Goodbye to the Nexus, welcome to the Pixels. No doubt in an effort to harmonize its mobile ranges from all sides, Google names its new smartphones on the same basis as its Chromebook computers and its latest high-end Android tablet. The Pixel is officially the first mobile entirely designed by Google. A design which reveals first and foremost that, in fact, the progenitor of Android seems to have decided from A to Z the ins and outs of its foal which comes in a 5-inches format and in a large size of 5.5 inches called The Pixel XL.
After six years of partnership with different manufacturers for smartphones Nexus, the Californian giant decided to take matters into their own hands. Indeed, even if HTC has ensured the assembly, it is Google that has designed and affixed its mark on the Pixel and Pixel XL. If you’re looking for a valid alternative to the iPhone 7 or the Galaxy S7, the Google Pixel is now the high-end Android smartphone to choose from, and here’s why:
Ergonomics and design
Google did not take a big risk to draw its Pixel. The XL model is adorned with a metal dress, in which the manufacturer has chosen to remove a part on the back and replace it with glass. A choice that we may call original but fails to please everyone. On the other hand, originality is totally absent from the front, which is even extremely banal. To be honest, if personal considerations and aesthetic tastes do not really have a voice in this section, it should be emphasized that the design of the Pixel is somewhat arbitrary. Certainly, the back of the device is split in two with an aluminum part and the upper space (fingerprint reader, APN) draped with glass, but the result sounds at times like a decision made in a hurry with a strange distribution of the space taken by each material. The same goes for its asymmetrical line – the top of the Pixel is slightly thicker than the bottom – which in the end does not push this originality deep enough to leave the beaten track.
On the right edge, the volume keys fall right under the thumb, but you will have to move the hand upwards to fetch the unlock button of the screen. The fingerprint reader, on the other hand, offers a large enough surface that never misses the end of the index. Its operation is effective and the unlocking is done in a beat of lash. Like Huawei, the fingerprint reader allows you to unroll the notifications panel by sliding your finger from top to bottom.
The first smartphones ever designed by Google (for the 3rd time in the history of “google” mobility) has a full HD screen (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) with a diagonal of 12.7 cm, whereas, the Google Pixel XL features a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen and a WQHD resolution (2,560 x 1,440 pixels). The Pixel and Pixel XL are almost identical, only the second has a larger and sharper screen and a more durable battery. Their mono-block aluminum body is neat and much more elegant than the Nexus.
The screen and its ratio of 69% occupancy of the front when some high-end Android like those of Samsung exceed 75%, can also leave a bitter taste, especially since the bottom of the Pixel does not involve any interaction. Another disadvantage concerns the quality of the display in full sun. This is a challenge for most smartphones, but the Pixel is not doing very well. We often had to shade with our hand to see something, which is impractical when taking a picture.
As the name suggests, Pixel puts the package on the picture. And the result gives superb shots, even better than those taken by the iPhone 7 Plus than we consider the champion in this field. The Pixel camera is fast, the images are crisp and the colors are lively. The close-ups are particularly well defined; the scenes of landscapes offer an impressive level of detail and depth, even on distant objects.
As often, pictures taken in low light are not as good, but again, the Pixel manages to get the best out of the available brightness to illuminate the scenes to the maximum. The flash respects the skin tones and off-put the reflection in the eyes; it was even sometimes difficult to tell if it was used. The frontal camera (8 MP) is also excellent, with a wide lens and a tonal rendering that is not artificial, while the rear camera of 12.4 MP can shoot in Ultra HD. No image stabilization but instead a system combining the smartphone gyroscope and a software correction for a very close result. The technique gives pretty good results, but it tends to create an effect that gives the videos a somewhat unreal side, as filmed by a drone.
However, the Pixel is not as perfect as it looks, it has some flaws. For example, the camera has a Lens Blur mode that attempts to create an artistic blur on the backgrounds, similar to what the iPhone does with its Portrait mode. But the result is rather disappointing on the Pixel while it is very good on the iPhone 7 Plus. By default, the device activates the option HDR +. It can be turned off, but it is reprogrammed every time the camera is restarted. Finally, the snapshots are accessible via the Google Photos app, which offers unlimited storage for images and videos (even in Ultra HD). Of course, synchronization with the cloud service can be broken, but privacy-minded people who do not want their photos to be on Google servers will be better off choosing another photo gallery application.
In this aluminum and glass dress, Google calls a chip Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 latest, Kryo Quad-Core 2.15 GHz (2 cores at 2.15 GHz and two cores at 1.6 GHz), 4 GB of RAM, a non-expandable storage capacity of 32 or 128 GB, and an articulated photosystem Around a module with digital stabilization. A fingerprint reader is also on hand, as well as a USB-C port, when a 2770 mAh battery powers everything. The autonomy is good but not exceptional. The Pixel holds a long day of work with moderate to intensive use, but it has to be recharged every night.
As fast as its rivals under Android having a Snapdragon 821 processor, the Pixel is fluid and fast. We did not experience any latency during routine tasks, whether starting the camera, exiting applications, or activating the keyboard. Video games with demanding graphics like Riptide GP2 are displayed with sharpness and a high image speed. On the test benches, the Pixel equals its Android competitors. But unlike the iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, Galaxy 2016 smartphones and some models from Sony, the Pixel is not waterproof. It is rated IP53, which means it resists dust and splashes. It is rather disappointing for a smartphone.
The Google Wizard
Google services are obviously very integrated with Pixel, which is also the first to offer the Google Wizard. This is an artificial intelligence in the form of a bot that uses deep learning and the vast Google database to answer all sorts of questions that are asked. It can check facts, schedule reminders, find a restaurant, translate sentences, guide you on a route, etc. And the more we use it, the more it is supposed to learn from our habits to personalize its interactions.
Unlike Google Now (the previous version of the Google Virtual Assistant), Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana, the wizard is truly conversational. We can talk to him in natural language. After each interaction, Wizard suggests queries to extend the conversation. Of course, it does not correctly hear all the questions, but when it does, it runs relatively fast.
The Pixel runs on Android Nougat 7.1 and it is the first to integrate the Allo messaging as well as the Duo video conferencing application. Prolonged pressing on some applications calls up context menus, just like Apple’s 3D Touch. A special setting for night consultation reduces eye strain by tinting the screen in yellow.
With a fantastic camera, especially in low light, the stylish design, the Google Wizard that offers one of the most humanized experiences to meet your voice, the Pixel marks a new era for Google phones and the debut is very promising. Indeed, there are defects with the no waterproofing, the poor autonomy and the expensive price, especially when compared to a OnePlus 3t whose performance is similar for a price almost half less. But the Pixel has the stamp and branding to compete with other smartphones and unlike the Nexus of previous years, there is no need to be an Android practitioner to appreciate it.
We will especially regret its limited distribution, besides the USA and Canada; the Pixel will only be available in Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany. In the latter, this smartphone is priced at 789 € in 32 GB and 909 € in 128 GB and the Pixel XL’s pricing is up to 869 €.
You may think that the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are still the best Android smartphones. But if the setbacks of the South Korean brand have cooled you; the Pixel, with its solid construction and top-of-the-range specs, is the alternative model to choose from.