Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro: A fantastic pure Android experience

Google demonstrates the power of software, and the Pixel 7 Pro camera system ain't bad either.

by Justin Choo

Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro–and not the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro–should have been the do-over that kicked off the Tensor generation of mobile phones. As decent as the sixth generation was, it was plagued with bugs early on. Most if not all have been addressed this time around, while the hardware has been refined further.

Previously, the Pixel 6 was the better buy of the two, as the standard Pixel gave you most of the Pixel experience–sans the added reach of the telephoto lens–but it was good enough and so was the price.

This time around, I’m leaning towards the Pro version, simply because Google has improved the camera system to the point that there is a marked difference between the two models. If the Pixel 7a is anything like the 6a was, I’d be recommending that you go with either the Pro or the 7a (6a if you really can’t wait). That said, both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are excellent phones.

The phones sport a new second-generation Tensor chip, although to be frank in day-to-day situations, they don’t seem all that different from the previous generation. Arguably, applications that require more neural or machine learning processing power are a tad quicker and more responsive–live transcription feels snappy and its accuracy seems to have stepped up.

That’s not the only thing they’ve refined: the finish has also been taken up a notch. Although mostly the same aesthetic, Google opted for a more striking look with a metal frame that extends this time into the camera island housing. The Pixel 7 gets anodised aluminium while the Pro is decked out in semi-polished steel. The steel has not been polished to a mirror-like shine, so it is far more resistant to fingerprints. While I’m not a fan of the look, the Hazel colourway with rose gold accents is pretty on point. The aluminium looks refined while steel looks more hipster or luxe depending on the context.

The OLED displays are pretty bright, and the Pixel 7 gets a 90Hz panel while the Pro gets the 120Hz version. Much like the previous generation, the battery life of the Pro lags behind the regular Pixel, but both have improved slightly and you can reasonably expect both to last at least a day with mixed-use, while the Pixel 7 can stretch that to a day and a half. I get the sense that the SoC still isn’t that efficient with power, because the moment you run games or push the phone with some intensity, the battery life starts to drain noticeably quicker.

One thing I do find strange–albeit this is somewhat a subjective opinion–is that the speakers on the Pixel 7 sound better. The speakers on the Pixel 7 Pro have a slight nasal character that I find a little off-putting, but your mileage may vary.

As you would expect from a stock Android OS, the phone is pretty responsive. While many have expressed misgivings about Tensor, the bottom line is that it does what it’s supposed to, and I don’t doubt its capabilities. It performs on par with most flagship-class phones when it comes to mobile games.

The performance of the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro are quite similar despite the regular Pixel having 8GB of RAM while the Pro is specced with 12GB. While they do differ in size, I don’t think this will sway potential buyers in any significant way–these aren’t slim phones anyway.

What it all comes down to is the camera, which is where it gets interesting. The Pixel 7 Pro may have an extra telephoto camera, but the truth is, it’s a lot more than just that. While the Pixel 7 is very capable on the camera front, it is rather basic–wide angle and ultrawide are all you get, with a 2x optical zoom crop. If that’s all you need, then wait for a good price and pick up the Pixel 7.

But it’s the Pixel 7 Pro that gets the majority of the camera goodies. The 5x optical telephoto lens when combined with software, allows you to shoot rather decent images up to 30x. The ultra wide-angle lens has autofocus, and that enables macro photography as well. This setup makes the Pixel 7 Pro a versatile camera phone that you can use for food, portraits, street, landscape and travel. Both Pixels are great for those who just want to take a quick picture and post immediately, the Pixel usually gets the exposure right most of the time.

It’s a gentle reminder of the true strength of the Pixel phones–the algorithms behind the many showcase features, though the results still vary. For example, Cinematic Blur isn’t as refined as Apple’s Cinematic Mode though I think it will improve with time. What you can enjoy now are things like Long Exposure, Action Pan, Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur. You’ll likely use Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur most, and they generally work as advertised. Magic Eraser is not very different from similar apps out there, while Photo Unblur–which works on photos taken by other cameras–require that the photos in question have to be of a certain quality (e.g. good lighting) for a good result. When it works, the results are spookily good.

It would be disingenuous of me to not point out that part of the reason that the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro were so attractive, were the aggressive prices. This year’s phones do not have that luxury. The Pixel 7 starts from $999 (8GB, 128GB) while the Pixel 7 Pro starts from $1,299 (12GB, 128GB).

This places them directly in competition with the status quo; while the Pixel 7 Pro can comfortably go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G, the Pixel 7 has stiff competition. While the main camera is excellent, the competition offers a whole smorgasbord of lenses and creative options, and the buying decision simply comes down to a matter of how much users appreciate the Pixel’s image processing characteristics and how important it is to have an unencumbered Android OS.

  • 7.8/10
    Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro - 7.8/10

Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro

Price Pixel 7 starts from $999, Pixel 7 Pro starts from $1,299

Value Proposition
Design & Build Quality

Android users who want the simplicity of the Apple experience–the Android way–will love the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. The Pixel phones have truly come into their own.

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