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Google does it again! The Pixel 2 is Google’s second attempt at creating one of the best smartphones in the world. It follows the Google Pixel, which was ranked to have the best phone camera by DxO Mark camera benchmarking. My real-time usage proved this fact as well. This year’s Google flagship, the Pixel 2, maintains that rank once again. It’s not only impressive, but also delivers the cleanest Android experience. With the latest Android 8.0 Oreo and improved machine learning capabilities, you are getting the best of Google in a phone.
The aluminum and glass unibody design will surely catch your attention. 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage and the latest Snapdragon 835 processor are a sneak peek into what this incredibly beautiful device has in store for us. Just like their first attempt with the Pixel and Pixel XL, this year Google has made a pair of phones to provide the best smartphone experience at different screen sizes. This time we have the Pixel 2 at 5-inch and the Pixel 2 XL at 6-inch, with all the other hardware and software features remaining the same. Let’s dive into the full review, shall we?
While the Pixel 2 packaging looked really beautiful on the outside, I couldn’t wait to see what was inside. Lifting the box revealed the 5-inch Pixel 2 in its full glory. Lifting the phone up revealed other accessories packaged in the box.
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If anything will wow you about the Pixel 2, it’s the metal and glass unibody design. Pixel 2 is a refinement of the already likable Pixel released a year earlier. The phone is available in three color options: Kinda Blue, Just Black, and Clearly White. While most 2018 flagships like the Galaxy S8 have embraced bezel-less displays, the Pixel 2 still comes with some thick bezels on the top and bottom of the device. This is not a negative in any way as it allows the embedding of front-facing speakers into the bezels, which are incredibly loud and clear. This being a media consumption device, it’s easier to hold the phone on the bezels while playing games or watching content on YouTube. The top bezel also has a front-facing camera, a proximity sensor, and an earpiece.
Moving on to the sides, we have the power button and the volume rockers on the right edge, and on the left side we have the SIM card tray. The bottom edge hosts a USB-C port. The Pixel 2 lacks a headphone jack, luckily it ships with a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter for backward compatibility.
The back-side is half-glass, half-metal. I figure it’s the Pixel’s trademark because it’s the only phone embracing this feature. Just like last year’s Pixel, the Pixel 2 has the top half of its back made of glass and the bottom half made of aluminum. Google says the glass design is to allow for better cell reception which I find acceptable. Now, we have the camera together with the LED flash embedded in the glass half, while the fingerprint scanner lies below the camera in the metal half of the back.
Google considered the accessibility of the fingerprint sensor when designing the Pixel 2. It’s centered and below the camera, hence easy to reach. The phone may appear plastic, but that’s not the case. Instead, it has a coating that repels fingerprint smudges. That sums up our hardware tour, let’s find out what the futuristic camera holds in the section below.
Meet the celebrated 12-megapixel rear camera with a f/1.8 aperture. Why celebrated? The Google Pixel 2 camera received a Dx0 Mark of 98 – the highest in the industry so far. Real-life usage? Let’s judge together. The first Pixel had the best phone camera I had ever used before. With the Pixel 2, things are even more impressive. Surprisingly, this phone has a single sensor, as opposed to the dual-setup camera rage of 2018 flagships like the Galaxy Note8 and Moto Z2 Force. Google was probably trying to prove that you can still have a great camera with just a single sensor. Optical Image Stabilization is at its best. You will be surprised that the phone handles dual-mode features, such as the Portrait Mode, pretty well whether you are shooting with the back or front camera.
Of course, a great camera is not all about the hardware; the software comes into play too. The camera app is one major highlight of the Google Pixel 2. The photos taken by the Pixel 2 are stunning with real-life colors. The shutter speed is the fastest, taking up to 10 images with every click, which are then processed with the camera software.
The camera is packed with enough technologies to process images taken in all types of situations. I was especially impressed with the portrait mode which takes clear self-portraits blurring out the background. The camera is made even better with Google’s strength in Machine Learning. Whether you are shooting with your shaky hands while walking, in low-light surroundings, or backlit subjects – the result is always a stunning photo.
The HDR+ technology helps you take photos in extreme conditions, such as dimly lit landscapes, or a very sunny sky. Pixel 2 comes with Google’s in-house chipset – Pixel Visual Core. This core is designed to handle the most challenging imaging and Machine Learning applications, five times faster than typical processors, while consuming the least power possible. It promises to deliver the best photos a camera phone can ever take.
Google Pixel 2’s camera was designed with Google Lens in mind. This feature is based on Optical Card Reading (OCR) – allowing it to read text on an image and generate a Google search query, or give you the name of the object in the photo. Combined with Artificial Intelligence, it will be able to identify places just by pointing the camera lens at them. With future updates to Android 8.0 Oreo, and the integration with Google Assistant, the Google Lens promises to be more useful with time.
