Written by Wen Rui Liau
TL;DR: The Pixel 7 Pro delivers a consistent, enjoyable Android experience with great cameras to boot. Just make sure you slap on the grippiest case that you can find.
My Pixel 3XL has been my daily driver since 2018. In short, my 4-year experience can be described as: good cameras, consistent software support, lack of RAM, and frustrating bugs. To be fair, the device lasting 4 years is a testament to the longevity of the software support that Google places on the Pixel-line. It is hence appropriate that I will now review the Pixel 7 Pro and evaluate the device not only on its own merits, but reflect on the 4 years of progress that Google has made with the flagship device of the Pixel series.
Design & Handling
The Pixel 7 Pro is big. I’m a big phone person, but I could not get used to the 6.7 inch screen on the Pixel 7 Pro. 6.3 inches on my Pixel 3XL (and the Pixel 7) was perfect for me, allowing me to grip the phone with one hand and comfortably reach for the notification shade. However with the Pixel 7 Pro, it was impossible to reach for the top of the device without feeling like I would drop the device or get a cramp in my hand.
In my experience, the design of the Pixel 7 Pro is not for me due to its unwieldy handling, exacerbated by two design choices:
- The slippery design. This phone is slippery, like slip-out-of-your-pocket level of slippery. The choice of a glass back and smooth sides makes for very little grip to hold the phone. The protruding camera bar could act as a ledge to hold the phone, but the shiny camera bar collects fingerprints and cheapens the look. Staying true to the “purist” experience of using the phone, I tried using the phone without a case, but gave up after the phone slipped out of my deep track pants pocket when I was sitting down in a cafe. Get a case.
- The removal of the rear fingerprint scanner. I sorely missed the rear fingerprint scanner of my 3XL. Present in both the Pixel 3 and 5 series, it was placed at just the right spot for unlocking the phone and pulling down the notification shade. In contrast, the in-screen fingerprint reader in the Pixel 7 Pro is really bad. It often fails to read my fingerprint, especially at an angle. This was even after registering my thumbprint as 2 different fingers in hopes of increasing accuracy. Be ready to key in your pin if you’re wearing a face mask and face unlock fails too.
In place of the fingerprint reader gestures, the Pixel 7 Pro has a “Quick Tap” gesture control. A quick double tap on the rear can be set to pull down the notification shade. However, I found it to be rather inconsistent, and putting on a case makes things worse. Given how unresponsive the default setting is, I am amazed that Google even offers an option to require stronger taps.
It’s a pity. The weight distribution of the device is commendable, making the device feel much less heavy in the hand than it actually is. Compared to competitors like the iPhone 14 Pro Max at the same screen size, the 212g Pixel 7 Pro is comparatively light as well (the iPhone is a whopping 240g).
Display & Performance
The AMOLED panel of the Pixel 7 Pro is great. Compared to the AMOLED on my 3XL, the colours are much more vibrant. The screen has HDR 10+ support too, and HDR videos pop on the display, although the HDR video selection is very limited beyond demo videos on YouTube.
The punchy colours are complemented by a very bright screen, being fully visible even when hiking outdoors in the sun, although the brightness of the 3XL was more than sufficient as well.
The 120Hz variable refresh rate is a welcome addition too and I could immediately feel the difference from the 60Hz of my 3XL. The variation of the refresh rate was also subtle and relatively bug-free, stepping down when you aren’t touching the screen and immediately bouncing back up if you do.
The Pixel 7 Pro runs on the Tensor G2, the second generation of Google’s in-house designed SoC. The chip runs great for my day to day usage, hastily opening apps without much time in the loading screen. However, this chip runs hot when pushed. I could feel the device significantly warming up when making a video call on Messenger, and the battery life suffers accordingly. This processor is backed up by 12GB of RAM, which is ample for my daily usage and never limited performance. Overall, no big complaints about the chip, and the zippy performance was missed when I switched back to my 3XL and the abysmal 4GB of RAM.
