Pixel 3 Review – Don’t Romanticize Imperfection



Let’s not romanticize imperfection. The Pixel 3 is not The Little Engine That Could, or some gifted boy who was born without legs. There are people out there who treat Google like the underdog; despite the fact that they have full control over the future of Android. And while there’s nothing wrong with having favorites in a race, it can be dangerous to idolize a runner just based off his shoes. It’s true that Google does have some nice shoes. Shoes that are stitched with machine learning, powerful heuristics, and pure Android. To an ignorant observer, Google shoes probably appear no better than any other runner. To the adulator or fanboy, these shoes make Google the best runner in the race, despite the fact that they always finish last.

Remember that the Pixel 3 is just another smartphone. Yes, it was “Made By Google” but don’t let that phrase steal your attention. At the end of the day, this is still an expensive $800 phone and needs to be treated as such.

Body and Build Quality

When I first took the Pixel 3 out of the box, I dropped it 😭. Luckily the fall was only a couple of inches. After my heart resumed its normal rhythm, I took to examining the phone in its bare form. I got the smaller Pixel 3 with the 5.5-inch display. It was a little tough adjusting to such a small phone after spending a year with the 6.3 inch Galaxy Note 8. Although it felt like I was holding a toy, the device does have a satisfying amount of weight. Nonetheless, my small hands appreciate the Pixel 3’s compact size.

The back of the phone is all glass with a matte “soft touch” coating on the bottom. I absolutely love it! I get an unnerving sense of satisfaction running my fingers along the back of the device. There’s also a subtle G logo as the bottom to tell everyone that it’s a Google phone. Unlike other company’s logos in the past, I enjoy how subtle the branding is.

Wait, doesn’t the back of the Pixel 3 scratch easily?

There have been early reports of people scratching the back of their Pixel 3 quite easily. Some people did nothing more than take the phone out of their pocket just to find the matte coating laced with a couple of scratches. Oddly enough, I have not had this issue. I even dropped my phone twice (another time at the gym) and still have a clean looking back. Maybe I am just lucky?

The Pixel 3 puts all of its buttons on one side of the phone. On the right side of the device, you can find the power and volume rocker buttons. It’s a personal preference but I don’t like it when phone manufacturers do this. When I’m in a rush and fumbling for my phone, I always end up hitting the power button instead of the volume up or vice versa. Also, the power button is very hard to click. Seriously, this button is stiffer than a young guy’s erection. Some people might not mind this, but it becomes annoying when you try to rapidly tap it to open up the camera app. It just feels forced.

On the bottom of the device, there’s a USB 3.1 Type C (with Power Delivery) port.

Oh, there’s also no fu*cking headphone jack 😡

The front of the device has two front-facing speakers that sound amazing to my untrained ear. More on that in a bit. Unfortunately, this device does not have an LED notification.

Battery Life

Usually reviewers save battery life for the end of the review for some unknown reason. Like c’mon, most people are only interested in knowing about how often they will have to charge. The battery life on the Pixel 3 is…okay. It’s hard to make an accurate judgment because everyone’s usage is different. Also, I am slightly spoiled by spending time with the Galaxy Note 9 (4000 mAh) and the Oneplus 6 (3300 mAh). The battery on the Pixel 3 is only (2915 mAh). Yes, this is small for an Android device. I have no idea what Google was thinking. Perhaps this was the largest that they could fit in?

On my first full day of usage, I hit about 4 hours of screen on time before I was down to 10%. That day included 2 hours of Google Maps, 1 hour of streaming music via Bluetooth, and taking some videos for Instagram and Snapchat along with messaging on WhatsApp. I was on battery for around 10 hours that day (unfortunately I forgot to take a screenshot). The following days was more or less the same. Here are my states as I am writing this review right now:

Basically, you aren’t going to pull more than 4 hours of screen on time with the device. The Pixel 3 does have really good standby time though. Leaving your phone idle will drain no more than 1% per hour. Again, I am coming from a phone with a much larger battery so my opinion is going to be skewed. The point being, if you are someone who casually touches your phone and can let it rest periodically, then you will probably be fine with the battery performance.

