Home Science & Technology Google Pixel 7 Pro – A Hands-on Review for Black Friday

Google Pixel 7 Pro – A Hands-on Review for Black Friday

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It’s no secret we’re big fans of Google at Buymobiles, so when the launch of the new Pixel 7 Pro coincided with my need for a replacement device, I was seriously happy about it.

Sure, the latest Apple releases look great, but for me, it’s all about the camera – and the aptly named Pixel mobiles have always appealed.

For the last three years, I’ve been giving Huawei a fair shot to impress me with their P30 Pro – but as a replacement for my Pixel 2 XL, it never quite cut it. As a result, I haven’t had my hands on a Google phone since 2019, and my plans to pre-order the Pixel 3 XL literally blew up in smoke (if you happen to remember what happened that year.) Enter the Pixel 7 Pro in 2022, and to say I was gleeful doesn’t even cut it.

So how did it hold up to my expectations? Is a Google handset everything it’s cracked up to be, and as good as I remembered? I’ve had mine for almost four weeks now, and I’ve kept a close eye on how it’s going for the sake of offering you fine people an honest review. So here goes.

Design and Display

Back in the early 2000s, I remember thinking that phones were ugly. And they were – you can’t exactly argue that an Orange Savvy or Nokia 3310 was beautiful to behold, can you?

Cut to now, and I don’t think anyone could disagree with my assessment that the Pixel 7 Pro is gorgeous. Google have taken the best parts of their Pixel 6 range and they’ve bettered themselves, following the same design language but removing the bits that were more hit-and-miss with consumers, like the two-tone colour options.

I bought my Pixel in Obsidian, which is a fancy Google way of saying black. For me, black is the colour a device should be – I’m probably going to change it up with cases over the years, and I’ve already added a black case to mine for a little extra protection, but black is my go-to. Even though Snow (basically white) and Hazel (an appealing grey-green hue) are also lovely.

Beyond colour, the curved sides of the device are more subtle and appealing than before, and the divisive camera bar across the back remains – which is a top choice, as far as I’m concerned, and an excellent finger rest when scrolling. In fact, they’ve doubled down on the camera bar to add distinct circles around each of the cameras, emphasising both their location and their importance to the device. On the 7 Pro, the camera bar is made with polished aluminium that brings a premium look and feel to the phone – but does leave it open to scratches, as no case I’ve come across actually covers the bar – not even the official Google ones.

A nice big screen size has appealed to me right since the first Pixel XL was released (before that I loved the Galaxy Note and the little stylus), so 6.7-inches of QHD+ AMOLED screen and a 120Hz refresh rate is the best I could ask for, really. When in use, the adaptive brightness feels clever and works well in bright light particularly – though I find it can be a little dim in darker settings for my liking. However, this is easily adjustable from the top swipe-down menu.

The phone weighs 212g, which is heavier than I’m used to, but barely noticeable after an hour of use. It gives the device a high-end sort of feel though – the Pixel 7 Pro doesn’t come across as flimsy in any way (though I’ll still be investing in a screen protector despite the scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass Victus on both front and back.)

Though I’m very much a fan of this phone, after a week or two of use, I was still struggling to remember the location of the power button to lock my device. The power button is at the top on the right-hand side, with the volume button below it. I’ve gotten used to the reverse of this, and it feels a bit counter-intuitive, as it’s harder for me to take a screenshot. But another two weeks, and I’m already on board and using it as normal – it just took more time than expected.

Camera

As much as it pains me to say it… I think I’m going to have to sell my recently purchased, oh-so-fancy mirrorless Sony camera. Because the Pixel 7 Pro is all the camera oomph I need, as it turns out.

Okay, so it wouldn’t be enough for a professional photographer, perhaps, even with RAW capabilities. But I’m not a professional, I’m a casual snapper pretending to be an amateur – and while a lot of what this device has to offer is software, that’s actually a good thing. Being able to custom tweak your shutter settings and aperture is overrated. Because a phone that does that for you means you get to spend more time enjoying the moment – and the Pixel 7 Pro has auto everything, from white balance and exposure to macro and Night Sight.

