Google Pixel 3 preview: So far so good for Google’s smaller Android smartphone…

Android / Mobile / Mobile Reviews / Reviews
Google-Pixel-3-preview

Being used to a bigger phone, I was surprised at how quickly I came to like and feel comfortable with the smaller form factor.

Last week, Google announced the new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones, among a few other devices. Google Canada was kind enough to send us a Pixel 3 for review ahead of time. Unfortunately, we’ve only had it for a few days so this is our Google Pixel 3 preview which will cover our initial thoughts on Google’s latest flagship Android device.

For the record, I’ve been using the Google Pixel 2 XL as my main device for the past six months or so. When I first unboxed the Pixel 3, my first thought was how small it looked and felt, especially when compared to the Pixel 2 XL. I quickly reminisced back to the time we thought a 5.5-inch device was big, yet now it feels so small. At least initially. After a couple days, I actually got used to the smaller size and, in fact, may like it a bit better as I realized just how much one-handed fumbling I was doing with the 2 XL.

Design

The Google Pixel 3 takes its design cues from most other devices out there. Rounded edges and rounded corners are the name of the game these days. While the edges are glossy, most of the back is matte black with roughly the top fifth of the device in the same glossy black as the edges. The rear camera and flash are located in the upper left of the back. The fingerprint scanner is located just below this, centered near the top of the matte black finish. The Google G is printed and centered near the bottom. To be honest, it’s a pretty normal and non-descript design and someone even asked if it was an iPhone when they first saw it.

Display

Even though it’s only a 5.5-inch display, the screen seems sharper, crisper, and brighter than its last-gen’s larger counterpart. With Natural, Boosted, and Adaptive (the default) colour options, the colours can be natural or more saturated based on your preferences. I left the phone on the default settings with large font size and default display size and I had no issues viewing the content or reading text on websites and in apps.

Google Pixel 3 preview
The screen on the Google Pixel 3 is crisp with three colour options.

Performance

So far, there’s been no issues whatsoever with performance. Sporting the Qualcomm 845 chipset and 4GB of RAM, it’s expected that the phone performs admirably. The apps and games I’ve thrown at it so far have loaded quickly and run equally as smooth. Additionally, scrolling around and swapping between apps and screens is quick and snappy.

Software

The Pixel 3 runs Google’s latest Android operating system: Android 9 Pie. As such, you’ll be getting the fastest and latest monthly security updates straight from Google without having to wait around. 

On that note, it ran buttery smooth as one would expect. Google Assistant is activated with the Active Edge feature, giving you quick access at all times with a light squeeze on the sides of the phone. You can also screen your calls with a new call screening feature. We’ll cover more on the new features in our full review.

Sound

Featuring dual stereo speakers on the top and bottom edges of the display, the sound from the Pixel 3 is fantastic. Like almost all smartphone speakers, it can definitely use more bass. However, it is very crisp and clear and does get rather loud. One thing I did notice, however, was that Bass boost and Surround sound in the Spotify equalizer were greyed out and couldn’t be adjusted.

Google Pixel 3 preview
Dual stereo speakers offer fantastic sound.

With the stereo speakers, watching video content is a treat as you definitely get those left and right channels, making for a more immersive viewing experience.

Camera

A lot of people were disappointed to see Google sticking with a single camera on the back of the device. In an interesting move, they have moved to a dual camera in the front for taking group selfies. The way this works is actually pretty cool. There isn’t a wide or regular mode, simply zoom out from the default front camera zoom setting and the Pixel 3 automatically switches to the wider angle lens. I’m not one for selfies but many people are and in our few test shots comparing the Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 3 front-facing cameras the Pixel 3 camera comes out on top slightly.

Google Pixel 3 sample front camera photo
100% crop of an unedited photo with the front camera.

As far as the rear-facing 12.2-megapixel lens camera, I haven’t done many comparison shots yet but the camera does seem to produce fairly crisp and clear pictures, especially with HDR+ and Top Shot enabled in the software.

Google Pixel 3 sample outdoor photo
Unedited (resized down) outdoor sample photo.

I’ve definitely been amazed at the non-flash shots in lower light conditions and Google hasn’t even released the Night Sight feature (due out after October 18th) yet.

Google Pixel 3 sample lower light photo.
Unedited (resized) lower light sample photo.

Not to mention, RAW shooting has finally been enabled on the Pixel 3 devices (and the APK is already out and confirmed to be working on Pixel 2 devices).

Google Pixel 3 preview
Google opted to stick with a single rear camera and to be honest, that’s just fine.

During a quick test to simulate walking by slowly moving the phone up and down while taking a video, it also looks like the video image stabilization feature is bang on and should make smooth work of shaky videos.

Battery life

Battery life has been fairly decent so far with about 35% left at the end of each day and between 2 1/2 to 3 hours screen usage. To be honest though, it feels like the screen usage time isn’t tracking properly and it will be something I’ll be keeping my eye on. As for charging, it charges quickly and wireless charging is finally in a Pixel phone which is super handy, especially with the new Pixel Stand (which we’ll also be reviewing).

Google Pixel 3 preview
Back view of the Pixel 3’s glass back with matte coating.

Wrap-up

Being used to a bigger phone, I was surprised at how quickly I came to like and feel comfortable with the smaller form factor. The Pixel 3 is definitely a solid device so far, although I’m not sold that it is entirely worth upgrading from a Pixel 2 device. The display is definitely nicer and the camera does seem to take better shots than the Pixel 2 XL, so there is that. As far as camera software functionality, there’s no reason to see why it won’t be coming to the Pixel 2 devices. The camera APK has already been released and I can confirm that it does work on the Pixel 2 XL as well, bringing the new navigation and features like RAW to the older device.

Be sure to check back soon for our full Google Pixel 3 review after we’ve had some more time with it. In the meantime, let us know what you think about the new Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL in the comments below or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook.

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