[Test] Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, experience comes at a price


After all the leaks organized, Google has finally formalized its new smartphones and above all, we have finally been able to spend some time with the new Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL. If they do not necessarily shine with the hardware, it is on the software side that the difference will be made.

What leaks for this 4th iteration of Google Pixel smartphones. There was so much information before the official launch that this phone no longer offered any surprises. But it’s a Pixel and its release therefore remains an event. The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL will have the difficult task of representing Google in the marvelous ultra-competitive world of Premium smartphones.

As was already the case with previous Pixels, the Pixel 4 represents a certain vision of Google on the smartphone market. At the end of 2019, the competition is more than ever present. We have been testing them for a little week and here is what we think of these Pixel 4.

1 / Characteristics and Packaging

As a reminder, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL offer:

Google Pixel 4 Google Pixel 4 XL
Screen – 5.7 “OLED screen
– Full HD + definition
– Density of 444ppp
– Gorilla Glass 5
– HDR certification
– 90Hz
– 19: 9 format
– Always On Display
– Ambient EQ
– 6.3 “OLED screen
– Quad HD + definition
– Density of 537ppp
– Gorilla Glass 5
– HDR certification
– 90Hz
– 19: 9 format
– Always On Display
– Ambient EQ
SoC and GPU – Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
– Adreno 640
– Pixel Neural Core
– Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
– Adreno 640
– Pixel Neural Core
Memory – 6 GB of RAM
– 64 GB / 128 GB storage
– No memory expansion
– 6 GB of RAM
– 64 GB / 128 GB storage
– No memory expansion
Colors – Simply Black – Simply Black
Camera – Double camera on the back:
– Main camera: 12.2 Megapixels, 77 °, F1.7, OIS and EIS
– PDAF Dual Pixel Autofocus
– Telephoto camera: 16 Megapixels, F2.4, x2 optical zoom, OIS and EIS
– PDAF autofocus

– Live HDR +
– Top Shot
– Night Vision
– Video recording in Full HD 1080p up to 120fps
– Recording of Ultra HD 2160p videos at 30fps
– Slow motion mode in 720p at 240fps

– Wide angle front camera
– 8 Megapixels
– 90 °, F2.0
– Electronic stabilization (EIS)
– 1080p or 720p front video recording at 30fps
– NIR overall projector
– NIR points projector
– 2 NIR cameras

– Double camera on the back:
– Main camera: 12.2 Megapixels, 77 °, F1.7, OIS and EIS
– PDAF Dual Pixel Autofocus
– Telephoto camera: 16 Megapixels, F2.4, x2 optical zoom, OIS and EIS
– PDAF autofocus

– Live HDR +
– Top Shot
– Night Vision
– Video recording in Full HD 1080p up to 120fps
– Recording of Ultra HD 2160p videos at 30fps
– Slow motion mode in 720p at 240fps

– Wide angle front camera
– 8 Megapixels
– 90 °, F2.0
– Electronic stabilization (EIS)
– 1080p or 720p front video recording at 30fps
– NIR overall projector
– NIR points projector
– 2 NIR cameras

Audio – Stereo speakers
– Dolby Atmos
– Stereo speakers
– Dolby Atmos
Drums – 2800 mAh battery
– 18W quick charge
– Wireless charging
– 3700 mAh battery
– 18W quick charge
– Wireless charging
Connectivities – Face Unlock (3D)
– Active Edge
– Motion Sense

– Bluetooth 5.0
– WiFi 5
– 4G Cat.13
– 1x nano-SIM + 1x eSIM
– A-GPS + GLONASS, DNLA, Miracast (WiFi Direct), Google Cast
– NFC
– USB Type-C
– Barometer, Gyroscope, Accelerometer
– Proximity and light sensor

– Face Unlock (3D)
– Active Edge
– Motion Sense

– Bluetooth 5.0
– WiFi 5
– 4G Cat.13
– 1x nano-SIM + 1x eSIM
– A-GPS + GLONASS, DNLA, Miracast (WiFi Direct), Google Cast
– NFC
– USB Type-C
– Barometer, Gyroscope, Accelerometer
– Proximity and light sensor

Software – Android 10 – Android 10
Height and weight – 147.1 x 68.8 x 8.2 mm
– 162g
– 160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2 mm
– 193g
Starting price – 769 € – 899 €
Availability date – Availability on October 24, 2019 – Availability on October 24, 2019

It’s in a white box that we discover the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. We remind you that in France, we are entitled to the black version only. If you are looking for white and orange models, you will be able to find them in some European countries such as Spain. For the rest, it’s classic and not surprisingly, there is a Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0 compatible USB-C charger, a USB-C to USB-C cable, a USB-A to USB-C adapter,, instructions for a first handling and specifically for the French version, USB-C headphones / hands-free kits.

