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Google Pixel 2 hands-on: AI comes to the fore

With the new Pixel, Google wants to show what the ideal Android smartphone should look like and demonstrate what is possible with the platform. The Pixel 2 is manufactured by HTC as in the previous year and comes with everything a current top-of-the-range smartphone needs in terms of technology.

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Google Pixel 2 release date and price

Google Pixel 2 can be purchased in several ways: In the US, the Google Store, Best Buy, Project Fi, and Verizon will begin taking pre-orders on Wednesday, October 4. In the UK, the Google Store and Carphone Warehouse are taking pre-orders.

Priced at $649 with 64 GB memory and $749 with double memory, the Google Pixel 2 is not exactly a bargain and continues the trend towards ever more expensive luxury smartphones. Pre-ordering is now possible, and for a limited time, customers will also receive a free Google Home Mini with their order.

google pixel 2 front
Google Pixel 2 / © AndroidPIT

Google Pixel 2 design and build quality

The first Pixel smartphone was a real eye-catcher with the split glass top and metal back. The Pixel 2 continues this design even though the glass strip has become a bit narrower. Interestingly, the Pixel 2 bucks the current industry trend of super-thin bezels around the display. The Pixel 2 has thick black bars above and below the 5 inch screen, which make it seem less than cutting-edge in appearance. The case of the smartphone is protected against water and dust in accordance with IP67.

google pixel 2 side1
Google Pixel 2 / © AndroidPIT

Google and HTC offer the Pixel 2 in black, white or blue. The front is always in black, however. The Pixel 2 is 7.8 millimeters thick and weighs 143 grams. There is no longer a headphone jack (but an adapter is included) and Google only uses the digital USB-C-port, which is also used to charge the phone. The Google Pixel 2 has a fast, responsive fingerprint sensor for unlocking, located on the back.

google pixel 2 camera
Google Pixel 2 / © AndroidPIT

Thanks to its small size, the Pixel 2 fits very well in the hand. The back of the phone has a pleasant feel and a high-quality coating, which should keep fingerprints within acceptable limits. The Pixel 2 looks fantastic, only the border between the glass and aluminium on the back of one of the pre-release models is not quite perfect.

Google Pixel 2 display

Google Pixel 2's display is 5 inches diagonally, Full-HD with a resolution count of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. Google uses an OLED display for the small Pixel 2. Both new Pixels are certified for Google's VR system, Daydream View. The new Always-on-Display provides Pixel users with important information and automatically detects background music - naturally connected with the Google Assistant.

The Google Pixel 2's OLED panel offers rich colors and sharp contrasts. Brightness and viewing angle stability are exemplary. The missing QHD resolution is not a big deal considering the size, Full-HD is completely sufficient for a sharp representation.

Google Pixel 2 special features

The new Active Edge feature resembles HTC's Edge Sense. Squeezing the edges of the frame launches the Google Assistant on the Pixel 2, which then listens the corresponding voice commands. Overall, Google's new Pixel generation puts much more emphasis on the Assistant, which gets a lot of new features that we shall examine in the full review. What's more, speech recognition also works excellently, even with ambient noise. In the test of Pixel 2, the smartphone understands every word.

Google Pixel 2 software

The Google Pixel 2 runs Android 8.0 Oreo in its purest form. Unsurprisingly, Google has left the user interface completely untouched, offering the user everything one would expect from Google - and nothing else. This is a real question of taste, because manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG and others offer not only a different look, but also advanced functions. But, the Pixel series is aimed at the Android purists, who will certainly get their money's worth, as most of the things that Android launchers bring along can be selectively upgraded via the Play Store.

google pixel 2 hero
New Google Pixel 2 home screen / © AndroidPIT

Pixel owners will continue to be the first to receive updates and security patches. Google guarantees three years of software and security updates. The Google Assistant, which gets some new features, will continue to be at the forefront because, as Google has correctly recognized, software can now be used to differentiate from the competition rather than hardware. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are also becoming increasingly important. Google always emphasizes the importance of combining AI, software and hardware.

Google Pixel 2 performance

With Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 and 4 GB of memory, Google Pixel 2 is superbly positioned to meet the demands of today's smartphone users. Together with the naked, pure Android system, the Pixel 2 runs quickly and smoothly, without jerks or notable pauses in charging. For the internal memory, Google offers a choice of 64 to 128 GB. This just as expected for a modern flagship, as 32 GB upper range phones have fast become a thing of the past.
 

Google Pixel 2 camera

Although Google does not use a dual camera for the Pixel 2, the new smartphone has nevertheless demonstrated excellent camera performance. Google Pixel 2 has a camera with a 12 MP sensor with OIS and an aperture of f/1.8, and an 8 MP camera for selfies. Portrait mode is available on both the front and back camera. Videos are of course also recorded in 4K. 

google pixel 2 xl google lens
Google Lens (shown on Pixel 2 XL) / © Google

The camera of the Pixel 2 can do even more. The new Google Lens lets you use it as a search tool. This works through automated object recognition using Google's AI technology. In addition, the camera has been optimized for AR use. In portrait mode, the Pixel 2 tries to simulate studio light and depth-of-field blur - with somewhat mixed results. The DxOMark test, which manufacturers like to advertise, gives the new Pixel camera a new record score of 98 points, compared to 89 for its predecessor.

Google Pixel 2 battery

Google Pixel 2 contains a rechargeable battery with a capacity of 2,700 mAh. Considering the powerful processor, that doesn't sound like much, but the Pixel 2 should hold out at least one day away from the charger, if you don't push it too hard - but that's exactly what we'll do in our Pixel 2 test. Thanks to Quick Charge, the battery can be charged quickly, although not wirelessly.

Google Pixel 2 technical specifications

Dimensions: 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm
Weight: 143 g
Battery size: 2700 mAh
Screen size: 5 in
Display technology: AMOLED
Screen: 1920 x 1080 pixels (441 ppi)
Front camera: 8 megapixels
Rear camera: 12.3 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 8.0 - Oreo
User interface: Stock Android
RAM: 4 GB
Internal storage: 64 GB
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.45 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0

Early Verdict

With the exception of the somewhat old-school bezels, Google's Pixel 2 brings everything it needs to be a major contender in the battle for top position in the smartphone market. The design is unique, the performance is exceptional and the update support for an Android smartphone is very good - even if Apple customers can still laugh about it. Our first impression is that the smaller Pixel is really coming into its own with this second edition. 

In our upcoming full review of the Google Pixel 2, we're excited to find out, among other things, whether the battery satisfies the increased demands of modern use, whether the camera can match the achievements of its predecessor and whether the additional functions are really worthwhile in everyday life.

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