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Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone

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Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 1

The pixel has a problem every year. The first had a terrible build quality, the second had display problems and the third had a poor battery. And every year we hold our breath together and hope that this time Google will tackle the problems and produce a pixel that really reaches its potential.

This is not the year.

The Pixel 4 is good and promising, but it does not meet expectations. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad phone, it’s really, really cool in a lot of areas. It’s a little disappointing because, although it does bring some groundbreaking technical wonders, pedestrian needs like battery life, haven’t been considered yet. And while Google usually gets access because it’s Google, the Pixel 4 isn’t quite as competitive as other manufacturers. The easiest way to put it: The Pixel 4 looks like a phone designed for Google engineers rather than the average consumer. Let’s take a look at our Google Pixel 4 XL review.

Google Pixel 4 XL review: The big picture

Placing Pixel 4 in terms of Android is difficult because Google seems to be planning to place it in Apple’s term. Specifications are not a priority here, comfort is. Personalization goes beyond anything automatic. The price is not backed by any traditional valuation etc. The only phone I can honestly say Pixel 4 is competing with iPhone 11. It doesn’t really speak the same language as other Android phone manufacturers and therefore can’t really be understood in these terms.

Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 2

For us, Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are “but” phones. They have incredible abilities and some innovative technology, but they are a bit short-sighted. Yes, a radar-based gesture system is great, but what’s the benefit of having a short battery life? Yes, astrophotography is a major achievement, but it does require a wide-angle lens (especially at this price). Yes, face unlock is good, but if your apps don’t support it because Google didn’t work like Apple, is it really better than fingerprints? You got the idea: Pixel 4 is great, but…

Unboxing

  • 18W/2A charging brick
  • USB-C to USB-C cable
  • USB-C to USB-A adapter
  • SIM ejector tool

Pros:

  • Awsome 90Hz OLED display
  • Excellent performance
  • Great camera
  • Clean and fluid software
  • Premium design and good build quality

Cons:

  • Not-so-good battery life
  • Limited storage options
  • Radar is not reliable
  • Partial Face unlock support
  • Google Assistant quirks
  • No real progress with video

Design

Pixel 4:

  • 68.8 x 147.1 x 8.2mm
  • 162g

Pixel 4 XL:

  • 75.1 x 160.4 x 8.2mm
  • 193g

Both models:

  • Both front and back Gorilla Glass 5
  • Matte finish aluminum frame
  • Water and IP68 dust -resistance
  • Active Edge for Google Assistant

The Pixel 4’s design is quite divisive, some love it and others hate it. This is especially true for a rear-facing square camera. I don’t hate it, but I’m not a big fan either. However, I like the general style and design here. There are three color variants: glossy black, a limited edition “Oh So Orange” and a black and white version of the Stormtrooper.

The black version is the only one with a glossy back, while the other two are matte. I think a matte finish is the best way to do that. Not only does it attract fewer fingerprints, but it also has a nicer texture. It is similar to soft polycarbonate but is actually frosted glass.

The Pixel 4’s design is quite divisive, some love it and others hate it.

No matter what color you get, there is a matte black aluminum body that I can only assume is the answer to the notoriously smooth edge of the Pixel 3. This is a welcome change from the bare aluminum frames you see in most other phones. It is better for adhesion, shows fewer bumps and scratches and gives your phone an extra touch.

Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 1

I understand the disgust on the big forehead at the top of the screen, but I like it more than the notch every day. Of course, your views can vary on this front.

There is no fingerprint sensor behind or under the screen. There is no fingerprint reader at all.

All in all, the Pixel 4 is bold and confident whether you admit it or not.

Performance

The performance of the Pixel 4 is surprisingly good. The Pixel has 6 GB of RAM for the first time, and both models use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 mobile platform.

The pixels have slowed down over time, so additional storage is very welcome here, even if it’s only 6 GB. Unfortunately, we have to wait a bit longer to find out whether there is more RAM left or whether this also affects the Pixel 4 family.

Pixel 4 seems to have solved the RAM management problems that plagued Pixel 3.

At least in the short term, more RAM means less caching problems. Pixel 4 appears to have resolved RAM management issues affecting Pixel 3. For example, you can now safely use Spotify, Maps, and Camera without having to shut them down. This is good news, but it shouldn’t have been a problem.