The Pixel 2 sports a 5-inch 1080p AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080 X 1920 pixels. This rounds up to 441PPI pixel density and 16:9 screen to body ratio. I found the display to be incredibly bright and crisp. While most phones with OLED screens have saturated colors, the Pixel 2 has muted and more natural colors. Display angles are great, which is also a feature of AMOLED displays. It’s also easy to see content on the screen in direct sunlight.
In my normal usage, I found the screen to be very responsive. However, you may want to go for the larger Google Pixel 2 XL with a 6.0-inch display if you are purchasing the Pixel 2 for its display. The thick bezels on the top and bottom allow you enough grip while playing games, without worrying about dropping the phone.
This being a media consuming device, Google has blessed us with incredible onboard storage. We have two variants; one with 64GB of storage and the other with 128GB of storage. There’s no microSD slot included on the phone, so it’s advisable to settle for the Pixel 2 with the larger storage if you feel 64GB will not be enough. Of course, this means a higher price tag.
Luckily, Google offers unlimited cloud storage for photos with your Google Pixel 2 purchase. I find this to be a very enticing offer as I can move all my photos to Google Photos and leave space for games and other apps on the phone. Whether you opt for 64GB or 128GB, both are incredible, and you sure won’t be running out of storage anytime soon.
Users are known to love brands whose phones promise excellent battery life. Google understands this clearly. The Pixel 2 packs a 2700mAh non-removable Li-Ion battery. At first, I was concerned it wouldn’t last long, but it sure has impressed me after a full day of regular usage. With heavy usage, the phone consistently gave me a 5-hour screen-on time at 75% brightness. While there’s no removable battery option, the phone supports Quick Charge 3.0. This also covers for the lack of wireless charging. You can get several hours of juice with under 30 minutes of charging as long as you use the included 18W wall adapter plug.
Google has designed the Pixel 2 to excel in all areas. For the gadget to compete favorably with 2018’s high-performance flagships like the iPhone X, iPhone 8, and the Galaxy Note8, no stone was left unturned in terms of performance. In line with other flagships, the phone ships with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor. It has an Octa-core chip with a configuration of 4×2.35 GHz Kryo & 4×1.9 GHz Kryo. This configuration ensures power efficiency since half of the cores are usually turned off until their power is required to run intensive application process.
The 8-core processor is coupled with 4GB of RAM giving the best performance you can get on a phone. Yes, the Pixel 2 literally flies, performance wise. On top of this, we have the Adreno 540 GPU that I found could handle all types of graphics thrown at it. I did not experience any skipped frames while playing the most intensive games on the Google Play Store such as Modern Combat 5 or Asphalt 8: Airborne. Surprisingly, the phone also did not heat up much while playing these graphically intensive games for lengthy periods.
As a norm, Google phones are always the first to get the latest Android version releases. The Pixel 2 runs the latest Android 8.0 Oreo. This is the stock, or rather the pure Android operating system, as Google intended it to be; with no bloatware or a User Interface skin on top. It’s fluid, smooth, and enjoyable to use. The highlights of using Android Oreo include freedom to customize notification icons, several new gestures, several new keyboard features, and more control over background running applications. Yes, you also get new emojis.
Multitasking capabilities are also refined. Android Oreo supports Picture-in-Picture mode without slowing down your phone, thanks to its incredible runtime memory. PiP kicks in automatically when you press the home button while playing a video or using Google Maps. If you are watching the YouTube app or a video player, a small version of the video is minimized to the bottom right corner of the display, and you can drag it over the screen to a place you deem fit.
Google’s significant strength is Machine Learning, and this is highly expressed in the Google Pixel 2. The Active Edge is one of the most impressive features of the Pixel 2. Its only purpose is to launch Google Assistant, by squeezing! Yes, squeezing the sides of the Pixel 2 will immediately launch the Google Assistant. The Active Edge feature is a convenient way of launching the Google Assistant, although you can still launch it by long-pressing the home button.
The Google Assistant is Google’s own AI, and undoubtedly the best AI so far that quickly understands natural language. You can speak to it as well as type commands. It can tell you stuff like the weather, directions, names of places and more. With more updates to Android Oreo, it will get better and better.
Another feature I can’t fail to mention is the Always On display. Samsung Galaxy S7 had the feature already a year ago, and now it’s available on the Pixel 2 – thanks to the AMOLED technology. The ‘Always on Display’ allows you to see notifications and time right on your screen without touching it. Another feature is ‘Now Playing’ which when turned on, will listen to the song that’s currently playing and show the name of the artist and song – without having to unlock the phone.
The Google Pixel 2 is proof that Google will always excel in software as well as Artificial Intelligence. Scrolling through interfaces on the fluid Android 8.0 Oreo is enjoyable. The launcher adapts to your wallpaper, changing the color tone to match your wallpaper. Additionally, Google promises three years of Operating System updates. What this means is that your Pixel 2 will receive updates for Android P, Android Q, and Android R when they’re released. Below is a summary of the specifications.