Pixel 2 is Google’s only second attempt at making a smartphone, and boy did Google knocked it out of the park with this one. The original Pixel was one of my favourite phones of 2016, and hence, I was eagerly waiting to see what Google does with this year’s Pixel phones, and to me, Google has more than delivered. Yes, the smaller of the two devices that Google launched, the Pixel 2, might look like a 2016 flagship with those big top and bottom bezels, but it behaves like a smartphone worthy of being a 2017 flagship. To use it is using Android at its best and that feels like pure joy. But that’s not all that this phone has to offer us. So relax and read on as we take a deep dive and see what the new Pixel 2 excels at and where it falters, as we bring you the review of the new Pixel 2:
Pixel 2 Specifications
Before we talk about my personal opinion, let’s get the specifications out of the way. Needless to say, the Pixel 2 packs all the latest and greatest hardware that the smartphone world has to offer us. Check out the details in the table below.
|Dimensions||145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm (5.74 x 2.74 x 0.31 in)|
|Weight||143 g (5.04 oz)|
|Display||5.0 inches (1080 x 1920 pixels) OLED Panel|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-core (4x2.35 GHz and 4x1.9 GHz)|
|12.2-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, OIS, phase detection and laser autofocus, with dual-LED flash|
|8-megapixel with f/2.4 aperture|
|Battery||Non-removable Li-Ion 2700 mAh battery|
|Android 8.0 (Oreo)|
|Sensors||GPS, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer|
|Connectivity||Dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 ( a/b/g/n/ac), LTE (nano-SIM)|
What’s In the Box
The Pixel 2 comes in one of nicest packaging I have seen with any smartphone. The cardboard box feels premium and the unboxing experience was satisfying, to say the least. The box has everything that you expect, well that is everything except a pair of wired headphones (more on this later).
- Pixel 2 (Just Black Color)
- Charging Adapter
- USB type-C Charging Cable
- USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack dongle
- Quick Start Guide
- Sim Ejection tool
- USB-C to USB-A OTG
Design and Build Quality
Last year’s Pixel phones sported a very uninspiring design and this year Google has done a great job at refining that design. However, the design has always been a matter of personal choice and you might not like it, but I certainly do. The phone has a metal back with a glass shade at the top. The glass shade has shrunk from last year and looks and feels really nice. Some users don’t like it, but for me, it has become synonymous with the Pixel brand (can also be seen in the new Pixel Book) and I wouldn’t want it to be removed in the future too. I also love the fact that now the Pixel phones are IP-67 water and dust resistant, a feature which was missing on the original Pixels.
The metal back is not slippery like other phones, rather it has been coated with a material which gives it a rougher and textured feel to it. This makes the phone grippier than any other flagship phone in the market right now. The back also houses the camera and the fingerprint sensor both of which are crazy fast. Google has discovered the optimal position of the fingerprint scanner, and it just feels natural unlocking the phone with this. The front is what makes this phone really polarising in terms of design. The top and bottom of the phone sport huge 2016 bezels. Yes, they also store the dual-front firing speakers, but the Pixel 2 XL also does that with the almost bezel-less design so Google doesn’t get a pass here. The screen is a 1920*1080 AMOLED panel which looks quite good. The display along with the front camera is protected by the Corning Gorilla glass 5 which is as tough as they come.
Now that you know the overall design of the Pixel 2, let me tell you one thing, the phone feels far premium in the hand than it looks from a distance. And this is a trend that you will notice throughout this review. The textured metal back feels really nice in hand and also makes sure that the phone never slips out of your hand. Yes, the bezels are there, but after using the phone for a few days, your brain automatically rejects them from your view. You will notice it when you compare it side by side with the likes Samsung Galaxy S8, the new iPhone X or even the Pixel 2 XL, but when you are just using the phone for what it is, it will not bother you. The bottom line is that this phone is not going to win any design awards, but it is going to feel wonderful in your hand.
While its elder Sibling (Pixel 2 XL) has been suffering from a myriad of display-related problems, I am happy to report that the Pixel 2 doesn’t show any of those problems. The display sports a 5-inch full HD (1920*1080) OLED panel and it looks great. Yes, the blue-shift is there but that is present on all the OLED displays, and it’s not as big a problem as you might think. You will need to turn the display really off-axis and then also actively look for it to see it.
There’s nothing more to add, it’s an OLED display and it does everything that an OLED display does. The blacks are pure black and the color reproduction is very good. Google has toned down the saturation a bit to make it more true to life and hence the colors are not as punchy as Samsung’s panels, but that doesn’t bother. If you like the over-saturated colors on the Samsung’s panel, Google has included a vivid color mode which will give it extra punchiness and has also promised to give users more control over the display color calibration with future software updates. That is the thing to notice here, the OLED display panel has all those capabilities which a Samsung’s panel has in the hardware, however, Google used software to tone it down.
