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Google Pixel 4 in the test: my personal experience report

Google presented its new Pixel 4 a few weeks ago, and with it again an expensive Android smartphone that split people’s minds in the first few days. A lot has been said about the camera, which does not offer an ultra wide angle. But the too small battery of the smaller model was also frequently criticized, as was the small data storage device, the not always active 90 Hz display and certainly a lot more. In any case, the expectations were very high right from the start, and so were the disappointments. Here is my report after almost a month with the Google Pixel 4.

data sheet

Google Pixel 4

  • 5.7 ″ FHD +, 90 Hz, AMOLED
  • 6 GB RAM, 64/128 GB storage
  • Snapdragon 855, Pixel Neural Core
  • 12 MP + 16 MP (Telephoto) main camera
    8 MP front camera
  • 2800 mAh battery, USB-C, wireless charging
  • Stereo speakers, face unlock, gesture control, IP68, active edge
  • Android with a 3-year update guarantee

Google Pixel 4 XL

  • 6.3 ″ QHD +, 90 Hz, AMOLED
  • 6 GB RAM, 64/128 GB storage
  • Snapdragon 855, Pixel Neural Core
  • 12 MP + 16 MP (Telephoto) main camera
    8 MP front camera
  • 3700 mAh battery, USB-C, wireless charging
  • Stereo speakers, face unlock, gesture control, IP68, active edge
  • Android with a 3-year update guarantee

Small battery as the biggest point of criticism

To classify: I myself come from Google Pixel 3, with which I was quite satisfied overall. Here, too, the battery was already too small and the runtime lagged behind the competition. But I was never “looking for a socket” and my battery was never completely empty early. Basically, you just adjust automatically in everyday life. If you have to go to the socket more often, this happens quite unconsciously. Just the other way round, that with a smartphone with a significantly larger battery, you might not even pack a cable on a day trip.

Example: When we go to Dortmund, I either charge the smartphone to 100% in the car or hang it up briefly when I arrive at the hotel. For me, that means no active work, but is simply automated and integrated into everyday life. With a Huawei Mate 30 Pro, I would probably charge up early at home and get along well until the next day, so don’t pack any cables at all. In any case, it is clear that the Pixel 4 with only 2800 mAh battery requires electricity at shorter intervals. For my everyday life, even when I’m on the go, it is still clear.

Still, I can’t imagine how the Pixel 4 can be 0.3 mm thicker and still have a smaller battery than its predecessor. Here Google has missed a point of criticism completely and reaps legitimate and unsurprising criticism. Although I get along a (very) small corner longer with the Pixel 4 despite the 90 Hz display, which is probably due to optimizations by software and processor. But over 3000 instead of 2800 mAh, users would certainly have noticed that positively.

“Insufficient memory” is subjective

The built-in data storage, which Google only offers with 64 or 128 GB, is no less subjective. After all, the company has to be held back that the Pixel 4 with 64 GB came a whopping 100 euros cheaper than its predecessor. In any case, the memory requirement is also very individual. Almost 62 percent of the 64 GB are occupied on my Pixel 3 and that after one year. So I’m not going to run into problems running out of memory. But I also don’t film often, hardly save any music or Netflix content and have no games installed.

In any case, 64 GB in a price range of over 700 euros are no longer up-to-date, and here, too, Google could easily have eliminated a point of criticism. 128 GB and 256 GB, that would have made the community milder and appealed to more buyers. All that remains for photos and the like is the cloud, which can be more easily synchronized across multiple devices and makes it easier to move to the next smartphone.

More system performance and more display

With the Snapdragon 855, Google installs the current generation of Qualcomm processors. I don’t really care if there was no better Plus model as a “newer” alternative. In addition, the RAM is upgraded from 4 to 6 GB RAM, which is not the world, but was urgently needed. A clear jump to Pixel 3 is noticeable. Nevertheless, Google is not one of the manufacturers who throw around 8-12 GB of RAM on their marketing material. Google delivers a fast Android smartphone, the bottom line for me.

The device also feels faster because of the display. The so-called smooth display activates a refresh rate of 90 Hz when required, which makes animations and scrolling appear much smoother. If that’s not enough for you, activate the developer options and permanently force 90 Hz. Google also confirmed to us that the color profile was turned. In comparison, the differences are stark, the Pixel 4 display is calibrated much warmer. At the beginning a noticeable change, now no longer an issue.

It is fast but not bright

In connection with the display, Google integrated further innovations, such as attention detection. Quite old hat for Samsung users. If desired, the display remains active as long as the user is actively looking at the display. In addition, Ambient EQ adjusts the color profile of the display based on the lighting in the area in order to always provide you with a perfect picture. All of this is only clouded by the low brightness of the display, which is particularly noticeable in strong sunlight. Google has not lagged behind the competition here since the Pixel 4.

