Pixel 4 and 4 XL review: Every Pixel has a silver lining (Update: Two weeks later)

Every Pixel has a silver lining

Google has been promoting smartphones for greater than a decade at this level, nevertheless it’s solely on the fourth technology of Pixel telephones. The Pixel period is when Google acquired critical about constructing a cohesive product that married {hardware} and software program slightly than only a automobile for the most recent inventory model of Android. With the Pixel 4, it is clear that Google has realized loads from the final three generations of Pixels, however I fear it hasn’t realized all the proper classes.

The Pixel Four has an unimaginable, industry-leading digicam, and the software program expertise is considerate. Google additionally nailed 3D face unlock on its first strive. On the identical time, Google does not present as a lot storage or battery capability as equally priced telephones. The shortcomings are one thing that I can forgive, however that will not be the case for everybody. After 4 generations, the Pixels nonetheless get a few of the fundamentals flawed, and we must be holding Google to a better normal.

Design, {hardware}, what’s within the field

Google’s Pixel telephones have used a two-tone again design for the final three generations, however that is gone with the Pixel Four and Four XL. Now, there’s an unbroken glass panel on the again—shiny on the black mannequin and matte on the white and orange. The shiny black will get coated in fingerprints nearly instantly, however the matte glass appears and feels significantly better. The feel can be smoother and fewer vulnerable to scuffing than the matte glass on the Pixel 3. The big, square-ish digicam module stands out on the again, nevertheless it truly appears slightly putting in a minimalist manner.

The aluminum rim on all three Pixel telephones is black and has a pleasant “eggshell” texture that is simply the correct quantity of grippy. That is the primary glass telephone I’ve used that is not begging to go in a case. The buttons are all on the proper edge, they usually really feel extra sturdy than the Pixel 3’s buttons. The facility button additionally has that trademark pop of shade we have seen on previous Pixels.

There have been complaints in regards to the design of each Pixel telephone—the bezels are too large, there is a notch, the end is not proper, or no matter else. This 12 months, some have rolled their eyes on the giant prime bezel on the Pixel 4, however I’ve discovered it does not trouble me very a lot now that I am utilizing the telephone. It is barely smaller than the highest bezel on the Pixel 3, however the backside bezel is sort of non-existent. Which means one speaker (the earpiece) is front-firing, and the opposite is going through down. I might favor two front-facing audio system and a symmetrical backside bezel, however the sound high quality and steadiness of the Pixel Four audio system are improved from the last-gen.

The Pixel Four XL

One of many causes for that large prime bezel is that Google wanted someplace to place all of the face unlock {hardware}. It is a make-or-break characteristic for the Pixel Four as a result of there is not any fingerprint sensor. I do miss having a fingerprint sensor, however I do not hate Google’s Face Match system. In actual fact, some folks will most likely favor it to a fingerprint sensor. The IR face sensors get up earlier than you even contact the telephone, and recognizing your face takes about so long as it takes for a fingerprint to register on the Pixel 3. That’s to say, it is a lot quick. The telephone’s field-of-view is healthier than I anticipated, too. You’ll be able to maintain the Pixel Four at a really pure angle whereas unlocking, and the vary is at the least an arm’s size (which is realistically all you want). It “simply works,” to borrow an outdated advertising time period. Sure, the telephone unlocks even when your eyes are closed—that is one thing Google will handle within the coming months. It is foolish we have to wait that lengthy, however I do not think about this a deal-breaker.

The Pixel Four has a 5.7-inch 1080p OLED, and the XL steps as much as a 6.3-inch 1440p panel. Each telephones assist a 90Hz refresh charge, which appears fabulous—anybody who has used a latest OnePlus telephone can attest that it is exhausting to return to a 60Hz display screen. Nevertheless, 90Hz is not enabled on a regular basis until you poke round in developer settings to pressure it on. These are glorious panels, too. The brightness is not as unimaginable as Samsung’s newest telephones, however the Pixel Four and Four XL are completely usable open air. In a darkish room, you additionally will not discover many crushed blacks. The Pixel Three and Pixel 2 XL had points there due to its middling LG OLED. This 12 months, each telephones carry out to the identical excessive stage. Nevertheless, I’m slightly involved in regards to the oleophobic coating, which is already displaying slightly put on. I hope we’re not one other Pixel 2 XL state of affairs right here.