Count officially from 769 euros for the Pixel 4 and 899 euros for the Pixel 4 XL.

2 / The design

With all the leaks that there have been, we no longer even present you with the general design, which is fairly sober. On the other hand, if there is one thing that one can only appreciate, one with the phone in hand, it is the finish. In a word, it is excellent. Exit this year the back with a glossy part and a soft-touch part, this year, it is either glossy or soft-touch. Unfortunately for us French, we are only entitled to the black version with the glossy finish. It’s beautiful in itself but it’s a fingerprint trap. In the other countries, there will be a choice with the white version and the orange version. Both versions have a matte frosted glass back like Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro. So it’s less prone to fingerprints. If not found on all models a metal outline but this year, it is not glossy but matte, which improves its grip.

The Pixel 4 holds well in hand, even the Pixel 4 XL. On the back, there is a photo block in square format. On the other hand, there will only be two cameras and not three like on the Apple iPhone 11 Pro or the Huawei Mate 20 Pro which sported the same square design. Last year, the Pixel 3 XL stood out from the Pixel 3 with a huge hideous notch. Google didn’t make the same mistake. On the other hand, we end up with a fairly huge “front”. It is not there without reason since it integrates not only the 3D facial recognition system from Google, similar to Face ID from Apple or that of Huawei with the Mate 20 Pro, but also a new radar technology, Motion Sense , which allows you to detect a whole bunch of movements around the smartphone such as taking it, the presence of the user or certain gesture controls. As a result, these are clearly not the most designer smartphones we have seen, especially with this asymmetrical design and after a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ or ​​even a OnePlus 7T Pro.

In terms of size, the Pixel 4 take more or less what we knew with the Pixel 3. With 3D facial recognition technology, there is no longer a fingerprint sensor on the back. Speaking of facial recognition, it’s super fast, a little bit faster than Apple’s Face ID. To be precise, it is not faster but it launches slightly in advance. Basically, thanks to Motion Sense, the Pixel 4 is able to detect when the user takes his Pixel 4 in hand. Suddenly, the phone activates facial recognition upstream, which gives this feeling of speed compared to the iPhone.

All this could have been perfect but no, Google deliberately chose that its 3D facial recognition could work even with eyes closed. Suddenly, unlike Apple, Pixel 4 can unlock without the user wanting it. Google has promised an update to fix the problem, but has announced that it will only be available “in the coming months.” Also note that at Apple, Face ID following Touch ID, all Touch ID compatible applications were Face ID compatible. This is not the case with Google Pixel 4 and developers will have to integrate support for this recognition in addition. In short, all this is only software in itself but annoying all the same.

Getting back to Motion Sense, this is a technology that Google has been developing for years under the name of Project Soli. In a way, it is a radar that can detect a whole bunch of movements around the smartphone such as taking it, the presence of the user or certain gesture controls. The promise was great and unfortunately, we only get back on the Pixel 4 the first versions with the recognition of a whole hand and not the subtleties with the fingers that we had promised. Suddenly, we are left with a recognition of gestures as we have known until now. Google’s technology is still more precise, but the few gestures recognized with the few applications supporting this technology do not make you want to be interested in it more than that. It’s a shame that Google hasn’t pushed the subject a little further because the promise of Project Soli remains very beautiful. In the meantime, you can still play with the Pokémon that serve as a wallpaper to highlight the bulk of Motion Sense. Because apart from all that, we appreciate the fact that the Pixel 4 are able to detect that you are taking the smartphone or that you are no longer close to the smartphone.

We finally find the volume buttons and the power button and / or standby on the right edge but I am still not in favor of such a choice and I would have preferred to have the volume buttons on the left edge as on the majority of smartphones on the market.

3 / Display and Sound

With last year’s Pixel 3, we forgot about the Pixel 2 debacle two years ago. The Pixel 4 follow this achievement with very well balanced screens. We thus find the famous P-OLED panels which are, once again, perfectly calibrated with very good colorimetry. You only have to compare them to other recent smartphones to realize how good they are. They are classified at the same level as those of the iPhone 11 Pro or the Galaxy S10. By default, the screen is in adaptive mode, which allows to push the contrasts without distorting the colors supposed to be more natural. On the other hand, it will be noted that the level of brightness is lower compared to its competitors but on a daily basis, this did not particularly bother me.

