Google Pixel 7 Pro Review

I’ve spent a lot of time rereading my Pixel 6 Pro review while using the Pixel 7 Pro. And while it’s just a minor upgrade over its predecessor, the Pixel 7 Pro offers a better overall experience and is more easily recommended. It’s amazing how much of a difference a few small improvements can make.

Design

Last year, Google dramatically overhauled its Pixel phones with a new design language that elevated the previous look and feel, with its unique two-tone rear and color accents, to a new level. Curiously, this new design is still somewhat divisive in some circles, but I love it because it is both distinctive and superior to the designs of its rivals.

It starts with that rear camera bar, which is both visually unique and functionally useful: it helps the Pixel 7 Pro look like nothing else on the market, and because it spans the entire back of the device, it provides a non-wobbly surface on which to tap. Take that, iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S-series.

But Google has also improved on last year’s design by swapping out the plastic camera bar frame for a more premium aluminum frame that carries forward that two-tone design element. Now, the second color is in the camera bump frame rather than the sliver of body above it, and the rounded camera lens cutouts are emphasized rather than hidden. It’s a smart, professional look that should also prove more durable.

That’s true of the aluminum frame that wraps around the edges of the phone, too. This frame is color-matched to the camera bump, and it provides another nice bit of contrast with the body color. The power button and volume rockers are likewise color-matched.

And there’s another, subtler change: where the bit of body above the camera bump was previously made of plastic to help with cellular connectivity, Google has created a color-matched slice in the top frame for this purpose. This allows the back of the device to look consistent, which is particularly appealing with the Hazel color I chose.

(That said, I did cover it up with a case, of course: the Pixel 7 Pro is as slippery as a wet bar of soap.)

Looking at the front, you’ll find a truly all-screen design with tiny bezels all around and no notch occluding massive areas of on-screen real estate. In fact, the lower bezel is just a bit smaller than it was on the Pixel 6 Pro.

Unfortunately, these advantages are somewhat offset by the device’s size: like its nearly identical predecessor, the Pixel 7 Pro is big and bulky, and impossible to use with one hand no matter how large your mitts are. That wouldn’t be an issue if we had two different Pixel 7 Pro device/display sizes. But we don’t: if you want the Pixel 7 Pro’s unique advantages—its superior camera system, faster refresh rate display, and so on—you have to put up with the bulk. Here, Apple gets it right: the only difference between the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max is the display size. I wish Google would mimic this strategy again.

Display

From what I can tell, the Pixel 7 Pro display is identical to that of its predecessor. It’s a 6.7-inch LTPO OLED panel with a Quad HD (1440 x 3120) resolution at 512 PPI with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. And it again offers a 120 Hz refresh rate with variable refresh rate capabilities. Interestingly, it’s configured to a Full HD+ (1080p+) resolution by default, no doubt to save battery life. I tried it in various configurations and ultimately left it in the Full HD+ resolution with a fixed 60 Hz refresh rate because I didn’t see any advantage in doing otherwise: Full HD+ looks great, and I’m one of those people who simply doesn’t see the benefit of high refresh rates. YMMV.

In daily use, the Pixel 7 Pro display is mostly excellent with crisp, bright colors and dark blacks, and it works well in all kinds of lighting situations. But the curved display edges from the Pixel 6 Pro do carry forward, and this is a problem. To be clear, the issue here is not a subjective preference on my part: displays with curved sides are objectively inferior to flat displays because those curved edges collect dust (when used with a case) and are highly reflective, which is especially problematic when watching video content in bright areas (like the gym). They also cause mis-taps and make certain onscreen items hard to tap reliably. There is just no valid reason for any smartphone maker to use curved display edges, and it’s especially problematic in premium devices like the Pixel 7 Pro. I can only hope it moves to a flat display for the Pixel 8 Pro.

