(Part 1) Google Pixel User Review – Specs, Hardware

Note : This was turning out to be a lengthy review, so I conveniently cut them in 2-part [Update 9 Dec 16] 3-part review to avoid tl:dr (Too Long; Didn’t Read) syndrome.

I love my husband, I really do. He knows how to spoil me with gifts. If you’re thinking luxury handbags, shoes and spa retreats, then you forgot that I’m a massive gadget geek. Yes – he buys me gadgets. Gadgets I want and lust over.

And the latest gadget? The Google Pixel.

Google Pixel, in case you don’t know, is the first official Google branded smartphone.

What About Google Nexus brand?

If you’re confused, coz you thought Nexus is the Google brand of phones, let me explain.

Nexus vs Pixel
*Image Source : Android Central

Yes, Google used to produce Nexus branded smartphones as the pure Android experience smartphone, without skin, themes, bloatwares etc. But in actual fact, these phones are collaborative devices that Google work with other phone manufacturers from a hardware and design perspective.

Most of them are actually based off flagship models of these manufacturers. Quick review on Wikipedia gives you the lowdown – Nexus One was created with HTC, Nexus S with Samsung, Nexus 4 and 5 with LG, Nexus 6 with Motorola, Nexus 6P with Huawei… well, you get the idea.

The only Google flavour in the Nexus brand of smartphones from Google in past years is the software. The Nexus phones are (usually) the first phones to carry the pure Android OS experience. The first to introduce a new OS version, and the first to receive any new updates and patches.

Specs & Overview of the Google Pixel

Then, a few months ago in October 2016, Google announced a new smartphone (among other announcements) – the Google Pixel – their latest #MadeByGoogle device.

This marks the first time Google is claiming the design and marketing of a smartphone device as their own. Even though the device was actually conceptualized together with HTC, it wasn’t based off any HTC devices as previously done with the Nexus range.

Google Pixel comes in 2 variants – Pixel and Pixel XL. No prize for guessing that they’re screen size related. Nevertheless, here’s a quick specs overview of the Google Pixel:-

  • 5.0″ FHD AMOLED display (441 ppi) [Pixel] / 5.5″ QHD AMOLED display (534 ppi) [Pixel XL]
  • 2.15 GHz quad-core Qualcomm® Snapdragon processor
  • 32 / 128 GB internal storage + 4 GB RAM
  • Powered by Android 7.1 “Nougat” OS
  • 12.3 megapixel auto-focus rear camera; 8 megapixel fixed-focus front camera
  • 7.3 – 8.5 mm thin, weighing only 153 grams
  • 2,770 mAH non-removable battery (up to 19 days LTE standby) [Pixel] / 3,450 mAH non-removable battery (up to 23 days LTE standby) [Pixel XL]
  • Connectivity : Nano SIM, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, 3.5mm headphone jack, Pixel Imprint (Fingerprint Scanner), USB Type C (Fast Charging)
  • Available in 3 colours : Quite Black, Very Silver, Really Blue (Limited Edition)

For more info, check out the official Google Pixel website at https://madeby.google.com/phone/

What’s the big deal about this Google Pixel anyways? How is this different from other Google Nexus or any other Android devices in the market?

The camera!

Touted as “The highest rated smartphone camera. Ever.” the Pixel has set a standard in smartphone photography. So many reviews out there, from tech journalists to professional photographers, who’s reviewed the Pixel and concluded the same.

More on this later.

Pricing and Availability in Malaysia

Priced from USD$ 649 (approx RM 2,900) to USD$869 (approx RM 3,900) depending on the variant and storage capacity, Google Pixel certainly don’t come cheap.

If you attempt to buy it online from Google’s official global site, you’d be disappointed to find out that the device is not officially sold in Google Malaysia store. So, you have a few options here. Buy it from US and have it shipped here, possibly incurring additional customs and shipping fee. Have a friend buy it for you in a different country where it’s available (what Hubby did when he was in Australia on a business trip).