If the Pixel 4 are not known to be racing animals with hardware innovations in every way, it must be recognized that we greatly appreciate the refresh rate of 90Hz. This will not change our daily lives in reality but there is this little something in the general fluidity which is more than appreciable. Yes, it has an impact on battery life, especially for the Pixel 4. Finally, note the Ambiant EQ technology, similar to True Tone at Apple which allows you to adapt the temperature of the screen to adjust to the environment. In practice, it remains more subtle than Apple’s True Tone technology.

With a rather thick “chin”, like the “forehead”, the Pixel 4 take the speakers of the Pixel 3 which were already good overall. These are not the benchmarks on the market but you will have no trouble enjoying internet content without going through the headphones or earphones box. For longer content, we will necessarily prefer headphones or at least the original headphones.

4 / Android 10 and its new features

Unsurprisingly, the Pixel 4 runs on Android 10. This is no longer a novelty but the advantage is that there is no manufacturer overlay, even if brands generally avoid now overloading Android with everything and n no matter what!

We saw the contribution of Motion Sense above, but that’s not all. We start with the new version of Google Assistant which is much faster and natural. To test it, our Pixel 4 were configured in English because yes, it is not yet available in French even if Google promises the arrival of the French version soon. Conversations with Google Assistant are much more natural and the questions are linked without having to repeat the famous “Ok Google”. Besides, we discover a shortcut in the lower corners of the screen that makes it much easier to launch Google’s voice assistant.

And if it’s faster, it’s also because a large part of the database has been locally integrated into the Pixel Neural Core. Be careful, we speak the language even to interpret more quickly what the user says. It will always take a connection to get the answers to specific questions but there is no longer this interpretation to send to the server, which makes the experience much faster. The Pixel 4 are delivered with Live Caption technology announced more than a year ago. For those who have not followed everything, it is a technology that allows captioning in real time any video content on the Pixel 4. These new features allow us to come back to the redesign of the dictaphone which allows to transcribe in your dictation in real time and it’s pretty impressive. So yes, it currently only works in English but we are expecting it in French. There are still some hiccups but the transcriptions are more than usable.

We also find the Active Edge technology that we already knew on previous Pixels. As a reminder, you can launch an action by “squeezing” your smartphone. We always regret that this is not as configurable as on the first HTC smartphones to have offered this technology. On Pixels, this is only used to launch Google Assistant, an action that can also be done with a long press on the Home button or by the voice prompt “OK Google” or by the new shortcut in the lower corners .

5 / Performance and autonomy

On the performance side, we will not surprise you too much since the Pixel 4 ships the SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. If it is not the quickest since the arrival of the Snapdragon 855+, it remains a SoC high-end with high performance. Whether everyday or with recent games like Call of Duty Mobile, the Pixel 4 will easily take charge. Overall, the benchmarks are obviously excellent. We also tried other greedy applications and we did not notice any slowdown or unpleasant surprises. Some will criticize having only “6GB” of RAM but in reality, there have been no unpleasant surprises in the experience.

For autonomy, that’s another story, and maybe that’s where the damage is. Indeed, with a respective battery of 2800mAh on the Pixel 4 and 3700mAh on the Pixel 4 XL, we knew from the start that they were not going to compete with the current competition. If the Pixel 4 XL can easily assure you a full day of autonomy, without really being able to reach the two days, the Pixel 4, for the same use will hardly manage to end the day. Typically, with the Pixel 4, at 6 p.m., just before going home, it was often at 15% of autonomy. Fortunately there was fast charging, even if it is not the fastest. If the Pixel 4 XL will not necessarily cause problems, I admit that I was not very calm when I was out after 9pm.

Here is the battery status of the Google Pixel 4 XL:

And another, quieter day on the Pixel 4 XL:

And there a day with roaming and airplane mode, on the Pixel 4 XL:

Remember that the Pixel 4 offer wireless charging, which is always practical. These Pixel 4 are therefore supposed to also serve as Google Assistant during the day by resting for example on the Pixel Stand. So when you take the phone in the evening, it is necessarily charged for the evening and can last until the next day at the office.

