The "1-Minute" Review
- No 4K60 video
- Slow facial recognition
- No 3.5mm to USB adapter
- Weak battery
Google touts its Pixel phone series as the ideal mix of hardware and software, providing a pure Android experience, rapid updates, and features not found on other smartphones. However, the competition in the mid- and high-tier phone market continues to innovate and redefine the mobile experience, does the Pixel 4 offer a compelling experience for its high-end price?
Let’s see what reviewers around the Internet have to say...
Reviewers loved the latest design from Google. The IP68-rated glass and aluminum chassis provides a premium feel and the rear camera bump is visually noticeable but doesn’t cause issues when laying the phone on a flat surface.
The black variant features a glossy back panel which comes with the usual complaints of slippery grips and fingerprints everywhere. However, the orange and white variants offer a soft-touch finish which reviewers loved.
Ars Technica praised the grippier soft-touch coating, saying, “The back provides an agreeable amount of grip that you don't get with regular glass. It looks great, it stays clean, and it seems durable.”
Reviewers all agree this is the best Pixel phone design yet.
As one of the major features promoted by Google, the 5.7-inch 90Hz P-OLED display running at 1080-by-2280 pixels was a mixed bag with reviewers.
For the typical specs -- color reproduction, viewing angles, clarity, and outdoor visibility -- the phone fares fine. However, the 90Hz mode which works to make the screen feel smoother didn’t impress most reviewers. This is because Google disables the feature in mid- to low-light situations. So if the refresh rate is a big selling point for you, know it might be disabled most of the time depending on your environment.
Proportions were another common complaint. The phone has nearly non-existent bezels on the sides and bottom of the phone. However, the top of the phone houses NIR sensors which power the facial recognition and motion gesture features and the phone’s camera, making for an odd look to some.
Worse still the facial recognition and gesture controls received a lot of criticism. Experts found the unlocking slow and wished for a fingerprint reader in their reviews. The gesture controls fared better. However, many reviewers noted inconsistent response to even the basic gestures on offer.
Ars Technica said, “In reality, the Pixel 4's face unlock is slow, inconsistent, and frustrating to use. Security issues were discovered almost immediately. It's an across-the-board regression compared to a fingerprint reader and a big downside to the Pixel 4.”
Powered by a 2.84Ghz octa-core Snapdragon 855 processor paired with 6GB of RAM, the phone offers enough power to run the most demanding apps or the latest graphics-intensive games. While it’s not the absolute newest processor available in 2019, it’s plenty capable and reviews indicate the phone runs nice and snappy with no overheating issues or odd performance quirks.
Yet, there are more powerful options available for a similar price. GSM Arena summarizes common reviewer opinions well, saying, “... The Pixel is reasonably powerful, but it's bested by most other high-end phones in both peak and sustained performance. If you want a phone for heavy gaming, this is not it but it should do just fine for most every day scenarios.”
As Google’s headlining phone, the phone ships with the latest version of Android (10) with guaranteed updates to October 2022. Google stages its rollouts, so you might not receive an update the moment it is released. However, in most cases you should see the updates come through within a week or two of release -- faster than many third-party Android phones offer.
Storage was a point of contention in reviews. The phone comes in 64 or 128GB variants and there is no microSD support. If you plan to store a lot of media for offline playback, install multiple games, or record hours of video, you’ll want to spring for the larger storage option since you cannot expand it.
Pixel cameras lead the pack for high-end Android phone cameras. The Pixel 4 is no exception with its dual rear camera with 12MP wide-angle lens and 16MP telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom. If you’re a fan of selfies or vlogging, there is also a front-facing 8MP wide-angle lens.
Reviewers praised the camera quality and the software’s easy use. Zooming is as simple as tapping the screen and the phones Live HDR+ feature means on-screen previews truly reflect what you’ll see in the final image.
There’s even an astrophotography mode to take pictures of the stars -- though it’ll require a tripod for clear shots.
While the phone might not have a huge range of lenses like much of the competition, reviews indicate it keeps up just fine thanks to excellent software optimization.
Mobile Syrup loved the camera’s performance, saying, “As a photographer, the Pixel 3 was a phone I could trust. The narrower focal length did limit it in some respects, but I could count on its image quality. That trend continues with the Pixel 4, which is still among the best in the business.”
Battery Life [H4]
Battery life is the single biggest weakness of the Pixel 4. It includes a scant 2,800mAh battery -- far below what you’ll find in similarly specced phones. Reviewers had trouble getting the phone through a full day on a single charge with moderate to heavy use.
Notebook Check had a similar experience to most reviewers, saying, “Power users should thus consider carrying around a power bank or giving it a quick top-up whenever possible.”
Fortunately, with USB Type-C fast charging and Qi wireless fast charging, keeping your phone topped up isn’t too difficult. But if you’re looking for a phone you can take off the charger in the morning and not worry about until bed that night, the Pixel 4 is not it.
As with many of the latest phones, the Pixel 4 features stereo speakers but lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack. Reviewers found the speakers respectable but disliked the fact that Google did not include a 3.5mm-to-USB adapter with the phone. So if you want to use your favorite cans to enjoy movies or music, count on spending a little extra to get an adapter.
DXOMark put the phone through its paces and noted, “[The Pixel 4 is] among the three best Android devices ... outperforming such heavyweight competitors as the current Samsung flagships and the OnePlus 7 Pro. For music lovers and avid videographers of family and friends, the Pixel 4 should deliver more than satisfying results.”
Overall, reviews for the phone are mixed. On one hand, it’s more than capable of running the latest apps and games, includes an excellent display, and feels premium in the hand. On the other, it’s a hassle to unlock and battery life is near -- if not at -- the bottom of the charts for mid- to high-tier phones in 2019. Pair that with a price tag well toward the upper end of the charts and reviewers have a hard time recommending the Pixel 4. Those that did still recommended the larger Pixel 4 XL instead.
Ars Technica didn’t hold back, declaring, “The Pixel 4 isn't bad in a vacuum, but the rest of Google's Android competition gets better every year, while Google stands still. This year, Google turned in a weak, timid update to its flagship smartphone, and I'm not sure who to recommend this to at [this price.]”
TechWeLike found the phone a bit of a compromise, noting, “It’s not the best bang for your buck, so you really have to enjoy the clean Android experience, the killer camera, and deal with the subpar battery life to go for the Pixel 4.”
Android Central says, “The Pixel 4 ends up feeling like it's trapped between multiple quantum states. A phone with some jaw-dropping technologies that has to service too many agendas, and lacks the singular focus or vision to be what everyone really wants it to be.”
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