Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL review: the best Android experience

(light music) – It’s Pixel 4 time. You know the drill. Two sizes, three colors,
two storage options, a million leaks, Google
software, a really good camera, the whole Pixel deal. It’s high expectations, in other words. The Pixel 4 is the flagship. It’s what Google says Android should be. It also wants it to be like
the default Android phone. Plus, this is the first year
that Google is selling it on all four major US carriers. So, we expect it to be good enough to really start selling in big volume. But it’s not selling in India. I guess I didn’t expect that. Anyway, the point is, the Pixel
is all about expectations. You knew what to expect
because everything leaked. But now that it’s here, can it
live up to those expectations especially when it starts at
$799 and goes up to 1,000? Let’s get into it. (light music) If we’re talking about design, we just have to say it
out loud at the start. The Pixel 4 and the iPhone
11 look kinda the same. It’s not just funny, it’s almost uncanny. They both have matte glass on some models and glossy on other models. They both have the square camera bump. They have some weird stuff
at the top of their screens. I mean, don’t get me wrong,
I see the differences. Which one looks better to
you is a matter of taste. The Pixel has these really
obvious matte rails on the side. It’s not trying to hide
them or polish them away. They’re a main part of
the look of this phone. The matte rails make
it easier to grip too. So far, I think the whole thing is a little bit less scratch-prone
than the Pixel 3 was. Whatever. I still love the color
pop on the power button. I still think the black
one is the most boring one. But you know what, they all look the same when you put ’em in a case anyway. But before you put ’em in a case, take a second to appreciate that this is the best build quality Google has ever done on a phone. Okay. Let’s talk about the forehead. It’s there. It’s funny-looking, and
it’s not symmetrical. Samsung’s hole-punch probably
looks a little bit better or a Notch would give you
just a little bit more screen to put status bar stuff, but
the Notch kinda looks doofy. Can we just stop having these arguments? Unless you want stuff popping
out of the top of your phone with motors, maybe you
do, there’s gonna be stuff at the top of your screen. I think this looks okay. I’ve gotten used to it. (light music) Face unlock on the Pixel
4 uses infrared projectors just like the iPhone. Just like on the iPhone,
it looks super wild when you point a real
infrared camera at it. It has a decent field of view, but it’s maybe not quite
as wide as the iPhone 11’s. The infrared means that
it works in the dark, and the system is
designed to detect depth, so I wasn’t able to trick it with a video or a photo of myself. Maybe it could be tricked
with a mask though. I don’t know. But if you’re worried about
somebody making a life-like mask of you, maybe you should
look at other things that’s going on with your life. One thing you should know
is that it doesn’t do the extra security step of making sure that you’re looking at it. That means if you’re asleep,
someone could just point it at you and unlock it because
it works with your eyes closed. So, only sleep around people you trust? I mean, I don’t know. That’s just good life advice. Anyway, once it’s set up, it just works like you would expect it to. It unlocks the phone, and it can also authenticate Google Pay or bank apps or whatever. You just point your face
at it, and it unlocks. It’s fast, like really fast. It’s at least as fast as the iPhone. I wanna talk about why it feels so fast. But before I get there,
let’s talk about radar. (light music) You’ve heard it, right? The Pixel 4 has a radar chip up top. It’s a Project Soli chip, but the feature is called motion sense. It’s the thing that I’m sure
everybody is going to say is a little flaky because
it is a little flaky. You can wave your hand left
or right to go back or forward if you use like a podcast are playing. You can also wave your
hand to dismiss phone calls or snooze alarms. It’s the most prominent, most engaging feature of motion sense. That’s why it’s a bummer that
it’s the most flaky part. There are times where it works every time. I don’t even have to think about it. I’m just keeping my eyes
on my computer or whatever and I’m flicking away
songs that I don’t want. But then it doesn’t work
and I’m like what, also why. There have been gestures on phones before, and nobody used them. I think these gestures are
gonna fare slightly better because they don’t hit your battery life and you can just be a
