In Depth

Google Pixel: Reviews and everything you need to know

Internet giant launches its two new smartphones, promising better cameras, faster charging and prices to compete with Apple's best

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Google is releasing a new Android smartphone directly targeting potential buyers of the iPhone 7. 

Called the Pixel, it's the latest Android handset on the market and the internet giant promises that behind the Apple-inspired look is the simplest and most polished experience you can get on a new flagship smartphone. It is the exact same price as the latest iPhone and comes in two sizes as well. 

It's out now and the first reviews are in, so is the Google Pixel the best Android phone to buy right now? 

Here are all the details. 

Design and display

The standard Pixel uses a 5ins display while its XL big brother boasts a 5.5ins phablet-sized screen, which is also a higher quality, thanks to an AMOLED display with Quad HD resolution and a pixel density of 534ppi.

The standard phone also uses AMOLED technology, but its resolution is capped at full HD and its 441ppi pixel density means it won't be quite as sharp when used in a virtual reality headset. 

Size differences aside, both phones look the same – and are remarkably similar to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. They use rounded metal cases with a glass portion on the back, above a circular fingerprint scanner. The camera and flash sit flush in the top left hand corner.

Two colours will be available in the UK, silver and black, while US buyers also have the choice of a blue Pixel.

Hardware and power

Both phones have more or less the same powerful internals – Qualcomm's new 821 chipset with 4GB RAM. There's a choice of either 32GB storage or 128GB, with support for MicroSD cards up to 256GB. The only key difference is the battery – the smaller phone comes with a 2,770mAh cell while the Pixel XL will get a 3,450mAh pack.

Fingerprint scanners on the back can be used to swipe through notifications. The phones use USB-C ports for data transfer and charging, with Google claiming it takes a mere 15 minutes to top the Pixel up with seven hours' of battery life.

Powerful specs such as these place the Pixel at the sharp end of the smartphone market to rival the likes of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.

Software

Pixel and Pixel XL will ship with Android Marshmallow 7.1. They'll be the first Android phones in line for security and software updates, which will download automatically in the background should you wish.

Google's two new chat apps, Allo and Duo, will be installed as standard. However, the biggest software perk is Google Assistant, with the phones being the first to come with the Siri rival built in.

The Pixel marks another first too – this is the first phone you can buy that is compatible with Google's new Daydream virtual reality platform.

Virtual Reality

Google also took the unveil of the Pixel to reveal its new virtual reality platform, Daydream, which replaces Cardboard

The new system is a much more hi-tech affair requiring phones to have specific hardware configurations – and unsurprisingly, the Pixel is the first one on the market to feature them. 

Google will launch its VR headset and controller for the Pixel not long after the phone goes on sale. Called the Daydream View, it'll be priced at £69 and will offer a far more convincing experience than the Cardboard headsets of old. 

Cameras

Google claims the Pixel's main camera is the best you can buy, thanks to a DXO rating of 89 – the highest ever for a smartphone camera.

Both the Pixel and Pixel XL have a 12.3-megapixel main camera with an f/2.0 aperture and optical image stabilisation. There are also handy optimisation features such as Smartburst, which takes a short burst of pictures and selects the best image automatically, and HDR+, which helps capture better photos in uneven or low levels of lighting. Lens blur features also mean you can take photos with shallow depth of field and bokeh effects.

In addition, there is virtually no lag on the shutter key – the instant you press it, it captures a photo – and as an extra perk, Pixel buyers will get unlimited Google cloud storage for photos and videos.

Price and release

At £599 for the Pixel with 32GB, Google's new phone exactly matches the price of the Apple iPhone 7. The Pixel XL costs from £719, again placing it completely on par with Apple's new phablet.

You can pre-order now and the phone is set to release on Thursday 20 October.

Verdicts

With the phone out tomorrow, the critics have finally published their thoughts on it.

Wired gives the Pixel a big thumbs-up with a nine out of ten score, saying Android has failed to find a handset quite as simple and powerful as the Apple iPhone – until now

Interestingly, the site lists the virtual assistant software as one of the phone's best features. "If the Pixel is Google's iPhone, [Google] Assistant is its souped-up Siri," it says, and while not the perfect system virtual smartphone assistants have promised in the past, it's still the best on the market. 

Expert Reviews is a little more grounded, saying the Pixel is "good not great" and scoring it four stars out of five. 

It feels it's the cameras that really stand out as the phone's best feature and says that in hands-on tests, they outperformed those on the Samsung Galaxy S7.

Overall, though, Expert Reviews believes the Samsung is a better buy. "The Pixel would have stood a better chance if it was cheaper," it says, in reference to the iPhone-rivalling price tag, which makes Google's phone more expensive than its biggest Android rival. 

Alphr's review draws more or less the same conclusions, again citing the cost and saying it's hard to justify spending at least £599, as good as the Pixel is. 

"Even setting the price at £500 instead of £600 would have sealed its place as the best pound-for-pound smartphone around", concludes the site. 

TechRadar is pretty enthusiastic about the new smartphone, though, saying: "The design will divide people, the battery could be better, and the price will be a stumbling block for some, but the Pixel is a fast, slick, powerful smartphone which puts the best of Google in your palm". 

Crucially, the site believes Google is trying to do something different to the iPhone/Samsung Galaxy crowd. While these phones are more feature led, the internet giant is trying to deliver a top-notch, simple, powerful Android experience free of fuss – something it has achieved. 

It's a phone with "universal appeal", the site says, concluding: "If you can stomach the price point, the Pixel is a breath of fresh Google air."

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