Google Pixel 3 review: Hands-on with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

The Google Pixel 3 is, by far, the worst kept secret in the smartphone world. And now, after torturous months of rumours, leaks and someone leaving a phone in a Lyft, Google has finally come clean and announced the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Google Pixel 3 review: Hands-on with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

But just what are these devices we’ve seemingly known everything about for the last couple of months?

On one level they’re both nothing more than the latest iteration of Google’s popular Pixel smartphone. Like the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL before it, they’re a refinement of the previous model with a little more horsepower and a few hardware upgrades here and there. However, these phones also represent what the pinnacle of Android phones should be. Last year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smashed what camera phones could do and, despite competitors attempts, it’s only recently been dethroned by the likes of the Huawei P20 Pro in that respect. Not even Apple’s new iPhone Xs and Xs Max can take quite as good still photos as last year’s Pixel device.


READ NEXT: Google announces the Google Home Hub

But what about this years? What can you expect from the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL? Well, wonder no more as we delve into our brief hands-on time with the devices at Google’s Made By Google October event.

Pixel 3 review (hands-on): UK release date, price and specifications

Display (3 / 3 XL)5.5in FullHD+ flexible OLED @ 443ppi / 6.3in FullHD+ flexible OLED @ 523ppi (Both support HDR)
ProcessorOcta-core 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
Memory4GB of RAM
Rear camera12-megapixel f/1.8 rear camera
Front cameraDual 8-megapixel f/2.2 front-facing wide-angle cameras
Storage64GB or 128GB of storage
OSAndroid 9 Pie
Battery3915mAh w/ fast charging and Qi wireless charging
Price  (3 / 3 XL)£739 / £869
Release Date1 November 2018

Google Pixel 3 review (hands-on): Design, display camera and features

As you may have gathered, there are two Pixel 3 devices launching this year. As with previous years, the two devices don’t differ all that drastically in terms of hardware, but design wise they’re ever so slightly different. This time around we see a full edge-to-edge iPhone X-style screen on the Pixel 3 XL, while the Pixel 2 XL’s rounded edge screen makes its way over to the Pixel 3. On the rear is an all-glass back with a two-tone gloss and matte finish, doing away with the odd glossy block that was present on previous Pixel devices.

Aside from that, and the obvious size differences, you won’t find a lot of disparity between the two devices’ aesthetics.

Specifications wise, it’s exactly as we expected given the numerous leaks we’ve had surface over the previous months. On the inside, Google’s device is powered by a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with Adreno 640 graphics, a Pixel Visual Core image processing chip and Google’s Titan M security module. There’s 4GB of RAM and it comes with 64GB or 128GB of storage. It also has all the usual bells and whistles for a phone, including Bluetooth, USB Type-C and Wi-Fi etc. You know the drill.

READ NEXT: What you need to know from the Made By Google event

On the Pixel 3 you’ll have a 5.5in FullHD+ OLED screen, and on the Pixel 3 XL a 6.3in FullHD+ OLED display stares you in the face. There’s a notch on the top of the 3 XL, but the Pixel 3 simply adopts a similar curved cornered screen as found on the Pixel 2. At the top of both screens reside dual front-facing cameras, redesigned to help take super-wide selfies that are just as clear and crisp as any photo taken on the Pixel 3.

Flip both phones over and you’ll find a single rear camera, bucking the trend for dual camera smartphones that are in vogue right now. As before, Google’s rear snapper is just phenomenal. As before, Google’s phone cameras are so interesting purely thanks to its AI-driven software. TopShot is a mode that automatically snaps photos right before and right after the moment you hit the shutter, then recommends the best shot – meaning you don’t miss a crucial moment. Another stellar feature is Google’s Super Res Zoom where the Pixel 3 snaps a load of photos and runs them through an algorithm to improve zoomed shots.

The best new camera feature, however, is Night Sight. Utilising Google’s imaging AI, Night Sight automatically colours and balances a photo to what it should look like. Google claims this makes it the best low-light camera on the market, but we’ll have to wait until we get one in for review to really make that decision.

Interestingly, Google is bringing its controversial Duplex technology to the Pixel 3 first – although it will roll out to older Pixel devices in time. This means you can now use your Pixel and Google Assistant to make calls for you to local establishments, at least in the US that is. Google said it was rolling this feature out on a city-by-city basis, but for those who want to use Duplex right away, it’s now capable of screening calls for you and dictating them to your phone screen so you don’t have to pick up if you don’t want to. Not bad, if not a tad worrying.

On the phone side of things, Google has also introduced a “Flip to Shh” functionality that mutes your phone and notifications when you flip it over on a table. While a welcome addition, it’s really not something new and, as some long-time Android owners may remember, a feature that used to be part of some older Android phones. We’re glad to have it back though.

The final addition to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL’s arsenal is the introduction of the Pixel Stand. While this is a separate accessory, set to cost £69, this wireless charging stand also turns your Pixel device into a Google Home device. It displays information on the phone screen and can be operated completely by voice. It even wakes you up gradually with a smart alarm clock feature and connects to your Google Home devices and Nest devices to work as a pocket-sized hub for your house.

Google Pixel 3 review: First impressions

So, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are clearly simply refinements of what’s come before. However, from our initial time with the devices, it’s clear that Google is really only just hitting its vision of melding of hardware and AI-driven software – something it set out to do back with the original Pixel in 2016.

It’s thanks to these smart additions that we’re likely to have another absolute fantastic Pixel smartphone on our hands and hopefully one that isn’t besieged with issues like last year’s Pixel 2 XL. Unfortunately, only time can tell on that.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL launch in the UK on 1 November and preorders are open now on the Google Store. Google’s new smartphones will set you back £739 and £839 respectively.

Google Pixel 3 preorders

  • O2 – 20GB data, £20 upfront, £50/mth for 36 months, total cost: £1,820 (introductory offer includes 20GB of data at the price of 15GB, and 40% savings on cinema tickets for 2 years) – Get it here
  • EE – 60GB data, £10 upfront, £58/mth for 36 months, total cost: £2,098 (introductory offer includes 60GB data for the price of 20GB) – Get it here
  • Carphone Warehouse (with iD) – 1GB data, £300 upfront, £29/mth for 24 months, total cost: £996 – Get it here
  • Three – Unlimited data, upfront cost £99, £48/mth for 24 months, total cost: £1,251 – Get it here from 11 October
  • (with O2) – 15GB data, £175 upfront, £34/mth for 24 months, total cost: £991 – Get it here

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