It’s finally here: the Google Pixel 7 Pro, a phone that Google announced almost half a year ago at its Google I/O show, leaving us wondering what could be so great about this device that Google would shun its then-current Pixel 6 Pro. The answer turned out to be not very much – but the little differences matter.
The Pixel 7 Pro is all about looks. It’s a fancy, refined phone, available in a range of color options that include a few you won’t see from any other manufacturer. That, along with its distinctive design, certainly helps Google’s phone stand out. It looks almost exactly like the Pixel 6 Pro, with a bit more refinement, and we’re not complaining.
The Tensor 2 chipset in the Pixel 7 Pro will handle a number of computational features across the camera, the phone, and Google Assistant. It also has a faster GPU, which helps drive the screen to a smooth and bright 120Hz.
As to the camera, Google says the Pixel 7 Pro will be the best smartphone camera you can buy, again with help from the Tensor 2. You’ll get enhanced zoom, refined macro photos, and more realistic skin tones.
Google Pixel 7 Pro price and availability
The Google Pixel 7 Pro was unveiled at Google’s Pixel 7 event (officially titled Made By Google ’22), alongside the Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel Watch. It’s available to pre-order now, and will be on shelves from October 13. The device will cost $899 / £849 (around AU$1,390), which Google points out is less than recent Pro-level flagship launches from its major competitors.
There will be three storage options for the Pixel 7 Pro: 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB. Google has not provided specific pricing or availability for the different storage size models. The phone will come with 12GB of RAM in all models. A 30W USB-C charger is not included with the phone.
Google Pixel 7 Pro design
The Google Pixel 7 Pro has a distinctive design in the phone world, especially if you’re not familiar with the Pixel 6 family and newer. The Pixel 7 Pro keeps the camera band across the back, a strap of metal across the glass finish.
The metal band sticks out quit a bit, but because it is uniform and symmetrical it feels more natural than a camera bump in the corner. Like the Pixel 7, you get two cameras hidden behind one opening in the bump, and the Pixel 7 Pro gets a second lens opening for the telescoping zoom camera. You can see a bit of the folded mechanism through the glass.
The gray-ish Hazel color is our favorite, by far. The Snow finish is a classy looking slab of glossy white, while Obsidian – black to you and me – is a bit too plain to be interesting. We wish that Google had more unique color combinations like the Hazel, with its golden accent on the band.
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 (in the US) the latest iPhone 14.
Round the 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 addition over the Pixel 6 Pro.
Google Pixel 7 Pro screen
The 6.7-inch display on the Google Pixel 7 Pro looked fantastic in our hands-on time with the phone. The interface was ultra-smooth and lightning-quick. The screen can runs at 1000 nits brightness and can push 1500 nits, which is noticeably bright, but not quite as bright as the 2000 nit-capable iPhone 14 Pro.
Like Apple’s phone, Google’s display is an LTPO OLED that can refresh at up to 120Hz. It also includes an always-on mode, which looks good and shouldn’t drain the battery too much. The screen is very sharp and colorful, and the camera image looks great on the viewfinder.
The screen is very large on the phone, with bezels that are slim enough to disappear. The glass is Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, providing good damage protection, but we’ll still get a protector for it. The glass and back are all sealed tight for IP68 water resistance.
Google Pixel 7 Pro camera
The biggest questions we have about the Pixel 7 Pro 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 with the Tensor 2 chip.
According to the specs, the Pixel 7 Pro is a middling camera phone. It doesn’t have the zoom length of the Galaxy S22 Ultra. The new Macro Focus mode can aim at a subject 3cm away, but the iPhone can get just a bit closer. The 50MP main camera packs a punch, but there are phones with more than 100 megapixels.
Instead of specs, Google relies on processing power. The zoom feature, the macro focus, and the portrait mode are all improved dramatically by the Tensor 2 chip, or so Google claims.