Back to the point – the Pixel 7 Pro has the same 50MP main sensor as its predecessor, the Pixel 6 Pro, but that’s where the similarities end. Google has stepped it up and changed the ultra-wide camera to a Samsung GM1 that’s 21% bigger and is handily also pretty good for macro photography. There’s also Super Res Zoom, which is now 30x (in comparison to 20x from the 6 Pro) and a telephoto lens that’s gone up from 4x to 5x.

You might be asking what all this means – well, it means it’s really easy to take great shots of just about any kind. I took this phone on a trip to Edinburgh for a week (notorious for its changeable weather and stunning scenery) and found that I was impressed with almost every photo I took.

The photo below was taken on-the-fly from the passenger seat of a moving car going about 60mph. I didn’t adjust any settings at all – just pointed the camera and took the shot – and there’s not a bit of blur in sight, even without the ability to control my shutter speed. So, it’s fair to say the autofocus and AI software are impressive.

Sharp, bright and crisp daytime shots taken without any adjustments to the Google Camera settings:

I was equally impressed by the zoom capabilities of the Pixel 7 Pro, which I tested in the Great Hall of Edinburgh Castle when I wanted a closer look at some ornate ceiling decoration. First, here’s a shot of the whole room, for some context on the distance we’re talking about.

And here’s a shot of the décor on one of the beams, zoomed in x30. Yes, there’s some graininess and noise to the image overall, but the photo is clear and bright enough that I’m happy with it for an indoor shot – and I got to see up close something I’d never have seen otherwise.

For a slightly more everyday example of the zoom skills on this phone, here’s one using about x10 zoom of the sunset along Princes Street:

Night Sight

One of my favourite camera tools so far has been Night Sight, simply because of what it can do. I’ll admit it’s not an infallible system – there are some inevitably blurry shots (though this may have been influenced by the extreme wind), but it also works surprisingly well when there’s some amount of light to work with.

Here’s a shot of the Edinburgh cityscape from the Esplanade at Edinburgh Castle. In reality, I could barely make out the distant outline of Arthur’s Seat, but in the image, it’s unmistakable thanks to Night Sight.

From the same location, I also nabbed this shot of the Big Dipper in the sky:

Both of the above shots were taken with a fair bit of light pollution from the city, but for a bit more of a challenge, I tried Night Sight inside the Castle itself, snapping a photo of the dank hole where Scotland’s Crown Jewels were buried during WW2. My motivation here was to see something – anything– because to my eyes, there was nothing but darkness, with almost no light entering the area from the door behind me. But here, you can see everything as though it were well-lit.

Night Sight offers you two options when you use it, too: either a three-second shot or a six-second shot. This uses the latter, which means holding your phone steady for six whole seconds – but the result came out far better than I’d been expecting. And it’s still a faster process than any other Night Mode I’ve used on a mobile device.

Video

When it comes to video, I’ve found the camera holds its own on the Pixel 7 Pro – and I particularly like the straightforward way the Google Camera app lets you select Slow Motion and Time Lapse options right there on the screen, without faffing about in the settings. It works wonders, too, keeping everything nicely stabilized even in high winds.

I messed about with the Slow Motion capabilities on a flying visit to Midhope Castle (Lallybroch of Clan Fraser to the Outlander fans out there) and really enjoyed the simplicity of a great quality FHD 30FPS video without any fuss. However, the camera app doesn’t automatically film in 4K or 60FPS as it’s capable of – you have to select this manually.

Performance

Honest truth? When I first opened the box of my Pixel 7 Pro, I was worried. Because as soon as I started transferring files, settings and apps over from my old device, the Pro 7 seemed to get unusually warm, unusually fast.

But since that one occurrence, I’ve had no issues at all – and I think it can be put down to a clever balance between processing power and a smart battery from Google.

The Pixel 7 range features the latest Google Tensor G2 chipset, which for me is sort of a selling point. I’ve often found with Android devices that the combination of Google software and other brand hardware can cause some clashes, and to me, Google plus Google is a winning combination. So, another bit of Google hardware within their phones has to be good, right?

