear patch of sky away from urban lighting you'll be able to take photos of the stars. Again, automatically. It'll just detect that it's no longer handheld, that it's steady, and start capturing light and detail. After about five minutes you'll have a picture of a starry sky.  

Where the Pixel 7 differs from its more expensive sibling - the Pixel 7 Pro - is that it doesn't have the dedicated zoom lens. But that doesn't mean you can't zoom. Thanks to some clever sensor cropping, you can zoom 2x and still get good, sharp results and even push all the way to 8x if you want. The images start to look a bit mushy at the extreme end, but it's there if you want it.

As for the selfie camera, that is - as always - great. Year-on-year Pixel phones seem to make it really easy to take great selfies with good detail and contrast, with a really effective Portait mode that adds background blur just using the front facing camera. 

collection: Camera - Selfies

It's loaded with a lot of the other really smart features too. Just like the Pixel 6 you get the motion capture options that can automatically add a motion blur to images of people moving quickly. 

On the video side, this year you also get a new Cinematic Mode that adds blur to the background when it detects a subject in the foreground. Like Apple's feature of a similar name, it works automatically, but you can also tap on a subject or the background to smoothly transition between the areas of focus. 

One of the most useful camera features is something built into the Photos app, and is another thing powered by Google's algorithmic prowess: Photo Unblur. If you have any photos that come out looking soft, out of focus, or a bit blurry, you can tap the Photo Unblur option in Photos and it'll sharpen it for you. It's neat, check out the example below: 

collection: Camera - Photo Unblur

This joins other genuinely useful features like Real Tone, which attempts to capture different skin tones as they should be, without that over-exposed, contrast-heavy grey or green tint.  



Source : https://www.pocket-lint.com/phones/reviews/google/162998-google-pixel-7-review

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