In our brief hands-on time, we took some shots with the macro mode to see if they could impress us. Small print looked fine, but didn’t reveal any nuance. Some nearby leaves looked good, but we didn’t notice any details revealed by macro mode.
Google also gives the Pixel 7 Pro the ability to fix photos in your Google Photos library, even if you didn’t take them with the Pixel 7 Pro. This is limited to the phone (and the Pixel 7) – 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 Pro 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 Pro looks very similar.
That means you won’t have tons of custom options and advanced, playful features like you’ll find on phones that use Samsung One UI. You’ll get standard Google features like gesture controls to move through the interface, instead of touch buttons on the screen.
In our time with the phone, the interface was very snappy and smooth. There are plenty of custom themes and personalization options on board, so you’ll have no trouble making it your own.
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 Pro gets some new software tricks for Tensor as well.
In the camera, Tensor will help create more natural skin tones in portraits. It will also unblur photos in your library, whether they were taken with the Pixel 7 Pro or not. The Tensor will help with super zoom as well as macro focus, in addition to night photography.
Eventually Google is going to add software wizardry to phone calls, and promises that when you are 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 be dropped to the phones later this year or early next.
In other words, instead of adding software features you can play with, Google is putting the software in the background to improve the phone in myriad ways. Even if the specs don’t quite beat the rest of the pack, Google is relying heavily on software in its claim that the Pixel 7 Pro is the best phone you can buy, not just the best Pixel phone.
Google Pixel 7 Pro performance
Performance from the Google Pixel 7 Pro should be a mixed bag, but we think the phone will deliver in all of the right ways. The processor may not be the fastest, but we’re expecting improvements over the Pixel 6 Pro in terms of graphics performance, and possibly in how it handles the AI features.
Google creates its own mobile platform with Tensor 2, including the microprocessor, and it took the rare step of detailing each of the processor cores its using. We won’t get technical, but every processor relies on similar parts called cores, and Google isn’t using the fastest parts in its engine.
We do know that Google is using a better graphics processor 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 raw horsepower, but it probably doesn’t need it. 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 Pro battery
The 5000 mAh battery in the Google Pixel 7 Pro is large, but not the biggest on the market. Google claims it will exceed 24 hours of normal usage, which is on par with expectations the industry is setting these days. The two-day smartphone is not yet upon us, it seems.
Or perhaps it is? Google says that in an Extreme Battery Saver mode, the Pixel 7 Pro 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.
Samsung has had extreme battery saving modes in the past, and they were not usable for daily smartphone life. They cut the screen to pure black and white, reduce the available apps, and seriously limit everything you can do with a phone. It’s more of a “lost in the woods” feature than a way of enjoying your premium device.
Google will have a hard time claiming to be the best smartphone with the slow charging on the Pixel 7 Pro. The phone can charge up to 30W, charger not included, of course.
We would hope for much faster charging, especially from a flagship device. Google isn’t bragging about how quickly you’ll be back in action, and that’s telling.
Google Pixel 7 Pro early verdict
The Google Pixel 7 Pro is far more than the sum of its parts, and its a very difficult phone to prejudge. So much of the experience of this phone is going to be in the magic of how Google software can accomplish more than other phones with more cutting edge hardware.
The camera is going to be the lynchpin, of course, but there are other key features that will need to deliver. Otherwise the camera is just a red herring, distracting us from other issues. We’re especially curious about Google’s battery life claims, given how we haven’t been impressed with either battery life or charging speeds on Pixel phones in the past.
The calling features coming later to the Pixel 7 Pro could also prove a big deal, as there have been few leaps forward in call quality since the advent of voice over LTE. We’d love to hear all of our callers better, not just those with fancy smartphones.
Google is also placing plenty of faith in the design of the phone, and while we find it appealing at first, we’ll need to spend plenty of time with the phone in hand to see if the fit and finish truly inspires. With tough competition from the infinitely refined Apple iPhone 14 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, Google has to prove it can make the flagship phone you’d prefer to hold over all the rest.
- First published October 4