Google Pixel 3

Price: £739 inc VAT from fave.co/2RDX8sL

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Pos­si­bly one of the most leaked smart­phones of all time is here, so it might not come as a sur­prise but Google’s lat­est flag­ship hand­set is of­fi­cial. We at­tended the Pixel 3’s Lon­don launch and have spent solid time with it. Read on for our thoughts.

De­sign

There’s not a huge de­sign change when it comes to this year’s Pixel phone as on the whole, Google is stick­ing to the same style and look. The Pixel 3 has a dis­tinc­tive style at the back with its two-tone ef­fect, which not ev­ery­one will like. The iconic glossy

sec­tion at the top houses the cam­era with the lower part con­tain­ing the fin­ger­print scan­ner.

This time around, it’s a fully glass de­sign, with the lower sec­tion of­fer­ing a matte fin­ish, which both looks and feels lux­u­ri­ous. It’s not quite as grippy com­pared to a typ­i­cal glass back, but feels nicer and won’t show fin­ger­print marks as much. Im­por­tantly, this change also en­ables wire­less charg­ing for the first time on a Pixel. We’ll talk about this in more de­tail later.

It’s the front that looks even more dif­fer­ent this year due to a change in dis­play as­pect ra­tio – an in­dus­try-wide trend. Smaller bezels not only look bet­ter but mean you get a larger screen in a body that’s es­sen­tially the same. What­ever side of the fence you’re on, the reg­u­lar Pixel 3 is the model with­out a notch. The Pixel 3 XL, for the first time on a Google phone, has the di­vi­sive fea­ture. Both have a cam­era bump on the rear, but it’s small and not a big deal.

Much of the el­e­ments we’re used to are the same, so you get a USB-C port, no head­phone jack, and wa­ter­proof­ing – the lat­ter is now IP68 in­stead of IP67. Our main worry is dirt col­lect­ing in the speak­ers on the front as they are slightly re­cessed.

Colour op­tions are once again Clearly White, Just Black and the new Not Pink (which has a peach tone in real life) – each with a dif­fer­ence ac­cent colour on the side but­ton apart from the black model.

Dis­play

The most ob­vi­ous change is the dis­play, which as we men­tioned is now us­ing an on-trend tall as­pect ra­tio. It’s 18:9 to be pre­cise and sticks with a Full HD+

res­o­lu­tion (2,280x1,080) and AMOLED tech. Many might be Quad HD, but 443ppi is plenty.

On the spec sheet it’s listed as ‘flex­i­ble’, but this doesn’t mean it has curved sides like a Sam­sung Gal­axy S9. We be­lieve it’s to achieve smaller bezels.

Jump­ing from 5- to 5.5in give you more real es­tate to play with. If you want even more, then the XL has a 6.3in dis­play, al­beit with a larger than av­er­age notch. Ei­ther way you’ll need to get used to the new ges­tures of An­droid Pie, which we’ll talk about later.

The dis­play has an al­ways-on fea­ture, so it can give you handy in­for­ma­tion such at the time, date and weather with­out hav­ing to switch it on. You can also opt to have no­ti­fi­ca­tions ap­pear as well, and switch on Now Play­ing to see the track and artist when mu­sic is play­ing nearby – no need to Shazam it.

We find the dis­play looks great in the de­fault adap­tive mode, but you can head into the set­tings menu and try other colour modes. There’s also nat­u­ral and boosted.

Pro­ces­sor, mem­ory and stor­age

When it comes to the core specs, there’s a pre­dictable up­grade to the Qual­comm Snap­dragon 845 – the firm’s flag­ship pro­ces­sor for 2018. Mem­ory re­mains at just 4GB (de­spite ru­mours of a 50 per­cent in­crease). You need to choose from 64- or 128GB of stor­age. Pick wisely as there’s no mi­croSD card slot as usual.

The Pixel 3 might not be set­ting any records in our bench­mark tests, although 61fps in T-Rex ap­pears to have gone be­yond the limit, but the phone is su­per smooth in real life, so you needn’t worry on this front.

We’ve not found any no­tice­able lag, partly thanks to the high-end com­po­nents and the pure An­droid soft­ware. We’ve com­pared it to the Pixel 2 and a se­lec­tion of ri­vals, but don’t read into the fig­ures too much – after all, they are syn­thetic tests.

Cam­eras

Where other man­u­fac­tur­ers force you to buy the large model out of two phones to get en­hanced photography, nor­mally an ex­tra cam­era, the Pixel 3s have the same setup.

In­ter­est­ingly, nei­ther phone has dual cam­eras at the rear. Google is con­fi­dent that it can of­fer ex­cel­lent photography and video cap­ture with just a sin­gle rear lens. The specs look the same as last year at 12.2Mp,

an f/1.8 aper­ture, OIS and dual aut­o­fo­cus (phase de­tec­tion and laser).

