With Pixel, Google wants to show how the typical Android smartphone should be and all the possibilities that its platform offers. The Pixel 2 is manufactured by HTC as in the previous year and brings everything a current phone needs, regarding technology. I have had an opportunity to test it thoroughly, and here you have my conclusions. Is it as impressive as it seems?
The Google Pixel 2 is a strange phone. It does not have a headphone jack, large bezels, and an uninspiring design. It does not turn on the excitement in the same way that the larger Pixel 2 XL hardware does, with its 18: 9 curved and high screen. But the little Pixel is still a winner for two reasons: Software and Camera. It is the first phone I have used for a long time in which the hardware melts, and you only have the best possible software experience that a phone can offer at this time.
Google Pixel 2 – Design and Build
The first generation of the Pixel, with the back part composed of a glass cover for the area of the camera and the sensor along with the rest of the body in metal, was a real treat for the eye. The Pixel 2 continues with this feature although the glass strip has become somewhat narrower, now the fingerprint sensor has moved to aluminium. The Pixel 2 does not follow the fashion of the tiny edges surrounding the screen. On the contrary, it has two large black frames above and below its 5-inch screen, something that does not fit much with the modern look of the rest of your body. On this occasion, luckily, it does have an IP67 certificate.
For Pixel 2 colours, Google and its producer HTC focus on one black and one white / silver. The frames that the screen shows in both models are black. The Pixel 2 has a thickness of 7.8 millimetres and weighs 143 grams. We do not find any analogy input for the headset, Google only uses the USB type C port to transmit digital sound and for charging.
The back is very comfortable to the touch, and its high quality is noted in the finish. The termination is very particular and gives the impression of having a phone finished in plastic in hand, but it is only the outer coating and protection. The volume control is below the power button making it more affordable to the thumb of the right hand, but it is also not a problem to find them with the fingers of the other side. Contrary to the current trend the Pixel 2 continues with a 16:9 format, while the rest of the competition including its older brother has the new format 18:9.
Google Pixel 2 – Screen
Neither I find a great revolution in regards to its screen. In the diagonal of the screen of Google Pixel 2, I have 5 inches, which together with a Full-HD resolution with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels is more than enough to offer a very sharp image without being able to appreciate its pixels. As I have already said, the screen has a 16:9 ratio and good margins. Therefore only 67.9% of the front surface is occupied by the screen. To this, we must add that the navigation buttons sacrifice a small strip of the lower margin.
Google has opted for the small Pixel 2 by an OLED panel manufactured by Samsung, a differential of the panel of the Pixel 2 XL manufactured by LG. Each panel makes a different representation of the colours, the Pixel 2 being somewhat more saturated than that of its older brother. Both Pixel 2 are certified and support Google Daydream. They also have the new Always On Display function that is also able to recognize the ambient music that is playing around us. Of course, it can be deactivated. This OLED panel of the Pixel 2 is able to replenish 95% of the DCI P3. Saturated colours and good contrast are observed. The brightness and the viewing angles are also excellent.
Google Pixel 2 – Special Functions
The new feature that comes to the Pixel inherited from the HTC U11 is Active Edge. When you click on the frame, the Google assistant starts in Pixel 2. There is no possibility to customize the functions that are activated, and I can only configure the pressure level. The only extra option besides waking the assistant is to put the device in silence when they call us with just a squeeze.
Google offers the user the ability to use two types of SIM cards: a nanoSIM card or an eSIM card. The second is a virtual card that is already used in other devices such as the iPad Pro and several smartwatches. But not all operators offer this option. Anyway, it is possible to use it with a normal nanoSIM.
Google also sent me a dream view, its improved VR headset, to test it. It is very comfortable even on my glasses, and it is easy to navigate the user interface with the included driver. The applications are a bit scarce, but the available games are quite entertaining, while YouTube VR will undoubtedly be a gateway to the VR living room of the future once everyone has a smartphone capable of it. But if you are looking for an HD VR experience, this is not it. Having the Pixel 2 so close to your face shows, well, pixels.
Google Pixel 2 – Software
In Google Pixel 2 it runs serially with Android 8.0 Oreo in its purest form, how could it be otherwise. Google has dramatically simplified the interface and relocated some things like the search bar, and now it is much closer to the finger. The Pixel 2 offers the user everything he expects from Google and nothing more.
In the end, it is a matter of taste. There is who prefers the pure flavour of Android or who opts for the customizations of Samsung, Sony, LG and company since they offer not only a different aspect but also extra functions. However, like the Nexus smartphones, the Pixel series is not aimed at fans of these extras. This is where purists get the most out of their money, and this is also good. The Pixel 2 will also be the first devices to receive updates and security patches from Google. Google updates for three years. Google Assistant will also receive new features such as Google Lens, and artificial intelligence has taken a significant role in these devices.
One of the characteristics of the new Pixels is the permanent recognition of the ambient music to detect which song is playing. This recognition of songs can be done even offline, but the number of topics that can be recognized is limited (the initial number was 17,000 songs, but Google will expand it programmatically). Most of the time it recognizes the songs, but if there is a lot of ambient noise, he gets confused a bit and is not able to discover what is being played. Anyway, it’s fantastic. To activate this option, we must enter the audio settings. The name of the song and the artist will be displayed on the blocking screen and in a notification (optional).