To conclude, no the Pixel 2 doesn’t suffer from any display issues. Yes, the display looks great. However, if you want more saturated colors, you will need to enable the Vivid mode inside the settings and wait for the next software updates which will give users more control. At the end of the day, this is a really nice OLED panel and you will not be disappointed by what you are getting.
When it comes to user-interface Pixel 2 wins in every department you can think of. Google’s take on Android is phenomenal and you get the best and the most fluid Android experience ever. It all starts with the new Pixel 2 launcher. Just like previous year Pixel phones, the new Pixel 2 comes with a slightly tweaked version of Android and it is great. The home screen has a translucent search bar just above the software buttons giving you easy access to search. The best part about using this search bar is that now, not only it searches the web, it also searches the content inside your phone. For example, you can tap on the bar and search for an app or an email or a contact on your phone. This makes the search bar a really handy tool which is accessible at your fingertips at all the time.
Above the search bar is the dock which can house up to five apps and a special widget at the top which shows you date, day, and your most recent upcoming appointment or calendar events. I really love the widget as now I don’t have to open calendar to see what’s next on my agenda. When you swipe left to right on the home screen, you get your usual Google Now panel which shows you important information like weather, upcoming events, and more along with trending news, and other things depending on your preferences. The ever learning and improving Google Assistant is obviously here. However, now you can access it in a couple of ways. You can either long-press on the home button as you always did or now you can also squeeze on the side of the phone to summon your Google Assistant.
Yes, the feature is similar to HTC’s active edge and it works flawlessly here. You can calibrate the squeeze force you need in the settings, and once you have set it up as per your liking, you can summon the Google Assistant pretty easily. It took me a few days to get used to it, but now it has become so intuitive that I don’t know why it was not there from the start. Using the squeeze feature has become a second nature to me and because of that, I am using the Google Assistant way more than I used too, so kudos to Google for that.
As always, you can swipe up to get to your app drawer where everything is arranged neatly in alphabetical order. There’s also a top row which houses your most recently used apps along with a Google search bar. Scrolling the app drawer is silky smooth and the interface never stuttered even for a second in all my time of using this phone. There are also many small refinements and add-ons that the new Pixel 2 launcher brings with it which makes using the phone more joyful, but we have a whole dedicated section for that later in the article. Right now, you should know that the Pixel 2 gives you the best Android experience packed inside a beautiful and fluid user interface.
When it comes to performance, the Pixel 2 is right at the top with the best of the smartphones. It has all the specs which we come to expect from a 2017 flagship device, that is the octa-core Snapdragon 835 coupled with Adreno 540 GPU and 4 GB of RAM. The hardware when coupled with the Pixel 2’s fluid software makes Pixel 2 a screamer. The phone handled everything that I threw at it with ease. Normal operations like launching apps, going home, and loading games was as fast as expected. However, what stood out to me that even after an hour of sustained gaming (Asphalt Xtreme, injustice 2), the phone did not bog down.
That level of sustained performance must be attributed to the thermal management of the phone. Even after gaming for one hour, the phone never really got hot and was only warm to touch. The bottom line is that the phone is fast and you won’t feel it backing down even for a second. I don’t place much of my trust in numbers, but I know some of you care about that stuff, so you can find the Geekbench and Antutu scores in the picture below. When you compare the score to iPhone 8 Plus’s A11 Bionic chip, the Pixel 2 doesn’t even stand a chance. However, having used both of them side by side, I barely noticed a difference in the performance. Rest assured, when your Pixel 2, you are in for a buttery smooth performance.
At last, we come to the section of this review which I was looking forward to. No, it’s not because I am a camera geek, on the contrary, I refrain from using cameras on my phone more than most of the smartphone users I have met. I rarely take pictures with the primary camera of my phone and selfies are out of the question. Do you want to know what I have used my smartphone’s camera to do in the last year? I have got two things for your, “Video calling and document scanning”. So, why was I looking forward to writing this part of the review? Well for one, the camera on the Pixel 2 is a delight to use. It also helps that it has arguably the best freaking cameras on any smartphone, period.
I am someone who just points and shoots. I don’t go into settings and tweaking every minute detail and adjusting every setting that the camera offers. I want my camera to be as smart on the software side as capable it is on the hardware side. And I am happy to report that by far, the Pixel 2 cameras are the smartest smartphone camera’s on the planet. Every shot I took came out to be beautiful. Whether I was taking photos in the low-light condition or normal daylight conditions, the shots came out perfect. Don’t even get me started on the Portrait mode. I for the love of god cannot understand the sorcery Google has used in the image processing, but the Pixel 2 takes amazing portrait shots with just one camera.