The Pixel 4’s packaging is surprisingly barebones—Google does not embody a number of equipment that got here with the Pixel 3. All you get within the field is the telephone, USB-C cable, charging brick, and a USB adapter for syncing different units throughout setup. There are not any USB-C headphones or perhaps a 3.5mm adapter. Fairly lame, Google.

Software program and efficiency

Google’s telephones have all the time been in regards to the software program, however the strategy to Pixels is vastly completely different than it was for Nexus units. These telephones aren’t simply “inventory” Android; Google develops customized experiences to set the Pixels aside. The Pixel Four does not come pre-loaded with a bunch of junk software program, and most of Google’s adjustments are helpful. For instance, there is a assortment of nice wallpapers with customization choices. You can even change the system theme with out leaping by means of hoops. Normal Android 10 options like darkish mode and gesture navigation are on show as properly. It is merely the very best model of Android you will get on a telephone proper now.

This 12 months’s large Pixel unique is the Mission Soli radar scanning that powers “Movement Sense.” Opinions on this characteristic differ among the many AP group, however I lean barely optimistic. Movement Sense is, sadly, very restricted in what it could do proper now. Nevertheless, what’s there appears practical. Movement Sense helps swipe gestures to vary tracks whereas listening to music. It really works when the telephone is asleep or when you’re utilizing different apps, and generally it could really feel genuinely futuristic. Swipes additionally trigger Google’s “Come Alive” wallpapers to jiggle, which is enjoyable to play with. The Pixel Four additionally makes use of Soli to detect if you attain for the telephone, permitting it to get up the face unlock sensors. Lastly, the telephone can flip off ambient show if it does not see you close by for slightly bit.

Attain out and contact the radar

Presently, Movement Sense is a gimmick that hardly justifies the flamboyant new radar sensor. Google says extra options will come to Movement Sense later, and that is the true take a look at. If we do not get any new capabilities within the coming months, Movement Sense will likely be a flop. I would not blame anybody for disabling Movement Sense proper now as a result of, let’s face it, the performance may be very restricted and it will most likely prevent slightly battery. Even with out Movement Sense, face unlock works simply high-quality as a result of the telephone wakes up if you elevate it.

I’ve mainly nothing detrimental to say in regards to the Pixel 4’s efficiency. This telephone is blisteringly quick, and the 90Hz show actually reveals off the animation smoothness. I’ve by no means discovered myself ready for the telephone to do one thing, save for a handful of weird crashes or hangs that I might attribute to the pre-release software program. It stays responsive even throughout the deluge of notifications that come when disabling airplane mode after a flight. The step as much as 6GB of RAM appears to have solved the reminiscence points that plagued the Pixel 3, too. I can rely on apps to remain in reminiscence, even when I swap over to the digicam to snap some photographs.

Google has by no means prioritized battery capability in Pixel telephones—the Pixel Four and Four XL have small-ish 2800 and 3700mAh batteries, respectively. It most likely will not come as a shock that these telephones will get you thru the day however not rather more. With the Four XL, I’ve no bother getting 5 or 6 hours of display screen time over 20-22 hours off the charger with average to heavy use. I might think about that acceptable although not spectacular. The smaller telephone is weaker, eking out barely 4 hours of display screen time in 14-16 hours of heavy use. You’ll get vary nervousness with the small Pixel 4. Battery life is just like final 12 months’s telephones, however Google actually ought to have aimed to enhance this side—its opponents are pushing considerably bigger batteries, and Google appears prefer it’s standing nonetheless by comparability. For those who want a telephone that lasts two days on a cost, the Pixels aren’t for you.


This 12 months’s Pixels have lastly added a second rear digicam, and it was well worth the wait. Google is not simply including a zoom module and calling it a day like most OEMs. In actual fact, there is not any strategy to merely flip between the primary 12MP digicam and the 16MP (handled as 12MP) 2x zoom sensor. Google desires you to compose your shot with out worrying about which digicam is capturing the photograph as a result of the telephone can sharpen photographs by stacking a number of exposures. The outcomes are terribly spectacular, even at as much as 8x zoom (see beneath). I do know Google harassed that is all simply physics throughout the announcement, however the Pixel 4’s digicam nonetheless feels magical.

