Last year Google made a big change to its phones with the introduction of its custom-designed Tensor chip. By focusing on increased AI and machine learning performance, the company was able to create more advanced apps and features for its handsets without needing help from the cloud. And now with the launch of the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro alongside the Tensor G2, it feels like Google is deepening the marriage between its hardware and software.
On the Pixel 7, you get a screen made from Gorilla Glass Victus, while in back, there’s an even more pronounced camera bar that now extends seamlessly from the phone’s frame across the width of the device. This should provide some added durability while still allowing the device to lie flat (well, mostly) on a table.
Similar to last year, the finishes of the two phones vary slightly between models, with the Pixel 7 getting a brushed aluminum look while Pixel 7 Pro gets a shiny, polished chassis. That said, while the Pixel 7 Pro’s design is supposed to feel a bit more premium than its cheaper sibling, we actually prefer the matte look on the standard Pixel 7.
One notable change for the Pixel 7 is that with a 6.3-inch 90Hz OLED screen, it’s actually a bit smaller than the last-gen Pixel 6. It’s not so much that it feels like a huge difference compared to the previous model, but it might be just enough to make the device feel nimbler, especially if you don’t have huge hands.
As for the Pixel 7 Pro, Google opted for a 6.7-inch 120Hz display. However, it’s hard to tell the difference in refresh rates even when you’re holding them side by side. And while it doesn’t show up on a spec sheet, the Pixel 7 Pro’s glass is 20 percent flatter, so there’s a bit less distortion around the edges of the screen. Both phones get the same 10.8MP front-facing camera, though it still has a fixed focusing system, which is a relatively minor inconvenience compared to the true autofocus system on the iPhone 14’s selfie shooter.
Around back there’s a 50MP main cam alongside a 12MP ultra-wide shooter. But when it comes to photography, perhaps the biggest camera upgrade is the new 48MP 5x telephoto zoom on the Pixel 7 Pro. Not only is it longer than the Pixel 6 Pro’s 4x lens, Google also redesigned the way the camera pushes in to capture more detailed images throughout the phone’s entire range.
Like before, from 1x to 2x, the 7 Pro uses the 50-MP main sensor to take short-distance shots, and then crops as needed. But from 2x to 5x, the phone fuses images from both the main and telephoto lenses to create a more detailed composite. Then, between 5x and 10x it switches over to the zoom cam, with Google using pixel binning to reduce total resolution down from 12MP. Above 10x, the phone uses full-res crops from the telephoto cam before the phone tops out at 30x.
Some of the new camera software also looks impressive. There’s a Cinematic Blur feature for video that adds a soft bokeh to the background of your clips while still supporting full 10-bit color with HDR. And from what we’ve seen so far, it looks great, as if you’ve been using a much more expensive camera.
Meanwhile, Google says the Tensor G2 helps improve the Pixel’s Face Unblur tool and speeds Night Sight processing by up to 2x. There’s also a new Photo Unblur feature that can sharpen pics regardless of when it was taken or what camera they came from. Google says all the processing for Photo Unblur is done locally on the phone. In a brief demo, some of the results were so good they were kind of hard to believe.
Both the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro felt snappy and the phones’ high refresh rate displays made switching between apps feel super smooth. That said, it’s still up to Google to avoid any bugs or issues with future software updates like we experienced on the Pixel 6.
Read our full hands-on with the Google Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro here:
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