Yes, that’s right, the Pixel 2 sports a single 12.2-megapixel primary camera (f/1.8 aperture) along with an 8-megapixel front-facing camera (f/2.4 aperture). So, the portrait mode works flawlessly with just a single camera, something which other manufacturers can’t even pull-off with two cameras. Google says it is using a dual-pixel technology which essentially means that each pixel on the camera captures a right and a left view. The difference in perspective in the views combined with Google’s machine learning allows it to create a perfect bokeh effect. When Apple launched portrait mode, it was in beta for months before it worked properly, the Pixel 2 does this out of the box. It not only can take portrait images for humans but also for objects with well-defined boundaries and soft-blurred background.
Since the portrait mode is implemented using software features, it has one more advantage. You get portrait mode even on the front-facing camera. That’s right, now you can take selfies in portrait-mode. I must say I was tempted enough that I tried it out, but as it turns out, nothing can get me into the selfie game, not even the Pixel 2. The Pixel 2 camera is also great for video recording. The primary camera combines the Optical Image Stabilisation along with Electronic Image Stabilisation to provide you with one of the best shake-free videos ever. It can shoot 4K at 30 fps and slow motions videos at 120 fps at 1080p or 240 fps at 720p. The details captured in videos have high dynamic range and there is low noise even in the low-lighting condition.
If you still don’t trust Pixel 2’s camera, don’t trust me, try it out in the wild for yourself or trust the DxO mark. They no what they are doing and they have awarded Pixel 2 a score of 98 which is best in any smartphone till now. There is one last thing before we end this part of the review. Google has included a custom designed Pixel Visual Core SoC which packs eight image processing units along with a single Cortex A53 core, DDR4 RAM, and a PCIe line. All that technical jargon aside, the custom SoC has just one purpose, that is image processing. Google has said it can do HDR+ image processing 5X faster at less than 1/10th of energy. And you know what, the custom chip is still dormant and is said to enable with future Android updates. Now, I floored by the Pixel 2 camera’s smartness right now and I can’t wait to see what it does after the custom Pixel Visual Core SoC is enabled in the future.
Telephony and Audio Quality
Some users had reported that there was a slight crackling sound coming out of the Pixel 2 but I don’t have that issue on my phone. Apart from that, phone calls on the Pixel 2 were loud and clear. Both sides were able to hear each other without any problem. The Pixel 2 is also very good at noise cancellation as proved by the fact that the person on other side didn’t hear anything even in noisy conditions. But, that is expected of a flagship smartphone. Where Pixel 2 takes the cake is in audio via its dual-firing front-facing speakers. The speakers are the best speakers on any smartphone released till now. I also don’t see any other smartphone apart from the Razer phone beating Pixel 2 when it comes to audio quality through speaker in the near future.
Playing games on the speakers is pure pleasure as you hear everything loud and clear. Watching movies and listening to music is also very immersing as the speaker handles itself pretty well even on the highest volume settings. Look, it won’t replace your portable Bluetooth speakers, but it also won’t let you down if you forgot to bring one with you. However, doesn’t matter how great the speakers are, it still does not justify killing of the headphone jack. I hated when Apple did it with iPhone 7, I hated it when other manufacturers like HTC followed suit, and I hate it now. Google makes the matter worse by not including a USB-C headphones. If they can’t make a USB-C headphone, how are we supposed to find a good one in the market? People who have adapted to this change and now rely on Bluetooth headphones might not be affected by this, but I still use my wired headphones and using dongles is the only choice I have, and I hate it.
When it comes to connectivity, the Pixel 2 comes with a nano-sim slot and supports most of the major LTE bands around the world, so you won’t have any problem using it anywhere in the world. It also supports the latest 802.11 (a/b/g/n/ac) dual-band WiFi with WiFi direct technology. There is no slot for microSD card but the phone does come with either 64 or 128 GB model which should more than enough for everyone. As I mentioned above, the call quality is great as the Pixel 2 never loses connection even in an area with shoddy network coverage. To summarise, it does everything that is expected of a flagship level device.