Or purchase an import model (marked up pricing, of course) at the shops or online at local e-commerce stores. And I found it on Lazada Malaysia, of course at http://www.lazada.com.my/google-pixel/

You see – the cheapest variant of Google Pixel in Black colour, 32 GB storage is selling for RM 3,128. Firstly, our Ringgit has weakened to oblivion. Secondly, the price you pay to be the first few owners of the first ever Google branded smartphone in Malaysia.

And look – the 128 GB Black coloured Pixel Hubby got for me is selling for RM 4,359! Yikes!

Unboxing and Hardware Overview

Price tag aside, let’s take a closer look at the Pixel. Starting with the unboxing.

I’m happy to see that the Pixel uses a USB Type C cable. As per my previous review on Honor 8 here, this is the new standard of charging cable that every phone manufacturer is adopting.

See Also : Huawei Honor 8 User Review

Other than the adapter (which didn’t work for me, coz Hubby got an Australian unit with Australian ports) and USB-C cable combo, there’s also an additional adapter and cable in the box. There’s a regular USB to USB-C adapter, which Google calls the Quick Switch Adapter. Google is hoping a significant number of iPhone users will want to make the switch to the Pixel, so they make it easy for you with simple transfer steps.

Then, there’s also a USB-C to USB-C cable. Handy if you have laptops or other device you want to sync that also uses the USB-C standard. So future ready, I tell ya.

And yeah – they also made a callout that the phone STILL comes with a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The included standard headphones actually looks quite cool. You know, because Apple removed theirs in the new iPhone, because they think nobody uses wired headphones anymore. Ugh.

Coming from a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge with a 5.5″ screen, it took me sometime to get used to the 5″ screen again.

Truth is, I wasn’t really a fan of large screen devices. I don’t exactly have dainty lady hands, but 5.2″ is the sweet spot for me now. The S7 Edge was a tad too big for my liking, but then this Pixel was a tad too small for my comfort at first.

Good fit in my hand

It’s been almost 3 weeks now with the Pixel, and I got used to the size.

Pixel Imprint fingerprint scanner

Yay! Fingerprint scanner at the back of the phone, where it should be! I’ve complained enough about silly fingerprint scanners in front with the “Home” button being ergonomically incorrect. You’d need 2 hands to unlock your phone – one to hold the phone, the other to place your finger on the scanner. How inconvenient! With the placement at the back, you can hold your phone in one hand, and just tap or swipe your finger at the scanner at the back. Naturally, without much hand or finger acrobatics. That’s the way to do it!

This section at the top back of the phone is glossy though, which troubled me. While it’s a beautiful design choice, functionally, it’s a fingerprint magnet and tough to keep pristine. Especially when your finger is roaming around back there to unlock your phone all the time. Pffttt.

From the first time I held the Pixel, until today, I really like the matte black at the back of the phone. It’s very reminiscent of old HTC smartphones like the Desire and Legend series.

Simple. Headphone jack at the top, SIM tray (accessible by pin) at the left and speaker and USB port at the bottom.

On the right side though – the Power On/Off button is at the top, with the volume rocker under it. This is a little bit of a reversed placement, in my opinion. I’m so used to Power button placement in the middle of the side, either on different sides of the phone than the volume rocker, or below it. Not this way round. So, in the beginning, I did make some mistakes, of toggling the volume, when I intended to power on/off the device. Minor niggle.

Overall, it is a sexy device. Palmable at 5″ screen size, light enough to feel comfortable in hand, weigh just right. The seamless aluminium glass combo of matte and glossy finish makes the device look premium and worthy of the hefty price tag as a high end flagship.

In the next part of this review, I’ll review some of the features of the Pixel – fingerprint scanner, Google Assistant, battery life and more. And most importantly – the biggest selling feature of the phone – the CAMERA.

Also, do let me know in the comments section below, if there’s any specific questions you’d like to ask about the Google Pixel, for me to answer in the next post?

[Update 9 Dec 16] See Also : (Part 2) Google Pixel User Review – Camera And Image Quality

[Update 14 Dec 16] See Also : (Part 3) Google Pixel User Review – Killer Features And Conclusion

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