Pixel 3 review: Going from Pixel to Pixel 3

It’s my first phone review, so fasten your seatbelts, turn up your tolerance levels as we both don’t know what’s coming up next. I will set the stage for you. I went from a Pixel (1st gen) on android 9.0 to Pixel 3 on a cold day, after the former Pixel phone refused to work in 10°C (50°F) temperature. Let’s just say my confidence in the Pixel brand isn’t unhinged. With the expectations set, let’s dissect my thoughts into paragraphs and write a semi-coherent opinion piece about someone, who went from Pixel to Pixel 3. This is a Pixel 3 review.

The Pixel 3 review

I’m going to cut the discussion short. You all can “notch off” with your moans about the infamous notch. I went for the smaller version of the Pixel 3 as it suits my hand, I have a laptop for productivity and cats videos, and I found the notch idea to be simply silly. I get that I’m going to spend just short of £700 I will be moaning about just about every aspect of my purchase, but having 6mm of the “pretended” screen isn’t something I will concern myself with. I’m glad Google had the sanity to offer Pixel 3 without notch too.

This Pixel 3 review is based on 64GB Just Black model of the smaller Pixel 3 or how I would call it “the cheapest I could find in the radius of 20 miles in the next 3h before rush hours start in Manchester”. If you are interested in watching me being overly excited about opening a box, you can take a look at the unboxing live stream I had done at work (out of all places).

Android 9.0 Pixel 3 ed.

I was silly enough to believe that Pixel’s Android 9.0 and Pixel’s 3 version would be exactly the same. This statement is “almost” true. If you already using Android 9.0, you will find yourself at home as long as you don’t mind one of the most ridiculous software changes.

Pixel 3 comes with a new way of interacting with the navbar. This is something I can select (new vs old version)  on my Pixel phone in the settings (a very reasonable idea). It’s not an option I’m given on Pixel 3. After Googling this (I’m oldfashioned) I discovered that you can change the navbar to the old behaviour if you install another launcher and modify some config files. I’m serious.

Alright, I’m stuck with new gestures which aren’t really what I prefer, but not having an icon in your navbar on the right side comes handy when you use Tasker and the new Navbar Action – just take a look how cool is this!

Throughout the use, I also discovered a couple of interesting functions. You can identify the songs playing around you without asking Google. The feature works from the lock screen and it’s apparently not using the internet or shares the data with Google. I’m inclined to believe as I’m sitting in a crowded coffee shop, where I’m barely able to hear the lyrics, the phone is in “airplane mode” and the lock screen keeps populating the screen with the songs played on the radio!

If not for the unreasonable decision about the navbar gestures, the jump from Pixel to Pixel 3 would be almost not noticeable software wise. It’s a testimony for how committed Google is to keep older generation phones in the loop. At the same time, it decreases the number of cool things you would expect with a new phone, as most of them are simply available on your older Google Phone devices.

Oh, one more thing. New sounds suck! Ringtones, notification sounds are not just boring, they are seriously very boring! Zedge it is! (I recommend GlaDoS for your notifications)

Hardware

It’s what you would expect it to be, it’s snappier, faster, brighter. The screen looks very impressive comparing to the original Pixel. You can see the bump in pixel density (It’s not 3 times as much, shame it would make a beautiful pun). The screen feels brighter, cleaner and the colour reproduction is stunning (worth noting that Pixel 3 comes with 3 presets for colours in the display settings).

The fingerprint sensor is a little bit more responsive too. You can see this by unlocking both phones side by side. I’m not going to become a productivity freak because of it, but it adds to the snappier feel of the new Google phone.

I’m not sure why the power button isn’t textured any more (perhaps they really need it to be coloured for a flashy commercial?) but I’m going to miss that. Also, capping wireless charging at 5W for “not certified” wireless chargers – is a bad move. I played with the Pixel stand for 12h – read the review here.

The audio jack is gone. I would miss it less if the included USB-C to 3.5mm adapter did the job properly. Currently, plugging in my Sennheiser PCX 550 via audio cable makes all 3 buttons in the inline remote performing as play/pause. Can we have new things, without breaking the old things at the same time? I might as well add, that the Bluetooth controls for track scrolling are gone on Google Play Music, but that applies to my Pixel too.

The sound is serviceable, loud enough for open-air YouTube. Loud enough to annoy fellow passengers during your morning commute. Don’t be that guy, use headphones. Any headphones as long as they are not the ones provided with the phone. I love that you can get the Google Assistant to read your notifications with a press of a button, but it must be one of the worst headphones sound wise I ever used! The sound is flat, unimpressive, and I would compare it to the music via Amazon Echo Dot 2nd gen!

Selfie time!

I left the best for last. Google does not mess about! The camera (or should I say the Camera app) is simply stunning. Looking at the specs, the sensor may not look impressive with 12MP worth of pixels, but it’s not about the size guys! This is a serious contender with some impressive image processing power.

Both, the selfe cam and the back shooter are capable of pictures that will “wow” your friends instantly. I’m a decent photographer (not to say I don’t take bad pictures), but this camera makes it easy to feel like a pro.

I have a dedicated post where I talk about the camera app and pictures from Pixel, Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 series – read that. It’s the first camera I take proper selfies with. The front shooter is great, wide lens aids my short arms, so I can finally fit my bike on my cycling selfies (no one cycles with me as I push too hard).

Overall…

I’m happy with the upgrade. I’m also salty, as next to my Pixel 3 I have my Pixel – which is no longer reliable. A stark reminder of what could happen to my phone in the next 12 months. If you are making a jump from another brand to Pixel 3, you are not going to be disappointed. I’m salty, as this Pixel 3 is a premature iteration of the phone I already have. At least the screen and the camera somehow feel that I haven’t been shafted that much. I’m glad that the phone will get another 2-3 Android iterations going forward. Question is: Will phone’s battery last that long?

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Mat Zolnierczyk

I am passionate about technology, cycling, and art. This would explain why my bike has more computing power than your average office. I own notenoughtech.com and I write for xda-developers.com and pocketables.com NotEnoughTECH | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube |Instagram | Google+ |Donate |Patreon