6 / Photo and Video

Once it’s not customary, we’re going to start with the video because that’s what disappointed us a little and we might as well tell you right away. If you are looking for a capable smartphone in video, you can go your way. Competitors in the field do better with 4K video recording at 60fps, better stabilization and better quality. With an external stabilizer, this may be enough but clearly, the Pixels are not optimized for this. Google defends itself not to offer 4K60 because users only use 1080p in general … Yeah …

On the other hand, for the photo, the Pixels remain the best and this, even without ultra wide-angle. The photo, it is a little the nerve of the war of the Pixel range since the Pixel 2. While all the competitors already proposed at the time two cameras, Google persisted with only one, proclaiming loud and clear that his algorithms were able to compete. Somewhere, we can only agree with them. With a single camera, the Pixel 3 was able to compete in both Portrait mode and Zoom with Super Res Zoom technology. So yes, for the latter, there were limits but it was much better than any digital zoom from the competition.

Also, what was our surprise to discover the Pixel 4 with only two cameras when all competitors offer no less than three. This is due to the lack of an ultra wide angle. Indeed, Google and its internal statistics have determined that the ultra wide-angle is not a user demand. Obviously, Google does not read the Journal du Geek! We have always preferred an ultra wide angle to a x2 telephoto, especially since Google was able to digitally zoom with more than convincing results. Google argues that it wants to have the best possible photo quality and that ultra wide-angle lenses would not allow it. Why not, but it does so much that it is a shame to do without it. In short, we are not going to lament, it is not there and in reality, it is not as if we used it daily either.

Let’s go back to the zoom. Last year, the Pixel 3 introduced the Super Res Zoom technology and it must be said that if it did not compete with a real optical x2 zoom, the results were very convincing. Basically to make it simple, Google took several images and from algorithms, could reconstruct a much more detailed photo. So imagine the result now with an x2 optical zoom as well since Google promises to be able to go up to x8 and my faith, the results are super convincing with detailed photos. So yes, we are not going to compete with the periscope zoom of the Oppo Reno Zoom 10x or Huawei P30 Pro but it is much better than any serious competitor like the Apple iPhone 11 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy Note10 +. However, Google has opted for a continuous zoom from x1 to x8, there is no shortcut in steps. Basically, if you want to zoom x2, you’ll have to pinch the screen, there is no x2 button.

The contribution of the x2 optical zoom is not only limited to the zoomed photos but also makes it possible to improve the Portrait mode and therefore to rely only on algorithms. In fact, the results are quite successful but for once, I think the Galaxy Note10 + or the iPhone 11 Pro keep a step ahead with often a more successful clipping when it comes to hair or backgrounds more complex.

For more traditional photos, the Pixel 4 is doing very well. The colors are a little cooler than those produced by the iPhone 11 Pro and less saturated than those of the Galaxy Note10 +. It’s a matter of taste, but where the Pixel 4 continues in the legacy of the Pixel 3, it’s in its ability to recognize good scenes and be 100% reliable. With the Pixel 4, I recognize that it is quite difficult to fault Google’s smartphone. Exposure and white balance are under control and it is really in rare cases that the Pixel 4 is wrong. Thank you for Machine Learning and the Pixel Neural Core (which replaces the Pixel Visual Core by the way). Like the Pixel 3, the Pixel 4 is one of those smartphones that we draw all at once while being 99% sure that the photo taken will reproduce exactly what we had in mind.

The night vision is obviously still there and it’s still just as impressive. If I had the feeling that the iPhone 11 Pro had made a giant leap forward to position itself as one of the best, I always prefer the results of the Pixel 4. So yes, the white balance can make you think of a photo day by moment but the details are better represented where it is necessary and above all, the Pixel 4 is more permissive when you are not stable with your smartphone. To this night vision is also added now Astronomical photography which allows very long exposures when the Pixel 4 is on a tripod. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to test this function, thank you Paris …

On the side, finally, of the functions, there is obviously the AF tracking, still as practical to follow a subject, the Top Shot function which detects movements and allows you to take a burst in order to choose the best photo after the fact. To this is now added Live HDR. Basically, you see what the final photo is going to be. It is very practical and above all, it allows you to adjust the exposure as well as possible and to have exactly the desired photo. Finally, selfies can only accommodate one camera on the front. Exit therefore the very wide angle of the Pixel 3. On the other hand, the front camera of the Pixel 4 is slightly wider than the main of the Pixel 3 so it is a kind of in-between.

Here are some sample photos to get a better idea:

Photo gallery

Software Engineer | Tech Enthusiast

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