Sunday, 19 November 2017
Reviews

Hands on: Google Pixel 2 review


The Google Pixel 2 is one of two new flagship smartphones bearing the search giant’s name, offering an updated design, more power under the hood, improved cameras and dual front-facing speakers.

It’s smaller that its larger sibling, the Pixel 2 XL, and it directly replaces the original Google Pixel that arrived in 2016. 

You get a 5-inch full HD AMOLED display, Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, 12MP rear camera, Android 8.0 Oreo and a rear-facing fingerprint scanner.

However, with the Google Pixel 2 price starting at $649, £629 it needs to be really, really good to justify the outlay. Luckily, it looks like it covers itself rather nicely.

Say hello to the new Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel 2 price and availability

The Google Pixel 2 price starts at US$649 / £629 / AU$1,079 for the 64GB model, but there is a pricier 128GB version at US$749 / £729 / AU$1,229 for those who need more internal storage.

That puts it right in the mix with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30, iPhone 8 and Sony Xperia XZ1 – in short, it’s not cheap.

You can pre-order the Pixel 2 from today (October 4) while the Google Pixel 2 release date is set for October 19 in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and India.

Design

Google has continued with the glass/metal combination it used on the original Pixel with the Pixel 2, which at first had us a little disappointed, as the combination on the original Pixel didn’t exactly wow.

However, on the Pixel 2 the merging of the glass and metal is far more subtle, making for an attractive finish which looks and feels great in the hand.

Google has moved the fingerprint scanner down on the Pixel 2, taking it out of the glass block and onto the main metal body.

It’s a good move too, as it reduces the number of fingerprint smudges you get on the rear glass, something which was very noticeable on the black version of original Pixel.

Google Pixel 2 hands-on gallery

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While you may not be completely sold on the look of the back of the phone, we can confirm that it looks great in real life, and would encourage you to check it out in a phone store.

In the hand it looks premium, and the smaller screen size versus the larger Pixel 2 XL means the new Google Pixel 2 can be easily held, and used with one hand.

Google has opted to stick with large bezels above and below the display on the front, which doesn’t give the phone the futuristic, eye-catching look of the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30 or iPhone X – which is a bit of shame.

On the plus side though, the extra space provides room for dual front-facing speakers, which should improve audio playback, especially for gaming and video.

Give the sides a squeeze, and like on the HTC U11, the Pixel 2 will trigger Google Assistant, giving you access to the voice-enabled AI.

Squeeze for assistant setup gallery

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It’s quick and easy to setup – just squeeze the sides of the phone with one hand and you’ll be taken to the setup screen. From here you can adjust the pressure required to trigger the Assistant, to make it just right for you.

The squeeze motion itself feels natural, and we didn’t experience any accidental triggering of the Assistant during our time with the Pixel 2.

The power/lock and volume keys on the right fall nicely under thumb and finger, while you charge the handset via a USB-C port on the base of the phone.

There is, however, no headphone jack. That means if you want to continue using your trusty pair of wired headphones you’ll have to use an adapter to go through the USB-C port.

Display

The 5-inch, full HD display is bright and colorful

The 5-inch Full HD display with AMOLED technology may not win any prizes for resolution, but like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus it still manages to look really, really good.

Colors are vibrant, with text and images crisp and clear. As we’ve also mentioned, its smaller size versus most of its flagship competition means you can easily use the Pixel 2 one-handed.

One of the big new features on the Pixel 2 is its always-on display, allowing you to see the time, date, email and text notifications and reminders when the phone’s screen is technically turned off.

It can also detect the song that’s playing and display that information on the always-on display too, although we weren’t able to test that feature out in the demo area.

The Pixel 2’s always-on display is handy

Camera

The 12MP camera looks to be a solid snapper

There’s a 12MP rear-facing camera on the Google Pixel 2, and it boasts a portrait mode to rival the one found on the likes of the iPhone 8 Plus.

However, instead of using two cameras to get the blurred background effect, the Pixel 2 manages it with just the single sensor.

Portrait mode also works on the front-facing 8MP camera, and we were impressed with the quality of photos and effects the Pixel 2 managed in the demo considering the less than ideal lighting.

Portrait Mode off vs on (via front camera)

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With Portrait mode off on the front-facing camera this selfie is actually quite good considering the lighting conditions…

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…but things get even more impressive when you turn Portrait Mode on

During our brief time with the Pixel 2 we found the autofocus and shutter speed to be very responsive, and the camera did a decent job of snapping in the low light of the demo area.

Google says the Pixel 2 performs really well in low light, and we’re inclined to agree for the time being.

Google Pixel 2 quick camera samples gallery

Early verdict

Our early impression of the Google Pixel 2 is very positive, even if the handset isn’t offering anything game-changing.

The design is much improved over the original, the display is bright and colorful, and Android 8.0 Oreo is slick and speedy under finger. 

Meanwhile the camera appeared to deal well with the questionable lighting in the demo area, managing fast shutter speeds.

The only real mark against the Google Pixel 2 is the fact that it’s dropped the headphone jack, and some may turn their nose up at the ‘only’ Full HD display when similarly priced rivals offer larger, QHD screens.

It does feel a touch on the expensive side, but the Google Pixel 2 looks set to be an excellent all-round smartphone.



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