While we appreciate the increase in memory here, almost all other flagships now use the standard 8 GB (except the iPhone). You don’t even have a chance to get more RAM if you pay for overwhelming memory. While new pixels may not currently require 8 GB of RAM, Google guarantees updates for at least another two years, who knows where we’ll be then.

The same applies to storage. While Google is understandably excited to stream everything, not everyone can live their lives in the cloud. The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL have (still) 64 GB of storage space, and doubling to 128 GB costs an additional $100. For comparison, Apple only charges an additional $50 for the 128GB iPhone 11 and $100 more for the 256GB version. Since the original high-quality Google Photos downloads are no longer available and we have never received a microSD card for a Google phone, you have a good reason to be unhappy.

Benchmark Results:

Pixel 4:

Pixel 4 XL:

On a positive note, the performance of the Pixel 4 is quite good. In our benchmarking, the smaller Pixel 4 slightly outperformed the Pixel 4 XL on average, as the Full HD+ resolution of the smaller model requires fewer pixels. The differences are pretty insignificant and we were pleasantly surprised at how well Pixel 4 did in fairly tough races like the Asus ROG Phone 2, the OnePlus 7T series and the Realme X2 Pro.

How does Motion Sense work?

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Motion Sense is another key feature of Pixel 4 that has been mixed with the results. The solo radar unit is located directly to the right of the handset speaker. By default, you can control your phone by swiping the gestures without touching them. You can turn off alarms, mute calls, skip songs, and turn on the Pixel 4 infrared camera’s lock cameras before tapping to open your face very quickly (see below).

We had mixed results with Motion Sense – it worked well with Pixel 4, but not with Pixel 4 XL.

Although I found Motion Sense on the smallest Pixel 4 to be accurate and reliable, it worked in about 95% of the cases. David had a completely different experience with the larger Pixel 4 XL and almost never works as stated. I also had no luck with their Pixel 4 XL. Maybe you have a broken device, but I’ve heard similar complaints from other reviewers. Perhaps Google can fix this in the update, but I wouldn’t recommend buying Pixel 4 just for this feature. It’s a lot better than the trick in my experience, but it should work reliably for everyone before there is the loan I think it should be.

Battery

Pixel 4:

  • 2,800mAh battery

Pixel 4 XL:

  • 3,700mAh battery

Both models:

  • 18W/2A charger
  • Qi-wireless charging
  • USB-C with USB-PD 2.0

Although Google may have fixed the RAM issue on the Pixel 4, the battery life is still not particularly long. The smaller Pixel 4 actually has a smaller battery than the Pixel 3.

During the Google Pixel 4 XL review period, the smallest device reliably managed about four and a quarter hours of screen on time per day with a period of ~12 hours. The Pixel 4 XL’s average battery life ranged from five-quarters to five-and-a-half hours during a screen on time with a period of about ~12 hours.

Pixel 4/ 4 XL lower portion

Over time, Android Adaptive Battery should learn how to use its app and improve battery life. However, it cannot be helped that these results are quite average. With some professionals, the battery was much worse than ours. So, expect even worse battery experiences to ship.

Adding new battery-consuming hardware features like a radar and a 90Hz display should justify a much bigger battery, especially the smaller Pixel 4. The battery is the main thing that prevents us from recommending the Pixel 4. (Note: We found so many differences between the Google Pixel 4 XL testers that we will run our battery test again and update it in a few days).

Google still doesn’t seem to understand that battery life is something that matters to people.

Google urgently needs to focus on the pixel battery, especially with Apple’s new iPhone 11 series that focuses on the battery. No need to add radar, 90Hz display, and long exposure camera if it can’t last a whole day. We should be far beyond the days of having to gimp our phones just to get through 24 hours of normal usage.

Pixel 4 models are equipped with 18W charge bricks, which provided the same 18W charge pixels from the start. With other manufacturers having 25W, 30W, 40W, 50W and up to 65W fast chargers, Google is once again reminded in the back. The battery is by far the biggest disappointment with the Pixel 4 series. Google still doesn’t seem to understand that battery life is something that matters to people. Both models support Qi wireless charging, including a 10W pixel mount, but there is no wireless reverse charging.

Camera

Features of the main camera:

  • 12.2MP sensor
  • ƒ/1.7 aperture
  • 1.4μm pixel size
  • 77-degree FoV
  • OIS + EIS, PDAF

Features of 2x telephoto camera:

  • 16MP sensor
  • ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • 1.0μm pixel size
  • 52-degree FoV
  • OIS + EIS, PDAF

The Pixel 4 camera is better than the Pixel 3, and I think better than the iPhone 11 Pro, but it’s not as significant a camera upgrade as you’d expect. Yes, now there is another camera, but it is a 2x telephoto lens instead of a wide-angle.

