Google Pixel 4 Review: The Good the Bad and the Ugly

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Just a few days ago, we witnessed the launch of the Google Pixel 4. It goes without saying that this is one of the most anticipated and leaked phones on the internet prior to its launch. And now we finally have the actual product. Like every other Pixel device that came before it, there are numerous controversies regarding everything about the phone.

Today, we’ll take a look at all the specifications of the new Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL and try to justify if it’s a worthy purchase amongst all the other flagships offered by the competition.

Design & Display

Image: Computerworld

Starting with the front of the Pixel 4,  you have a 5.7″ 1080×2280 90Hz Flexible OLED display on the regular phone and a 6.3″ 1440×3040 90Hz Flexible OLED panel on the XL variant. By today’s standards, the screen sizes are relatively smaller, which may be a deal-breaker for many potential buyers. Couple that with the fact that the cheaper variant only comes with a 1080p display resolution makes it even more outdated especially when compared to the competition.

However, not everything is bad with the display. I’m personally glad Google went with the 90Hz refresh rate for both the variants, which makes it the second smartphone company to do so. On top of that, it’s an OLED panel, which means vibrant colors along with some battery savings with the systemwide dark mode.

Image: PCWorld

Coming around the display, you have slightly larger bezels compared to all other recent flagships and a massive forehead. Needless to say that it looks really odd but if you were to look at the bright side, it eliminates the need for an abysmal notch. Inside the massive forehead, you’ll find the single front camera, sensors for the new secure face unlock and a new compact radar sensor for gesture controls.

Move to the back and the first thing you’ll notice is the giant square camera module on the top left. Just like on the iPhone 11 series, this is a highly controversial design trait that people seem to have mixed opinions about. You can either love it or hate it. I, personally, like it better on the Pixel 4 for some odd reason. The rest of the back is as subtle as it gets and I love the clean look. You just get the Google logo on the bottom and that’s about it.

The device is available in 3 colors: White, Black and Oh so Orange. The aluminum strip in the middle of the glass sandwich is black regardless of the color you go for and the lock/power button is also colored.

Cameras

Image: Google

While the Pixel 4 is a 2019 flagship and it has a huge camera module, it still has just two rear cameras. Yes, you’ve read that right. While every other smartphone is coming out with three cameras, Pixel 4 only has two. I do admit that Pixel phones have a history of doing better with fewer cameras, however, the case may be different this time.

The sensors in the camera module include:

  • A 12.2MP Main Camera with f/1.7 aperture, a 28mm focal length and has Optical Image Stabilization.
  • 16MP Telephoto with f/2.4 aperture, a 45mm focal length that results in a 2x Optical Zoom. It also has Optical Image Stabilization.

While we’re glad the Pixel lineup finally has gotten multiple cameras, we are disappointed over the fact that Google chose a Telephoto over an Ultrawide sensor. While optical zoom can be useful in some scenarios, it isn’t used as much by the general public as ultrawide. If Pixel had gone for an ultrawide, it would’ve been a complete package even with just two cameras.

Image: Google

Coming to the front camera, it is now a single unit in both the regular Pixel 4 and the XL variant. We have an 8MP unit with an f/2.0 aperture and a 22mm focal length. This does seem like a step down from Pixel 3 XL with its multiple front cameras but it’ll get the job done thanks to Pixel 4’s superior software optimization.

The Pixel 4 does have an array of other sensors in the front that do more than just taking selfies though. You have NIR Dot Projectors and 3D Time of Flight cameras that are used for the secure face unlock that we’ll talk about later.

In terms of video recording, you can record 1080p@30fps from the front camera. The rear camera can record in the following resolutions:

  • 4K@30fps
  • 1080p@30/60fps
  • 1080p@120fps (Slow Motion)
  • 720p@240fps (Slow Motion)

Performance

Image: Qualcomm

Under the hood of the Pixel 4, you have the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 855 CPU. Unfortunately, it’s not the latest and greatest out there as we now have the 855+ used by recent flagships but I guess this is good enough. It’s paired to an Afreno 640 GPU for intense graphics performance. I’ll admit, I’m a bit disappointed with Google not going for the 855+ as it seems to be a weird cost-cutting measure to go for a slower CPU.

The memory and storage department isn’t much of a redeeming factor as well. You can only have the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL with a 6GB LPDDR4X RAM. That’s it. There’s no paying more to get a variant with higher RAM. Now, in day and age 6GB RAMs, especially on smartphones running Android, are starting to become obsolete. Pixel should’ve gone with at least 8GB.

There’s a similar story with the storage as well. You have 64GB as base and you can only upgrade up to 128GB. No 256GB, let alone 512GB that the competition is offering. Like the 6GB memory, 64GB of storage is starting to become inadequate and I don’t know why Google didn’t go over 128GB.

Lastly, we have the battery. The regular Pixel 4 and the XL variant have a 2800mAh and a 3700mAh battery respectively. Again, in this time with smartphones nearing 5000mAh batteries, these numbers seem outdated. You do get an 18W fast charger out of the box with USB-C, so I guess not everything is bad about it.

Software & Security

Image: Google

The Pixel 4 comes, out of the box, with the latest Android 10 operating system. Being Google’s own device, it doesn’t come with any special skin or user interface on top of it. Personally, I love this software. It’s simple, light and free from any bloatware other user interfaces have. Other than this, of all the Android devices out there, this is the most optimized with the best app support similar to iOS.

It also comes with Google Assistant built into the software, which makes it even faster and more efficient to use. All the system apps are now programmed to use the radar sensor, that we talked about earlier, to allow gesture controls.

In terms of security, the Pixel lineup has now ditched the fingerprint sensor completely. The only method to unlock the device is a face scanner. However, unlike any other Android face scanner, this is more secure as it uses a dot projector to make a 3D map of your face. It works much like the one on the iPhone except it’s faster and not that easy to fool.

Price & Verdict

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are available for pre-order at $799 and $899 respectively. Allow me to remind you that you’ll be paying this kind of money for a device that has a small battery, outdated design, 6GB RAM and only 64GB storage. That’s too much for a phone with these specs especially when you have devices like the OnePlus 7T and Redmi K20 Pro that offer more for way less. Just like every Pixel device before it, the Pixel 4 is just too overpriced and I’d recommend against buying it.

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