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Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro Review: It’s Not Just About the Cameras Anymore

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Google’s Pixel smartphones have always been known for their excellent camera capabilities, despite not always having the most competitive hardware. But with some of the recent crop of flagship Android phones sporting add-on imaging chipsets, manufacturers have been able to deliver a similar level of imaging quality that easily rival the Pixel’s AI photography smarts. Google’s return to the premium smartphone segment in India after four long years may have enthusiasts and Android purists very excited, but can it still attract the vast majority of users who have moved on to competing brands? Read on to find out.

Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro pricing in India

Pricing is always a touchy subject in the premium smartphone space, but Google seems to have done justice to the new Pixels by pricing them well-below the ‘Pro’ and ‘Ultra’ offerings from Apple and Samsung. The Google Pixel 7 is available for Rs. 59,999 for the 8GB RAM and 128GB storage variant, while the bigger Pixel 7 Pro is priced at Rs. 84,999 for the 12GB RAM and 128GB storage variant. Both phones have been launched in just their respective base variants in India.

The storage may seem a bit limited (especially for the Pixel 7 Pro) with no option to expand it, but this also allows Google to push users into buying one of its cloud storage plans. Sadly, there’s no free unlimited cloud backup available anymore either. The Pixel 7 is available in Obsidian, Lemongrass, and Snow finishes, while the Pixel 7 Pro is available in Obsidian, Snow, and Hazel. I received the Pixel 7 in Obsidian and the Pixel 7 Pro in the Hazel finish for review.

Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro design

I like how Google has made an effort to give both of its 7 series smartphones a different feel, despite having the same overhauled design which is based on the previous Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro. The Google Pixel 7 is smaller than the Pixel 7 Pro, but not as small as Samsung’s Galaxy S22, which still one of the few proper compact (or mini) Android flagships.

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Google’s Pixel 7 (right) and Pixel 7 Pro (left) have Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and rear panels

 

The Pixel 7’s frame has a brushed metal look which looks similar to the Pixel 6a (Review), but feels smoother and appears more refined with a camera module looking a lot cleaner thanks to the single piece aluminium band that stretches across the width of the phone. The Pixel 7 Pro gets a similar treatment but has a polished aluminium frame instead.

As expected, the matte finish of the Google Pixel 7 makes the phone quite slippery, so I always ended up placing my index finger under the thick camera bump, which seems to be Google’s signature design feature since the Pixel 6 series. The polished frame of the Pixel 7 Pro makes it a lot easier to grip. Both smartphones have polished glass rear panels made from Gorilla Glass Victus and the same goes for the displays on the front, both of which did an excellent job of resisting fingerprints and scratches.

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The Google Pixel 7 Pro’s rear camera module gets scratched easily

 

Both smartphones also have a nice heft to them which added to the premium in-hand feel, which I felt was missing on the Pixel 6a. The Pixel 7 weighs 197g and the Pixel 7 Pro weighs 212g, both of which aren’t abnormally heavy compared to other devices in their respective segments. Both devices also feature an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance.

During the review period, I noticed that polished camera module on the Pixel 7 Pro got scuffed very easily. The matte-finished camera module of the Pixel 7 however did not pick up any scratches at all. The curved edge display of the Pixel 7 Pro certainly makes it look and feel more premium compared to the flat display of the Pixel 7. I also found the edges of the Pixel 7’s frame a bit sharp when swiping in from the sides. The bezels on Pixel 7 are also not as thin as I expected it to be, which takes a bit away from the device’s premium charm, especially since the Pixel 6a looks quite similar.

Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro specifications and software

The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro do share a few common components despite being priced far apart. There’s the new Google Tensor G2 processor, a 50-megapixel primary camera and 10.8-megapixel selfie camera, and stereo speakers. Communication standards between the two phones also remain identical, with both offering Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, USB Type-C (3.2), and support for the usual satellite navigation systems.

The Google Pixel 7 gets a 4,355mAh battery with 20W wired charging, while the Pixel 7 Pro gets a bigger 5,000mAh battery with 23W charging. Both smartphones support wireless charging at 20W and 23W respectively and also support reverse wireless charging (Battery Share) for charging accessories. Surprisingly, the Pixel 7 is missing the Ultra-wideband (UWB) antenna that’s available on the Pixel 7 Pro.

