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Google Pixel 7 Pro Review: Refinement is Key

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Although this year is all about refinement, the Pixel 7 Pro might be the best Pixel smartphone to date.

Google Pixel 7 Pro
$899
Rating
star star star star star
Pros
  • The Camera upgrades live up to the hype
  • Camera Zoom works really well at 5x and 10x
  • Finally a macro mode!
  • Battery life is good, and gets better each day
  • Priced very competitively in the US
Cons
  • Fast Charging is still slow, compared to the competition
  • Battery life is good, but a step down from the Pixel 6 Pro
  • Camera bump isn't matte like the Pixel 7
  • Tensor G2 is good, but not as efficient as the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1

Google provided us with a Pixel 7 Pro review unit, 128GB model in Hazel, after the Pixel event on October 6. We’ve been using it ever since for this review.

The Pixel 7 Pro is more about refinement, then redesign this year. And that’s not a surprise. Considering we got a bit redesign last year on the Pixel 6 series. Generally, smartphones don’t get a big redesign every year. It’s usually about every 3 to 4 years, with the in-between years being refinements. Which is awesome. With the Pixel 7 Pro, it’s mostly the same design, but it is a bit more refined compared to the predecessor.

The biggest change that you’ll see on the Pixel 7 Pro is the camera bar. It’s still there, but now it’s metal, wrapped around the camera sensors. Making the cameras stand out a bit more. The frame and camera bar are now one piece of metal.

So the real question here is whether the Pixel 7 Pro is worth spending $899 on or not? Well let’s find out in our full review.

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Refined but familiar design

The design on the Pixel 7 Pro has been refined, and as we’ve said already in this review, that’s not a bad thing. For one, the camera bar and the frame is now just one piece of metal. Which likely helps with the rigidity of the phone. Of course, we’ll have to wait for Jerryrigeverything’s durability test on the Pixel 7 Pro to really tell if that is the case.

Another design change is at the very top of the phone. It now has a much smaller antenna band, unlike with the Pixel 6 Pr0, where the back actually folded over the top. That was for 5G. But this year, we can see the antenna on the top right side. It looks a bit more like the other phones out there, which is good to see.

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Otherwise, the only other design changes here really is the power button and volume rocker. Those are now a bit further down on the side. I’m convinced that manufacturers do this so that you can’t reuse cases from the last phone. Speaking of the buttons, they are super clicky now. Hopefully, they do not get mushy overtime, as my Pixel 6 Pro’s volume rocker is very mushy now and is pretty tough to use.

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The Pixel 7 Pro is pretty stunning, and it’s easy to tell that it is a Pixel now. Which is exactly what this design was made for. On the back, the camera bar is metal, with the camera lenses inside. So they stand out a bit more now, which I wasn’t sure about when Google first showed it off at Google I/O in May. But after using it for nearly a week, it’s actually not to bad and looks pretty nice.

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It has a glass back, which means it is still glossy and slippery. I really wish Google would go back to a matte finish, or using frosted glass like the Pixel 4 series (and Pixel 3 series). It looked great and felt great in the hand too.

The stunning 6.7″ display

It’s a big odd that the Pixel 7 actually shrunk this year, while the Pixel 7 Pro stayed at the same size this year. It’s not a bad thing though, as people love big phones. And this big 6.7″ QHD+ AMOLED 120Hz display looks amazing. That should come as no surprise, as AMOLED displays look good anyways, and it’s really hard to mess up an AMOLED display.

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The brightness on the Pixel 7 Pro is pretty good too. We’re looking at 1,000 nits of brightness, and 1,500 nits at the peak. That’s not quite as good as the iPhone 14’s crazy 2,00 nits of peak brightness. But you can still see your screen outside in the sunlight. Which is what matters.

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It’s a 120Hz display, and it is LTPO. That means that it can move from 10Hz to 120Hz when needed. That’s going to help to preserve battery life. Especially since you don’t really need 120Hz on the always-on display, or even when you’re watching a video on YouTube. Now by default, the Pixel 7 Pro is set to FHD+ at 120Hz. It also has Smooth Display on by default which tells you that it will move from 60Hz to 120Hz, which is true, but not entirely. As mentioned, it can still go all the way down to 10Hz.

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Let’s talk performance

So this is Google’s second generation of phones with its own processor. The Google Tensor G2 processor is not built to be as speedy as possible. Instead, it is built to use a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence, which are two things that Google really likes to rely on for things. So while benchmarks aren’t quite as good as a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, the everyday performance on the Pixel 7 Pro is still quite good.

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During our time with the phone, we never really noticed it getting super warm. It did get warm while playing games and using the camera a lot. Though that is expected, as it is using one part of the phone a lot more and it’s going to heat up. But that doesn’t last long.

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Now the battery life here isn’t as good as I’d like, or have grown accustom to. And kind of makes me wish that the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 was here. Which is a great segway to the battery life section.

Battery life is decent, but it won’t win any awards

Battery life on the Pixel 6 Pro last year was pretty good. During the review process, I was hitting 8 hours of screen on time without any trouble, and did it multiple times. But as Google rolled out updates to fix bugs, and new features, battery life has really degraded over the past year. We hope that’s not the case for the Pixel 7 Pro this year, but we’re already noticing a drop in battery life compared to last year.

So far, I’ve been getting about six to seven hours of screen on time on the Pixel 7 Pro. That’s still pretty good. But below what the Pixel 6 Pro did last year.

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And don’t get me started on the battery stats page on the Pixel. It sucks for doing reviews, since it is a rolling 24-hour stat page. That is going to change in the next Pixel Feature Drop however, as it is already changed in the beta. So it will change over to show you since your last full charge. And I can’t wait for that update to come out.