little bit more flippant with your gestures when you use them. But you know what, feel
free to be annoyed with them or just ignore them completely. It’s cool. It’s cool because even if
Google just took those gestures away entirely, I would still be glad that Soli is on this phone because of the other
two things that it does. The first is it detects your presence. It just knows if you’re nearby. When you walk away, the
always on screen turns off. That’s cool. It actually works really well. The other thing that works
really well is reach. The phone knows if you’re reaching for it, and it can do stuff when that happens. So, if a ringtone or alarm is blaring, it quiets down when
your hand gets near it, so you can look at the phone and then decide what you wanna
do, wave it away or whatever. And if the screen is off
and you reach for it, it lights up the face unlock cameras and starts looking for you. That is part of the reason
why face unlock feels so fast. It is a split second faster
than the accelerometer method that the iPhone uses. Google also defaults to
going straight into the phone instead of unlocking to the lock screen, which makes it feel even faster yet. Oh by the way, if you want,
you can keep the lock screen and then have to swipe
up to get into the phone. That’s helpful if you use your phone mainly through notifications like I do. Oh (laughs) also, there’s Pokemon. Yes, there’s Pokemon wallpaper. It is very cute. It’s also useful because you
can show weather conditions on top of the Pokemon. You can wave them or you can pet at them. Look, I have seen people
say that they would prefer an in-screen fingerprint sensor, and I am saying that face
unlock is unequivocally better. Maybe in a year or two,
they’ll do both the fingerprint and face unlock, but
I’m not asking for it. (light music) Okay. It’s camera time, and I
know what you’re here for. You wanna know whether or not the Pixel 4 took the best smartphone camera crown back from the iPhone 11 Pro. Let me tell you why that’s complicated. Do you remember Nilay’s
review of the iPhone 11 Pro? He had to say that this phone right here, the Pixel 4 was right around the corner when he was judging that camera. Now I’m reviewing the
Pixel, and I have to say that Apple’s Deep Fusion’s
sweater mode software upgrade is right around the corner. So, I have to mention it. It’s practically diabolical,
and it means that I can’t make a definitive judgment right now. Look, if you force me
to pick one right now, I have to admit that the iPhone 11 Pro gives you much more versatility. It has an ultra wide camera
for taking more phone photos, and it’s way better at video. But when it comes to
still photo photography and night mode and all of that, I do think there are a lot of
useful things to talk about with these two cameras. Plus, the Pixel has a few new features that we need to talk about, especially now that it has
a second telephoto lens. Let’s just look at some photos. Here’s a shot of Will,
our creative director. It’s in very dim light. This kind of tells the whole story. The iPhone still trends
towards yellow tones while the Pixel is a little bit bluer. The Pixel has a look. Even though it’s slightly
warmer and less contrasty than the last Pixel, it’s
still much more dramatic than the iPhone. Apple does sharpen a little bit more, and it does maintain a
little bit more detail too, and more detail is good,
but look, the color balance on the Pixel is smarter. Google is analyzing the
actual things in the image and guessing what the
white balance should be based on what it sees where
Apple is treating white balance a little bit more like a
traditional camera would. All right. Next, let’s talk about telephoto. You see, Google chose a telephoto lens instead of an ultra wide lens or, you know, just giving
us both for some reason. But the main reason is,
Google thinks that it can use its super zoom tech along
with that second 2X lens to make zoom way better. You know what? It’s way better. Look at the zoom on our
video producer Maria. This is an 8X zoom. The iPhone, it looks like it’s
a cropped, it’s noisy as hell while the Pixel is much more natural. I mean, look at her jacket. There’s just so much more detail here. So, what have we learned? The Pixel wins on zoom. The iPhone gets detail better sometimes, but it is a little bit yellower. The Pixel gets color balance
better on the whole though, and it is more opinionated. The Pixel has a look, and it
consistently gets that look. What about night mode? You can kind of get either
one to make a better photo. It’s a little bit of a crap shoot. The iPhone’s multiple
frames use longer exposure, so it can get a little bit
