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Thread: Our Google Pixel 3 review

  1. #1
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    Our Google Pixel 3 review

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    It wasn’t that long ago that Google would partner with an Android OEM to release a high end phone priced hundreds cheaper than similarly spec’d phones. However, since then Google has shifted strategies and began designing their own Android phones.

    They’ve followed a similar strategy that Apple and Samsung have been using by releasing a regular sized version; the Pixel and a larger Phablet; the Pixel XL.

    The line is now in their 3rd generation. Let’s check out the Pixel 3.

    Body:

    Like previous Pixel’s, the 3 has their signature 2 tone back. However, on the difference is less dramatic since both the top and bottom are made from glass now. I was never a fan of the split back so I think the new more subtle look is a step in the right direction.

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    There are volume buttons on the side along with a power button which is painted green - cheeky.

    There’s a microphone on top.

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    At the bottom is a USB Type-C connector. Even though the Pixel 3 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, it doesn’t support Quick Charge 3.0. Instead, Google has gone with the Power Delivery standard which supports faster charging speeds but in general, is less common on Android phones. My guess is that Google went with PD since they also makes Tablets and Notebooks which benefit more from it.

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    Google has ditched the headphone jack so if you want to use wired headphones you’ll need to use a USB Type-C to 3.5mm jack adapter.

    One thing that isn’t mentioned in the specs is just how nicely the Pixel 3 fits in your hand. Don’t let the 5.5” sized screen fool you; the 3 is no phablet - it’s actually only slightly wider than a Samsung Galaxy S III though it is a bit longer.

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    That said, phone size is a very personal thing. I appreciate regular sized phones and their superior ergonomics and more affordable prices but also like phablets and their larger batteries and screens. Both have their merits.

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    The fingerprint reader is located on the back. It’s not as convenient as one that’s located in the front but it does work really well. I really hope the next Pixel supports facial recognition like on recent iPhone or has a retina scanner like on Samsungs.

    You can squeeze the sides of the phone to launch Google Assistant. I think this is a much better setup than have a dedicated button for this since too many can be confusing.

    Size wise the 3 is a tiny bit narrower than the iPhone X.

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    It's a bit longer than the X mostly due to the top and bottom speakers.

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    They're about the same thickness.

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    Screen:

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    You get a 5.5” OLED display with a resolution of 2160x1080 and a PPI or 443.

    The P3’s display has an aspect ratio of 2:1; taller than previous models which are typically 16:9. This is due to the trend of newer phones being roughly the same size as older models but shrinking the top and bottom bezels. So, the P3’s display isn’t as wide as many older phone’s 5.5” displays but, it is a bit taller.

    Off-angle there is very little colour shift. It doesn’t turn blue when you view it from the side.

    Colour accuracy is excellent when the Natural setting is enabled. You get nice, natural looking whites and colour has a nice pop without overdoing it.

    One very minor problem is the maximum brightness. While it’s perfectly adequate indoors, it sometimes doesn’t always have enough oomph when you’re in direct sunlight. When they’re side-by-side the P3 at max is similar to my XS when the brightness slider is at around 80%.

    When it’s sunny, the difference between the Pixel 3 and the Galaxy S9 or iPhone X is noticeable.

    That said, I wouldn’t get too hung up on this. The fact that the active parts of the display aren’t curved make the Pixel 3’s display far easiest to live with than the S9’s. I went from an S9 to the P3 and was shocked and how much easier the P3 to use. You just hold it and use it. There are aren’t any reachability issues and you don’t need to worry about your palm accidentally hitting the screen.

    Sound:

    There’s a front-facing speaker at the top and bottom for a stereo setup.

    Google has obviously spent some time tuning them. Not only are they powerful but they also have pretty decent sound quality and range.

    Still, they can sound a bit strained when you really crank them which is kind of odd because the best practice is to usually to set them up so that the point at which they sound strained is higher than the maximum volume.

    All phone speakers feature some sort of signal processing to make them sound better. One common trick is to use this to widen the soundstage. Normally I don’t have a problem with this but the 3 really over-does it. While it does have an extremely wide, enveloping soundstage, sound is so over-processed that vocals can sound very confused.

    The 3 is available with either 64 or 128GB. There’s no MicroSD slot.

