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Google Pixel 7 review: Building a brand, brick by brick

Updated 2 months ago
Published Oct 12th, 2022 2:00PM EDT
Google Pixel 7 Back
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

Google seems to have turned a corner with the Pixel series. For years, Pixel devices were great phones, but they struggled to make a serious dent in the smartphone market — and not for lack of trying. But with the Pixel 6, the company stepped things up a notch, introducing a radically new design, and perhaps more importantly designed its own chips. Now comes the tough part — taking the all-new, redefined Pixel 6, and actually building on it. That’s where the Google Pixel 7 comes in.

And, on paper, it does seem to build on the Pixel 6. Sure, there’s no radical new design, but there is a second generation of the Google Tensor chip, an improved camera, and the new Android 13. Oh yeah, it’s also a hefty $300 less than the also-new Google Pixel 7 Pro.

How much do you sacrifice for that $300? I’ve been using both the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro to find out. Note, we’re focusing on the Pixel 7 in this review, but you can find our review of the Pixel 7 Pro here.

Google Pixel 7

Rating: 4 Stars
Google Pixel 7
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Pros

  • Great camera
  • Inexpensive
  • Good performance
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • Still some software bugs

Google Pixel 7 design

While the Pixel 6 series radically changed the design of Pixel phones, the Pixel 7’s approach is much more iterative. It still has the same overall shape, with everything pretty much in the same place. And, there’s the same Pixel-defining camera bar along the back of the phone.

But it’s not exactly the same. Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the fact that the camera bar is now covered in metal instead of glass, with a glass cutout for the camera. That should help better protect the camera from any cracks or scratches — things that could impact your photos.

Google Pixel 7 SideImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The colors are different too. I really liked the two-tone back on offer by the Pixel 6 series, but the Pixel 7 takes a more uniform approach — and now, the top and bottom will be the same color. The Pixel 7 comes in three colors: Lemongrass, Snow, and Obsidian. I got the Lemongrass option, which I find to be the most interesting option.

The rest of the overall design is pretty similar to the previous generation. It has a power button and volume rocker on the right side, and SIM card tray on the left side. On the bottom there’s a USB-C port.

Under the display there’s a fingerprint sensor, and it definitely feels faster than the Pixel 6’s sensor, which is great news. You don’t have to use the sensor though — the Pixel 7 also has a Face Unlock feature that uses the front-facing camera. Google notes that the fingerprint sensor is more secure than the Face Unlock one, so you’ll have to think about whether or not you want both enabled. But regardless, it’s nice to have options.

Google Pixel 7 display

The Google Pixel 7 comes with a solid display, but it’s not quite as impressive as that on the Pixel 7 Pro. The device comes with a 6.3-inch OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate and a 1,080p resolution. It has a peak brightness of 1400 nits — and I found it to get more than bright enough for all situations.

Google Pixel 7 FrontImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

I don’t mind the fact that the Pixel 7 has a lower-resolution display than the Pixel 7 Pro. While It’s definitely not quite as crisp as the more expensive device, in day-to-day use, you won’t notice a difference. I care more about the lower refresh rate though — the Pixel 7 Pro has a 120Hz refresh rate, which allows the device to feel that extra bit smoother. Other phones in this price range have a 120Hz display, and it feels like Google should have moved in that direction this year.

Still, the display isn’t bad by any means, and most will be perfectly happy with it.

Google Pixel 7 performance

Google is now officially on its second generation of self-designed processors. Inside the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, Google has included the new Google Tensor G2 processor, which is built on a 4nm manufacturing process — an upgrade over the 5nm process on the original Tensor. The processor in general offers modest performance improvements over the last genaration Tensor.

Google Pixel 7 PortImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

It still won’t quite compete with the fastest chips out there — like the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 and the Apple A 16 Bionic. But it’s pretty close, and easily fast enough to handle all your multitasking and mobile gaming needs.

Perhaps even more important is the fact that the new Tensor G2 enables new smart features, including a host of new intelligent camera features and better speech recognition features. I expect we’ll continue to see improvements like this — rather than a constant emphasis on basic processing.

Google Pixel 7 battery and charging

The Pixel 7 comes with a 4,355mAh battery, which Google says will last “beyond 24 hours” and up to 62 hours with the Extreme Battery Save. Now, I’m not necessarily the most demanding user — I don’t play a ton of mobile games, for example. I was able to end most days with 40-50% of the battery left.

I think even heavier users will still end the day with at least 30% or so, though of course, that will depend on the user.