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The Google Pixel 7 (right) looks quite similar to the Pixel 6a (left) which was launched earlier this year in India

 

Both the Google Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro run the latest version of Android 13, which has been customised to deliver the unique Pixel software experience. The phones are loaded with software smarts such as the incredibly accurate voice recorder app that can also do real-time transcription of audio to text. These smarts also make their way into other apps like the Google Assistant-powered keyboard which can also enter text in text fields accurately using just voice commands. The phones are also capable of transcribing audio messages in the Messages app, which is handy.

As for the interface, there’s now more varied colour palettes to choose from upon selecting a wallpaper. However, themed icons continue to remain in a beta state and only a few third-party apps currently support the design feature.

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Google’s software performance on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro is fluid thanks to no added bloatware

 

Google continues to add software and Tensor-powered features in its Pixel smartphones year on year, and this year is no different. The new Tensor G2 allows for features such as Cinematic Blur which applies the bokeh effect to video recordings, and Photo Unblur which does a decent job at sharpening old and recently shot blurred photos from any source.

The Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are guaranteed to get Android updates for the next three years, and security updates for the next five years. 

Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro Performance

Software performance was fluid across both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, though I noticed some random instances of stuttering initially. I also encountered my fair share of interface-related bugs which were more common when I first began using the devices, but these disappeared after subsequent software updates. Both phones heat up a bit when you’re simply browsing through the interface outdoors during the day or when downloading large files or games, but I had no problems otherwise.

Performance in benchmarks turned out as expected, but Google’s Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro fall behind the current generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1-powered devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 or the Galaxy Z Fold 4. The Pixel 7 Pro with 12GB of RAM managed scores of 1,039 and 3,116 in Geekbench’s single and multi-core tests respectively. In terms of graphics, the Pixel 7 Pro achieved scores of 60fps, 120fps, and 37fps in GFXBench’s Manhattan 3.1, T-Rex and Car Chase tests respectively. The Pixel 7 with 8GB RAM and its lower resolution display also came quite close in terms of benchmark scores.

Gaming performance was quite good on both phones. I tried out Call of Duty: Mobile which defaulted to ‘High’ graphics and frame rate settings, but managed to run smoothly at the ‘Very High’ settings too. The Pixel 7 and 7 Pro tend to heat up slightly while playing games but this didn’t affect performance too much.

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The Pixel 7 Pro (left) has a 120Hz QHD+ AMOLED display while the Pixel 7 (right) has a 90Hz full-HD+ AMOLED panel

 

The 6.3-inch full-HD+ display on the Pixel 7 is of the AMOLED variety and produces a sharp-enough image thanks to its 416ppi pixel density. It’s sufficiently bright outdoors and the 90Hz refresh rate felt sufficient, both while playing games and during regular usage. The 6.7-inch QHD+ curved-edge AMOLED display on the Pixel 7 Pro is quite large, but does not feel as unwieldy as the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s display, which is broader.

The Google Pixel 7’s display, unlike the Pixel 7 Pro, does not feature LTPO technology which according to Google lets its refresh rate vary between 10Hz-120Hz. However, enabling the ‘Show refresh rate’ option in Developer Settings revealed that it only went from 60-120Hz as far as I could tell, which was a bit strange. Colour reproduction on both the displays are vivid at the default setting but changing this to ‘Natural’ made it more true-to-life. The touch sampling rate on both smartphones was spot-on so there was no problem when swiping through apps or even playing intensive 3D games.

Battery life on the Google Pixel 7 was pretty good and it easily lasted for one and half days with casual use, along with some gaming and camera usage. Unfortunately, things were not as good on the Pixel 7 Pro as the battery usually would not last beyond a full-day of use. Our HD video loop test reflected similar results with the Pixel 7 lasting 14 hours and 34 minutes, while the Pixel 7 Pro managed 12 hours and 30 minutes.

This could be down to its QHD+ display on the Pixel 7 Pro, which according to an earlier report, is said to consume more power compared to other phones with a similar panel. Regardless, the with day-to-day usage, its battery life is still quite poor compared to devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra which has an equally large and high-resolution display.

