The "1-Minute" Review
- No microSD support
- Slightly dim display
- So-so battery life during heavy use
With the release of the Pixel 3, Google hopes to compete with the top-tier phones from other manufacturers and claim a spot at the top of the mobile photography charts. The phone is also one of the first to sport Android’s latest software release -- Android 9.0 Pie. But with a price near some of the best-rated phones on the market, does it compete in terms of value?
The Pixel 3 looks like a premium phone with its curved corners, aluminum chassis, and glass rear panel. It also includes the same IP68 water resistance rating as many competing models. The lower portion of the rear panel includes a matte finish that reviewers found reduced fingerprints and added reassuring grip.
Lastly, there’s a round fingerprint scanner in the middle of the panel. Reviewers had no issues with response times and found it easy to hit without having to think about where to place your finger.
Around front, you’re greeted by a 5.5-inch FullHD+ P-OLED display with HDR support. Reviewers found contrast excellent and color reproduction on par with leading options from other manufacturers. Adjustable color profiles make it easy to match the display to your preferences.
Some reviewers questioned the screen’s brightness, with outdoor use often requiring setting the display to 100% to make out images and text at a glance. Otherwise, clarity, color, and detail appear to be excellent.
Google choose 2.5Ghz octa-core Snapdragon 845 processor and 4GB of RAM to power the phone. Reviewers found using the phone one of the most fluid and snappy Android experiences to date. However, many worried that 4GB of RAM would slow the phone down in the future as apps continue to require more power and memory to run.
Unlike many Android phones, the Pixel 3 does not allow you to expand the storage on the phone using a microSD card. Despite this, 64 or 128GB of internal storage should suffice for most users.
The phone is one of the first to ship with Android 9.0 Pie. The included 3 years of guaranteed OS and security updates also ensure your phone stays up to date.
One of the biggest additions in Android Pie is a new set of “Digital Wellbeing” settings to make mindful phone use easier and help avoid distractions when you should be sleeping, working, or otherwise not using your phone.
Many reviewers noted that the automation and improvements in Android made it feel much more like Apple’s iOS. But they were quick to point out they didn’t feel that this was a bad thing. There’s still plenty of ways to tweak settings and personalize your experience but the essentials are easier.
Unlike many of its competitors, the Pixel 3 uses a single-lens rear camera.
Rated at 12.2MP, the camera uses software to accomplish many of the advanced features found on other phones. However, reviewers found the camera more than up to snapping clear action shots, detailed night shots, and up-close macro shots. In fact, The Guardian declared, “It is safe to say the Pixel 3 has one of the best, if not the best cameras available today.”
Around front, you’ll find a dual-lens 8MP camera with a wide-angle option to help get more friends or scenery into the frame. Reviewers loved the detail on offer and found the camera did not apply excessive beautification effects or change the appearance of pictures.
Both cameras can use a range of software features to help take better shots without having to dive into manual settings. Reviewers praised the camera for its simple use and found that the recommended settings often produced outstanding images in a variety of settings and situations.
Battery life concerned some reviewers. The phone includes a 2915mAh battery good for 3.5 to 5 hours of screen-on time. While this will last the full day with typical use, heavy phone users will need to keep a charger handy.
Fortunately, the Pixel 3 supports both USB Type-C fast charging or wireless Qi charging. Google includes a 15W wired charger with the phone but they do not include a wireless charger. Reviewers found a full wired charge with the included charger took just under 2 hours.
When it comes to audio, the phone includes front-facing stereo speakers and Bluetooth 5.0 but no 3.5mm headphone jack. However, the box includes a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter and USB-C earphones. Reviewers found the headphones surprisingly punchy and comfortable.
While not supported by many carriers yet, the phone also includes e-SIM support to be activated later with a software update.
Overall, reviewers loved the Pixel 3. While battery life isn’t stellar, it offers enough juice for the average person. Everything else is at the top of the charts from display quality to camera performance.
The Guardian says, “... there’s absolutely no doubt that if you don’t want an iPhone XS, the Pixel 3 is the best small smartphone going.” Android Authority states, “The Pixel 3 on Pie is the least Android-like Android phone I’ve ever seen, but it puts forth a very compelling case for why this is the way forward.”
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