more detail on still objects, but it messes up moving ones. Just look at the cloud here on this photo. The Pixel though, it just
keeps on doing its look. In dim light, I think
they’re a little bit closer to each other, but the
Pixel can get more detail. It’s the exposure time thing again. The Pixel does more short
exposures with more math. So, that means it’s more
forgiving of shaky hands. All right. What about portrait mode? The Pixel uses the second telephoto lens to improve portrait mode, and it is better than it was before, but I still think it’s not up to the iPhone’s standard, which has a better gradual drop-off, and it also manages the
hair better in this photo. The other feature is astrophotography. I just have to admit that I
couldn’t get far enough away from light pollution to really test this. Cities, man. (light music) Now the Pixel has a new
feature that lets you adjust the shadows of HDR+ along with the photo’s overall brightness. It’s an extra slider basically. Once you get how it works,
you can take a photo from meh to really good. Here. Here are some photos
from our podcast studio. Both of these are from the Pixel, but the second one is the one I adjusted to look more accurate. The blacks are just exactly right here. I could do that because the
Pixel now shows a live preview of what the HDR+ result will
be right in the viewfinder. It’s really useful. I do wish that it worked
for portrait mode. There’s only one selfie camera,
which I’m kinda sad about ’cause I really did like
the ultra wide selfie camera last year, but Google
did set the field of view on this selfie camera to 90 degrees, which is a little bit wider
than usual, and that helps. It’s a good selfie camera because Google is good at software. Once again, it gets that
very consistent Pixel look. Finally, and you knew this was coming, Google has some catching
up to do with video. You can get good video. Here’s something that Becka,
our video director shot, but you max out at 4K30 on the rear camera and 1080 on the front. Apple and Samsung are
just way ahead of Google when it comes to video. (light music) Have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned the camera hardware specs, like, at all? I mean, here they are, but
they’re not that different except for the existence
of the second lens. Though I do hear that the sensor is a little bit less noisy this year. Google is still using custom silicon, but now it’s the Pixel Neural Core. That’s why you can see the
HDR+ preview in the viewfinder. It also speeds up a few other operations. But the truth is, the whole
story now is software. Apple caught up, which means
that on a technical level, these cameras are basically equivalent, but they’re making different choices about how they take and process photos. You’re dealing with different cameras having different aesthetics. This is basically Nikon versus Canon, or, I don’t know, Kodak
versus Fuji for film nerds. They both look really good, but they’re definitely different. Now will Apple’s Deep Fusion
change that when it arrives? I kinda doubt it. I played it within the beta a little, but until it actually comes out, it’s just not fair for
anybody to make that judgment. What I can tell you is
that both phones are great, but the Pixel has a look, and
it nails it almost every time while the iPhone is just
a little bit more neutral. I still think that my RX100
camera takes better photos than either of them. But the Pixel and the
iPhone take better photos than any other phone. The camera still shouldn’t
drive your purchase decision between these two phones, but if you care mainly about video, the Pixel 4 is probably not for you. (light music) Once your phone hits a
certain level of speed, once it feels more than
fast enough for most stuff, the most important performance spec is actually battery life. You can have the fastest processor or the highest resolution
screen, but it won’t matter if your battery dies. The battery life on the smaller
Pixel 4 is not great, Bob. I’ve averaged like four hours
of screen time every day, which is not enough. It’s about what I was
getting on the Pixel 3. You could get through a whole day by using it less intensively
and staying in dark mode, reducing screen brightness, and turning off the 90
hertz display option. All that is just a recipe
for battery anxiety. You shouldn’t have to
think about all of that. The 2,800-milliamp battery is not enough. Luckily with the Pixel 4 XL, you don’t really have to worry as much. It should go a full day for most people on the 3,700-milliamp
battery without having to do a whole bunch of tweaks. But when it comes to actual