Charging the Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro was a relatively slow experience too. Since both smartphones don’t come with a charging adapter in the box, I relied on my 61W USB PD adapter to get the job done. The Google Pixel 7 managed to charge from zero to 100 percent in 1 hour and 47 minutes, while the Pixel 7 Pro achieved the same in 1 hour and 55 minutes. Indeed, this is relatively slow even when compared to Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 45W fast charging. Compare this to the Vivo X80 Pro which charges its 4,700mAh battery fully in just 36 minutes (using the charger that comes in the box) and suddenly, Google’s charging speeds for its new Pixels feels dated.

Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro Cameras

The Google Pixel 7 has two rear cameras. There’s a 50-megapixel primary and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera. The Google Pixel 7 Pro has three which includes the 50-megapixel primary as the Pixel 7, a slightly different 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera with a 126-degree field of view (instead of 114 degrees), and a 48-megapixel telephoto with 5X optical zoom and up to 30X SuperRes Zoom. Both smartphones share the same selfie camera which is a 10.8-megapixel shooter, which does not have autofocus.

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The new Motion photos features includes the Long exposure and Action pan modes for adding a creative blur effect to photos

 

The camera app’s interface of the Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro is typically “Pixel”, with quick settings tucked under the settings icon located in the top-left corner. Not much has changed here compared to the Pixel 6a which I reviewed earlier this year. There is a new Cinematic video mode (available on both phones) which does a decent job at shooting subjects with blurred backgrounds, but is only capable of doing so at 1080p with a rather unstable frame rate.

Google finally added macro capability on the Pixel 7 Pro (not available on the Pixel 7) and it works really well. Macro photos were sharp and had good details. This mode doesn’t let you get as close to your subject as you can with an iPhone 13 Pro, but it’s still close enough. More importantly, Google also lets you shoot macro photos with Auto Night Sight (slightly longer exposures are supposed to bring in more light), but it did not make much of a difference to the result in my experience.

Also new is Motion Photos which includes Long exposure and Action pan. Motion photos delivers an effect that is similar to selecting Long Exposure to a Live Photo on an iPhone. The results are pretty good in all types of lighting conditions and makes for interesting long exposure photos without needing a tripod. Action Blur adds a motion blur to the background on a moving subject. It’s tricky to use but the results are pretty solid. What’s more is that both of these modes can be used even at 2X or 5X zoom.

Google’s Pixel 7 Pro can shoot Motion photos in all types of lighting and even at 2X or 5X zoom (Tap to see full size)

 

The differences in image quality between the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are negligible. The only difference lies in the ultra-wide angle cameras, where the Pixel 7’s camera offers a slightly constricted field of view (114 degrees) versus the Pixel 7 Pro (126 degrees). The Pixel 7 also showcases minor purple-fringing towards the edges.

Coming to image quality, I compared the images from the Pixel 7 Pro with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra as it is arguably the best smartphone in terms of camera capability in the Android space.

The primary camera on the Pixel 7 Pro snaps some really good photos which aren’t too sharp and also pack in plenty of details. Google does not over-process the images like Samsung does. I found the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s photos a bit saturated (typically Samsung) and with increased sharpness, which corrupts the textures on objects at a distance. However, this is only visible if you pixel-peep.

Google Pixel 7 Pro daylight camera samples (Tap to see full size)

 

With photos taken with the Pixel 7 Pro’s ultra-wide-angle camera, Google once again manages to outdo Samsung but only by a tiny margin. Colours from the Pixel 7 Pro are natural and the tone is similar to the primary camera. Google’s processing also manages to capture more details and better dynamic range.

When it comes to zoom, I noticed that the Google Pixel 7 Pro handles photos better with less sharpening, while Samsung tends to sharpen photos quite a bit from the 3X magnification onwards. Surprisingly, the Pixel 7 Pro maintains good image quality till 5X optical zoom, showing fine details like antennas on buildings in the distance. Photos captured at 10X are still quite impressive, with the quality taking a noticeable hit at 30X. Samsung’s telephoto images take a hit at 3X zoom for some reason but then kicks into gear from 10X, delivering sharp but contrasted photos up to 30X, post which the image quality takes a noticeable hit.