    Camera:

    Besides the Galaxy S9, the Pixel 3 is probably the most expensive Android phone that only comes with a single camera on the back.

    All cameras do some post imaging processing in order to give users the best image, that’s nothing new.

    As phone camera and processing power improved, it became feasible to to take multiple photos in a short amount of time. Phones got an HDR mode where a camera snaps 2 or 3 photos and then uses the data from all of them to output an image with a greater dynamic range. Next some companies started including a dedicated night mode which used similar techniques.

    Nowadays, we’ve reached the point where HDR is turned on by default and phones can take many photos and have enough processing power to merge them in a snap.

    It makes judging how “good” a camera phone is very tricky. One on hand, we’ve got physical parameters like sensor size, how advanced the sensor is, how effective the image stabilization is and aperture. Next there’s the processing power; does the phone’s SoC have a dedicated image processing or more recently, companies are adding separate imaging processors plus there maybe a cloud component to post process the image further.

    With that in mind the 3 comes with all these features turned with great results.

    Colour is excellent, with fantastic low-light performance. There’s a night mode which actually improves on that though you’ll have to hold it still for about a second.

    Video is also looks really great. The stabilization works well, noise is well controlled and colour is spot on. The microphone also works well.

    The app also strikes a nice balance; many OEM Android camera apps are bit top heavy. Don’t get me wrong, features are great but some camera apps have so many that you probably won’t use that they can make your head spin. Sometimes less is more.

    Software:

    One of the main reasons for buying a phone from Google is so that you can get Android updates as soon as they’re available. You’re getting a phone straight from the company that also puts out the software. Google has committed to supporting the Pixel with updates for 3 years so I’m guessing you’ll receive support until they put out Android version 13.

    Unlike many OEM’s, Google doesn’t put an additional layer of customization on top of Android.

    In the past, overlays where a necessity because they helped fill in some of the holes in Android. These days, the main reasons to use an overlay is because they usually include a camera app which is highly optimized to get the best out of the phone’s camera.

    The 3 is running Pie; Android 9 which debuts a new menu system. While it still follows the back/home/task switcher paradigm, you now access these differently. There’s a rectangle at the bottom with a back button to the right of it. Tapping it is like pressing the home button while swiping it up brings up the task switcher. For full screen apps you may have to swipe the button to reveal the rectangle.

    It’s a nice and much needed update and more importantly, it works well once you’ve adjusted.

    I did notice that the Pixel had a tendency to close background apps.

    Performance:

    Under the hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. While the 845 has been out for a couple of months now, it still represents the state-of-the-art for Qualcomm in 2018.

    It’s paired with 4GB of RAM. While the market is moving towards 6GB+ of RAM as being standard, 4GB is still adequate. That said, I’d put money on the next version of the Pixel having more than 4GB of RAM.

    Earpiece sound quality is good. Nice and smooth with adequate volume.

    The speakerphone is a bit harsh sounding but volume is good.

    Battery life is a bit disappointing, power users will struggle to make it through the day.

    Conclusion:

    Initially I was enamored with the Pixel 3; The camera works great, the size was a nice change from a phablet, the flat screen is easy to use and the lack of an overlay made it feel focused and uncluttered.

    However, after a honeymoon period I began noticing the dim screen, the weird sounding speakers and the lackluster battery life.

    That said, overall I still enjoyed the Pixel 3 and think it’s a great choice.

    Pros:

    • Fast Android updates
    • Camera
    • Fat screen
    • Powerful speakers


    Cons:

    • Speakers sound over-processed
    • Dim screen
    • Battery life

  2. #2
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    There is no practical or as I see it aesthetic reason to have a glass back on phones. It's just a money grab by all the manufacturers who do so.
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    companies switch from metal to glass backs because of the inclusion of wireless charging.

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    Thanks Howard didn't know that. Won't plastic work?

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    Plastic would work too, basically any non-metallic material would work but they can charge more if they use glass

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    Quote Originally Posted by howard View Post
    Plastic would work too, basically any non-metallic material would work but they can charge more if they use glass
    Then I stand by my original post. "There is no practical or as I see it aesthetic reason to have a glass back on phones. It's just a money grab by all the manufacturers who do so."

  7. #7
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    Practically speaking, glass is more difficult to scratch than glass. That said glass is more likely to shatter than plastic but in the context of a smartphone glass is usually a more premium material.

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