The smaller of the two Pixel devices is rumoured to have been made by HTC – to a Google design, of course – but there’s very little of the Taiwanese firm’s DNA in this phone. Actually, the Google Pixel 2 feels very different to any other Android phone I’ve used this year.
Even though it’s constructed from aluminium, the back has a stoney-like finish. It’s harsh and textured; strange at first but, ultimately, super-nice. It’s far grippier in the hand than shiny aluminium and isn’t as slippery when sat on a table the same way a glass back is. Neither does it appear to pick up fingerprints. It does give the impression that it might scratch off over time, but we’ll have to wait and see if that becomes an issue.
Like the previous Pixel, there’s a glass ‘shade’ just above the metal covering the camera sensor and flash. Aside from adding contrast to the metal, this is where all the cellular and Wi-Fi antennas live. Giving them plenty of space should help connectivity, but it also means there are no antenna bands elsewhere. Hopefully this glass panel will be less prone to scratching – which was a real issue with the first device.
The rear of the Google Pixel 2 is well designed, then, but the front appears a little old-fashioned. Unlike the Pixel 2 XL or Samsung Galaxy S8, the Pixel 2 has a huge chin and forehead either side of the 5-inch display. The bezel here is more substantial than seen on the iPhone 8, it’s even bigger than the Xperia XZ1. Overall, the Pixel 2 isn’t much smaller than the Samsung Galaxy S8, but the latter sports a much bigger 5.8-inch screen.
It seems odd that Google has taken this design route, especially since more and more device makers are opting for a bezel-less look. At least Google has used that extra space on both ends of the phone to add dual front-facing stereo speakers – but it’s still hard to forgive in 2017.
Like most flagship phones this year, the Pixel 2 is IP67-rated for water-resistance. Another, less desirable, trend Google has decided to follow is the removal of the headphone jack. I can only assume the decision was taken to enable waterproofing, but it’s a shame. And even though you get a USB-C to 3.5mm port dongle in the box and there are plenty of ‘Made for Google’ USB-C headphones coming soon, it’s annoying nevertheless.
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Google Pixel 2 – Screen
There isn’t a whole lot to get excited about with regards to the Pixel 2’s screen. As in the first iteration of the device, it’s a 5-inch, 1080p AMOLED panel that looks good but is far short of stunning.
AMOLED panels are renowned for offering more saturated colours, perfect blacks and better contrast over their LCD counterparts. But I’m sure that the main reason Google opts for these panels is because OLED is necessary for Daydream VR to work – which, of course, is a big push for Google.
I’m a huge fan of AMOLED displays, but they’re not perfect. The panel on the Pixel 2 edges towards the warm side, so you’ll likely find that whites will have a slightly orangey tinge. Note that Google doesn’t offer any capability to adjust colours on the display, which is annoying if you prefer a slightly cooler screen.
Probably the single biggest feature lacking from the panels on both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is support for high dynamic range, or HDR. The ability to playback HDR10 and Dolby Vision content from the likes of Amazon and Netflix is available on the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 and upcoming iPhone X – but it isn’t available on the Pixel 2. This is by no means a deal-breaker, but it’s an odd feature to leave out when Google Play Movies and YouTube offer HDR support.