Review: Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are relative bargains

Summary: Google’s latest Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro smartphones are both, in general, great buys. Their cameras are excellent, as are their screens and engine power. Maybe best of all, the pricing is superb: the Pixel 7 Pro, in particular, is well ahead of what you can get from any other premium flagship phone at its €899 price.

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Price: from €649 (Pixel 7) / from €899 (Pixel 7 Pro)

Pros: great price, great cameras, good screens, excellent all-rounders

Cons: fingerprint recognition sensor hit and miss

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Other than the disappointing lack of launch offers that matches the UK (see below), the only downside I could find in a week of testing both phones is a slightly inconsistent underscreen fingerprint sensor.

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Pixel 7 Pro. Photo: Adrian Weckler

Other than that, these phones are solidly recommended. For what you’re paying – less than Samsung’s equivalent S-series phones or Oppo’s Find X handsets and way, way less than any of the iPhone 14 models – they’re a very good deal.

That said, which one is a better option?

1. The differences

Overall, the Pixel 7 Pro is a more accomplished phone due to its more advanced cameras, slightly more advanced screen and larger storage capacity. But the Pixel 7 is, to me, a better bargain for the money. It has almost everything that its more expensive sibling has, including all of the fancy software effects.

Before I delve into the phones’ individual features in more detail, let me divide these two models by looking at the three core differences between them.

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Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel Buds Pro and Pixel Watch

(i) The screen size and quality: the Pixel 7 Pro has a bigger, better, brighter display (6.7 inches) than the Pixel 7’s 6.3-inch screen. It’s technically better because it scrolls more smoothly, at 120hz, and has slightly slimmer bezels and a smaller ‘chin’.

Then again, the Pixel 7’s 90hz display still beats the iPhone 14’s 60hz screen, so it’s more than decent. And I preferred the Pixel 7’s flat display with no curved glass at the side, to the Pixel 7 Pro’s edge-curved display. It feels more modern. Lastly, for many people, the Pixel 7’s 6.3-inch size is a real sweet spot: slightly bigger than an iPhone 14 or Samsung S22 but still compact enough to easily hold in your hand.

(ii) The cameras: the big camera advantage you get with the Pixel 7 Pro is the extra 5x optical telephoto camera. But that’s not the only difference: the Pixel 7 Pro also has a better ultrawide camera in two ways. First, it’s a new lens that’s wider (0.5x) than the Pixel 7’s ultrawide (0.7x) lens, which was just transferred from last year’s models. But it also has autofocusing, too, allowing it to be used for fairly decent macro photography.

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Pixel 7 Pro’s rear camera system. Photo: Adrian Weckler

(iii) More storage: both models start at 128GB with 256GB options. But only the Pixel 7 Pro has a 512GB variant.

Other minor differences: other than those three main things, the remaining differences seem minor for most users. The Pixel 7 Pro gets 12GB of Ram compared to the Pixel 7’s 8GB, although both use Google’s powerful new Tensor G2 chip. The metallic sides and rear bands on the phones are matte on the Pixel 7 but glossy (and a fingerprint magnet) on the Pixel 7 Pro.

And there’s a slightly different colour choice between the two, with the Pixel 7 getting ‘Lemongrass’ to itself while the Pixel 7 Pro gets the exclusive on ‘Hazel’. Both are available in black (‘Obsidian’) and white (‘Snow’).

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With those differences out of the way, let;s look a little more about some of the key features on these phones. Mostly, these are the same on the Pixel 7 and Pixel Pro. It’s really just a handful of camera and screen-resolution issues that separate them.

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Pixel 7. Photo: Adrian Weckler

2. Cameras

(i) Rear lenses: overall, both phones’ cameras are excellent. Photos are sharp, perform well in low light and video-taking is now excellent. The main 50-megapixel (f1.9) camera on both models has optical image stabilisation and returns really detailed, clear shots.

As I mentioned above, the 12-megapixel (f2.2) ultrawide lenses are different on both models and the results here show it – there’s quite a bit more flexibility when shooting 0.5x with autofocus on the Pixel 7 Pro’s ultrawide lens.

The bigger phone’s 48-megapixel (f3.5) telephoto lens is very useful and returns decent images. The periscope lens also has a trick where it combines with the main 50-megapixel 1x lens for in-between focal lengths for greater clarity.

(ii) Selfies: the 11-megapixel selfie-camera, which zooms from 0.7x to 2.9x, is good, but not as consistently good as some rivals. I compared it directly to the iPhone 14’s selfie camera in three different lighting conditions: front, side and rear lighting. In both side and front lit conditions (where the light is in front of you on your face), the iPhone was better. But with light behind me, the Pixel 7 (and Pixel 7 Pro) clearly did a better job at balancing my face against the harsh light behind me.