Performance

The Pixel 3 using the Snapdragon 845 processor with the Adreno 630 GPU. This is the CPU all flagship phones are using in 2018. Gaming will be just as good as any other Android device released in 2018. However, the Pixel 3 only has 4GB of RAM. So here’s the deal, 4GB is not inherently bad. This is Android and not Windows. However, many people who buy the Pixel anticipate to keep it for a couple of years, so ideally it should not be severely outdated by next year. This year, we have already witnessed quite a few devices hitting the market with more than 4GB of RAM. The Oneplus 6 with 6GB ($529) and 8GB ($579) of RAM. Along with the Galaxy Note 9 with 6GB ($999) and 8GB ($1249) of RAM and the Razer Phone ($799) with 8GB of RAM.

The Pixel 3 is expensive; It starts at $799. At this price point, you would expect it to keep up with the competitors and offer similar value. Nope. Google turns a blind eye and decides to keep its meager 4GB of RAM unchanged from last year’s Pixel device. The only real problem that I have encountered so far was that apps don’t stay in memory as long as they do on my other device. For example, on the Oneplus 6, I could have open up an app that I left alone two days ago and it would resume in the exact state I left it in. On the Pixel 3, after more than 4 or 5 apps things start to reload. The webpage I was on in Chrome would have to re-open. Sync for Reddit would have to reload the comments in a thread. Yes, this is probably the ultimate first world issue but still something not acceptable for a $799 device when the competition does it much better.

Memory management issues too

To add icing to the cake, there seem to be some aggressive memory management issues going on here too. Many users report having apps close on them unexpectedly. For example, one user complained that if he’s streaming music in his car and using Google Maps then his music app would completely close down if he gets a notification. I have not personally experienced this issue, but there are lots of users who can attest to the previous statement.

Display

The Pixel 3 has a 5.5 inch OLED display made by LG with a resolution of 2160 x 1080P. I really can’t find any fault with the display, despite there being a couple of issues posted online. The colors are vibrant and saturant. It gets bright enough to use outdoors, and dark enough to use before bed.

Speakers

The Pixel 3 has two front-facing stereo speakers; they are great! Music and videos sound rich and “full” on the Pixel. It doesn’t have a dainty, weak speaker like a lot of other smartphones I used in the past. I must warn you though, at maximum volume, there is notable distortion and the device seems to vibrate. It reminds me of a car with its music blasting so loud that you can feel the vibration from down the street. Obviously, not to that extreme but it does vibrate noticeably.

Software

The Pixel 3 is running the latest version of Android (Android 9.0 also known as “Pie”). The reason that many people choose to buy a Pixel device is for stock android with no bloatware and quick updates straight from Google. What I like most about the Pixel’s software is its simplicity. Ironically, it’s also what I hate most about it. Google took a cue from Apple and eliminated most of the “advanced settings” and customizations behind hidden menus.

Only Gesture navigation?

The Pixel 3 features Android’s new gesture navigation. It’s a rushed project that Google threw in after seeing the iPhone X. And yes, it’s definitely not as polished as the animations found on the iPhone X. I actually don’t mind the gesture navigation that much. It looks cool and isn’t that hard to use. Although it does get annoying with the awkward double swipe from the home to open up your app drawer. And really, Google should have made this an option and not something you HAVE to use.

Camera

It’s so damn good. That’s really all I can say about this camera. For someone who just posts photos to social media, I have absolutely no complaints about this camera. On top of that, portrait mode is absolutely amazing! In addition, Google is adding neat little camera tricks like Night sight that will brighten up your photos when there’s not enough light.

 

Is the Pixel 3 Worth the cost? Should I buy the Pixel 3?

No. That’s right, my answer is no. At its current retail price of $800 (for the base model), there is nothing that truly justifies its price tag. It’s a good phone, just not a GREAT phone. It does a lot of things well but falls short in too many areas. There is a whole list of running issues with this device. Some of which include:

Memory Management Issues

Some photos aren’t being saved

Poor audio quality recording

Speaker Imbalance

Speaker distortion

No 4K Video Recording at 60 FPS

Software Glitches

And many more you can read about here.

If this phone was $150 cheaper, then it would be easier to justify. These defects, but at $800 Google is competing with the big boys here. It’s also unfortunate that so many Pixel fanboys are giving Google a pass on this and not recognizing a problem when they see it. Yes, most of this should get fixed eventually, but until then you are going to be stuck with a device that might not perform the way you expect it.

With all that said, I am still holding on to my Pixel 3 for a little longer to see if updates would make it any better.