- Good dual cameras
- Good battery life
- Tensor G2 shows a lot of scope
- It’s a slippery little sucker
- Best features are on the Pixel 7 Pro – which isn’t that much more expensive
- Not a huge upgrade over the Pixel 6
|Launch price (RRP)||$999|
Just as it was in 2021, the Pixel 7 can't help but play second fiddle to the slightly larger, slightly nicer Pixel 7 Pro. However, Google's very sharp pricing – within the premium space – keeps the basic Pixel 7 well within consideration, as its feature set is only slightly stripped down from its bigger sibling.
It's not a phone you should upgrade to from the Pixel 6, because the changes in play are relatively minor for the most part.
However, by itself in the low end premium (or high mid-range, depending on your perspective) it's one of the best phones you can buy right now.
Design: Slightly smaller, very slippery
The Pixel 7 does something I don't think I've ever seen on a sequel phone before. Over time you typically see designs encompass larger screens, but the Pixel 7 goes the other way, serving up a 6.3-inch 90Hz capable OLED with a holepunch style camera at the front. Comparatively, the Pixel 6 offered up a 6.4-inch 90Hz OLED display.
Will you really miss that 0.1 inches diagonally? Probably not, especially as that smaller display hides a few neat upgrades. It's a 2400x1080 pixel panel, the same as last year, but because it's fitting in a smaller frame that means it's actually sharper in a pixels per inch sense.
You may not notice that either, but you will notice the enhanced screen brightness of 1,400 nits. Putting the two side by side in direct sunlight, the difference is quite palpable, with the Pixel 7 much easier to discern in the glare.
At the rear, Google has made some changes. Where the Pixel 6 featured a two-tone colour choice, the rear colour panel of the Pixel 7 is all the one colour, with Obsidian (Black), Snow (White) or Lemongrass (Pale Yellow) hues to choose from.
Google sent me the Lemongrass model for review, and it's a lovely, eye-catching colour. I have no idea why phone makers reserve their most eye-popping colours for smaller phones, but if I had the choice, Lemongrass would also be an option for the Pixel 7 Pro rather than the more dull Hazel variant you get there.
The other style difference at the back is a shift in how the camera bar looks. It's still a single solid unit, but where the 2021 Pixels hid the lenses a little in a strict black bar, Google's opted for a polished aluminium finish that makes the Pixel 7's dual rear cameras really stand out.
All up, the Pixel 7's design is very nice, and it does feel just a little more premium than the Pixels that have come before it.
The one catch here – similar to the Pixel 7 Pro – is that the polished glass body is very slippery. A 6.3-inch phone is a little easier to hold than a 6.7-inch one, but I've still had to play it very carefully during testing, with the Pixel 7 all too easy to drop. So far, all it's met is carpet, but if you're considering one, you should also budget for a decent phone case.
Camera: Dual lens compromise, but Google's AI makes the most of it
The Pixel 7's rear cameras mirror those of the Pixel 6, with dual 50MP wide and 12MP ultrawide sensors at the back. Zoom is supported as a digital model only. At the front, the Pixel 7 does at least share its selfie camera with the Pixel 7 Pro at 10.8MP. That includes the ability for face unlock, although Google does note that it's less secure than using the in-display fingerprint sensor.
Google's strength in photography hasn't been a story of camera optics to speak of. It's long rested on the idea that it can produce generally pleasing photos using a large degree of AI optimisation, boosted by the new Tensor G2 chip that runs the whole Pixel 7 show.
For day-to-day photos, that's absolutely the case, as long as you're happy with Google's particular take on photo exposure and focus. Google does supply a range of editing tools within Google Photos on the Pixel 7, including the new Photo Unblur ability. This uses the Tensor G2 to – in theory – remove unwanted blur from existing photos, including those not taken on the Pixel 7 itself.
It's a very Photoshop-esque feature, and while it's easy enough to use, the results can be a little mixed. It doesn't always pick the right elements, and in some cases while it can reduce blur markedly, the end result looks rather fake. Photoshopped, if you will.
Regular daylight shots are good, but then that's to be expected of any reasonably modern handset. The other area I was keen to see the Pixel 7 in action with was its low light capabilities. To test that, I headed to a local park late at night with the Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 6 Pro and Apple iPhone 14 Pro to get a degree of comparative testing done.
Google doesn't sell the Pixel 6 Pro any more, but it's feasible you could pick up one cheap now that the Pixel 7 Pro is out, putting it in direct competition with the Pixel 7. Here's how it took a field shot to capture light, as well as a clubhouse shot to show contrast:
Neither is a bad shot, because while it's now the older model, the Pixel 6 Pro is still a very capable low light camera.
However, it is outdone by its more contemporary competition.
Here's how the regular Pixel 7 handled those shots:
There's a little more detail in the grass, and obviously a contrast choice in the clouds to deal with here. While these aren't meant to be aesthetic shots, I definitely prefer how the Pixel 7 handles these shots.
Not surprisingly, given they both lean on the same algorithms and Google's new Tensor G2 processor, the Pixel 7 Pro takes nearly identical low light shots:
Nice work, Mr Google, but there's still the Apple iPhone 14 Pro to contend with:
The iPhone 14 Pro mostly wins the low light competition, clearly picking up a lot more light in the field shot, although it's a more mixed affair for the clubhouse. Both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro do a better job of getting realistic detail in the clouds, for example.