Also somewhat problematic is the fact that various video streaming apps—Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, YouTube, and many others—all handle the full-screen display of content differently. Ideally, you should be able to fill the screen vertically, horizontally, or both, but only a handful of apps support that. And when I was watching videos at the gym, many of them were not filling the screen, robbing me of the advantage of having such a large display. I’m not sure that this is Google’s fault per se, but it doesn’t matter: this capability should be available to—and used by—all of these apps.

You may recall that I experienced lots of issues with the Pixel 6 Pro’s adaptive brightness feature last year, as I had with many previous Pixels. In fact, this has been such a long-time problem for Pixel that I learned to simply disable the feature. But I never had this issue with the Pixel 7 Pro. Confused by this, I eventually checked to see whether it was even enabled. It was, and it still is. So that’s one long-standing issue that Pixel 7 Pro owners won’t need to deal with.

The Pixel 7 Pro also supports an Extra dim mode that can be toggled with a Quick setting button. When combined with the system’s Night Light feature, which minimizes blue light at night, it makes the phone a great companion for eye-friendly reading before bed.

Looking over my Pixel 6 Pro review, I also see that I called out the awkward and jarring transition to the always-on mode that comes on when the device goes to sleep. I still notice this, most often when watching TV in a dark room at night, but it doesn’t seem as pronounced as before. Not a win per se, but a small improvement.

Finally, I should mention the camera hole cutout in the middle top of the display. I very much prefer this type of design to the iPhone’s notch, but I wish Google would move it into the corner, where it’s less noticeable when playing video content. That said, I enjoy how the Face Unlock feature triggers a white circular halo around the cutout when I wake up the phone. It’s a curiously endearing touch.

Hardware and specs

The Pixel 7 Pro ships with the second-generation Tensor G2 processor, a system-on-a-chip that Google designed to emphasize both AI and general performance, providing its phone—and, eventually, other products—with unique advantages. That said, the Pixel 7 Pro performs well day-to-day and is in no way slower than my iPhone 13 Pro or my wife’s Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, no matter what the benchmarks say. But it is also no faster than the Pixel 6 Pro it replaces. They seem just about identical in real-world use.

Like its predecessor, the Pixel 7 Pro ships with a future-proof 12 GB of fast LPDDR5 RAM and 128, 256, or 512 GB of UFS 3.1 storage. As always, there’s no microSD card slot to expand the storage, but I’m at the point now where I don’t even think about that.

While not much seems to have changed internally, there is one important change in real-world use: where the Pixel 6 Pro and its then-new Tensor processor triggered some odd issues with apps, I’ve seen few such issues with the Pixel 7 Pro. I assume that Google and/or the app developers have worked around those initial issues and that Tensor-based devices will simply work normally and reliably going forward with those teething issues out of the way.

The one exception is Instagram, which exhibits the type of performance issue I used to see across many more apps on the Pixel 6 Pro. Consider a normal workflow, where you create a new post, select one or more photos, optionally filter or edit them, and then land on a final screen in which you can add a caption, people, and a location. The wait time to get to that final screen takes a second or two on the Pixel 7 Pro, causing me to think my tap didn’t register. And so I’ve tapped again multiple times, bypassing the final screen. The result is a post with no caption, people, or location. And so I’ve had to manually add those things, twice, because I cross-post to Facebook. It’s annoying, and I’ve been bit by it so consistently that I’m now compulsive about taking my time.

Connectivity

There are no changes to the connectivity picture this year, which is just fine: the Pixel 7 Pro provides mmWave and Sub 6 5G cellular connectivity via both nano SIM and eSIM, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, and an ultra-wideband (UWB) chipset. Last year, that UWB chipset was a bit mysterious, but with the Pixel 7 Pro, Google now says that it is used to measure range and direction, for Nearby Share, and so you can use your phone as a key to unlock compatible cars as you approach.