Google Pixel 2 – Performance
With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, an Adreno 540 GPU and 4 GB of RAM, the Google Pixel 2 is designed to meet the requirements of any user. The extra is having software and hardware perfectly synchronized and optimized, which translates into excellent performance.
The system runs, but applications may need some maturity to perfectly fit Android Oreo. Some applications have shown problems (including Google Photos). But this is a problem of the smartphone, rather of the applications. For internal storage, Google offers two options of 64 and 128 GB. Those times in which the high range had a 32 GB version of internal memory are in decline.
Google Pixel 2 – Audio
I found the stereo sound in this Google Pixel 2. The speakers are at the top and bottom at the (large) edges above and below the screen. A style to those of the Nexus 6P. In practice, the quality of its stereo sound is good, even at a maximum volume, no metallic tones are perceived.
The mini-jack has disappeared. So, we have two alternatives: Bluetooth or goes through an adapter. It is capable of reproducing all those high-quality codecs such as LDAC, AptX HD, etc. For the calls, the sound is excellent, on both sides of the telephone line the interlocutors can be understood without problems.
Google Pixel 2 – Camera
Google keeps a simple camera in the Pixel 2 and does not jump on the dual camera car as is currently the trend. The first Pixel also brought a simple camera and, in his generation, showed that you do not need two cameras with normal performance if you can have one with extraordinary performance. The Google Pixel 2 has a main camera with an IMX362 sensor with a size of 1 / 2.55 inches, 12.2 megapixels, 1.4 microns per pixel and with aperture f / 1.8. A high-end combination to which add optical image stabilizer, which was missing in the first Pixel.
The camera has also been optimized for the use of augmented reality. In portraits, you can also get an unfocused background effect even though it only has one main camera. In the ranking of smartphones cameras, DxOMark has reached the highest score with 98 points, four above the Note 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.
How to explain such an impressive result? The explanation is not in your hardware but your software. When you press the shutter button, the camera fires several times: 10 are underexposed, and one is “normal.” This feature allows you to extend the dynamic range of this small sensor and make visible details in the dark and bright areas that other cameras are unable to pick up.
Beyond the dynamic range, the camera has a lot to offer. Despite some exceptions, the white balance is formidable in most cases and the colours are very realistic. When the ambient light is abundant, the result is even better than what we could find in the first Pixel.
The Pixel 2 has excellent performance in low light. The images are rich in detail, and without noise, this is due to several factors: the combination of several photos, short periods of exposure, low ISO sensitivity and good postprocessing. Therefore, the shots made in the middle of the night offer an excellent result with good colours, unlike the competition.
In portrait mode, the software recognizes the person in the foreground and blurs the rest that remains in the background. This function is available in the main camera on the front and unlike the rest of the competition only needs a sensor.
This is the Google version of the Live photos. Each photo is actually a 4-second video. We can ask ourselves about the usefulness of this function, and it is something like having material to produce GIFs or other animations. It can be deactivated anyway.
When you take a picture with your device, you can use Google Lens to identify what you see. The idea is to identify what is photographed in as much detail as possible. For example, if you take a picture of the famous Berlin television tower, Google Lens tells you that it is the television tower. This is nothing extraordinary at this time (usually you do not need to be told you are looking at a tree) but over time the Machine Learning concept will do its job. For example, in the future, Google Lens will probably recognize a monkey in a photo and even say it is a chimpanzee, a bonobo or a marmoset.
Google Pixel 2 – Battery
The Google Pixel 2 has a battery with a capacity of 2,700 mAh. With a processor of this level and a battery below 3000mAh, it’s hard to think, but at least the Full HD resolution of the screen is not very demanding energetically. In the end, the Pixel 2 exceeds a full day without problems with a fairly intense use (WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, messages, calls, etc …). If the performance is not very something, it can even be alive a day and a half.
Thanks to the Power Delivery charging technology, the battery can be recharged quickly, from 39% to 100% in 1:15 with the device turned on. For a full charge with the smartphone off, we need an hour and a half. It does not support wireless charging.
The phone has Bluetooth 5.0, hopefully, to overcome the original connectivity of Pixel less than stellar. In my time so far with the Pixel 2 decent connections have been maintained with the wearables, speakers, and headphones, so things seem to have improved here. There is also NFC for Android Pay that works as expected, while Wi-Fi connections work with the dual band 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac. 4G hot spotting also worked without problems.
The Pixel 2 is a boring phone until you turn it on. The standard hardware is blended to present a cutting-edge vision of the future of Android, with fully integrated machine learning. It is not there yet, but this is where we are headed. The camera, a lens down on some competitors, is better than all of them in most situations thanks to the superior software on board. You only get that benefit when you buy Google hardware, and the company finally realizes the end product that Apple has been doing for a decade.
If you want a smartphone to approach you and envy your friends, you will not want the Pixel 2. But it is faster than the Galaxy S8, and it takes better photos. It provides the best global camera and software experience on any Android smartphone to date.