Google Tensor G2 has been designed to support the various needs of the Pixel 7 range, and it does its job well, managing machine learning, AI, and a ton of smart calculations that are way beyond my understanding. What I know for certain, is something as simple as opening the camera app kickstarts a ton of simultaneous functions within the chipset, and it manages them well enough that in four weeks I’ve barely spotted a glitch.

The few issues I’ve had seem mainly to be related to Android 13 and have easily been fixed. For example, once or twice I’ve found that when opening the app drawer, I’ve been unable to tap an app and open it. But a quick restart and the issue is fixed.

For the first two or three phone calls I made (until I realised my signal wasn’t the problem), my outgoing calls would cut off after 4 seconds. There was a similar issue with the Pixel 6 last year, and a single restart has meant I’ve had no issues since – and I’ve made plenty of calls to test this.

What’s worth noting is that I haven’t had any issues that haven’t been quickly resolved, and I have faith that any future issues will be sorted with an update or two – because Google’s chip has been custom-made by Google with its goals for the ideal smartphone in mind. And in Google we trust.

As for the battery, I’ve had no problems. During my week in Edinburgh, I was using my Pro 7 extensively as a map, a camera, and for calls and messages – with heavier usage than the average day for most people. I charged my device on average once every 30 hours or so, sometimes more often if I’d been using the camera frequently. But I’ve had no issues with power.

On the couple of occasions I’ve used Battery Saver mode, it’s done exactly as expected and shut down several of my non-vital apps – and it carried me through nicely until I was able to charge again, sometimes 5 or 6 hours later.

When charging, the device tells you how long you can expect to wait until the battery is full, and most of the time this is less than two hours. As someone who has always preferred to charge my phone overnight (even though it’s normally bad for long-term battery life), I love the fact that Google will cut off the charge once the battery is full, so I’m not slowly but surely destroying my battery from day one. I haven’t noticed the phone getting particularly warm during charging either, which is nice.

All in all, it seems like Google has made some hefty improvements on their Pixel 6 range, as the battery life was a bit of a problem for many. But the Pixel 7 Pro seems to be efficient, adaptive, and functions perfectly well for most users, myself included.

I have to admit, with all the bells and whistles and improvements to the Pixel 7 Pro, my favourite feature is still one that’s been around for years now – Now Playing.

For background, I’m a bit of a music nerd with quite varied tastes across multiple genres – and Now Playing was the tool I missed the most when moving away from Google. So, with my new phone, I was thrilled to find not only is the feature still around, but it’s also better than ever.

Now Playing works by listening, and it’s damn good at it. Kind of like Shazam, it picks up on music around you – be it the radio, a TV show you’re watching, or tunes playing in the supermarket – and it tells you what they are, right there on your lock screen Always On display. If it doesn’t immediately identify the track, then you can tap the little search icon and it will actively start looking for you.

This on its own would be a great tool for me – I love pulling together Spotify playlists of my favourite Radio 6 tunes every month and ranting about them to anyone who’ll listen – but Now Playing now also includes a catalogue history of every song your Pixel picks up on, even when you might not have noticed it yourself. It also allows you to favourite or “like” a track from the catalogue, to build yourself a playlist.

When you go into your Now Playing history (mine is already saved as a shortcut on the home screen, of course) you can tap any song and you’ll be provided with options to play it – on Spotify, YouTube, YouTube Music or several other ways. Or you can remove the song from your history.

I’ve not yet tested the tool extensively with my rare tracks back catalogue, but so far it hasn’t failed to find even the weirdest bits of soundtrack and score on whatever show I’ve been watching – which is one of my favourite ways to find new music. It even works with no data and Wi-Fi, since it’s using an on-device database.

Value for Money – Black Friday Deals

So, is the Google Pixel 7 Pro worth the money? The short answer, for me, is yes.

Almost everything about this device appeals, with marked improvements on the Pixel 6 Pro that make it a top upgrade choice for a Black Friday bargain. It’s worth buying for the camera capabilities alone, and though my usage hasn’t yet covered everything that the phone has to offer, that’s not a bad thing – because the Pixel 7 Pro has a lot to offer, and that’s more for me to enjoy exploring in the coming weeks and months.

If you’re convinced, then it’s worth having a nosy at the latest offers on the Pixel 7 Pro and the Pixel 7, as there are already some amazing deals available in the build-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

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