When you charge out the gate with a mind-blowing camera system, unparalleled phone smarts and the best 5G connection you can get in Australia, it’s hard to top that the following year. I’m talking about Google and its 2021 Pixel 6 Pro, which this year has been superseded by the Pixel 7 Pro.
The Pixel 6 Pro absolutely floored us and it’s unfair to expect the same from the 7 Pro. The Pixel 7 Pro is Google’s best yet, it’s just not as drastic an improvement over its predecessor as the 6 Pro was. And that’s OK – there’s only so many times you can reinvent the wheel.
The Google Pixel 7 Pro
Google finally announced the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro early Friday morning. Both phones look and behave much the same as their predecessors, but there are a number of new features that keep the phone God-tier.
It’s not often I bother with marketing fluff, but upon announcing the 7 Pro, Google VP of product management Brian Rakowski called it “the ultimate refinement of Pixel” and after spending a week with it, I have to agree.
No change for the sake of it
It’s still very obvious that this phone is a Pixel. Again, the search giant has made the camera something to accentuate, rather than tuck away. The Camera Bar is a lot neater in the Pixel 7 Pro than in the 6 Pro, and the finish on the phone feels a little more premium than last year’s model, too, but it’s mostly the same. The 7 is 1 mm shorter and less than 1mm wider. The screen remains the same. I personally like big phones, but I do appreciate some of you would like the Pro features in a smaller form factor. Google does not offer this.
I’d argue that putting the Pixel 6 Pro specs alongside the 7 Pro really highlights how much Google got right last year, rather than making it seem like there’s not a lot new, which I’ll admit was originally the way I was going to approach this review. They got the Gorilla Glass Victus panel right, so that’s returned, and, to be honest, I’m glad they got rid of the Sorta Sunny (yellow colour) and instead gave us a more monochrome range.
The screen itself is still OLED, and the 120Hz refresh rate while the same on paper, is just one of the things that seems better with the Pixel 7 Pro thanks to the Google Tensor G2 chip.
Chipping away at the G2
Google’s G2 is to blame for the power and smarts of the Pixel 7 Pro (and the Pixel 7, too). For example, the camera system remains mostly unchanged, but the G2 chip means the software is more powerful, delivering a better all-around camera experience, such as for features like Super Res Zoom.
It really can’t be understated how important Google’s Tensor chip is, because not only does it represent Google taking control of chip development for its phones, it also allows the company to ensure the Pixel’s performance will deliver the best results. The powerful neural processing the G2 is capable of makes the Pixel 7 Pro faster and more power-efficient when performing AI and machine learning functions. When you set up the Pixel 7 Pro and start playing with it, you’ll notice how quick everything is – but it’s not until you use a previous model that you see just how much of a difference this makes.
But, just how you don’t need to know how a text message lands on another phone, you don’t need to know how the G2 works.
A case for a Google walled garden
If you’re a user of Google apps, you’ll be impressed by how well Google apps work on Google phones running Google software. Outside of this, however, if you think about everything you Google, these features are built-in to the Pixel 7 Pro. This could be Google Translate, where you open the camera within the app, hover over text and before your eyes it’s translated into any language you ask. The Pixel 7 Pro has near-perfect transcription from a recording thanks to Google’s smarts, the Google assistant is baked into everything – and all of these features are native to the phone.
From an aesthetics perspective, though, Google’s Material You (also not new) allows you to have your home screen apps match your wallpaper. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for third-party integration for a lot of apps. It will be great when this is out of beta.
Unlike with Apple’s ecosystem, everything works together with a Pixel. But, again unlike Apple, there’s something about Android that isn’t as clean as iOS and it lets the overall experience down. I should mention, however, that before the Pixel 6, I was Apple or nothing. I’m still warming up to this new end-to-end Google ecosystem the search giant is slowly, but surely, pulling people into.
While the intense amount of smarts the Pixel packs was considered an issue with the Pixel 7, with the Pixel 7 Pro, it’s the expectation that the phone would be smarter than any other Android-running handset. If you don’t take advantage of all these smarts, I’d probably call you silly for dropping the cash on the Pro.
This year, Google also introduced Face Unlock to the authentication experience. It’s fast, accurate and I’d argue more responsive than Apple’s. You can’t use it for payment, which is annoying, Google will tell you it’s because it’s not as secure as fingerprint/PIN. But laziness will tell you it’s a feature that could please the user.