The selfie camera does have some clever touches. For example, it will suggest a ‘best shot’ of your selfie, based on what might be a slightly more flattering frame captured in your selfie photo. (In practice, I found it didn’t vary much.)

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Pixel 7 Pro. Photo: Adrian Weckler

(iii) Video recording: video quality on both the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro is generally very good, with some truly excellent built-in effects. You can record at 1080p or 4K in either 30 or 60 frames per second. If you choose the (default) lower frame rate you get to use enhanced such 10-bit HDR (for better contrast and colours) and ‘speech enhancement’, which cuts down background noise such as wind and traffic noise. You can also film with the flash constantly on, a really nice feature for low-light first-person videos. And the Pixel’s software makes it really easy to do additional things, like export a frame from the video, rather than manually pausing and screenshotting it.

The added stabilisation features are superbly useful, too. While the ‘action’ mode generally delivers on maximising smooth video when you’re running or have the phone mounted on something like handlebars, the ‘locked’ mode is potentially really helpful. It lets you zoom in on things with less wobble in the camera. It’s not perfect – I saw a bit of micro-shuddering seep into the video. But it’s a great option to have.

Similarly impressive is the ‘panning’ mode, which gives a very professional, jitter-free look to your video when you pan across.

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Pixel 7 Pro. Photo: Adrian Weckler

(iv) ‘Unblur’ and other photo effects: it used to be that Samsung led on innovative photo features and Apple dominated advanced video effects. But while the iPhone is still ahead on video, Google’s Pixels have been strongly competing for top spot in what you can do with photos once you’ve taken them.

Last year’s ‘eraser’ feature, which let you easily cut out people and objects from photos like a professional photoshop program, was the kind of ‘wow’ feature I’m talking about here.

While that carries over to this year’s models, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro potentially have another hit on their hands, in the new ‘unblur’ feature. This can be applied not only to photos you take with the phone but to any image you access on it (through your Google Photos account. The idea here is that it will take a blurry photo you may have taken of someone (at any stage) and transform it into something that looks naturally sharp.

In my testing, it works somewhat well. I brought up some photos from earlier this year that were snapped too quickly in poor light and it definitely sharpened up the subject’s face. In another example, with my cat’s blurry face, it did very little.

It’s a fantastic and ambitious idea that has the potential to be a game-changer. I’m not sure it has quite the polish to be yet considered an unadulterated ‘wow’ feature, though.

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Left to right: Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro. Photo: Adrian Weckler

3. Power, engine and chip

Like Apple and Samsung, Google has largely taken control over its chipset design under the hood. The result (‘Tensor G2’) is pretty good: a relatively high-end engine driver that can help the phone do things, especially with the camera, that other phones might struggle with. In my use of them, both phones zipped through anything I threw at them. The only times they stuttered a little was when using Google Photos, probably because that often involves retrieving data from online, adding a bit of latency to the process.

The Pixel 7 has a decent 8GB of Ram while the Pixel 7 Pro has a high-end 12GB of Ram, more than Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max and the same amount as Samsung’s S22 Ultra.

4. Battery life

A couple of years ago, Google learned a painful lesson in the (justified) criticism it attracted for skimping on battery life in its Pixel phones. Happily, neither device appears to have any problem whatsoever in this regard, consistently lasting me all day through a regular mixture of calls, music, work, hotspotting and photo-taking. This is down to a combination of larger batteries (5,000mAh for the Pixel 7 Pro and 4,300mAh for the Pixel 7), both of which are bigger than any of the iPhone batteries and are on par with Samsung’s higher-end S22 models.

Both phones support wired charging at (a moderately fast) 30 watts and wireless charging at 20 watts (Pixel 7) and 23 watts (Pixel 7 Pro). But there’s no charger in the box, as has become the norm with smartphones.

While there’s supposed to be reverse wireless charging included here, I couldn’t get it to function properly.

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Pixel 7 Pro. Photo: Adrian Weckler

5. Overall look, feel and design

Google’s has traditionally paid less attention to prioritising the aesthetics of its handsets than to the software-fuelled features underneath the hood. It started to change this around with the Pixel 6. This year’s Pixel 7s are reasonably handsome, premium-looking (recycled aluminium) phones, albeit a little reminiscent of high-end designs three or four years ago. The Pixel 7 Pro opts for shiny metallic gloss on the rear band of the device, with even shinier metallic rims at the side. The glass is slightly curved on each side of the screen. In short, it looks like a perfect cross between an iPhone 11 Pro and a Samsung Galaxy S20 — both still aesthetically pleasing phones, but with ‘last generation’ vibes about them. The Pixel 7, on the other hand, opts for a subtler matte finish on the rear metallic band and metallic sides.