In real-world use, I’ve had no connectivity issues whatsoever, and because the Pixel 7 Pro supports Wi-Fi 6E, it’s one of the fastest devices on my new Eero Pro 6E mesh wireless system. The phone also connects successfully to my car via Bluetooth for both music and phone use, and while that might not sound exciting, the in-car system is dated and notoriously balky, and my iPhone has stopped working with it reliably. I’ve had no issues with the Pixel.

Audio-video

As before, the Google Pixel 7 Pro provides stereo speakers, which generally sound bright, crisp, and distortion-free at anything but the loudest volume setting. But the sound has a noticeable bias to the down (right) side, which is a bit off-putting when playing music or video content in landscape mode. It’s worse than was the case with the Pixel 6 Pro, somehow. That said, most people will use headphones or earbuds. But not wired headphones, as the Pixel 7 Pro has no headphone jack. This is not unusual these days, of course.

Calls have been clear using the phone normally and as a speaker phone.

Cameras

The Pixel 6 Pro arrived in late 2021 with a notable camera system upgrade that included a high-resolution (but pixel-binned) main lens and a terrific telephoto lens with 4x optical zoom. It was only let down by the ultrawide lens, with its narrow field of view, and lack of optical image stabilization (OIS) capabilities. So the Pixel 7 Pro had a high bar, though making the ultrawide lens actually ultrawide was obvious enough.

As expected, Google kept the main camera lens from the Pixel 6 Pro, a 50 MP Octa PD Quad Bayer wide lens with OIS that shoots 12.5 MP pixel-pinned images. But the other camera lenses have all received significant hardware upgrades. The 12 MP ultra-wide lens is truly ultra-wide now, with a 125.8-degree field of view, a big improvement over the Pixel 6 Pro’s not-so-wide 114 degrees. And the 48 MP Quad Bayer PD telephoto camera again shoots 12 MP pixel-binned images, but it now features 5x optical zoom, with Super Res Zoom (really, cropped main lens images) up to 30x, up from 20x previously.

In real-world use, these upgrades are meaningful.

Most day-to-day shots come off the main lens, of course, and there’s not much difference year over year, and thus not much to say. The new Pixel still delivers incredible image quality, with just the right amount of HDR and crisp detail. It doesn’t have that unrealistic color pop that Samsung often does, and it’s not as dull and bland as the typical iPhone shot. Image quality is very good to fantastic in all lighting situations, though it can be a bit slow in low light when, as with my iPhone, you need to keep the phone steady for a few seconds because Night Sight is auto-enabled.

The ultrawide lens is exactly what I was asking for last year. It’s truly ultrawide, as noted, and it even offers a wider field of view than my iPhone. And there’s little in the way of edge distortion, which can be common with these lenses. This is a great choice for outdoor vistas, but I use it a lot inside our sunroom, too, where the main lens can’t quite take in its full width.

The telephoto lens has surprised me the most. After all, the differences between 4x and 5x optical zoom seem minor. But the bigger change, somehow, is what Google calls Super Res Zoom: where you saw diminishing returns after 10x with the Pixel 6 Pro, the Pixel 7 Pro can deliver decent results all the way up to at least 20x while held normally in the hand (as opposed to using a tripod). Consider the following sequence of shots, which show the same scene, in turn, at 1x, 2x, 5x, 10x, and 20x. That is pretty impressive.

That said, it’s still not as impressive as the telephoto on my wife’s Galaxy S22 Ultra, which can take hand-held shots of a full moon that look like they came from a telescope. My attempts with the Pixel still resulted in a hazy white disc, similar to what I get with the iPhone. That said, telephoto is the least-needed lens, so this is something I can live with until Google figures out a periscope solution with truly stunning zoom.

I don’t take a lot of selfies, but the front camera has allegedly changed a bit year-over-year, I’m just not sure if it’s an upgrade. The new version is a 10.8 MP ultrawide lens, which is just a bit different from the 11 MP version in last year’s Pixel 6 Pro. It still supports Auto HDR and a panorama mode that zooms out the view to 0.7x to get a bit more of the scene in. And it still shoots 4K and 1080p video at both 30 and 60 fps.

