Each time I review a flagship phone - there are very few surprises in store. After all, flagships are built to impress. Companies leave no stone unturned in driving home the fact that only their latest smartphone is the absolute best you can have! So, when I got my hands on the Google Pixel 7, which in some aspects is a step down from the company’s top-tier flagship - the Google Pixel 7 Pro - I was ready to be underwhelmed. It surprises me that that’s not what ended up happening.
To start with, all my worries about an unwieldy form factor vanish as I find that the Pixel 7 is actually a fairly snug fit in my palms. At 6.3 inches across and 197 grams, I find this much easier to carry around and use on a day-to-day basis compared to the Pixel 7 Pro.
The rear panel is glass finish which on my Obsidian Black unit is reflective enough for a quick vanity check every now and then! The signature matte aluminium strip houses the camera bar, and overall looks very minimally elegant, especially in the Lemongrass colour variant. The glass rear panel, exactly like the one on the Pixel 7 Pro, remains slippery and has slid off fabric armrests more often than I’d like to admit. Thankfully, the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus seems to be doing its job exceptionally well in protecting the smartphone from cracks.
An OLED display on a smartphone is still a luxury, and always a treat to use. Now, the Pixel 7 offers a refresh rate of only up to 90 Hz and not 120 Hz like the Pixel 7 Pro. If you’re a hardcore gamer and have an eye for detail, this might make a difference but for most other functionalities it really doesn’t matter much.
I’d switched directly from the Pixel 7 Pro review unit to using the Pixel 7 and the drop down in refresh rate was neither worryingly noticeable nor did it mar any scrolling, viewing or gaming experience for me. The dual speakers on the smartphone offer flagship-worthy sound quality. On lazy weekends, I’d keep my earphones aside, and queue up some Leon Bridges or Rufus Wainwright to gently doze off to.
The primary camera on the Google Pixel 7 has a 50-MP sensor and a 12-MP ultra-wide lens. While it misses the telephoto lens that the Pixel 7 Pro offers, the quality of photos and videos I snapped on the Pixel 7 remains impressive. The colours are always well-saturated, delivering beautiful photos taken in daylight. Google’s Real Tone continues to do a great job of rendering brown skin tones accurately. I love that all the software-based features - Cinematic Blur, Magic Eraser, Action Pan and Unblur - are retained on the Google Pixel 7. The camera and post-processing tweaks make for a great little deep dive to play around with the longer I use the phone.
Google Lens is also integrated to the Camera app and of all the things it offers - Translate, Text, Search, Shopping, Places and so on - the one I’m most jealous of is the ‘Homework’ option. If only I had this back in school, I wouldn’t still be having nightmares about unfinished maths homework well into my 30s.
The Google Pixel 7 shares the same processors as the Pixel 7 Pro - the Tensor G2 chip. It seems like the focus behind the upgrades is not only on packing in more power but actually amping up software and algorithms in a way that supports better photography features and a decent battery life. The unit I reviewed has 128 GB storage and 8 GB RAM.
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The Pixel 7 obviously runs Google’s latest Android 13 and offers a clean user interface that fans of the lil’ green robot love so dearly. A bunch of useful features are programmed in, including live captions and the uncannily accurate live transcription feature that first debuted with the Pixel 6a in India.
One of the things that wasn’t always seamless was the facial recognition feature to unlock the smartphone. It didn’t seem to kick in when the ambient light was not at its brightest, prompting me to use the passcode instead. The new iPhones, as a comparison, do a much snappier job of this.
The Google Pixel 7 is powered by a 4,355 mAh battery that had the smartphone up and running for a whole working day. Sometimes, it’d still be on the next morning I woke up and keep me company till noon, before I had to plug it in. This kind of battery life was when I used it for gaming and browsing, with the brightness set to less than 50 per cent and with the hotspot on for a couple of hours each day. Pretty impressive, overall. It usually took a little more than 1.5 hours to get the device to fully charge. The handset did get a bit warm a couple of times while charging, and at times when I continued gaming despite the battery dropping to less than 20 per cent charge; but that’s not exactly out of the ordinary.
The good thing about the Google Pixel 7 is that you don’t really lose out on much if you buy this and not the Pixel 7 Pro. You miss out on a telephoto lens, a marginally higher refresh rate, and a slightly bigger battery. However, everything else that the Google Pixel 7 packs in - a vivid display, great camera and a ton of meaningful software features - make it one of the most compelling Android smartphones in the market right now. The cherry on top is that it’s available at a price that doesn’t pinch as much as flagships generally do.