So the bottom line here is, battery life is decent. But definitely behind what the OnePlus 10T, ASUS Zenfone 9, Galaxy Z Flip 4, and Galaxy Z Fold 4 have offered. All of which use the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. And it just shows that Qualcomm added some vudu to that chipset. But the Pixel 7 Pro should get you through a full day without much issue.

The return of Face Unlock!

Google introduced face unlock on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. It used its Soli Radar sensor for face unlock, which was unique and pretty cool. It worked great at night when there wasn’t any or much light. But, Google removed it on the Pixel 5. That was likely due to the cost of that radar. Since the Pixel 5 series got a bit price drop compared to the Pixel 4. And the Pixel 6 and 7 series are still cheaper than the Pixel 4 was at launch.

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But now, Google has finally brought back on the Pixel 7, with a caveat. Both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro use face unlock. But Google is only letting you use it to unlock your phone. Not to authenticate yourself in other apps. The reason for that is because Google is using the camera for face unlock. So it’s not very secure.

Luckily, Google has kept the fingerprint sensor, and it is also way faster than the Pixel 6’s fingerprint sensor. It’s a new sensor under the screen, which is very much improved. The Pixel 6 Pro’s fingerprint sensor was very slow and finicky. That is not a problem at all on the Pixel 7 Pro, we’re happy to report.

Camera upgrades a plenty

Over the years with the Pixel, I’ve preferred it over any other phone camera. Google does a really good job of not over-saturating photos, and also really good at getting pets and kids without making them blurry. But there was still one feature that Google was missing, that I really wanted. And surprisingly, Apple added it before Google.

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That’s Macro. It’s not a dedicated feature, but instead when you get close to the subject, it’ll switch over to macro mode and get a close up shot. It works well, as you can see in the examples below. However, I do wish Google would use the telephoto lens for this, like Samsung did in the new Fold 4. That allows you to get closer without blocking some light. Which provides you with better images. But overall, macro on the Pixel 7 Pro is really good. It’s unfortunate that it is only on the Pixel 7 Pro though.

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Another upgrade to the camera is zoom. Because of the big sensor, Google is able to crop in at 2X on the main sensor. That’s a 50-megapixel sensor. It does still pixel-bin down to 12.5MP though. Then there’s the telephoto sensor. It allows you to get 5X zoom shots, and Google is using its Super Res software magic to give you 10X and even 30X zoom shots. Below in the gallery, you’ll see a selection of shots from the same place. It starts with a 0.5x shot, then a 1x shot, then 2x, then 5x, then 10x and finally 30x.

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The 30x zoom shots are actually really good. They are not as crisp as you’d get from a huge camera and a ginormous lens, but still better than what we’ve seen on other phones that do 30x. It’s not something I’d use all the time, but being able to get usable pictures at 30x is definitely nice. The 5x and 10x focal lengths are a lot better, and will get used a lot more.

There are some other features new on the Pixel 7 Pro this year too, like Cinematic Blur. Basically, it allows you to use bokeh to blur the background, or switch to the foreground. You’ve undoubtedly seen this in many movies and TV shows. It works. And that’s about it, that I can say here. The edges around the objects isn’t great. It’s almost like portrait mode from the Pixel 1 or Pixel 2. However, I’m sure Google will improve this over the next few months and even into the Pixel 8 series.

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Overall, the camera is exactly what you’d expect from a Pixel. It offers a ton of versatility, and takes photos that look true to life and not oversaturated. It also focuses really well and quickly, which makes it great for pets and kids.

Android 13 is super smooth on the Pixel 7 Pro

Like the Pixel 7 Pro, Android 13 is full of refinements as well. Seeing as Android 12 was the big overhaul – well it wasn’t that big, but did introduce Material You. So in Android 13, Google has opted to refine Material You a bit more. Offering more options for accent colors based on your wallpaper. Among other things.

Material You looks brilliant on this OLED display. Currently, I’m using a background that is using different colors of blues, so the options for Material You accent colors isn’t quite as plentiful as with some other wallpapers.

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Android 13 also brings quite a few features under-the-hood, and one that you will find that does impact the user is, the opt-in for notifications. Now in Android 13, apps have to ask permission to send you notifications. That is really good news, as some apps will send you notifications that you’ll never need. Though not every app has this permission yet and Google isn’t requiring it until Android 14.

These are some of the changes in Android 13, and you can see the rest of them here. Putting this onto the Pixel 7, a phone that was engineered to run Android 13 the best, it’s a beautiful experience. The software is super fluid, and really never stutters at all. Even after playing a game for an extended amount of time. So that’s always good.

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It’s also important to note that Google is only guaranteeing 3 years of software updates (that means Android 14, 15, and 16 will be guaranteed for this device) and then 5 years of security updates. We had hoped that with Google using its own chipsets now, that would change and better compete with Apple. But nope. Surprisingly, Samsung is beating Google on this, on Google’s own platform. As Samsung is guaranteeing 4 years of software updates on its devices starting with the S22.

Should I buy the Pixel 7 Pro?

The Pixel 7 Pro is a hard one to recommend. Not because it’s a bad phone, but because the Pixel 7 exists. The Pixel 7 has almost everything that the Pro has, minus the telephoto sensor as well as the macro features. Other than that, the two devices are mostly the same. But the Pixel 7 is $300 less, and smaller.

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So basically, the Pixel 7 Pro is for you, if you want a big phone, with the best camera on the market. If you’re looking for something a bit smaller, you may want to take a look at the Pixel 7. Or if you want something even smaller and save a bit more money, there’s the Pixel 6a too.