Introduction and Design
In case you have not heard by now, Pixel is the re-imagining of the Nexus phone concept by Google; a fully stock version of the Android experience on custom, Google-authorized hardware - and with the promise of the latest OS updates as they are released. So how does the hardware stack up? We are late into the life of the Pixel by now, and this is more of a long-term review as I have had the smaller version of the phone on hand for some weeks now. As a result I can offer my candid view of the less-covered of the two Pixel handsets (most reviews center around the Pixel XL), and its performance.
There was always a certain cachet to owning a Nexus phone, and you could rest assured that you would be running the latest version of Android before anyone on operator-controlled hardware. The Nexus phones were sold primarily by Google, unlocked, with operator/retail availability at times during their run. Things took a turn when Google opted to offer a carrier-branded version of the Nexus 6 back in November of 2014, along with their usual unlocked Google Play store offering. But this departure was not just an issue of branding, as the price jumped to a full $649; the off-contract cost of premium handsets such as Apple’s iPhone. How could Google hope to compete in a space dominated by Apple and Samsung phones purchased by and large with operator subsidies and installment plans? They did not compete, of course, and the Nexus 6 flopped.
Pixel, coming after the Huawei-manufactured Nexus 6p and LG-manufactured Nexus 5X, drops the “Nexus” branding while continuing the tradition of a reference Android experience - and the more recent tradition of premium pricing. As we have seen in the months since its release, the Pixel did not put much of a dent into the Apple/Samsung dominated handset market. But even during the budget-friendly Nexus era, which offered a compelling mix of day-one Android OS update availability and inexpensive, unlocked hardware (think Nexus 4 at $299 and Nexus 5 at $349), Google's own phones were never mainstream. Still, in keeping with iPhone and Galaxy flagships $649 nets you a Pixel, which also launched through Verizon in an exclusive operator deal. Of course a larger version of the Pixel exists, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the Pixel XL. Unfortunately I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that stock for the XL has been quite low with availability constantly in question.
The Pixel is hard to distinguish from an iPhone 7 from a distance (other than the home button)
|Google Pixel Specifications|
|Display||5.0-inch 1080x1920 AMOLED|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996)|
|CPU Cores||2x 2.15 GHz Kryo
2x 1.60 GHz Kryo
|GPU Cores||Adreno 530|
|Storage||32 / 128 GB|
|Network||Snapdragon X12 LTE|
|Dimensions||143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm, 143 g|
Subject: Mobile | April 7, 2017 - 02:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: LG, g6, smartphone, Snapdragon 821
The new LG G6 sports a 5.7", 2880×1440 IPS LCD powered by the aging Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 with a pair of 2.35GHz Kryo cores and two 1.6 GHz Kryo cores. The hardware is going to have a hard time competing against other phones powered by newer chips such as the Snapdragon 835or Exynos 8895. Ars Technica ran the phone through benchmarks in their full review here. The phone itself is attractively made and does offer a wide variety of features, however it will have trouble once the new Galaxy and iPhone arrive on the market.
"The LG G6 seems to be launching in the US at the worst possible time. The phone uses Qualcomm's 2016 SoC—the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821—in 2017, making it already seem dated. The G6 is also launching right as Samsung's hype machine for the Galaxy S8 is revving up."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
More Mobile Articles
- Honor 8 Pro hands-on @ The Inquirer
- The Wiko U Feel Prime Smartphone @ Tech ARP
- Samsung Galaxy S8 Makes It's Debut @ Hardware Secrets
- Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Laptop i7/ GTX 1050ti @ Kitguru
Subject: Mobile | October 20, 2016 - 05:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: pixel, pixel xl, google, Android, Snapdragon 821, nougat
Ah, the tech industry; blink and suddenly familiar things disappear and yet you are also simultaneously overcome with a sense of deja vu. Former Motorola President Rick Osterloh now heads a team at Google which is the combination of Nexus, Pixel Chromebooks, Chromecast, OnHub, ATAP, and Google Glass and this team have just released two new Google phones. The 5" 1920x1080 Pixel and the 5.5" 2560x1440 Pixel XL have arrived on the market, priced to compete with Apple's new lineup, though still far less expensive than the Chromebooks which bore the same name up until recently. The phones run Android 7.1 Nougat on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 and are manufactured by HTC. Ars Technica considers them to now be the best Android phones on the market and yet somehow bland; read their full review to see if you agree.
