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Google Pixel 4 Review

A stellar phone let down by very poor battery life

4 stars

Almost exceptional

When Google entered into the smartphone game with the Pixel, competing with the likes of Samsung and Apple wasn't easy. Simply put, the predominantly software-driven company wasn't expected to make as big as an impact as it did. But now, four iterations later, the Pixel lineup continues to impress, and the Pixel 4 must absolutely be included in the discussion when it comes to the best phones of 2019.

4 stars

Almost exceptional

Design

4 stars

Camera

4.5 stars

Ease of Use

5 stars

Value

4 stars

Performance

3.5 stars
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Pros

  • Unbelievable camera with lots of innovative features
  • Impressive screen quality
  • Super fast Face Unlock feature
  • Intuitive interface with built-in Google Assistant

Cons

  • Battery life leaves a lot to be desired
  • No wide-angle camera lens
  • Gesture control is limited

The Google Pixel 4 is a notable jump up from its predecessors, which were already among the best Android phones you could buy. While the Pixel 3 barely improved enough on the Pixel 2 to get users to upgrade, the newest iteration adds some fun new features, along with a sleek design and stunning camera upgrades.

It does come with a few downsides though. Google didn't jump on the affordable phone bandwagon this year, keeping its flagship device at one of the higher cost points on the market – the price tag of $799 will be prohibitive for many. Additionally, Google ditched the bigger battery in favor of a sleeker body, which naturally has a negative effect on battery performance.

So, should you buy the Google Pixel 4? We'll walk you through all the features, specs, and quirks of this Android smartphone to give you a clear picture of what you're buying before you make a decision.

Pixel 4 Design and Screen Quality

google pixel 4 screenWhile the original Pixel turned heads with its design, the Pixel lineup has remained consistent over the years, and the Pixel 4 holds steady in that trend. With a screen-to-body ratio of 83.99%, it actually doesn't compare favorably to the competition, such as the latest Samsung models. The bezels are decidedly more visible than most top-end smartphones on the market, although they do house some pretty cool features.

The glass front and back make for a potentially slippery device, but the matte edges of the phone make it easy to hold on to if you opt to do without a case. Plus, for an added piece of flare, the Pixel 4 comes with the alternatively colored power button, which (as long as you don't hide it under a case) gives the smartphone a bit of character.

The Pixel 4's screen quality is impressive. The 5.7-inch P-OLED display is admittedly nothing to write home about in terms of size, and the Full HD+ quality is actually pretty standard in flagship devices in 2019. The Ambient EQ feature enables the Pixel 4 to adjust screen brightness on the fly based on the user's environment – again, nice, but not unique.

But that's all specs on paper. In the hand, the screen truly comes good.

A key difference is that the Pixel 4 boasts one of the smoothest screen experiences on the market thanks to the 90Hz OLED display, giving activities like gaming and social media scrolling that added clarity. For comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 and the iPhone 11 Pro are only equipped with 60Hz displays, so Google takes the gold on this one – although the OnePlus 7 does boast a stunning display that's a close runner-up.

Pixel 4 Performance and Speed

As far as specs are concerned, the Pixel 4 comes with the performance power you'd expect from a flagship device. The Snapdragon 855 processor keeps everything running quickly and smoothly. The 6GB of RAM are more than enough to handle whatever you need the smartphone for but nothing remarkable in 2019.

In addition to all that, the Pixel 4 is equipped with the Pixel Neural Core, an additional chip that works in tandem with the main processor. This handy chip allows the device to smoothly run Google's powerful machine-learning software throughout the device, contributing to a notably smooth and speedy interface. This gives the Pixel 4 more than just a virtual assistant at the click of a button; it turns the entire device into an intelligent, intuitive powerhouse that is often notifying and prompting you to open apps, check out meetings, and access documents before you know you need them.

As far as storage is concerned, the Pixel 4 comes with a 64GB and 128GB options, which feels a bit stingy these days, especially so as Google decided to remove the unlimited, original-quality photo storage from older Pixel phones. Fortunately, there's a noticeable absence of bloatware which saves some space. That is, unless you're a big fan of taking 4K videos.

One of the standout features of the Pixel 4 is Face Unlock. Not because it's a brand new feature to the smartphone world – the iPhone's Face ID has been around for a few years now. However, the Pixel 4's Face Unlock is fast and efficient providing secure access to approved users.

This is due, in part, to the Project Soli technology within the device. This is a radar system that allows the Pixel 4 to sense and understand objects around it. Subsequently, the device begins the unlocking process before you've even picked it up, which allows it to unlock this quickly. Additionally, the Project Soli tech gives way to Gesture Control features, allowing users to mute calls and skip songs in Spotify with the mere wave of a hand. It's a nice touch, though for now, the Gesture Control function feels less than fully realized – future usage scenarios will no doubt develop fast.

Pixel 4 Camera Quality

The Pixel lineup has set itself apart with one of the highest quality smartphone cameras in each generation, and the Pixel 4 certainly doesn't disappoint. From the stunning Portrait Mode shots to the class-leading Night Mode pictures, the Pixel 4 continues to compete for the best camera in a smartphone on the market today.