In addition to the existing Google features, this year you’ll get a free subscription to Google VPN. I could go on, but you’re here to see the camera.
A camera system worth fixating on
A lot of the stuff I’ve mentioned isn’t new with the Pixel 7 Pro, it’s stuff Google has been rolling out slowly to its phones once it gets them right. But what is new this year is Photo Unblur.
This has been added to Google Photos so you can unblur photos that have been taken in the past – they don’t even need to have been captured on a Google/Android device. This is enabled through the G2 chip, so isn’t coming to previous models of Pixel phones. I’d love to show you an example I did but I can’t for the life of me find a blurry photo to use it on (one that is appropriate for publishing on the site I work for, at least), but from Google’s examples, this is a feature that boggles the mind.
For a refresher, with the Google Pixel 7 Pro, you’ll get a 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide and 48MP telephoto (along with a 10.8MP selfie cam). The wide remains unchanged, but the ultrawide gets a boost to a 125.8-degree field of view (from 114-degree) and the telephoto (enabling Super Res Zoom) also gives us that 30x zoom capacity. The selfie cam last year was 11.1MP, which is interesting.
Super Res Zoom is new this year and promises crisp details from far away. The first shot is just me hanging out on the balcony taking a few photos of the street below. The colours in each look mostly the same, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re the same photo.
Zooming in, there’s again not a lot of difference.
But, when we take the pic at 5x zoom, then zoom in on it, this is what the Pixel 7 Pro is capable of. Keep in mind, these pictures have been through Canva to get to this stage. On the phone, it is exceptional.
A standard shot of a dying plant that’s outside to get some new life, but a very un-standard difference in how quick the camera can autofocus and produce something magnificent.
Macro mode, the difference stands out like weird tree balls.
With the Pixel 7, Google has reduced the Night Mode shutter duration down to three seconds, which is great because if your hand is anywhere near as jittery as mine, you can’t keep it still while the camera does its thing. Not only that, but Night Mode is a hell of a lot smarter, producing really crisp, clear and more colour-accurate shots.
Have a go at it.
And, selfie mode. I am so awkward with selfies, please forgive my mug. Clearly, the 7 is the winner here yet again.
More than decent battery life
With every device we can, we perform the Avengers: Endgame test. That is, play the 3-hour movie while the battery is at 100 per cent, run it at full brightness, max volume, best quality stream. By 1.5 hours, the battery sat at 83 per cent. It was down to 62 per cent by the time the movie had finished. I ate away at the battery the rest of the day by using it for everything I usually would – Spotify, playing around a lot with the camera, Slack, TikTok, Uber, Maps after my Uber driver dropped me off nowhere near my destination, hotspotting my laptop on the train home and by 9.30 pm, I had 39 per cent battery.
Google boasts the Pixel 7 Pro as offering beyond 24-hour battery life and reckons you’ll get up to 72-hour battery life with Extreme Battery Saver. It’s not as good as the battery in the Pixel 7, but just like the iPhone 14 Pro Max, the bigger and better the phone, the quicker a battery is drained.
Should I buy the Google Pixel 7 Pro?
If you use Google apps, Android is your choice of OS, you take a lot of photos and you’re in the market for a new phone, the Pixel 7 Pro seems like the obvious choice. You’ll get the most out of this phone if you fully take advantage of all of its smarts, which are still mind-boggling to us here at Gizmodo Australia. It’s not the phone to get your mum, that’s the Pixel 7, but it’s the phone for someone who wants the best of Google software on Google hardware.
If you currently use the Pixel 6 Pro, like I do, I couldn’t sit here and tell you it’s worth the upgrade, as much as I’m loving the addition of Face Unlock, the new colours and of course, the camera. But, I’m not your real dad and you can drop your $1,500 as you see fit.
The Pixel 7 Pro truly is Google’s best yet and proves the company knows its stuff.
Where to buy the Pixel 7 Pro?
Pixel 7 Pro (128GB): $1,299
Cheapest 24-month plans:
Pixel 7 Pro (256GB): $1,449
Cheapest 24-month plans:
Pixel 7 Pro (512GB): $1,599
Cheapest 24-month plan:
Every version of the Google Pixel 7 will be available from Thursday, 13 October.
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