Last year the pixel two had one of the best cameras you could find on a smartphone and unsurprisingly everybody was really anxious to see what Google would do next. So let’s talk about pixel 3.
Google has created a very particular design language. We guess we call it comfortable but your by year they were finding it while retaining fun details like the mint colored power button. This year the pixel is way more modern thanks to the much reduced bezels still the front looks more like a 2017 flagship then at 2018 one. The bezels are there for the two front cameras and the larger-than-average stereo speakers.
They have excellent loudness and good clarity which partially makes up for the space they take up. There is no headphone jack and if you use a dongle in the box. You’ll get average loudness and audio quality you’d expect from a mid-range er which is rather disappointing. We had hoped audio would be better and more reliable in the three because at some point last year dongles didn’t even work on my pixel 2 and I had a borrowed bluetooth headphones in order to listen to my music while traveling. If Google is gonna sacrifice screen space and focus on sound they should really do it on all fronts.
On the back you’ll find a fast and reliable fingerprint reader and a single camera. Well the back looks like it’s made of plastic but it’s actually an all glass panel with a velvet-like texture on the bottom half. Along with the size this makes the pixel 3 super satisfying to hold. The size means it’s easy to use one-handed and you won’t have a problem fitting it into a pocket.
The frosted coating google uses is a little bit harder than everyday objects like using coins but ironically this actually means that it acts like sandpaper and it gets a ton of marks on it with just left over particles of metal from the keys or the coins or whatever you have in your pocket. Unlike microStrategy’s can be washed off but some faint residue can be left over and that Mars the phone’s looks.
- Body: Aluminum frame, Gorilla Glass 5 front and back; IP68 certified for water and dust resistance. 145.6 x 68.2 x 7.9 mm, 148g. Just Black, Clearly White, Not Pink color schemes.
- Display: 5.5″ P-OLED, 2160x1080px resolution, 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio, 443ppi; HDR support.
- Rear camera: 12.2MP, Type 1/2.55″ sensor, f/1.8 aperture, 27mm equiv. focal length (76-degree FOV), dual pixel PDAF, OIS. 2160p/30fps video recording, 1080p/120fps and 720p/240fps slow motion.
- Front camera: Primary 8MP, f/1.8 aperture, 28mm equiv. focal length, PDAF; Secondary 8MP, f/2.2 aperture, 19mm equiv. focal length, fixed focus. 1080p/30fps video recording.
- OS/Software: Android 9.0 Pie; Pixel launcher.
- Chipsets: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845: octa-core CPU (4×2.5GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.6GHz Kryo 385 Silver), Adreno 630 GPU.
- Memory: 4GB of RAM; 64/128GB of storage.
- Battery: 2,915mAh Li-Ion (sealed); Power Delivery fast charging; WPC(Qi) wireless charging; 18W charger in the bundle.
- Connectivity: Single nano SIM and eSIM; LTE-A, 5-Band carrier aggregation, Cat.16 (1.0Gbps/75Mbps); USB Type-C (v3.1); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac MU-MIMO; GPS, GLONASS, Galileo; NFC; Bluetooth 5.0.
- Misc: Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, front facing stereo speakers, Active Edge squeeze sensors.
Despite a slightly larger battery and our retesting the phone multiple times the pixel 3 scored a lower endurance than the pixel 2. If you’re using the phone a lot you’ll probably find yourself carrying a battery pack to last through the day especially if you shoot a lot of video which decimates battery life. Thankfully there’s fast charging and the pixel can charge up to 45% in half an hour and up to 100% in an hour and 42 minutes. Putting the glass back to use the phone can also support wireless charging and if you want to shell out 80 bucks for the pixel stand it can provide up to 10 watt Wire free charging.
The pixel stand can also make the phone act as a Google home device as soon as it stopped although of course the speakers aren’t as good.
One of the selling points of pixels has always been stock Android there’s no bloatware and everything should work smoothly. This year the phone uses Android Pi the notification shade has been redesigned with notches in mind in the now playing feature that recognizes music around you keeps a history. You’ll also notice more of their awesome live wallpapers including one with a tiny boat touring some islands. Squeeze for Google assistant is also easier than before and no longer feels like a group training exercise but there’s still no option to assign a different feature to the shortcut.
If you’re in the U.S Google will eventually release a feature called call screening which allows Google assistant to converse with people who call you and record the transcript. However if you live anywhere else you’re out of luck. Pie has especially been designed with a focus on what Google calls digital well being. They now include a dashboard which shows you how often you use certain apps and allows you to set time limits for them which is useful for recovering smartphone addicts you can now flip the phone to turn on do not disturb mode and at night you can set it to dim the screen tint it to reduce blue light or turn it grayscale so you can get some rest. However we can’t say Android pie is perfect. The phones navigation simply doesn’t feel as intuitive as before sure it’s not that bad once you get used to it but until you do it’s like pulling teeth because in the beginning the phone keeps doing things you do not want it to do.
The pixel 3 has a single 12 megapixel camera on the back which is a rarity in a world where three rear cameras is no longer uncommon. Of course this is where Google really shows off their machine learning. Daylight shots have good levels of detail especially for the 12 megapixel resolution however unlike shots from the 10s or the note 9 photos have much more noise whether that’s good or bad depends on tastes. Since a lot of other phones have a tendency to smear details for the sake of noise reduction. Photos have great dynamic range thanks to the automatic HDR that takes multiple snaps of the scene.
Google also has a new trick called super resume it relies on the natural shake from your hands to take multiple snaps that are slightly offset in order to compile a higher resolution image and then crop it with a required zoom factor it’s not as good as an iPhone’s telephoto camera but it gives a better result than cropping and sharpening a single image.
Portraits on the other hand are miraculous for a phone with a single camera and actually have a better chance of looking good in lower light. The iPhone 10’s has slightly warmer colors or the pixel is more true to life and a little artificially crispy. Portrait mode also works really well for edge detection on non human subjects but since Google is using machine learning for this the more common the object the better the software will work.
In low-light Google uses a new night sight mode that is similar to always p20 and that it uses multiple stacks of images together for better exposure but it goes beyond that and uses machine learning to choose better colors and exposure for things like lights.
The pixels still can’t record 4k at 60fps but at least electronic image stabilization is available in all modes and it works pretty great the only thing it seems to have a problem with is panning but that’s pretty par for the course with most smartphone cameras. 4k videos capture a lot of fine detail and are pretty conservative with color saturation and contrast which allows it to look pretty natural and is great if you’re into post-processing. Pixel being pixel however there’s more noise than usual. 1080p footage is identical in terms of recorded detail and color science.
On the front Google has actually introduced a second camera with a wider angle but a slightly dimmer lens both cameras capture 8 megapixels and are sharp and detailed. Skin tones are well rendered and faces are well exposed. Portraits captured with the wide-angle camera have slightly more visible flaws but generally they work quite well.
If you are looking for the best camera hat money can buy look no further you among the first to enjoy Google’s software updates and you’ll enjoy a pixel that’s better-looking than last year with a much better screen.