In my week of using it, Pixel 2 showed a pretty decent battery life. For me, it lasted the whole day with 10-15% battery still in the tank. That is when I was using the phone very heavily with gaming, photo and video shooting, lots of Twitter, and web browsing. In normal day-to-day uses, you should expect to end the day with 20% juice left in the tank. When it comes to specs, the Pixel 2 sports a 2700 mAh battery and supports Qualcomm’s fast charging. It goes from 0 to 100% in around 80 minutes. Google says you can expect 7 hours of usage with 15 minutes of charge and I agree. However, keep in mind that the 7 hours of usage refers to normal usage and not 7 hours of screen-on time which now as I am typing seems absurd to think of.
Remember when I said that this phone is a joy to use, well that is made possible because of all the above excellent features combined with some awesome tidbits which I am going to mention here. Some of these features come with Android Oreo natively and should reach other devices sooner or later. That being said, they are present on Pixel 2 now and they are awesome:
Free Unlimited Storage In Google Photos:
When you buy Pixel 2, you get unlimited photo and video storage in the cloud inside Google Photos. The best part is that all your shots are saved in original quality and hence are not compressed at all. Pixel 2 has phenomenal cameras and you can take pictures without thinking about running out of space.
The Pixel 2 also comes with the beta version of Google Lens. Think of Google Lens as Google Glass but inside your phone. Right now it is present inside the photos app and you can activate it anytime you want by hitting the lens button. It basically analyses the image and gives you relevant links like buying information, similar photos, generic information about the product in the image etc. It’s in beta so it doesn’t work all the time, but it is pretty cool.
Squeeze Foe Google Assistant:
I know I already talked about it, but seriously after you are used to summoning your assistant with the squeeze feature, you can’t go back. It’s so intuitive and better than long-pressing the software home button or calling it out loud.
Swipe to Bring Down Notification
It’s not a Pixel 2 exclusive feature but I love it, so here it is. It’s so much easy to check your notification by pulling them down by swiping on the fingerprint sensor at the back. I am going to miss this feature so much when I move onto other phones.
See Battery Status of Connected Bluetooth Devices
Android Oreo in Pixel 2 also offers one very neat feature. Now, you can easily see battery status of all the Bluetooth connected devices right on your Pixel phones. You don’t even need special headphones or speakers. Any connected headphone or Bluetooth speaker’s battery status will be displayed on your phone. This is a very handy feature for those who are into wireless headphones.
That’s not all, there are many other awesome features like this that Pixel offers. You will discover them slowly but surely as you get familiar with the device.
Pixel 2: The Best That Android Can Offer
Pixel 2 is an excellent phone, there are no two ways about it. There are only two things that can keep someone from buying this phone. The first is the huge bezels and the second is the omission of the headphone jack. Personally, I can live with the first, but the second one has kept me on the fence. However, seeing how all manufacturers are moving towards headphone jack-less phone design, I too will have to move on sooner or later.
Apart from the above mentioned two problems, everything is great here. If you love stock Android, you will love Pixel 2. It all starts with the Pixel 2 launcher which brings the best of Android along with some added tweaks which makes the experience even better. The software experience is fluid as it is backed by the latest flagship grade hardware. The SnapDragon 835 combined with Adreno 540 GPU gives this phone all the horsepower that it needs. The phone will never stutter on you, doesn’t matter how much you push it.
However, even if Pixel 2 didn’t have the above qualities, I could recommend this smartphone in heartbeat just for its cameras. Google’s computation technology along with the 12.2-megapixel primary and an 8-megapixel secondary camera create a magic which will be hard to beat by any other smartphone out there. Every shot you take will be perfect and you don’t need to be a photographer to take great photos with this phone. If it can turn a user like me whose least useful feature in a smartphone is a camera, in its favour, think what it will mean for users who are going to actually use it.
To conclude, the Pixel 2 is one of the best phones available in the market. I would say it’s the best, but that is arguably as everyone has a different definition of best when it comes to smartphones. However, despite what your preferences are, this phone is not going to disappoint you in any manner. If you buy it, you will be a happy customer.
- Pure Android experience
- The best cameras in any smartphone
- Fast Charging OLED Display
- IP67 Water Resistance
- No headphone jack
- No wireless charging
- Huge 2016 bezels
Pixel 2 Review: Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
It’s rightly said that looks can be deceptive. At first glance, the Google Pixel 2 feels like a 2016 flagship with huge bezels and a dated design. However, when you take it in your hands and start using it, everything changes. The Pixel 2 provides users with the best Android experience which is also backed by crazy performance. Pixel 2 also sports arguably the best cameras in smartphone. It can do things with single lens which other flagship devices are not able to achieve even with a dual-lens system. The whole experience of using a Pixel 2 is a delight and you will enjoy owning this device. Well, that’s the end of my review, do tell us your thoughts about the smartphone by dropping them down in the comments section below.
Buy Google Pixel 2: ($649)