Google Pixel 7 Pro versus Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra zoom comparison (Tap to see full size)

 

As for selfies, Samsung captures sharper-looking selfies that are packed with detail. Samsung also manages better and more natural-looking colour tones compared to the Pixel, which for some reason made my face appear orange (probably due to the setting sun). Edge detection with Portrait selfies is more accurate on the Pixel 7 Pro.

Google Pixel 7 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra low-light zoom comparison (Tap to see full size)

 

When it comes to low-light zoom performance, the Pixel 7 Pro comes out on top again, this time for consistency. Google’s Pixel 7 Pro somehow manages to keep the colours in check and consistent between along the zoom range and also performs better when it comes to noise reduction. I could still spot some blotchy textures around lit up objects, but these still looked far better than the noisy images from the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Despite Samsung’s telephoto hardware managing a 100X magnification, the results in low light appeared like oil paintings, with flat textures.

In terms of general low-light performance, the primary cameras of both the Pixel 7s and the Galaxy S22 Ultra do a good job in capturing good details with low noise, but aren’t able to handle lens flares very well from ambient lighting. Having too many bright light sources in the scene tends to drop the image quality drastically, which I found a bit strange especially since I had the Pixel’s Auto Night Sight and Samsung’s ‘Nightography’ modes turned on. These are supposed to automatically calibrate the cameras based on available light.

However, the Google Pixel 7 Pro still managed much better image quality, despite showing lens flares while Samsung’s images turned out textureless and noisy. With their respective Night modes on, the Galaxy S22 Ultra tends to deliver better dynamic range with a good level of detail.

Google Pixel 7 Pro vs Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra ultra-wide camera comparison in low light (Tap to see full size)

 

Google’s Pixel 7 Pro shoots the best quality video at 4K 30fps and 4K 60fps in daytime. Videos recorded at 1080p turned out a bit choppy with an unsteady framerate. Stabilisation was good and so was the dynamic range. However, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra performed a lot better at all recording resolutions, with a rocksteady framerate and excellent stabilisation.

In low light however, things took a u-turn. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s footage was quite noisy and with low detail. There’s also focus-hopping which was quite annoying. Google’s Pixel 7 and 7 Pro surprisingly managed better quality videos in low light, at all recording resolutions. Stabilisation was also good and the same can be said about handling lens flares, which Google managed better than Samsung. Both smartphones are capable of recording HDR video, but the Galaxy S22 Ultra did a better job when shooting in daylight.

Overall, Google’s Pixel 7 Pro fares better than the Galaxy S22 Ultra for general purpose photography as it manages better quality photos and videos in all kinds of lighting conditions. Samsung on the other hand did a better job with selfies, whether it was day or night, and also has the edge when it comes to the maximum zoom level. The Pixel 7 captures nearly identical photos as the 7 Pro, which should be good enough to most causal users. However, if you need macro capability or high-quality zoom, then the 7 Pro has the advantage. 

Verdict

Google’s Pixel 7 is a solid premium smartphone with good camera performance, battery life and a decent display. It’s not going to win many points on style and design, mainly because it appears very similar to the mid-range Pixel 6a (Review), even though it’s built using more premium materials. A solid competitor to the Pixel 7 is the Samsung Galaxy S22 5G (Review). It is compact, offers similar battery life, a faster 120Hz refresh rate, and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC. It also looks more premium with its razor-thin display bezels and is available from Rs. 62,999.

The Google Pixel 7 Pro gets just about everything right save for battery life and charging speeds, which falls short of expectations. Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra (Review) may cost a lot more with prices starting from Rs. 1,08,990, but it adds equally good value by offering better battery life, faster 45W charging, a built-in S-Pen stylus, unique design, and better telephoto capabilities.

As for direct competitors to the Pixel 7 Pro, we have the Samsung Galaxy S22+ 5G (Review) at Rs. 84,999 onwards and the Vivo X80 Pro (Review) at Rs. 79,999. These two phones definitely offer good value and equally impressive camera performance as the Pixel 7 Pro. What gives the Pixel an edge though is its software experience and the promise of timely software updates, which will always arrive on the Pixel 7 series before any other smartphone.


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