Google’s Pixel smartphone line keeps rambling on. With the Pixel 7, Google hasn’t spent as much effort reimagining its design and capabilities as it did with the game-changing Pixel 6. Instead, the Google Pixel 7 sees some smart refinements that make it all the more attractive, and it doesn’t hurt that it maintains the more budget-friendly $599 price tag that largely undercuts many of the best smartphones on the market. It’s a winning formula for Google, so let’s take a closer look at how this phone shines so bright.
Google Pixel 7 – Photos
Google Pixel 7 – Design and Features
In a move I’m not mad at, Google actually trimmed the size of the Pixel 7 from its predecessor, shaving a few millimeters off the width, height, and depth while shrinking the display from 6.4 to 6.3 inches. The phone is still a large one, to be sure, but it never feels unwieldy.
Google has slapped Gorilla Glass Victus – pretty much the cream of the crop for smartphone glass at the moment – on both the front and back of the phone. And it's using aluminum around the frame. This time around, the seam between the frame and the display is much more elegantly designed, with no awkward plastic protrusion like I saw (and couldn’t unsee) on the Pixel 6. The camera bar also gets a slight redesign, with most of it formed from a single piece of aluminum, save for a small cutout for the glass-covered camera housing.
All around the design is more seamlessly executed than the previous generation, making it feel more luxurious than its wallet-friendly price lets on. Google’s vibrant color schemes have vanished, though, with the frame and buttons all made from a matching gold, silver, or dark gray, and the back glass serving as the second tone in either a “Lemongrass” (a light custard yellow), “Snow” (white), or “Obsidian” (black).
The phone also offers the level of dust and water protection I’d expect from a top-end device with its IP68 rating. The phone doesn’t have a lot of ports to worry about flooding, though, with just the USB-C port and a single-slot SIM tray.
The display on the Pixel 7 isn’t as glamorous as some, hitting a respectable 1080×2400 resolution that’s still amply sharp. Its brightness is perfectly serviceable, offering a peak brightness that can reach 1000 nits for the entire screen and 1400 nits for a 5% window. That translates to useful brightness in everyday use, even in direct sunlight, and the ability to display dazzling HDR when watching . It also benefits from the superb contrast ratio of OLED. Simply put, this is a great display to look at for any use case.
The display even automatically varies between 60Hz and 90Hz, offering a little extra helping of smoothness in the visuals when it counts: think smoother, snappier scrolling. That refresh rate range isn’t as impressive as some of the LTPO OLED displays that offer 1-120Hz ranges, but that level of capability is almost exclusively reserved for the top-spec models of flagship phone lines like the Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
The visual experience of the phone isn’t nearly matched by the audio experience. Though the speakers are fairly capable, even offering stereo sound through a earpiece speaker that can push out a little extra mid-range audio, they’re just OK when compared to the excellent display.
Google has fitted an under-display fingerprint reader into the Pixel 7 just like its predecessor, and it offers face recognition, something that was missing last year.
Google Pixel 7 – Software
The Pixel 7 unsurprisingly comes running Android 13, the latest version of the Android operating system. Google’s version comes with few tweaks to the basics, like a built-in VPN, Material You auto-generated color schemes for the UI, and the redesigned quick settings menu that continues to be far less useful than it had been in previous Android generations (something Samsung was smart enough not to adopt). Google also promises five years of security updates.
Google Pixel 7 – Gaming and performance
There’s some new muscle under the hood, but not much changes otherwise for the Pixel 7. It comes with the same 8GB of LPDRR5 memory and 128GB of UFS 3.1 storage as its predecessor. The upgrade comes in the form of Google’s Tensor G2 chip, the second-generation of its first-party SoC.
The Pixel 7 performs respectably in everyday use and gaming, whether that’s running locally on the device or using its Wi-Fi 6E and 5G connectivity to access cloud gaming. The phone can get a little warm in use, but never got scorching to the touch even after extended play sessions. Google’s recent Pixel 6a ran into some trouble with heat using the first-gen Tensor chip, so it’s reassuring to see the Pixel 7 not fall into similar hot water.