I also don’t shoot a lot of videos, but there are two interesting upgrades this year: support for 10-bit HDR, which provides brighter colors and better contrast, and a new Cinematic Blur feature that provides a shallow depth of field for a video version of the bokeh effect. And let’s not forget about Macro Focus, which delivers Pixel HDR+ photo quality from as close as three centimeters away. I tested it but will only use it rarely.

Overall, the Pixel 7 Pro continues the Pixel traditon: it delivers the best overall camera system for still shots, though it falls short at long zoom levels to the Samsung flagship. And the iPhone still gets the nod for video, which I don’t personally need very often.

Security

After a disastrous turn last year with its first-ever in-display fingerprint reader in the Pixel 6 series, Google seems to have turned a corner. Yes, the Pixel 7 Pro returns with another in-display fingerprint reader, but it is somehow faster and more accurate than that of its predecessor. In two weeks of daily usage, I almost never experienced the reliability issues that dogged my Pixel 6 Pro. In fact, it almost always unlocked on the first try.

From what I can tell, there are two reasons for this improvement. First, Google optionally augmented the fingerprint reader with Face Unlock, a feature that’s like Face ID on iPhone but far less secure. And second, it made software improvements to the fingerprint reader that help it work more quickly and reliably. I did enable Face Unlock, but I’ve also explicitly tested the fingerprint reader with my face blocked and found that it takes far less effort to use successfully than its predecessor, which often required hard presses and multiple tries.

(You can also make Face Unlock work even faster by enabling an option in Settings that bypasses the lock screen when you sign in. I only enabled that this past week, and it makes a big difference in sign-in speed too.

As with its predecessor, the Pixel 7 Pro also includes Google’s Titan M2 security coprocessor. This chipset hasn’t been updated and arguably didn’t need to be.

Battery

The Pixel 7 Pro delivers a bit more than a full day of battery life if it’s not pushed too hard, like the Pixel 6 Pro, but I consistently ended the day with far less time on the meter than with the iPhone 13 Pro in normal use. I’m usually at about 35 to 40 percent battery at the end of the day.

I can live with that. But it would be easier to do so if the Pixel 7 Pro supported anything that could accurately be described as fast charging. It does not. Like its predecessor, the 7 Pro can charge at up to just 22-watts, which is bad enough, but a full charge takes about two hours, which is unacceptable. Google claims that it artificially limits charging speed to help with battery longevity, but that’s nonsense: the device still gets plenty hot at 22 watts, even when slow charging, and it’s the heat that can harm the battery over time. If you want to save the battery and don’t care about fast charging, just use a 5-watt charger. More to the point, Google should let its users decide how fast to charge the battery, just as they allow users of Google Maps to choose between the fastest and most energy-efficient routes. This limitation is nonsensical.

Unique hardware features

The Pixel 7 Pro doesn’t offer much in the way of unique hardware features: it has the standard power button and volume rockers, but no headphone jack, and a nano-SIM card slot. It is IP68 dust and water-resistant, so it can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes just like its predecessor.

Software

While the Tensor processor and camera system understandably get most of the attention when it comes to this device, most people should also consider a Pixel because of the software. Unlike Apple and Samsung, which load up their devices with an egregious number of in-house apps and superfluous features, respectively, Google takes a more measured approach. A more helpful approach, as its marketing notes, in this case correctly.

There is a lot to unpack here.

First and most obviously, the Pixel 7 Pro ships with Android 13, which is a minor upgrade with some nice visual enhancements. More impressive are the Pixel-specific enhancements that Google builds on top of Android 13: this Pixel skin, which many still mistakenly describe as “clean Android,” is, in fact, a highly optimized and customized Android that Google provides only to Pixel buyers. And it’s one of the nicer looks, I think, though the themed icons push, now in its second year and optional, is perhaps ill-advised: too few apps support it, and I don’t think it looks great regardless.