Google’s soft­ware, namely HDR+, is the rea­son why it only needs one lens. A new fea­ture called Top Shot will take mul­ti­ple shots so you can choose the best, rather then end up miss­ing that key mo­ment. Night Sight is also new and aims to help you get great re­sults in low light with­out us­ing a flash with ma­chine learn­ing. It’s launch­ing in Novem­ber, though.

There’s also Mo­tion Auto Fo­cus, which can lock onto mov­ing ob­ject, it worked re­ally well in our macro test with the plant blow­ing around a lot in the wind.

Over­all, we’re very im­pressed with the re­sults from the cam­era, which takes great pho­tos with min­i­mal fuss. The por­trait mode is par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive and lets you con­trol both back­ground and fore­ground blur after you’ve taken the shot.

There are plenty of other modes to check out in­clud­ing the usual se­lec­tion of Panorama, Photo Sphere, Google Lens and Slow Mo­tion. Play­ground, which is sim­i­lar to Sony’s AR ef­fect, plonks char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing Marvel and Stranger Things, onto your desk or wher­ever you want them.

Oddly, then, the new tech is at the front where there are two cam­eras. Both are 8Mp with an f/1.8 or f/2.2 aper­ture and like the LG V40, one is a stan­dard fo­cal length, while the other is wide-an­gle (107 de­grees in­stead of 75), so you can fit more peo­ple into the frame.

The qual­ity is good and you can eas­ily switch be­tween the two cam­eras al­most seam­lessly with a slider within the cam­era app. You can see the

dif­fer­ence in our gallery, and take a look at how good the por­trait mode is at the front, too.

On the video front, the Pixel 3 can shoot in up to 4K res­o­lu­tion, but at 30fps. Whereas, Full HD can do 60or even 120fps. The footage is nicely de­tailed and the sta­bi­liza­tion is ex­cel­lent, so you can even walk around while film­ing, but avoid a headache in­duc­ing re­sult.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and Au­dio

There’s plenty more about the Pixel 3 that es­sen­tially re­mains the same as be­fore, with sim­i­lar con­nec­tiv­ity (dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 5.0, NFC and the like) and the rear fin­ger­print scan­ner. That means there’s no fin­ger­print scan­ner em­bed­ded in the screen (or face un­lock ei­ther). This is a shame as it’s set to ar­rive on the OnePlus 6T, which will be a cheaper ri­val. But that tech may come with teething prob­lems and the Pixel’s scan­ner works well, plus you can use it pull the no­ti­fi­ca­tion bar down if you switch this ges­ture on – this is a bit tem­per­a­men­tal, though.

Google boasts of ex­cel­lent au­dio, de­spite the lack of a head­phone jack. This means you’ll have to make use of the USB-C Pixel ear­buds or the in­cluded adap­tor. We’d rec­om­mend the lat­ter since the sup­plied head­phones are, like the Pixel Buds, un­com­fort­able.

The main au­dio fea­ture is the front-fac­ing stereo speak­ers, and they’re good but not flaw­less. They are cer­tainly ca­pa­ble of go­ing louder than most but when you get to the up­per third of the vol­ume things get pretty dis­torted and there’s not too much bass to speak of. At around 50 per­cent is a nice sweet spot of ve­loc­ity and clar­ity.

It’s a small thing, but we like how Google has de­cided to make the vol­ume rocker de­fault to me­dia vol­ume rather than ring­tone, since this is some­thing you’re go­ing to ad­just far more of­ten.

Bat­tery life

A new fea­ture, although it’s noth­ing new in the grand scheme, is wire­less charg­ing. It works with any Qi charger. It’s a wel­come ad­di­tion and the bat­tery ca­pac­ity is a lit­tle larger, too, at 2,915mAh. That’s a lit­tle be­low the av­er­age for a phone this size, and although the bat­tery life is okay, it’s noth­ing spe­cial re­ally. Like so many smart­phones, you’ll need to charge it reg­u­larly.

Fast charg­ing will help that, as will the new Pixel Stand if you choose to buy one.

Get the Pixel Stand (£69 from fave.co/2OPrJpC) and the phone will turn into a sort of smart dis­play, where you can con­trol it with your voice or handy on­screen icons. It will also do clever things like con­nect

to your Nest door­bell to au­to­mat­i­cally show you who’s at the door, be a dig­i­tal photo frame and the Sun­rise Alarm slowly bright­ens the screen to help wake you up.

Soft­ware

It’s no sur­prise that the phones come with An­droid 9.0 Pie, although they’re not the first to mar­ket with the lat­est ver­sion. We re­viewed the Sony Xpe­ria XZ3 last month, which ships with Google’s lat­est OS.

The main change here is that you’ll have to get used to ges­tures for nav­i­ga­tion that are akin to the iPhone XS. The usual three-but­ton nav­i­ga­tion bar is now just a sin­gle icon.

Swipe up a long way and you’ll open the app draw which at the top of­fers sug­ges­tions for both apps and ac­tions. Do a shorter swipe and you’ll get the new

re­cent apps screen, which still of­fers the same app sug­ges­tions at the bot­tom along with the Google bar.