Google offers the best camera

We come to a point that is simply positive in my eyes, because the camera of the Google Pixel 4 rocks brutally. It is again a visible upgrade to the predecessor, although the differences are not always visible due to the almost unchanged hardware. Basically, the camera captures every situation so phenomenally at any time of the day or night that I have no time to whine about the missing ultra-wide angle. I don’t want to either. So-called astrophotography, with which we can photograph the starry sky, has been added. And it works damn well!

In fact, I took this photo myself and played with brightness and contrast afterwards. Everyone can be child’s play. For astrophotography, however, a tripod is required, as well as the darkest possible environment and therefore little light from the background.

Google Pixel 3 vs Google Pixel 4: Sometimes almost identical, but different in detail.

A section in good daylight, the photos are almost identical.

A cutout a day from a darker corner. Here, the Pixel 4 is clearly ahead, with more light, less noise and sharper display.

Furthermore, we can better control live light and shadow, which can be a real added value, especially in situations with strong background light. You just have to put something in there. Thanks to Live HDR, we can now see what the final photo will look like before it is triggered. In the past, HDR processing sometimes edited a photo so much afterwards that it looked completely different. Now we can almost see the end result live as it is being created. The new neural core is probably used for this.

Daylight zoom.

Night mode at night.

Sunset.

Night mode at dusk.

Sunny autumn day at dawn.

In my opinion, Google once again offers the perfect point-and-shoot camera. Don’t think too much, just switch on your smartphone and take the perfect photo. I use the additional zoom sensor every now and then. Here, too, Google focuses on simplicity, the user should use pinch-to-zoom. Therefore, Google does not use a zoom button in the camera app, as most other manufacturers offer.

At the front we lost the ultra-wide-angle camera, but the current lens has the golden mean for us “on offer”. In any case, the front camera offers more wide angles than the cameras of other devices and that is clear. A very good image quality is also given here, photos of the pixel smartphones stand out due to their sharpness in detail.

Motion Sense and other innovations

There are several more or less striking innovations in the latest pixel generation, although I can even do without some of them almost completely. Visually, you immediately notice that the front is different. Without a notch and still with a big forehead, because there are new sensors hidden next to the front camera. Projekt Soli delivers a radar chip that is initially only available for a few apps and Google functions.

Motion Sense turned out to be almost completely superfluous for me after a few weeks. Controlling the smartphone via gestures may be well-intentioned, but it is rarely used in everyday life and did not always work reliably. At least that’s the case with me. I don’t want to do without a single function. The radar chip recognizes when my hand approaches the smartphone and the display is activated.

Good combination: Motion Sense and Face Unlock

At this point, the new Face Unlock comes into play. I have never seen such reliable and fast face recognition in a smartphone. Coupled with the recognition of my hand, the Pixel 4 unlocks extremely quickly and as if by magic. For me a combined function that is really a noticeable added value in everyday handling.

Google has also greatly revised the design of the devices. Not only the front is new, with slightly larger displays, the frame and back are also completely different. Back is the panda look, also known as the Stromtrooper. Google puts a matt white back in a black frame. And that looks good, it also feels very good. Basically, the matt coating ensures that the new pixel feels very warm and soft in the hand.

Incidentally, I am a fan of the extremely strikingly designed camera look. I like the design of the iPhone 11 Pro even more. The devices look a bit more technical again and that corresponds to my taste. In comparison, the Pixel 3 looks much more delicate and also feels more fragile. White is my favorite color because you can hardly see any signs of wear even after a long time.

Google Pixel 4 vs Google Pixel 3

A visible but inaudible change can also be found in the speakers. The one under the speaker is no longer aligned with the face, but is pointing in the direction of the USB connection. This is not audible, both speakers are very well tuned and are among the better in available smartphones.

There is only one flaw in the workmanship, the buttons for the volume are a bit shaky.

Google Assistant is faster, at least in theory

A new Google Assistant has been announced, but will only be available to German users later. It convinces with faster processes because a large part of everyday voice commands are now processed directly on the device. This should also make the direct use of apps more attractive, but that remains to be seen for us. A task in context is also possible, more on this in our separate article.

Conclusion: still so perfect for me?

I stick to it, the Google Pixel 4 also fits my requirements and therefore suits me well. I prefer simple software, a moderate battery life is enough, but the best camera can be in my pocket. The 90 Hz display is a very welcome innovation that I have been reluctant to do without since the OnePlus 7 Pro. I haven’t been a Face Unlock fan for a long time, but the Google version has completely turned me around.

One last important factor for me is that I can continue to operate my smartphone with one hand without any problems. Recently I was able to do this with Google Pixel 3, Samsung Galaxy S10e and now with Pixel 4. All three smartphones therefore do not automatically have a “too small” display. You can complain about the price, I would have found 649 euros much more attractive. But we know how quickly Google smartphones can be got cheaper after the market launch.

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