The Google Pixel 7 comes at a bargain price compared to the Pro, but unlike Apple with its iPhone 14 Pro, Google doesn’t save the best internal hardware for its high-end model. The Pixel 7 gets the same Tensor 2 chipset as the Pixel 7 Pro, and while it may lack some other hardware spec features, that one advantage should give it a boost.
That’s because Google is already using Tensor to give it an advantage over phones that might have better hardware specs. The Tensor 2 chip is expected to improve image quality in the camera, call quality on the phone, and speech recognition in Google Assistant and elsewhere.
The Pixel 7 looks and feels like a premium device, very much part of the new Pixel family. The two-tone colorway is our favorite look, but the unique design, which lines the cameras in an imposing aluminum band, is a standout among the smartphone crowd, especially in this price range.
We’ll have to give the phone a thorough workout to see if we miss the Pro features like the faster refresh on the screen, but the smaller 6.3-inch display on the Pixel 7 can still run up 90Hz, which should look fine. With the graphics boost in the new Tensor 2, we’re expecting great performance from Android 13 on this phone.
Google Pixel 7 price and availability
The Google Pixel 7 is available to pre-order today, and the phone will be on shelves on October 13. The device will cost $599 / £599 / AU$999, which Google rightly points out is $100 less than the new iPhone 14. We also have all the details on the new Pixel 7 Pro and the new Pixel Watch.
There will be two storage options for the Pixel 7: 128GB and 256GB. Google hasn’t provided specific pricing or availability for the different storage size models. The phone will come with 8GB of RAM in all models. A 30W USB-C charger is not included with the phone.
Google Pixel 7 design
The Pixel 7 is unique. While that camera band is the first feature that will grab you, the phone is delightfully rounded in its design as well. The screen is nicely curved, the camera band is smoothly rising, and Google has paid attention to creating an organic feel that makes the device easy to hold.
The Pixel 7 is smaller than the Pixel 7 Pro, which, for some, could be a good reason to recommend it over the Pro handset. As we’ve said, the phone doesn’t lack for power or Google-exclusive features, so this could be considered a Pixel mini as much as a base model phone.
The lemongrass color is the best, of course, and is a unique hue in the phone world. The white color is also appealing, though we prefer the more professional look on the Pixel 7 Pro. For some reason, the deep glossy black obsidian color on this phone was especially dark. It absorbed so much light it was almost hard to see the angles and curves.
There’s a USB-C port and a set of large speakers on the bottom of the phone. Google keeps a SIM card tray on its device, unlike the latest iPhone 14.
Up front, there’s a tiny punch-hole camera and a fingerprint reader under the screen. The camera can handle full facial recognition duties for face unlock, which is a nice upgrade over the Pixel 6 family.
Google Pixel 7 screen
The 6.3-inch display on the Google Pixel 7 Pro looked great in our hands-on time with the phone. The interface was just as smooth and responsive as we’d hoped. The screen can run at 1000 nits brightness and can push 1400 nits, which is very bright, and at peak only slightly behind the Pixel 7 Pro.
The Pixel 7 Pro screen is better, there’s no doubt. It’s sharper, can refresh faster, and can reach a brighter peak. That doesn’t mean the Pixel 7 doesn’t look great. It doesn’t have the same LPTO panel for an always-on mode, but it uses a crisp OLED display that’s colorful and clear.
The screen is not too large, with bezels slim enough to disappear. The glass is Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which provides good damage protection, but we’ll still get a protector for it. The glass and back are both sealed tight for IP68 water resistance, just like the Pixel 7 Pro.
Google Pixel 7 camera
The biggest questions we have about the Pixel 7 will be answered when we finally put the camera through its paces and see what sort of images it can produce. We’re very hopeful, but Google is going to need to pull off some real magic behind the scenes on the Tensor 2 chip.
You might think the Pixel 7 is a downgrade from the Pixel 7 Pro camera, but really it’s just missing one component, and not even the most important one. You still get the 50MP main camera, as well as the 12MP ultra-wide camera. The ultra-wide camera has extra-large pixels, making it perfect for Google’s new Macro Focus tricks.
You don’t get the 48MP telephoto camera with the periscopic lens, but we’re sure Google will try to pull off some digital Super Zoom with this camera and the Tensor 2 processor. We’ll have to compare results to see just how much magic Google can work.
Google also gives the Pixel 7 the ability to fix photos in your Google Photos library, even if you didn’t take them with the Pixel 7. This is limited to use on the phone, it won’t be a Google Photos feature for everyone. We’re excited to apply Google magic to our old portraits to eliminate the blur and sharpen faces.