Battery Life & Software
The battery life has been sufficient for my needs. I was left with about 40% battery after a full workday with light to medium usage. If you have similar usage patterns, I estimate that this could be a 1.5-day phone. However as alluded to before, when the processor heats up, the battery life tanks. A 50 min Messenger video call drained my battery from 25% to 5% and I had to cut the call short. So your mileage with the battery definitely varies.
I was on a bug spotting adventure when reviewing the Pixel 7 Pro. The bugs of the prior generation Pixel 6 were well documented, and I myself had a run-in with one too many bugs with my 3XL over the years (keyboard not appearing, opening Google Maps and Spotify crashing the phone). Hence, I am happy to report that my experience with the Pixel 7 Pro has been relatively bug-free, and I have not encountered any major bugs during my daily use. Although a caveat is that bugs often pop up after software updates and extended duration of ownership.
The Pixel 7 Pro comes equipped with 3 cameras on the rear, a 50 MP main camera, 48 MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom, and a 12 MP ultrawide. Pictures taken with the cameras look great, offering up the Pixel look with great exposure and dynamic range without being overly saturated. At night, photos are very usable with minimal noise. Comparing my photos with my 3XL, images with the P7P are much less noisy at night, with or without Night Sight on.
With sensor cropping “magic” and the telephoto lenses, there are 3 “lossless” zoom options – 2x, 5x, 10x. All zoom settings were quite usable, although I am hesitant to subscribe to Google’s claim that the 10x zoom is lossless, as the cropped sensor does result in noisier and muddier images.
Videos on the main camera taken with the P7P have great stabilisation as well, offering up a gimbal like effect and smoothening out motion even when walking, although the nitpick in me says that the same cannot be said of the telephoto lens.
Overall, I would describe the cameras on the P7P as “versatile”, confidently navigating different scenarios with its wide toolkit of options available at your disposal. A huge upgrade from my 3XL.
With the cameras, Google advertises a bunch of on-device machine learning features such as Photo Unblur and Action Pan. Of these features, I found exporting HDR photos of “Top Shot” particularly useful. You can scrub to ~1 sec before and after a photo is taken and export the HDR version of the moment. This is particularly useful for situations like a person blinking. With the 3XL, you could only export a non-HDR version without the trademark Pixel post-processing.
Gimmicks aside, my main criticism of these ML features is whether the processing necessarily needs to be on-device and hence Pixel 7-exclusive. Especially with features like unblur and magic eraser, it feels like something very achievable on Google Photos in the cloud since Google Photos already extensively analyzes/processes your images.
Pricing & Conclusion
The Pixel 7 Pro retails for S$1,299 for the 128GB version or S$1,449 for the 256GB version. Given the non-expandable storage and expected longevity of the device, I recommend only considering the 256GB version. S$1,449 is a lot to pay for a phone, especially when the Pixel 7 retails for ~S$300 less and there is a sea of cheap Chinese phones out there. However as always, value is relative. The Pixel 7 series launched at the same price as their Pixel 6 predecessors. In an inflation-stricken world today, that is considered a good deal. This can be attributed to the shifting emphasis of Google and what the Pixel series represents. The Pixel is a medium for Google to have consumers be further locked into the Google ecosystem and upselling services like Google One, YouTube Premium, and Google Photos, which Google is VERY aggressively pushing (just think about the number of Ads you’re seeing on YouTube recently).
Would I buy the Pixel 7 Pro? Nope, but mostly because the Pixel 7 is a much more manageable size for me. However, if Google’s track record with device longevity remains the same (my 4-year old 3XL is still going strong!), I would say that the Pixel 7 Pro represents decent value, although S$1,449 is still too much for me to personally spend on a phone.
The Pixel 7 Pro represents the peak Pixel experience. When comparing it to my 3XL, nothing feels outrageously different. It is the same quintessential Pixel experience that I know and love, just better and more enjoyable in many ways. With the strong overall performance, great cameras and 5 years of promised software support, the Pixel 7 Pro is well positioned to age well and last for many years to come – just make sure to slap a case and screen protector on it.
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