Google Pixel first impressions: Solid build, fugly back

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Google Pixel
It's in talks to buy HTC, maker of the Pixel lineup.
Photo: Google

Google’s new Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are ready to do battle with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and based on the first hands-on reviews, Apple could learn a few things from the new devices.

Apple’s shadow loomed large during today’s Google event. Exec from the search engine giant threw plenty of shade at the iPhone-maker for its lack of a headphone jack and storage limitations. Even though Google’s new devices look like total iPhone ripoffs the initial reaction has been mostly positive.

We’ll have to test Pixel in the wild before making our final judgement but here are some of the first reactions to the device from people that got to play with it:


Design

“The phone is solidly built. I loved the way the five-inch Pixel felt, size-wise. The Pixel XL was a bit more of a stretch, but considering it has a bigger battery and it’ll work better in the Daydream VR viewer, I might still lean toward that one. Both phones have big blank spaces at the top and bottom of their screens, which really seems like wasted space.” — PopSci

Unique back

“The Pixel XL stands out from the smartphone crowd thanks to its cool and unusual half-and-half glass and metal construction. Up top you get a glossy surfacing which thankfully seems quite resistant to grease and scuff marks. While on the bottom half, the XL is pure metal. It’s a very cool look, and a welcome antidote to non-stop all-metal mobiles.” — Recombu

Beautiful displays

“Displays on the Pixel (1080p) and the Pixel XL (Quad HD) both look great, with deep blacks thanks to the use of AMOLED screens, and both benefit from the new Pixel Launcher, which makes the software navigation buttons present in Android smaller, and which also has smaller, rounder icons throughout and a new Google launcher that also takes up less space. The end result of all these changes is a focus on just how much real estate the screen has to offer, which works well with rich images used as backdrops.” TechCrunch

So Smart

“Google Assistant doesn’t bug you with repeated requests like Siri does, and so the software’s ability to understand context in questions is at once a minor improvement, and a tremendous sea change. If you’re regularly using Siri or Google Now (the precursor to Google Assistant), then you will be pleased. Even if you don’t spend all your time furiously shouting out every request at your phone, Google Assistant is neat.” — Gizmodo

Tons of power

“Everything feels nice and fluid too, though that’s to be expected from pair of smartphones with quad-core Snapdragon 821 chipsets and 4GB of RAM. All told, the Pixels have more than enough horsepower to keep even the pickiest phone buffs pleased.” — Engadget

Overhyped camera

While my first play the sensor on the back of the Pixel XL is mostly positive, I don’t think it quite has the chops to be the best… Focusing does seem super fast though, and there’s no lag when you’re shooting in HDR. I shot a few photos in the demo area and they seemed perfectly fine, but they didn’t instantly make me say ‘wow’ like the Galaxy S7 did. The Google camera app is a bit limited too, with a lack of any manual controls — TrustedReviews

For VR, go XL

“Those who pick up the larger, higher resolution Pixel XL will get a better Daydream experience, simply because the display can pack more pixels into each of your eyes for a more immersive view. It’s not a deal breaker, and it won’t result in a terrible experience if you do opt for a Pixel – but there is a difference between the two phones.” — TechRadar

Nitpicking

“There’s only one speaker — at the bottom. Especially for a device that’s designed for Daydream VR, I expected stereo. It’s also inexplicable that there are antenna lines in the aluminum back, one on the bottom and another at the top. With such a large, glass “shade” on the back, it’s weird that they’re necessary at all.” — The Verge