Google Pixel 7 software
Of course, the Pixel 7 Pro will ship with Android 13, the latest Google OS. Google likely won’t be adding too many enhancements to the interface itself. Compared to other phones that claim to be a ‘bare bones’ Android experience, the Pixel 7 looks very similar.
With its powerful Tensor 2 chipset, boosted for graphics this time around, Android 13 should run very smoothly on this phone. In our hands-on time, it was snappy to run through interface screens and open a variety of apps at once. We had no trouble switching themes quickly to change the phone’s look.
The real software fun comes with the features that rely on Google’s Tensor 2 platform. Google Assistant offloads a ton of work onto the Tensor chips, and the Pixel 7 gets some of the same new software tricks that you’ll find on the Pixel 7 Pro.
The Tensor 2 chip should let the Pixel 7 transcribe speech much faster and more accurately, resulting in an almost live transcription as you speak. Google said it will also add the ability to identify speakers in voice transcriptions. That feature and other AI abilities will come to both new Pixel phones.
Eventually, Google will add software wizardry to phone calls, promising that when you’re talking on the Pixel 7 Pro, your callers will sound much better, thanks to Google intelligence. (No word on whether you will sound better to your callers.) That feature will come to the phones later this year or early next.
In other words, while the Pixel 7 lacks the Pro name, it still gets most of the same features that make the Pixel 7 Pro amazing. All the same Google software wizardry enabled by the Tensor 2 chip will be available on both the Pro model and the less expensive device.
Google Pixel 7 performance
Performance from the Google Pixel 7 should be better than average, as Google isn’t skimping on the processor just because this isn’t a Pro-level phone. Unlike the iPhone 14, which gets last year’s (admittedly super-fast) processor, Google gives both Pixel 7 Pro and the Pixel 7 the newest Tensor 2 chips.
Google created its own mobile platform with Tensor 2, including the microprocessor, and it took the rare step of giving us details about the processor cores it’s using. We won’t get technical, but every processor relies on similar parts called cores, and in the Tensor 2, Google isn’t using the fastest parts in its engine.
We do know that Google has improved the graphics in this phone, and there have been improvements to the Tensor 2 in handling the machine language features that give Pixel phones their special sauce.
In other words, it may not have the raw horsepower of an iPhone 14 Pro, but the Pixel 7 can hold its own against any competitor in its class. You’ll be able to play games at their highest resolution, and the advanced features will work fast enough to amaze you.
We’ll be sure to put the phone through its paces to make sure it delivers on Google’s lofty performance promises.
Google Pixel 7 battery
The 4355 mAh battery in the Google Pixel 7 is large, but we wish it packed more power. Google claims it will go beyond 24 hours with normal usage, which is more than we could ask for, realistically, but the two-day smartphone is still not upon us.
Or perhaps it is? Google says that in an Extreme Battery Saver mode, the Pixel 7 will last up to 72 hours. We didn’t get many details about what that means, so we’ll have to reserve judgment until we test. Presumably even activating Extreme mode in emergencies would be helpful.
It truly depends on how extreme this battery mode gets. If it renders the phone useless, then you’ll just be carrying a fancy brick for 72 hours. We’ve seen similar modes that turn the screen black and white and reduce the apps you can use. This could be more of a survivalist mode, we’ll have to test it to find out.
The Pixel 7 can charge at 30W and Google says you’ll get a half charge in 30 minutes. That’s fine, but nothing to crow about. Phones from OnePlus in this price range can charge much, much faster. Faster charging would have been a nice bonus for Google’s base model.
Google Pixel 7 early verdict
The Google Pixel 7 is a curious device. We may be tempted to direct all attention to the Pixel 7 Pro, but the Pixel 7 packs the same punch in ways that count the most, and certainly the ways that make the phone the most Google phone you can buy.
We’ll need to spend time with the phone to decide if we’d prefer a nicer, larger screen, as you’ll find on the Pro phone, but we suspect the smaller size and lovely design could win us over if it can pull off all the tricks Google claims.
Google has made some lofty claims about the camera performance of the Pixel 7 Pro, and the Pixel 7 has three-fourths the same camera setup as the Pro device, including the improved selfie cam, the new Macro Focus camera, and the higher-megapixel main camera.
Now we need to see how much Tensor 2 really improves our photos, new and old. We also need to see if Google has managed to improve battery life and charging since its last device because that was a big disappointment on the Pixel 6a. And we look forward to seeing how Tensor improves our phone calls… eventually.
We’ll give the device a thorough test and report our results to let you know if this is not only one of the best Pixel phones you can buy but one of the best phones period.
- First published October 6