As the first Pixel smartphone to feature a dual camera setup, we knew we were in for something special with the Pixel 4. The 12Mp primary lens and the 16MP telephoto lens make for stunningly colorful and well-lit shots in pretty much any environment, and the 8x zoom is among the best in the industry, as you see from those clearly detailed ducks in the photos above. Additionally, the Pixel 4 comes with an astrophotography feature, which allows users to get unbelievable shots of a starry night sky, as long as you've got a tripod that can hold it still for three minutes.

Tragically, despite becoming a standard on most smartphones this year, Google opted to do without a wide angle lens, which has many users upset. The trend has become quite popular (and admittedly makes for some pretty cool photos), but Google felt the ultra-zoom was more important than the wide angle shots, so take that with a grain of salt.

As for the front-facing camera, Google dropped the group selfie mode, opting for only a single camera facing the user. This 8Mp lens will still capture all your own stunning glory in Portrait Mode, but you're going to need a longer arm to get those large group selfies.

The video capabilities of the Pixel 4 are pretty stellar as well. As you can see, the Pixel 4 will shoot in 4K (although the device warns that it will take up a lot of space), and the clarity is nothing short of impressive, particularly for a smartphone. Plus, with slo-mo and time lapse features, you can really add some flare to your video experience.

Pixel 4 Overall Ease of Use

When it comes to ease of use, Tech.co boils it down to two categories: the simplicity of the software and the feel of the hardware.

google pixel 4 rear caseFirst off, transferring data between an old Pixel 2 and the new Pixel 4 was seamless – a short five minute process facilitated by simply plugging the two devices together with a USB-C cable. The entire device was quickly set up with previously installed apps and existing data from our old phone. A few apps were deleted (like a voice memo app) in favor of the newly added features (like the mind-bending Recorder app from Google).

On the software side, navigating the interface is nothing short of seamless. You can opt for gesture control or the three-button navigation option, each providing simple means of accessing the home screen, apps page, or to “go back.” Plus, with dedicated Google Assistant features throughout and the the Pixel Neural Core assisting any machine learning processes, you're never more than a click or two away from what you're trying to access, as the device often predicts which app you need or which email you're looking for.

As for the hardware, Google definitely went for sleek and stylish with the Pixel 4. The decidedly thin body, combined with the smaller frame makes it incredibly comfortable in your hand. As we mentioned, the glass front and back make it pretty slippery, but the matte sides will keep it firmly within your grasp if you opt to go without a case.

Naturally with a device this thin, the Pixel 4 does not have a headphone jack. But hey, you should probably have some Bluetooth headphones by now, Google hopes…

Pixel 4 Battery Life

Considering battery life is one of the most important smartphone features to customers, Google surprisingly dropped the ball on this one. The Pixel 4 boasts a 2,800mAh battery, which is notably smaller than the rest of the industry. The company said it went for a sleeker build and that battery life suffered as a result, but there's not a person on Earth that wouldn't trade a few millimeters of smartphone girth for a couple extra hours of battery life.

In practice, the Pixel 4 will last approximately 14 hours on a full charge with light use, a woeful comparison to other models on the market. To make matters worse, getting rid of battery draining features like Gesture Control and Ambient EQ don't save much time either, so you're likely going to need to keep an eye on the battery more than you'd want.

Like the Pixel 3, the Pixel 4 is equipped with wireless charging, and it's actually not much slower than the fast charging found via the USB-C cable. However, it does heat the phone up a bit, which can be unsettling, although not an inherent problem.

Pixel 4 Value for Money

With the Pixel 4 and the iPhone 11 coming out just a mere month apart and sporting similar price tags, it's fair to compare them in value. While the Pixel 4 costs $100 more than the iPhone 11, it definitely sports more of a flagship device feel. After all, Apple just changed the name of its more affordable option to make it the flagship device, still leaving out an entire camera lens and a number of important features in the process.

When you compare prices of the Pixel 4 to the iPhone 11 Pro, which sports the three-camera array everyone is used to, the price comparison is more apt, with the Pixel 4 coming in at $100 less. Ditto for the Samsung S10, although the S10e (the affordable model) does come in at $50 less than the Pixel 4.

All this is to say that the Pixel 4 lands firmly in the middle of the premium smartphone price range battle, and that's a solid spot considering what it boasts and what it lacks. In earnest, the poor battery life knocks the Pixel 4 down a notch, as it's certainly not going to get better as time goes on. However, the additional features make the Pixel 4 an exciting new smartphone that is so much more than a mere incremental update of imperceptible specs. If the battery life was better, we'd happily purchase a Pixel 4 immediately. However, if you're the kind of user who really puts their phone to work, the lack of longevity might be enough to make you think twice.

Remember though, the Pixel 4 isn't a 5G compatible device, so if you're investing for the long haul, it might be worth it to check out a Samsung S10 5G.

Google Pixel 4 Verdict

Now, the ultimate question: should you buy the Google Pixel 4? Despite the poor battery life and the absence of a wide angle lens, the Pixel 4 is a solid phone with an intuitive interface and remarkable camera. If you use Google Calendar, Gmail, Google Maps, or any of the dozens of G-Suite apps that make life easier, the Pixel 4 will provide an unprecedentedly seamless experience.

Additionally, the Pixel 4 comes with some fun new smartphones features that will make it more than just a spec upgrade for speed and camera quality. Gesture control, astrophotography, and 4K video capabilities will make trying out your new smartphone an exciting experience rather than a drab reimagining of former iterations.

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