According to Google, wide-angle lenses are fun, but zooming is more useful. Whether you like it or not, the fact is that the Pixel 4 camera system is not as versatile as many other phones that all three offer (Apple iPhone 11, Samsung Galaxy Note 10, etc.). With the 2x telephoto lens, you can not only get enlarged images with optical quality but also promote the Super Res zoom for better in-zoom range and improve the portrait mode. The telephoto lens is functional and of high quality, but I want the wide-angle at any time.

The real killer feature of the Pixel 4 is the astrophotography mode, which is so crazy that you have to see it to believe it.

The real killer feature of the Pixel 4 is the astrophotography mode, which is so crazy that you have to see it to believe it. When in night mode the Pixel 4 detects that the lighting is weak enough and the sky is visible, it automatically switches to astrophotography mode. It then takes up to 16 exposures of 15 seconds, aligns and adjusts them in the background, and highlights astrophotography, which is usually the result of an elegant DSLR and many edits. The results speak for themselves and are really amazing.

Unfortunately, the presence of astrophotography mode underscores the lack of a wide-angle lens, as it is difficult to get out of the full night sky when you can barely put anything in the frame.

However, Pixel 4 lenses are very impressive. Pixel 4 manages to capture in more detail than Pixel 3, manage better white balance thanks to a machine learning-based algorithm, and improves HDR, portrait mode and selfies. We noticed that the selfies sometimes left some items a bit plasticky while others were cool. The portraits were more accurate and the bokeh a little more realistic.

The Pixel 4 is once again the best smartphone camera we have ever seen. But its benefits are slowly diminishing.

Suffice it to say that the Pixel 4 is again the best smartphone camera we’ve ever seen. But its benefits are slowly diminishing. He doesn’t lead the field as far as three years ago. The dominance of the pixel camera runs the risk of being overshadowed by other phones next year if Google doesn’t accelerate its game in the next 12 months. There is blood in the water and all other manufacturers, including Apple, have its smell.

Another really innovative feature of Pixel 4 is Live HDR+. Pixel 4 can preview your image before you take it, so you can see the rendering before it actually happens. This is remarkable in itself, but it offers another feature that shows that Google hasn’t released yet.

If you watch HDR in real-time, Google could add local adjustments when typing. When previous devices compensated for the exposure of the area you touched, this function was reassigned to expose brightness and shadow controls. This means that you can adjust the individual parts of the picture before the picture is taken, which is not possible with conventional cameras.

It’s clear that Google isn’t trying to make cameras with the pixel camera system, but it does solve the problems that traditional cameras have always had.

Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 23

Features of the front-facing camera:

  • 8.1MP sensor
  • ƒ/2.0 aperture
  • 1.22μm pixel size
  • 90-degree FoV

Features of face unlock:

  • 2x NIR cameras
  • NIR flood emitter
  • NIR dot projector

How well does Pixel 4 face unlock work?

Face Unlock in Pixel 4 is fantastic. It even works upside down. Your facial data is stored locally on the pixel-safe Titan M chip, not in the cloud. It uses two near-infrared (NIR) cameras, a flood emitter, and a dot projector for a very iPhone-like facial unlock experience.

The difference is that the Pixel 4’s face unlock is faster thanks to the Pixel Neural Core and Motion Sense, which work with the Soli radar. Since the Pixel 4 knows it will pick you up even before you touch it, NIR cameras are already searching for your face as soon as you pick up your phone. In my tests, face unlock on the Pixel 4 was faster each time than on the iPhone 11.

I should mention that while My brother had no problem with Motion Sense recognizing my hand when I picked up the phone. The experience was far less reliable for him than it was for me. The problem here is that face unlock is a little slower if the radar doesn’t recognize your hand when reaching for the phone. Raise-to-wake still works, so the result is the same – it just takes longer.

Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 24

Like the iPhone, the Pixel 4 face unlock is secure enough for mobile payments and app unlock. However, it is a shame that Google has omitted the requirement that its eyes be open. This is a potential security risk as your face can be used to unlock your phone when you are asleep or passed out, or worse, against your will.