8x zoom captured on Pixel 4

HDR+ processing is noticeably quicker this 12 months, and Google has pulled again on a few of the facets that would make Pixel photographs look a bit “overprocessed.” Pixel photographs nonetheless have unimaginable dynamic vary and shade accuracy, although. I’ve seen a couple of dangerous photographs crop up with the pre-release software program, however nearly every part I’ve taken on the Pixel Four comes out wanting phenomenal. If I needed to name out a flaw, I suppose some photographs have overly brilliant shadows, however that is fixable. Google has added some extra fine-tuning within the digicam UI within the type of twin publicity sliders. By fidgeting with the sliders, you may management the highlights and shadows in your picture to get some cool creative results. You will even be capable of precisely gauge the ultimate product due to the brand new reside HDR+ viewfinder. This is not normally an precise preview of what you get after processing, nevertheless it’s within the ballpark.

Evening Sight takes a couple of seconds to seize frames after which merges them collectively to make the ultimate picture. Evening Sight appears much more succesful this 12 months with jaw-dropping de-noising of low-light scenes. Maybe essentially the most unique characteristic of the Pixel 4’s digicam is the brand new astrophotography mode, which prompts routinely if you swap to Evening Sight and level the gadget skyward. Astrophotography works in the same strategy to Evening Sight, however it could take a number of minutes to get all of the required exposures (you will want a tripod). Sadly, we have not been capable of take a look at this characteristic a lot due to a mixture of poor climate and light-weight air pollution—we’ll attempt to get some samples quickly.

For as as Google is in offering a class-leading nonetheless photograph expertise, it appears surprisingly disinterested in video recording. The Pixel Four shoots satisfactory video, nevertheless it’s lacking options like 4k60 and HDR that different flagship telephones have had for the previous couple of years.

Must you purchase it?

Google Pixel Four and Four XL


Perhaps, so long as efficiency, software program, and pictures are extra essential to you than lengthy battery life. Google’s aggressive optimization and the brand new 90Hz OLED make utilizing the Pixel Four an absolute delight. I even have come to fairly just like the {hardware} design. The graceful matte glass on the again and the textured steel body feel and look nice, and the digicam module stands out in all the proper methods. The asymmetrical bezels are annoying if you first lay eyes on the telephone, however they ultimately fade into the background and you will not care.

Perhaps you will disagree that the telephone appears good or that the 90Hz show is well worth the battery influence, however nobody can dispute that the Pixel Four has a tremendous digicam. Google all the time provides a couple of new digicam tips annually, and this time the headlining options are superzoom and astrophotography. I am completely blown away by Google’s zoom photographs, which look surprisingly sharp even at 8x zoom. You’ll be able to even faux a macro shot from a few ft away out of your topic. It is so releasing to know you may simply compose your photographs the best way you need with out worrying in regards to the zoom stage.

The Pixel 4

The Pixel Four is fingers down one of the simplest ways to expertise Android 10, and that alone will make it interesting to some. I simply want I might take pleasure in utilizing it for a bit longer. Google’s refusal to cram in bigger batteries is beginning to put on skinny. Whereas the Four XL has adequate battery life, the smaller telephone is a bit beneath common. Spending nearly a thousand {dollars} on a telephone that hardly makes it by means of a day is just not superior, and Google wants to know that if it desires to promote extra units.

The Pixel Four is just not a nasty telephone, nevertheless it must be higher than it’s. For those who’re planning to select up a Pixel, I might say get the Four XL in both white or orange. It’s going to final by means of the day extra simply, and the matte glass is superior to the fingerprint-y mess you’d get with the shiny black telephone. As for whether or not or not it is best to order it now, that is a troublesome name. You would possibly wish to wait a couple of weeks and see what kind of offers Google runs this vacation season.

Purchase it if…

You care about having the most recent, best Android software program and digicam options.

Do not buy it if…

You spend a whole lot of time away from energy retailers or you do not take a whole lot of photographs.

The place to purchase

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