"Welcome to the age of Google Hardware. Apparently tired of letting third-party Android OEMs serve as the stewards of Android handsets, Google has become a hardware company. (Again)."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
More Mobile Articles
- Google Pixel XL @ The Inquirer
- MSI GT83VR 6RF Titan SLI GTX 1080 Laptop @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte P57X v6 GTX 1070 Gaming Laptop @ eTeknix
- MSI GT83VR 6RF-028UK GTX 1080 SLI Laptop @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 11:47 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb-c, Snapdragon 821, pixel, Kryo, google, android assistant, adreno 530, 802.11ac
Google introduced its own premium smartphone today in the form of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Running Android Nougat 7.1, the Pixel smartphones will not only run the latest operating system but will be the new premium experience with the best Android features including Google Assistant and Smart Storage with unlimited cloud storage of photos and videos.
Google is definitely taking a greater interest in promoting Pixel than they have with even their Nexus devices. It will be interesting to see how other Android manufacturers react to this news but I would imagine that they are not all that pleased and Google will be in a similar position to Microsoft with its Surface products and Nvidia with it's Founder's Edition graphics cards.
Google's Pixel lineup includes the Pixel (5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3") and the Pixel XL (6 x 2.9 x 0.2-0.34") that wrap their respective 5-inch 1080p (441 PPI) and 5.5-inch 1440p (534 PPI) displays in a full aluminum and glass unibody design that will come in one of three colors: Very Black, Quite Silver and Really Blue. The smartphones feature curved corners and rounded edges with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and half of the back. Google has put a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone and power, volume, three microphones, a USB-C port, and, yes, a 3.5mm audio jack.
There are both front and rear cameras and Google is claiming that the rear camera in particular is the best smartphone camera yet (with a DxOMark score of 89 points). The rear camera (which sits flush with the back of the phone) is rated at 12.3 MP with a f/2.0 aperture, and 1.55µm pixels. The camera further features an IMX378 sensor. electronic image stabilization, and both phase detection and laser auto focus. The Pixel can take HDR+ photos and videos at up to 4K30, 1080p120, or 720p240. Users can adjust white balance and use automatic exposure or auto focus locking. The front camera is less impressive at 8MP with fixed focus lens and f/2.4.
Internally, Google has opted to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) which is a 2+2 design that pairs two Kryo cores at 2.15 GHz with two Kryo cores at 1.6 GHz along with an Adreno 530 GPU, an impressive 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, and either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage which is regrettably non-expandable. The smartphones can tap into up to Category 11 LTE (Cat 9 in the US), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC. Sensors include GPS, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, and hall sensors.
The Pixel features a 2,770 mAh battery and the Pixel Xl uses a slightly larger 3,450 mAh battery. In either case, Google rates the Pixel and Pixel XL at 13 hours and 14 hours of internet browsing and video playback respectively. Further, the batteries are able to be quick charged enough for up to "seven hours of use" after just 15 minutes of charging time using the included 18W USB-C charger.
Pricing works out to $649 for the 32GB Pixel, $749 for the 128GB Pixel, $769 for the 32GB Pixel XL, and $869 for the 128GB Pixel XL. In the US Google has partnered with Verizon for brick-and-mortar availability in addition to it being available on the Google store and other online retailers.
Google is banking a lot on these devices and asking a very premium price tag for the unlocked phones. It is certainly a gamble whether users will find the unique features enough to go with the Pixel over other flagships. What do you think about Google's increased interest in the smartphone space with the launch of its own hardware? How well will Pixel fit into the existing environment – will Pixel lead Android hardware and the OS to success or simply fragment it more?
I do like the look of the Pixel (especially the blue one) and the feature lists sounds good enough that maybe I could live without a removable battery and non-expandable storage (I'll be holding onto my old T-Mobile unlimited plan for as long as possible! heh). Pricing is a bit steep though and I think that will trip a lot of people up when searching for their next device.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | August 31, 2016 - 07:30 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 821, snapdragon, SD821, qualcomm, processor, mobile, adreno
Qualcomm has officially launched the Snapdragon 821 SoC, an upgraded successor to the existing Snapdragon 820 found in such phones as the Samsung Galaxy S7.