Re­cent apps are now dis­played in a hor­i­zon­tal list rather than the older ver­ti­cal Rolodex style. You can fling apps off the top of the screen to close them or swipe down (or tap) to open one.

An eas­ier way to switch be­tween apps is by us­ing the nav­i­ga­tion bar at the bot­tom. It works like the iPhone X/XS so swip­ing to the right will switch to the pre­vi­ously used app. Swipe and hold and you can scroll be­tween all your apps, then sim­ply let go when you’ve found the one you want.

It’s all very dif­fer­ent, es­pe­cially if you’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed to the old way of do­ing things on An­droid. You will get used to it, and you’ll have to as there’s no op­tion to switch the old nav­i­ga­tion but­tons on.

Oth­er­wise, it ap­pears that you gen­er­ally get the same pure Google ex­pe­ri­ence with the Google As­sis­tant a swipe away from the home screen and, of course, no bloat­ware.

There are a num­ber of new (some­times hid­den) el­e­ments though, in­clud­ing the ‘At-a-Glance’ sec­tion at the top of the home screen, which pro­vides handy in­for­ma­tion such as up­com­ing cal­en­dar events and more. Tap on any to get more de­tail.

An­droid Pie also mon­i­tors how you re­spond to no­ti­fi­ca­tions. If you clear cer­tain ones a lot, then it will sug­gest to turn them off.

Ac­tive Edge re­mains, too, so you can squeeze the phone to trig­ger dif­fer­ent things. It’s a sort of hid­den fea­ture since the de­sign of the phone doesn’t in­di­cate it’s there.

As we’ve found on other phones with this fea­ture (and oth­ers like Ap­ple’s 3D Touch), you’ll ei­ther use it all the time or com­pletely for­get it’s there. You can set how sen­si­tive it is to stop it hap­pen­ing by ac­ci­dent.

The prob­lem here is that you can’t cus­tom­ize it, so it only sum­mons the As­sis­tant or si­lences alarms, in­com­ing calls and the like. It would be far more use­ful if you could choose to use it for other things such as launch­ing the cam­era, as you can on HTC phones with Edge Sense. You can launch the cam­era by dou­ble-tap­ping the power key but that’s more awk­ward.

Some­thing we’re still try­ing out over a longer pe­riod is the Dig­i­tal Well­be­ing fea­ture hid­den in the set­tings. This which shows you how much screen time you’re giv­ing to dif­fer­ent apps and does var­i­ous thing

to help you dis­con­nect with your phone, in­clud­ing set­ting app timers and a wind down mode com­bines the Night Light, Grayscale and Do Not Dis­turb to help you with your bed­time rou­tine.

Ver­dict

Google once again sets the stan­dard for An­droid phones with the Pixel 3. It’s an unas­sum­ing de­vice, partly due to its sim­i­lar­ity with the Pixel 2 and the over­whelm­ing amount of leaks.

It gets the ba­sics right, rather than try­ing to add a load of new fea­tures peo­ple don’t ac­tu­ally need. The Pixel 3 of­fers ex­cel­lent and com­pact de­sign with solid core specs and smooth per­for­mance.

While you can buy cheaper An­droid ri­vals that have things like a head­phone jack and mi­croSD card slot, the Pixel 3 is likely to win you over with it’s amaz­ing cam­eras and the handy fea­tures within Pie.

If you’re look­ing for a no-non­sense An­droid phone that you can rely on, then the Pixel 3 is a top choice. It’s worth bear­ing in mind the XL model of­fers a very sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ence, but with a larger screen (in­clud­ing a notch) and big­ger bat­tery. Chris Martin

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 5.5in (2,880x1,440; 443ppi) P-OLED ca­pac­i­tive touch­screen

• An­droid 9.0 Pie

• Qual­comm SDM845 Snap­dragon 845 (10nm) pro­ces­sor

• Octa-core (4x 2.5GHz Kryo 385 Gold, 4x 1.6GHz Kryo 385 Sil­ver) CPU

• Adreno 630 GPU

• 4GB RAM

• 64/128GB stor­age

• 12.2Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era: f/1.8, 28mm (wide), 1/2.55in, 1.4μm, OIS, dual pixel PDAF

• Dual front-fac­ing cam­eras: 8Mp, f/1.8, 28mm (wide), PDAF; 8Mp, f/2.2, 19mm (ul­tra wide), no AF

• 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi

• Blue­tooth 5.0

• A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO

• NFC

• Fin­ger­print sen­sor (rear mounted)

• USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 re­versible con­nec­tor

• Non-re­mov­able 2,915mAh lithium-ion bat­tery

• 145. 6x68. 2x7.9mm

• 148g

At 5.5 inches, the Pixel 3’s dis­play is big­ger than its pre­de­ces­sor’s

Geek­bench 4

JetStream

The lack of a head­phone jack means you’ll have to make use of the USB-C Pixel ear­buds or the in­cluded adap­tor

Google Pixel Stand turns your phone into a smart dis­play

The Pixel 3 comes with An­droid Pie

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