Peel back the Pixel onion one more layer and you’ll find a broad set of useful and unique features that deserve more space and time than I can give them here, and it is perhaps notable that this list grows longer every quarter thanks to regular Feature Drops. Key among them are calling features like Call Screen, with its best in the industry spam protection, Hold For Me, which notifies you when you’re on-hold time with some business has finally concluded, and Direct My Call, which translates those horrible audio-based automated answering services into menus you can see and use to make selections. Plus, voice message transcriptions so you can read a message rather than have to listen to it.

But Google’s desire to help at every turn can be seen throughout the system. You can use a feature called Quick Tap to determine what happens—take a screenshot, launch the Camera app, etc.—when you double-tap the back of the phone with your finger. You can search your entire phone—and not just the web—with the Pixel’s home screen-based search bar (which, less usefully, cannot be removed). The At a Glance widget, which used to just show an event and/or the date and the weather, now interacts with a growing list of data sources to include travel, music, smart home, fitness, and other services.

And then there’s Google Recorder, which now automatically creates speaker labels. Quick Phrases, which lets you talk to Google Assistant without first saying, “Hey, Google.” Your People, which lets you set up family members and friends so that they can be reached more easily, including by others if you’re in an emergency. And, my God, Voice Typing, which is so good it takes Siri-based typing on my iPhone look like a practical joke by comparison. Easily one of the best features on Pixel.

And let’s not forget the unique photography features like Astrophotography, which includes timelapse shots, Motion mode, with its background blur effects, Top Shot, for finding the best snap in a series of automatically taken images, and Magic Eraser, which debuted last year, letting Pixel owners remove unwanted parts of an image, like other people or whatever. There’s just so much.

And for the Pixel 7 Pro, there’s even more. We get free access to the Google One VPN. Voice Typing is now completely on-device for improved privacy. There’s cough and snore detection, improvements to Direct My Call, and some killer new photo features. Key among these is the much-advertised Photo Unblur and Face Unblur features, which work on all of your photos, and not just those taken with Pixel. I had to go back in time and find some photos from the past to experiment with, and the results were generally good.

And while I didn’t test this, Guided Frame and Talkback help people with vision impairment to take centered and focused selfies. Magical.

Put simply, yeah, you may come for the camera system, and that’s understandable. But you’ll stay for these and many other unique Pixel software features. This is the real value of joining the Google ecosystem.

Pricing and availability

The Google Pixel 7 Pro starts at $899 for a model with 128 GB of internal storage, and 256 GB ($999) and 512 GB ($1099) models are available for those in need. These prices dramatically undercut those of the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max ($1099 and up) and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra ($1199 and up), its direct competitors. But what’s $200 to $300 between friends?

A lot, actually.

Recommendations and conclusions

Like its predecessor, the Pixel 7 Pro is the best value in the flagship smartphone market, but unlike the Pixel 6 Pro, this is a device I can easily recommend. It has a superior three-lens camera system, especially for still photos, excellent performance, and a growing family of truly useful Pixel and Android features. But what puts the Pixel 7 Pro over the top are the small things: an adaptive display and an in-display fingerprint reader that actually work well, and a subtly updated design that just makes this device look and feel more premium than before.

Of course, no smartphone is perfect. The curved display edges are a frustration, as is the too-slow fast charging. And it’s a shame you can’t get the full Pixel 7 Pro feature set in a smaller, less bulky device. But whatever. This list of issues is shorter than that of the Pixel 6 Pro, and more easily lived with. And the improvements, collectively, help to make this new device something special.

The Pixel 7 Pro is highly recommended. If Google had released this handset a year ago, I never would have switched to the iPhone.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Still the best value in flagship smartphones
  • Terrific three-lens camera system with excellent telephoto zoom
  • An epic list of truly helpful Pixel-only features
  • Excellent performance, future-proof specs

Cons

  • Fast charging is too slow
  • You have to spend $300 extra to get a telephoto lens and a truly wide ultrawide lens
  • Curved display

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