"With Snapdragon 820 already powering many of the premier flagship Android smartphones today, Snapdragon 821 is now poised to become the processor of choice for leading smartphones and devices for this year’s holiday season. Qualcomm Technologies’ engineers have improved Snapdragon 821 in three key areas to ensure Snapdragon 821 maintains the level of industry leadership introduced by its predecessor."
Specifications were previously revealed when the Snapdragon 821 was announced in July, with a 10% increase on the CPU clocks (2.4 GHz, up from the previous 2.2 GHz max frequency). The Adreno 530 GPU clock increases 5%, to 650 MHz from 624 MHz. In addition to improved performance from CPU and GPU clock speed increases, the SD821 is said to offer lower power consumption (estimated at 5% compared to the SD820), and offers new functionality including improved auto-focus capability.
Enhanced overall user experience:
The Snapdragon 821 has been specifically tuned to support a more responsive user experience when compared with the 820, including:
- Shorter boot times: Snapdragon 821 powered devices can boot up to 10 percent faster.
- Faster application launch times: Snapdragon 821 can reduce app load times by up to 10 percent.
- Smoother, more responsive user interactions: UI optimizations and performance enhancements designed to allow users to enjoy smoother scrolling and more responsive browsing performance.
Improved performance and power consumption:
- CPU speeds increase: As we previously announced, the 821 features Qualcomm Kryo CPU speeds up to 2.4GHz, representing an up to 10 percent improvement in performance over Snapdragon 820.
- GPU speeds increase: The Qualcomm Adreno GPU received a 5 percent speed increase over Snapdragon 820.
- Power savings: The 821 is engineered to deliver an incremental 5 percent power savings when comparing standard use case models. This power savings can extend battery life and support OEMs interested in reducing battery size for slimmer phones.
New features and functionality:
- Snapdragon 821 introduces several new features and capabilities, offering OEMs new options to create more immersive and engaging user experiences, including support for:
- Snapdragon VR SDK (Software Development Kit): Offers developers a superior mobile VR toolset, provides compatibility with the Google Daydream platform, and access to Snapdragon 821’s powerful heterogeneous architecture. Snapdragon VR SDK supports a superior level of visual and audio quality and more immersive virtual reality and gaming experiences in a mobile environment.
- Dual PD (PDAF): Offers significantly faster image autofocus speeds under a wide variety of conditions when compared to single PDAF solutions.
- Extended Laser Auto-Focus Ranging: Extends the visible focusing range, improving laser focal accuracy over Snapdragon 820.
- Android Nougat OS: Snapdragon 821 (as well as the 820) will support the latest Android operating system when available, offering new features, expanded compatibility, and additional security compared to prior Android versions.
Qualcomm says the ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe is the first phone to use this new Snapdragon 821 SoC while other OEMs will be working on designs implementing the upgraded SoC.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2016 - 11:44 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 821, snapdragon, qualcomm, adreno 530
Announced today, the Snapdragon 821 offers a modest CPU frequency increase over the Snapdragon 820, with clock speeds of up to 2.4 GHz compared to 2.2 GHz with the Snapdragon 820. The new SoC is still implementing Qualcomm's custom quad-core "Kryo" design, which is made up of two pairs of dual-core CPU clusters.
"What isn’t in this announcement is that the power cluster will likely be above 2 GHz and GPU clocks look to be around 650 MHz but without knowing whether there are some changes other than clock relative to Adreno 530 we can’t really estimate the performance of this part."
Specifics on the Adreno GPU were not mentioned in the official announcement. The 650 MHz GPU clock reported by Anandtech would offer a modest improvement over the SD820's 624 MHz Adreno 530 GPU. Additionally, the "power cluster" will reportedly move from 1.6 GHz with the SD820 to 2.0 GHz with the SD821.
No telling when this updated SoC will find its way into consumer devices, with the Snapdragon 820 currently available in the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, LG G5, OnePlus 3, and a few others.