Where that gets interesting is when you consider price. The cheapest Pixel 7 model is $750 cheaper than the cheapest iPhone 14 Pro, and the differences in low light show just how good the Pixel 7 is for that kind of money.
You don't get the 7 Pro's exceptional telephoto at up to 30x, and neither do you get its superb macro mode. There's no telephoto zoom lens on the Pixel 7, although it does offer up to 8x digital zoom with post processed smoothing.
The results of such photos can be mixed, and the difference here between 8x digital on the Pixel 7 and 30x digital on the Pixel 7 Pro is profound.
Here's a street scene with a sulphur-crested cockatoo nearby enjoying a small grass snack.
I didn't want to get any closer and have him fly away, so I shifted to 8x zoom on the Pixel 7 and got this:
I've certainly seen worse from digital zoom over the years, but the smoothing has gone over the top, turning the poor cockatoo into a seemingly plastic replica of himself.
The Pixel 7 has the same core processor as the 7 Pro, but it doesn't quite get the same camera feature set. You do get cinematic video for smoother focus tracking in theory, although my experiences suggest you need to plan your shots carefully to avoid weird blur effects in finished videos.
Google Pixel 7 sample photos
Performance: Tensor G2 is quick, but it's outclassed by rivals
Like the Pixel 7 Pro, the heart of the Pixel 7 is built around Google's second generation "Tensor" processor, the Tensor G2. Google's hype for the Tensor G2 is that it's faster, better for camera features, gaming and machine learning tasks than the first generation chip.
How much faster? It's a complicated matter, because Google's control of both Android OS and the Tensor G2 hardware does give it some advantages in performance terms in much the same way that Apple controls its entire hardware and software stack.
However, if you're talking straight benchmark straight shooting, it's a much more evident affair, with the Tensor G2 trailing against the best in the Apple and Qualcomm silicon stakes. Here's how the Pixel 7 compares using Geekbench 5's CPU test:
And here's how it compares using 3DMark's Wild Life Extreme test:
This isn't total defeat for the Tensor G2. I can certainly say that the Tensor G2 is fast enough for most uses. Even with the lower level of RAM and storage on the Pixel 7 (8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of storage) I've hit few issues with intensive games, heavy social media use or apps in terms of what the Pixel 7 can't handle with relative ease.
The Pixel 7 is 5G capable, but unlike the Pro model it's only at a sub-6Ghz level in Australia. Google's Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro remain the only mmWave 5G capable phones sold locally, and while I think that's a pity in terms of premium phone network access, Google isn't doing anything that other brands such as Apple or Samsung are doing in this respect.
In software terms, Google provides a clean Android UI with the promise of 5 years of security upgrades and 3 years of full OS upgrades for the Pixel 7. That's not quite as unique a feature as it used to be, with the likes of Nokia and Samsung now promising multi-year upgrades, but of course Pixel owners will see those full upgrades much more rapidly than their Nokia or Samsung counterparts.
Battery: All day battery, but not the premium best
While the battery capacity of the Pixel 7 Pro hasn't jumped up from its predecessors, sitting at the familiar 5,000mAh level that so many phones these days offer, Google's claims around the Tensor G2 are that it'll be even more refined when it comes to power usage.
To put that to the test, I first ran the Pixel 7 Pro through Finder's standard battery test. Here's how it compared:
96% is a good score, but it's notably a point lower than last year's model, while still outpacing the larger Pixel 7 Pro. What I look for here is at least 90% to ensure a phone is likely to last a day's normal usage, but every single percentage point above 90% can mean hours of extra time. In more anecdotal testing I've certainly encountered no real issues with the Pixel 7 lasting through a day's usage.
As with recent Pixel phones (and Galaxy models and iPhones), there's no in-box charger, although Google will happily sell you a 30W USB C charger for the Pixel 7. If wireless charging is more your style, you can recharge at up to 23W via the 2nd Gen Pixel Stand, or up to 12W via a standard Qi charger.
Should you buy the Google Pixel 7?
- Buy it if you want a good value Pixel phone with guaranteed updates.
- Don't buy it if you want Google's best camera experience.
The Pixel 7 does still play second fiddle to the Pixel 7 Pro, and given the price difference between them, if you can afford the Pixel 7 Pro, I'd say go for it. You do take a slight battery hit, but that's in return for a better screen, 5G mmWave and much more flexible and fun camera experiences.
However, that doesn't mean that the Pixel 7 doesn't have its merits. It's great to see this level of power in a sub-$1,000 phone, and while Google isn't alone in that space any more, it can deliver a nice looking device with fast updates for some years to come, which further enhances its value proposition.
Pricing and availability
The Google Pixel 7 is available outright in Australia with pricing starting at $999.
Compare Google Pixel 7 plans
You can also purchase the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max on a handset repayment plan from Telstra, or Optus. This will split the cost of your new phone over 12, 24 or 36 months, and you'll get a mobile plan with it too.
Power, storage and battery
How we tested
I tested the Pixel 7 alongside the Pixel 7 Pro for just under 1 week, putting it through its paces for battery tests, extensive camera tests, application testing and very limited (at the time of writing) benchmark testing. That's not for want of trying, mind you, and I will persevere because I'm stubborn. The Pixel 7 used for testing was supplied by Google.
As a phone reviewer I have more than 2 decades of tech product reviewing under my belt. I'm a multi-time Australian IT Journo award winner, including awards for best reviewer and best technical journalist. I also like iOS and Android equally, just to deal with any accusations of bias towards or against any particular platform. Windows Phone was a misstep, though.
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