Google Pixel 2 hands-on

Key Features

  • Review Price: £629
  • 5-inch 1080p display
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • Snapdragon 835
  • 4GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • USB-C
  • 12-megapixel camera
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Google Pixel 2 hands-on: Small, powerful and packing a big camera upgrade. But is it enough?

Google Pixel 2 price

The Google Pixel 2 will start at £629/$649 for 64GB, rising to £729/$749 for the 128GB model.

Google Pixel 2 release date

You can pre-order the Google Pixel 2 from today, with shipping starting on October 19.

Related: Pixel 2 deals

Hands-on with the Google Pixel 2

The original Google Pixel was an odd device. It managed to be one of the best phones of 2016 while simultaneously feeling like a missed opportunity. It lacked an eye-catching look and a host of common features you’d expect on a £600 phone, but the stunning camera made it worth it.

To do this day, even with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8, I still find that photos taken with the Google Pixel are the best.

Related: Google Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL

Now, with the Google Pixel 2, Google is trying to improve the phone as a whole, adding the features it missed out last time.

If you were hoping for a total rethink of the Pixel design, you might be disappointed. The Pixel 2 XL has seen a significant redesign, but the Pixel 2 feels very familiar.

The biggest disappointment here is that the chunky bezel running around the 5-inch display remains. Like the iPhone 8, Google has decided against stretching out the display on the Pixel 2 and the device immediately feels old-fashioned as a result.

It remains better looking and feeling than the original Pixel in a number of ways, however. It’s slimmer, tidier and the back panel shouldn’t be quite so polarising. There’s still that odd glass panel covering the camera lens, but it’s shorter than before and doesn’t cover the fingerprint sensor.

At roughly the same size as the iPhone 8, the Pixel 2 is comfortable to hold and easily usable one-handed. This is a rare, and it really does set the Pixel 2 apart from the larger Android phones.

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Another new feature for the Pixel 2 has been plucked straight from the HTC U11. Like HTC’s current flagship, the sides of the Pixel 2 are pressure-sensitive, so pressing on them with greater force opens up the Google Assistant. I found this feature surprisingly useful on the U11, and I’m quite happy to see it here.

The Pixel 2 XL might be more interesting phone to look at but, aside from the design, the Pixel 2 doesn’t really lack any big features. It’s powered by the Snapdragon 835, not the updated Snapdragon 836 that we were expecting, and this is accompanied by 4GB of RAM. It’s a standard combination for 2017, and I’m sure the Pixel 2 will prove super-fast in operation.

Last year’s Pixel managed to be the fastest Android phone around, so it will be interesting to see if there’s much difference between it and the LG V30. 64GB is now the base storage option, replacing 32GB, but there’s a 128GB option too. Annoyingly, but predictably, there’s no microSD card slot here, so choose wisely at the start.

The 5-inch, 1080p OLED display appears to be very similar to that of the original Pixel. It’s bright and colourful, and although a resolution bump would be nice, it isn’t vital at this size. The display also now supports the wide DCI-P3 colour-gamut for a more colourful panel.

The camera was easily the best part of the original Pixel. It’s 12-megapixel f/2.0 camera was by no means the most spec-heavy sensor, but the pictures it produced were awesome. To this day, it comfortably stands against the iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 8 as the best phone camera. So I really do have high hopes for the Pixel 2.

Related: Pixel 2 vs Pixel

The Pixel 2 still has a 12-megapixel camera, but it now boasts optical image stabilisation (OIS) and a much wider f/1.8 aperture. These two enhancements are huge improvements, and the results should be fantastic.

The camera is also capable of adding faux-blur effects, like a portrait mode, but without the need for a secondary sensor. I’ll have to try this in better light to see how well it works.

Google has always used its Nexus- and Pixel-branded phones to highlight the best features of its Android operating system. The Pixel 2 comes running the latest build of Android 8 Oreo, but there are a few new tricks here. For one, the search bar has now been moved to sit under the bottom row of app icons. This is a strange move, but something that shouldn’t cause too much trouble. There’s also a new calendar widget that will dynamically adjust to show you upcoming events, weather and the like.

Android in its purest form, as seen on these devices, is still the best way to experience it. Samsung and LG’s skins might have more tacked-on features, but the smoothness and lack of bloatware here is just so much slicker.

Opening impressions

While all eyes will most certainly – and probably rightfully – be on the Google Pixel 2 XL, its smaller sibling still seems to offer a strong upgrade.

It looks more attractive, benefits from upgraded internals and generally feels like a better put-together device than the previous version.