The device is able to charge relatively quickly though. It supports fast-charging at up to 30W, and Google says that will get you 50% charge in 30 minutes. And it supports 20W Qi wireless charging, and Battery Share, to be able to wirelessly charge other devices.

Google Pixel 7 camera

Google Pixel 7 CamerasImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The Pixel 7 Pro boasts a serious step up in the camera department, but thankfully, even the standard Pixel 7 has a few tricks up its sleeve. The device has a dual camera array on the front, with one 50-megapixel main camera and one 12-megapixel ultrawide camera. The main camera supports a new 2x optical zoom mode that basically crops the image down to the middle 12.5 megapixels, and while the image processing to achieve that isn’t exactly the same, it’s still a pretty neat trick. The ultrawide camera only captures at 0.7x — so it’s not quite the wide camera on offer by the Pixel 7 Pro, which captures at 0.5x.

The camera isn’t just improved by the camera hardware — it’s improved by features that the Tensor G2 enables. For example, the Pixel 7 now supports features like a faster Night Sight, better image stabilization, and a smart image unblur mode.

In well-lit environments, the Google Pixel 7 is able to capture incredible photos with vibrant colors and excellent detail. Photos deliver plenty of contrast, and while they don’t quite seem as contrast-heavy as Pixel phones of a few years ago, they do look a little more natural, and that’s a good thing.

The Pixel 7 Pro may well become the smartphone with the best camera, but even the standard Pixel 7 is able to hold its own. You’ll get up to 8x zoom on the Pixel 7, which is digital zoom. It does look a lot like an oil painting, but there’s still more sharpness than you would get on many other phones, which is helpful. The unblur mode is a cool idea, and at times it can work decently well — but it seems a little hit and miss as to when it will work. It seems as though there’s no mode powerful enough to deblur my kitten on a tear through the house.

The Pixel 7 is able to capture 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, and generally, video looks quite good. Stabilization and video quality still isn’t quite on par with the iPhone, but it does seem to be getting better — and you’ll be happy with the device if you’re looking for an Android phone with a solid video quality. Google has also introduced the new cinematic blur feature, which is basically Google’s take on Apple’s Cinematic Mode. It’s…not that great. It can be cool at times, but it doesn’t look all that natural, and I’m hoping it’ll improve a lot over the next few years.

Generally, the Pixel 7’s camera may not be quite as impressive as the Pixel 7 Pro, but for a phone in this price range, it still has a lot to offer.

Google Pixel 7 software

The Google Pixel 7 comes with Android 13, with a few extra Google-focused features and tweaks. The big question, given the Pixel 6 series, is how stable it is. The answer? Mostly stable, but I still ran into a few bugs.

For example, when I first booted up the phone and selected my Wi-Fi network, the keyboard failed to appear, and even hitting back and reselecting my network didn’t fix this. Once I turned the phone off and back on again, the keyboard seemed to work fine.

Google Pixel 7 AppsImage source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Those kinds of bugs aren’t huge deals — and they’re relatively easy to manage. But they still detract from the overall experience, and they don’t bode well for the company that develops Android in the first place.

That said, most of using the Pixel 7 went smoothly, and I generally like Google’s approach to software. Google has added some great new features, too, and customers will be getting more later this year — like free access to the VPN that’s normally only included with some of Google’s paid Google One plans.

Conclusions

BGR Gold Award 2022

The Google Pixel 7 represents a relatively minor, but still worthy, upgrade over last year’s Pixel 6. You definitely don’t need a Pixel 7 if you have last year’s model — but it’s still a great phone, at a great price. The device offers a range of excellent smart features, with great performance, and a solid camera. And, it all comes at an incredible price.

The competition

You might be deciding between the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, and it’s a tough decision. While I like the better display and telephoto camera on offer by the pro model, it’s probably not worth an extra $300 for most customers.

In this price range, the Pixel 7 is probably the best phone you can get. You could consider a device like the Samsung Galaxy A52s, and while that phone does come with a 120Hz display, it doesn’t offer the same camera quality, nor the same number of smart features.

Should I buy the Google Pixel 7?

Yes. It’s an excellent phone with a range of great features at an awesome price.

Christian de Looper Senior Reviews Editor

Christian de Looper was born in Canberra, Australia, where he lived until the age of 14. After his father got a job in Paris, France, Christian lived there for five years, after which he moved to Minnesota for college. During college, Christian developed a passion for consumer technology by writing for tech blogs. Christian now lives in sunny Santa Cruz, California.