The lack of a fingerprint scanner is a bit of a disappointment here, since unlocking the face isn’t easy. Although pixel face unlock was good in my experience, it won’t be the biometric solution of choice for everyone.

The lack of a fingerprint scanner is a bit of a disappointment here, since unlocking the face isn’t easy.

There is also the problem of biometric login for apps. Apple may have the ability to force app developers to support a new authentication method, but Google cannot. If you switch to face unlock without including a fingerprint sensor, you won’t be able to use your identity to unlock certain apps, at least until the developers update them. Yes, you can use your PIN, but this feels like a step back and not forward.

It should be noted that Android 10 supports a new Biological Authentication Collection API that includes face unlock. This means that developers should be able to update their applications with relative ease. However, Google needs to ensure this is done safely. My brother had trouble not being able to log in to many apps using biometrics because they still didn’t support face unlock on Android.

How good the video is?

The Pixel 4 series makes it pretty clear that Google isn’t as interested in videos as it is in photography. While the iPhone 11’s forward-facing camera has a 4K at 60 frames per second, the Pixel 4 does not yet support this in the main camera.

The Pixel 4 records 1080p videos at 30, 60 and 120 frames per second, but can only record 4K videos at 30 frames per second on the main camera. This is a disappointment for a phone trying to position itself as the first camera device. All you have to do is select slow motion in the Add menu of the camera app and then select 1/4 or 1/8, which will also switch between Full HD and HD video. At least EIS and OIS mean that the video is very stable and smooth.

Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 25

It’s a shame that Google doesn’t seem to be interested in the competition, let alone exceed the limits of the video. The company has made very clear efforts to find a new position in mobile photography, but unfortunately, the video is second-rate.

Audio

Main features of Pixel 4 audio:

  • Stereo speakers (earpiece and bottom-firing)
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack, no adapter
  • 3 microphones
  • Noise suppression

The sound is perfect with the Pixel 4. There is no headphone jack, but you can take a smart Google dongle if you need a wired headphone or you can connect via Bluetooth. The phone supports SBC, AAC, aptX, aptXHD and LDAC codecs, but aptX Adaptive is not yet available. Still, you won’t notice any problems and will handle all the sound thrown at it.

Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 26

The Pixel 4 has stereo speakers via the earpiece and a speaker at the bottom. They are significantly louder than the Pixel 3 and produce a richer sound. The Pixel 4 handles treble much better than Pixel 3, and the bass is rounder without slimming down the top. Bigger volumes also have less distortion, so well done Google.

Google Pixel 4/XL specs

 Google Pixel 4Google Pixel 4 XL
Display5.7-inch pOLED Smooth Display
2,280 x 1,080 resolution, 444ppi
19:9 aspect ratio
90Hz refresh rate
Ambient EQ
Gorilla Glass 5
6.3-inch pOLED Smooth Display
3,040 x 1,440 resolution, 537ppi
19:9 aspect ratio, 537ppi
90Hz refresh rate
Ambient EQ
Gorilla Glass 5
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 855
Pixel Neural Core
Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Pixel Neural Core
GPUAdreno 640Adreno 640
RAM6GB6GB
Storage64GB, 128GB64GB, 128GB
MicroSDNoNo
Battery2,800mAh
18W fast charging
Qi wireless charging
3,700mAh
18W fast charging
Qi wireless charging
CamerasRear:
12.2MP Dual-Pixel, ƒ/1.7 aperture, 1.4μm, 77-degree FOV, OIS + EIS, PDAF
16MP telephoto, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 1.0μm, 52-degree FOV, OIS + EIS, PDAF

Front:
8.1MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.22μm, 90-degree FOV

Video:
1080p @ 30 FPS, 60 FPS, 120 FPS
720p @ 240 FPS
4K @ 30 FPS
Rear:
12.2MP Dual-Pixel, ƒ/1.7 aperture, 1.4μm, 77-degree FOV, OIS + EIS, PDAF
16MP telephoto, ƒ/2.4 aperture, 1.0μm, 52-degree FOV, OIS + EIS, PDAF

Front:
8.1MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.22μm, 90-degree FOV

