Sunday, September 24, 2023

Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro hands-on: features, photos and more

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Shreya Christina
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This has been a chorus for the past few months, so it probably won’t surprise you that the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are a lot like the devices that came before them: the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. Their price tags — $599 and $899 respectively — also remain unchanged, which is a welcome sight in this year of price hikes and relentless inflation. But other than a minor design tweak and more subdued color options, the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro don’t show much on the new surface.

Google’s official stated dimensions for the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro suggest they are ever so slightly smaller than their predecessors, just a millimeter here and there. In reality, they both still look and feel like big phones.

Pixel 7 Pro (left) and Pixel 7 (right).  Big phones are still big.

Pixel 7 Pro (left) and Pixel 7 (right). Big phones are still big.

The Pixel 7’s screen diagonal measures 6.3 inches compared to the Pixel 6’s 6.4-inch screen, and Google says the bezels have gotten slimmer too. I take Google at his word on this; I certainly couldn’t see a difference. The Pixel 7 Pro is still listed as a 6.7-inch screen and is still just as smooth scrolling as the 6 Pro’s screen, with the same 120Hz top refresh rate. The Pixel 7 sticks to a 90Hz display, and while both claim a 25 percent improvement in peak brightness, we couldn’t see for ourselves without bringing the devices out.

Something you can’t see from the outside is the Pixel 7’s improved selfie camera. Beneath the screen’s punch cutout is the same 10.8-megapixel sensor that houses the 7 Pro (and 6 Pro). It offers a wider 20mm focal length to get more people in your group selfies, and it’s capable of shooting 4K/60p, while the Pixel 6’s selfie camera was limited to 1080p.


Hazel is our “fun” Pro color this year.

Overall, Google is sticking to the same design ethos as last year, keeping the horizontal camera bar with a minor update. Instead of a high-contrast black finish, the look is a bit more reserved, with a metal finish that blends into the phone’s side rails. Personally, I’m still not in love with the overall design, but I think this is an improvement.

Like last year, the aluminum frame of the Pro model has a polished finish, while the frame of the standard Pixel 7 has a matte finish. They’re still IP68 devices and they still look like the real deal: genuine flagship phones.

The lemongrass Pixel 7 is the best Pixel color this year.  Not against me.

The lemongrass Pixel 7 is the best Pixel color this year. Not against me.

Of course, the real star of the show is not visible from the outside: Tensor G2, Google’s second-generation custom chipset. It’s behind many of the improvements Google is touting in the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, such as better call quality, faster night mode, and the new Cinematic Blur feature for bokeh in portrait mode during video recording. I tried night mode with the camera covered by my black shirt, and even going for the maximum exposure and processing time it seemed a lot faster.

A new 2x zoom mode is also available on both devices. It cuts out in the center of the main camera sensor to create a 12-megapixel final image that requires no upsampling. It’s similar to what Apple does with the 14 Pro camera, and just like on the iPhone, it’s available (and well-suited) for portrait mode.

The 7 Pro has a 10x crop mode using the 48-megapixel telephoto camera sensor.

The 7 Pro has a 10x crop mode using the 48-megapixel telephoto camera sensor.

On the 7 Pro, you also get a 10x zoom using the same method on the 5x telephoto camera. Interestingly, there is a 5x setting available for quick access in the camera app, but you have to manually zoom in to 10x to find the longer crop mode. The Pro also has a new macro mode. It’s made possible by the addition of autofocus to the ultra-wide camera, but it’s activated automatically when you use the 1x main camera with a close-up subject.

There’s more that Tensor G2 does, of course, but Google’s announcement today doesn’t give the impression that the experience of using the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro will be drastically different from the previous generation. At the very least, these latest Pixel devices seem very familiar right now.

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