performance stuff, it’s good. But the main thing is Google
went with six gigs of RAM, which means that apps aren’t
closing in the background on me as often, which thank God. Anyway, look, there’s
no getting around it. You will find Android
phones with better specs. That has just never been
what the Pixel is about. It’s about a cleaner,
nicer overall experience. Really, the Pixel 4 makes Android 10 just make way more sense to me now. It’s clear that the two
things were really designed for each other. The best part of that
experience is the screen. (light music) It’s really good with nice
angles and good color, but it is a little bit too dim especially in bright sunlight. Google also says that it can
change the color temperature based on the color in
the room that it’s in kinda like Apple’s True Tone. Google calls it Ambient
EQ, but you know what, it’s so subtle that I can hardly see it. But the main thing that
I love about this screen is the new smooth display feature
that lets the refresh rate go at 90 hertz. You notice it the most when you scroll. It just makes Android feel
smoother and less janky. Google does say that it
drops down to 60 hertz when it’s not needed to save battery life. So, we got that going for us. Now the other reason that
the Pixel just feels faster and nicer is that it’s way, way better at understanding spoken English. Google loaded its entire model
for understanding English into the Pixel Neural Core,
so it doesn’t have to ask the Internet to transcribe
your speech for you. It speeds up everything. It has me using the Google Assistant more because I trust that it’ll go faster. This seems like a small thing, but it really does change
the vibe of the phone. So, when I need to talk
to the Google Assistant, I just point my face at it
to make sure it’s unlocked and then I say hey, I’m not
gonna set up your thing. But before, I’d have to pick it up and hit the fingerprint sensor. Now it’s just so much better,
except when it’s not better because for some reason, if
you have a G Suite account on your phone, even if it’s
not the primary Google account for your Android phone, you don’t get access to the new Assistant. Hopefully, Google will fix this problem or at least explain why
because it’s super annoying. Now that the Pixel 4
is better at language, it can also do live caption,
which makes captions on any video that you’re
watching on the phone. It even works with the
sound completely off. Just remember to turn it
off when you’re not using it because it can eat up battery life. They also added a new record app, and it does live transcriptions. It works pretty well. There are a few missed
words here or there, but it’s more than good enough for you to go back and
search for that one thing that you’re looking for. (light music) The thing that you can’t get
from the leaks or the specs or even the early
impressions is what it’s like to just use the Pixel 4. You have this expectation, this perception of what the phone is, but the Pixel 4 is
actually a little different from other Android phones because it feels like a
more complete experience. You pay for that experience though. It’s 799 for the small one with 64 gigs. The big one is 100 bucks more. And you have to pay 100
bucks more on either one for 128 gigs of storage. In a world where the iPhone 11 costs 699 and the OnePlus T costs
600 bucks, that’s a lot. Plus, Google stopped giving out free original quality photo
uploads for Google Photos to Pixel users, which means
that you’re probably gonna need to start paying for a
Google One cloud storage. The Pixel 4 and the 4
XL, they ain’t cheap. Is it worth that much money? Here’s my calculus. Face unlock is just
better than a fingerprint because it skips the step
of having to tap a thing to get into your phone. The voice recognition skips
a step of having to ask the Internet to figure out
what it was you just said. Motion sense makes the phone
react to you just a little before you even touch it. The smooth display is just smoother. And the camera is better
than any other Android phone, and it matches the iPhone
11 Pro in a lot of ways. It might not be faster on paper
than other Android phones, but the Pixel 4 feels faster. It feels more seamless. Now there are issues. The battery life and the
video quality in both of them could be a lot better. But I can tell you that I
enjoy using the Pixel more than other Android phones because all those little improvements, they really do add up. The Pixel 4 is the best
example yet of why specs don’t tell you the whole story about whether or not an Android
phone is actually any good because the Pixel 4 is really good.

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