Video:
1080p @ 30 FPS, 60 FPS, 120 FPS
720p @ 240 FPS
4K @ 30 FPS
IP ratingIP68IP68
Headphone jackNoNo
SensorsActive Edge
Motion Sense
Dot projector
Soli radar
Accelerometer
Ambient Light Sensor Barometer (Altimeter)
Face ID
Gyroscope
Proximity
Active Edge
Motion Sense
Dot projector
Soli radar
Accelerometer
Ambient Light Sensor Barometer (Altimeter)
Face ID
Gyroscope
Proximity
SecurityFace unlock
Titan M Security Module
Face unlock
Titan M Security Module
ConnectivityWi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2
MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0 + LE (HD codecs: AptX, AptX
HD, LDAC)
NFC
Google Cast
USB-C
Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz + 5 GHz 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2
MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0 + LE (HD codecs: AptX, AptX
HD, LDAC)
NFC
Google Cast
USB-C
SoftwareAndroid 10Android 10
Dimensions and weight68.8 x 147.1 x 8.2mm
162 g
75.1 x 160.4 x 8.2mm
193g
ColorsJust Black, Clearly White, Oh So OrangeJust Black, Clearly White, Oh So Orange

Price: Value for Money

Pixel available variants with price:

  • Pixel 4 64GB – $799
  • Pixel 4 128GB – $899
  • Pixel 4 XL 64GB – $899
  • Pixel 4 XL 128GB – $999

At the launching price, it’s practically impossible to recommend Pixel 4 for a good value. Yes, it offers a fantastic camera experience and great performance (so far). However, these functions are not unrivaled by any means in Android or iOS. You can get a reasonably comparable camera on any of a 10-20 phones, some of which are much cheaper than the cheapest pixel, and on many phones with excellent software and performance.

It is practically impossible to recommend Pixel 4 as a good value phone.

At $799, the 64GB Pixel 4 is overpriced. For example, the iPhone 11 base model costs $699 and has 64 GB of storage. You can pay $100 more when you get 128GB for Pixel 4, while Apple gives at half the price of it on the iPhone. At $899, the 128GB Pixel 4 is too expensive for a phone that tries to get through the day without disabling the features. The $899 Pixel 4 XL is so hard to recommend with only 64 GB of storage space, without microSD card support and without original photo uploads. That gives us $999 for the 128 GB Pixel 4 XL as the only viable option. And it’s still expensive to get.

As with Apple devices, the value is in the eye of the beholder (iPhone 11 Pro starts at $999 and has only 64 GB of storage). As with the iPhone, the pixel price is simply what it costs to pay for a “Google phone”. You can pay any price that Apple or Google puts on their phones, or you can’t, but the value for money isn’t part of the equation.

Google Pixel 4 & 4 XL Review: A Typical Problematic Pixel Phone 27

Since the first publication of this test report, various time-limited offers have made Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL a much more attractive offer. For example, the devices were reduced by $200 in the week of Black Friday. At the time of this review’s last update, Verizon customers could receive a $300 refund for their Pixel 4/XL in the form of a two-year promotional credit. AT&T customers wishing to update their plans can get the Pixel 4 virtually free ($300 instant discount and $28/month credit).

We expect these discounts to be nearly permanent over the course of 2020 and Google will have to relocate unsold units. At $ 00 to $300, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will be much more attractive.

Final Verdict

Writing this was difficult. In the past, Google received a certain “pass” with previous pixel flaws because the camera was great. While I think the Pixel 4 is still the best on a smartphone level, this year’s Pixel is much harder to recommend. Yes, the camera is fantastic, the software is excellent, the performance is impressive, the design is bold, the build quality is excellent, the display is fantastic but…

Let’s go back to where we started.

Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are great phones for all the reasons I just mentioned. But something is wrong. Google promotes photography but not videos. The pixel charging status has not improved and may have worsened the battery. We have an extra camera, but really we should have three. At 64GB, it should not be the basic model. Radar is cool but unreliable and not as impressive as the soli demos we’ve seen for years. Face unlock is great when it works, but it causes as many problems as it solves. Google Assistant is faster and safer, but only if it follows some arbitrary rules. The 90Hz display is fine, but if you use it, you may not be able to get through the whole day. The performance is good now, but what are the chances that it will be available in two or three years? The list goes on.

Everything I love about Pixel 4 is something that I was disappointed with. It’s hard to recommend, and it’s at least a big ad for me on Pixel 3. Maybe Google corrects certain issues that I have listed in future software updates, but we don’t review maybes. I really like Pixel 4, but I can’t get rid of the feeling that it’s not good enough, not as good as it should be. Like the cosmos, Pixel 4 is full of great and small wonders, but it is full of untapped potential and lost opportunities.

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