The Tensor G2 isn’t aiming to be the fastest general processor for computing and gaming, but instead puts an emphasis on AI. This is to enable features like Google’s extra-fast voice recognition, which operates on device, and continues to be remarkably accurate. It also handles fancy photo processing features, such as Google’s Super Res Zoom (digital zoom, which seems to be making a regrettable comeback this year) and Magic Eraser.
The battery in the Pixel 7 is a sizable 4,355mAh, and though that’s down from last year’s battery, it’s still plenty for all-day use. Even running the display at max brightness, an hour of streamed content from Amazon Prime only took an 8% chunk out of the battery. With light use combined with a half hour or so of gaming and that hour-long stream, the phone was still sitting pretty at over 50% by the end of the day. It can fast charge back up at 30W, too, helping ensure this isn’t a phone that spends much time as a paperweight.
Google Pixel 7 – Camera
The Google Pixel 7 isn’t changing the game with its camera setup, but that’s not much of a concern given that the name of the game on Pixel phones has always been exceptional camera quality.
Here are the cameras the Google Pixel 7 packs:
- 50MP (binned to 12.5MP) Wide, 1.2-micron, f/1.85, Laser AF, OIS
- 12MP ultrawide, f/2.2, 1.25-micron, 114-degree FOV
- 10.8MP Selfie, 1.22-micron, f/2.2 92.8-degree FOV
The 50MP sensor and 12MP ultra-wide sensor have very little difference from those of the Pixel 6. That said, the phone can do some magical things in the right conditions. In everyday shooting, the Pixel 7 is easily able to capture images that are pleasingly vibrant with sharp details. Whether that’s close up, at a distance, or trying to fit it all in with the wide-angle–it all works out quite well. The ultra-wide camera is more prone to noise in photos and struggles to obtain anything close to the clarity of the main sensor, though.
Google Pixel 7 – Camera Samples
In especially bright conditions, the Pixel 7 turns into something almost hard to reckon with. Photos take on an almost unreal quality. Google seems to be punching up the saturation a bit and doing something with the lighting that just makes the shot feel almost more like a painting than real life. It’s certainly something that could be tamed with Google’s controls for highlight and shadow levels in the camera app, but I can’t say I don’t like it.
Google Pixel 7 – Night Mode Camera Samples
In the dark, the Pixel 7 proves itself almost as competent as Apple. Recent iPhones have been truly astounding with how quickly they can capture low-light photos and eliminate motion blur from moving subjects and unsteady hands. The Pixel 7 manages that unsteady hands portion quite well, but doesn’t manage as well with moving subjects. That said, with a still subject, the phone lifts so much detail out of the dark you wouldn’t know you were looking at a shot taken without ample lighting, and it’s largely free of the noise that comes from high-ISO photography. This low light photography does play out better on the main camera sensor due to its wider aperture, with the ultra-wide showing more noise in the shadows. The ultra-wide also struggles more with dim lighting.
Google Pixel 7 – Camera Comparisons
Google’s Super Res Zoom is predictably nothing close to optical zoom. While photos at 2x aren’t bad, the 8x zoom level offered is garbage tier next to the rest of the photos the Pixel 7 can take. You might make out some detail if you’re shooting a bright subject, but it’s a wash for pretty much anything else. It’s a shame the 5x telephoto camera is only available on the Pixel 7 Pro, which comes with a handful of other upgrades that make it 50% more expensive.
The front-facing camera got an upgrade this year, with a bump to 10.8MP and a wider field of view. It snaps pleasingly sharp and details shots that are that much easier to get friends into.
The Pixel 7 doesn’t make huge upgrades on the amazing Pixel 6, but it makes some impressive refinements that give the phone a far more polished feel. While you wouldn’t miss much by going with last year’s model to save a few hundred dollars, the upgraded Tensor G2 SoC may yet prove its worth as the phone gets more updates in the future. And given how capable the phone proves itself in various use cases, it continues to feel amazing that Google can charge only $599 while Apple starts at $799 for its latest base-level iPhone.