6. Extra ‘Pixel-centric’ features

While the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro clearly compete well on the fundamentals of screen, battery and camera technology, they’re probably known as much for the extra software touches they bring. For example, the phones use the voice-enabled Assistant to much greater effect than either Apple’s so-so Siri or Samsung’s awful Bixby. In fact, Google’s Assistant is now head and shoulders above its rivals for accuracy and efficacy. You can see this in effect for a number of voice-to-text features on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, from text messages to turning the phone off.

There are a number of other easy-to-setup software tricks, including music recognition on the lockscreen.

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Pixel 7. Photo: Adrian Weckler

7. Other things: speakers, facial recognition, toughness

The speakers on the Pixel 7 and Pixel Pro are a little basic but good enough to give decent sound if you want to play a video, podcast or song out loud. The speakers are definitely more effective on the larger Pixel 7 Pro, possibly because the screen is larger, which the phones seem to use.

Both phones also now have facial recognition to unlock your phone, which is an upgrade on last year’s versions. This system, which uses the phone’s selfie camera, works well in any kind of reasonable lighting conditions, but doesn’t work at all in darkness or very dim light.

And both devices are fairly robust, with an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance and Gorilla Glass Victus on front and back.

There isn’t any headphone jack.

8. Downsides

Arguably the most annoying aspect of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro phones is unrelated to their performance: it’s that we don’t get the same deal here as in the UK, where pre-orders get a free Pixel Watch or set of Pixel Buds Pro. Google hasn’t said why Ireland isn’t included in the launch deal, other than to say it only applies to France, Germany and the UK in Europe.

As for the devices itself, the fingerprint readers, like most underscreen readers I’ve tested, are inconsistent. This is a little surprising, as the setup process for it is detailed with a whole separate section on the tips and sides of your finger. It worked most of the time, but not every time, which was enough for low-key frustration.

My Pixel 7 Pro also annoyingly seemed to default to an eye-straining (but trendy) ‘dark mode’ (light text on a dark screen) when I set up the phone — I had to manually switch it off in settings. (This wasn’t the case for the Pixel 7.)

Finally, as clever as the Pixel phone’s native Android is, for anyone coming from a Samsung or iPhone, it does feel like you’re overwhelmed with options, suggestions and pop-up recommendations for the first few days of use. This is obviously a question of perspective, as some will like those features and shortcuts being brought to their attention.

9. Comparing the Pixel 7s to rival flagship phones

No matter which way you look at it, the Pixel 7s seem like bargains compared to most major rivals.

Samsung’s S22 is similarly priced (€879) to the Pixel 7 Pro (€899). But Google’s phone has a much bigger display, much bigger battery, more powerful engine and longer telephoto lens. In some ways, the S22 is actually closer in comparison to the base Pixel 7, even though it’s over €200 more expensive.

Compared to the iPhone, it’s a non-contest on price. The basic iPhone 14 costs a whopping €130 more than the Pixel 7 Pro in what seems like a specification mismatch in favour of Google’s device. Apple’s phone has a lower-resolution, smaller screen, no telephoto lens and no autofocusing on its ultrawide lens. The more accurate feature comparison is between the basic Pixel 7 and the iPhone 14, with the Pixel costing almost €400 less.

10. Conclusion

There’s no question that these are pretty compelling devices and well, well worth anyone’s consideration. What makes it all the moreso is the relative bargain we’re getting in Europe compared to the US, amid Europe’s weak euro and rampaging inflation.

Google has managed to keep the eurozone price completely insulated. In the US, for example, the Pixel 7 Pro costs the same as an iPhone 14 Plus – $899 (plus local sales tax). But in Europe, while Apple converts this to a massive €1,179 (including Vat), Google is offering it for €899. This makes the Pixel 7 Pro considerably cheaper in Europe than in the US, the first time I’ve seen that happen with a smartphone in a long time.

The Pixel 7 range costs €649 (128GB) or € (256GB) while the Pixel 7 Pro is available for € (128GB), € (256GB) or € (512GB).

https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/review-google-pixel-7-and-pixel-7-pro-are-relative-bargains-42061314.html Review: Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are relative bargains

Fry Electronics Team

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