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December 1, 2017

Google Pixel 2 review, a month later: Still solid, still the best

by John_A

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It’s worth taking another look.

We published our original Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL review over a month ago, back on October 17. Since that review went up, the Pixel 2 has been my “main” phone. Sure I’ve switched away to different devices as needed, but I’ve always fallen back to it. That means I’ve spent well over a month with the Pixel 2 in my hand and my pocket, getting valuable experience using it that just can’t possibly make it into a first review.

With that new knowledge, it really warrants another take on the Pixel 2. A look at what’s held up, areas that still detract from the experience and whether I think it’s still worthy of the strong endorsement handed out back in mid-October.

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Still great

Google Pixel 2 What I still love

Unsurprisingly, I’m still loving pretty much everything about the Pixel 2. The phone’s relatively compact size is still refreshing, giving me the freedom to easily use it in one hand no matter the situation and being able to toss a case on it without sacrificing usability. Sure the screen size feels a tad restricting when I need to use multi-window mode or have time to kill and pull up YouTube, but considering those situations are a minority of my phone use I far prefer the ability to manage it in one hand the rest of the time.

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The dual speakers are great to have, offering more volume than I really need and not blowing out even when you crank it up. I regularly listen to podcasts and music in the morning, simply carrying my phone around the house for a bit rather than bothering with a separate speaker, and the Pixel 2 gets the job done. It’s also plenty loud for turn-by-turn navigation when I’m using Android Auto in a car mount. Even the most devout “no bezel” faithful can recognize that having solid, loud speakers is at least partially worth that extra bezel space.

The true bread and butter of the Pixel experience is the software, and it continues to be great. Both on Android 8.0 from launch and on the Android 8.1 Developer Preview the past two weeks, my Pixel 2 has been solid. No crashes, hang-ups, stutters, slow-downs or instability. Google’s launcher is silky smooth and so I’ve stuck with it, even though I have been using the Google Now Feed less and less as it becomes more of a news reader than an assistive information feed.

Google continues to have amazing software, and it keeps getting better over time.

But really, it’s all of the little touches of the Pixel’s software — beyond what we’d normally call “stock” or “clean” Android — that make it a treat. The ambient display is good, the “Now Playing” feature is fun to have and getting the earliest access to all of Google’s latest features with Android 8.0 and its top-tier apps is an added value. And for someone who utilizes so many Google services on any phone I use, not having duplicate manufacturer apps getting in my way is a plus.

Battery life has continued to surprise me as well, going through a full day with some to spare even on tougher weekdays with lots of use. I’m not entirely sure how Google’s getting so much out of such a small battery, but my experiences are backed up by tons of other Pixel 2 owners.

The camera, of course, continues to be fantastic. It’s near-impossible to take a bad photo with this phone, and every single time you press the shutter button you expect great results. Leaving HDR+ in “Auto” mode and just letting the software do its thing yields wonderful results — slightly punchy colors, super sharp edges and great dynamic range. And this is before Google starts offloading its processing to the Pixel Visual Core co-processor.

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Using a couple other phones recently I still wish the Pixel 2 had some sort of a “Pro” mode with more adjustability, and some more built-in features like a time lapse mode. But with shot-to-shot results this good, it’s hard to argue with Google’s simple approach. And don’t forget the added Pixel benefit of free full-resolution image uploads to Google Photos for a couple years.

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A couple bugbears

Google Pixel 2 What I don’t like

A couple of the Pixel 2’s flaws were easy to see right from the start, and haven’t gotten any easier to deal with over time.

I still hate that I don’t have a headphone jack on this phone. I understand why Google removed it, and I use Bluetooth headphones and speakers now more than ever, but I still hate it regardless. (Yes, I just used “hate” twice — I mean it.) The Pixel 2 comes with a headphone adapter, thankfully, but I have more than one place I want to plug a standard 3.5 mm cable into my phone — this leads me to carry the dongle around the house and to and from my car, inevitably leaving it somewhere inconvenient. Thankfully replacement adapters cost just $9 from the Google Store, but that’s $9 more than I should have to spend on this kind of thing.

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I also switch between phones often and it’s still hit-or-miss whether the various USB-C adapters from each will work on the other devices. Yay, more adapter headaches! Switching to USB-C headphones, in theory, would be fine, but there are hardly any to choose from ($149?!) and they don’t work with my laptop or desktop computers.

I see a world in the not-so-near future where Bluetooth and USB-C have removed the need for 3.5 mm cables and ports for all but very specialized use cases. But that’s the future, not the present, and this is still a notable downside on the Pixel 2 when other really good phones offer a headphone jack.

For as good as the Pixel 2’s hardware is, it doesn’t exactly turn heads or steal quick glances.

I also totally understand much of the criticism lobbed at the Pixel 2’s simplistic design. I still enjoy the quality of the materials and construction, but I sure do wish Google took a few more risks with this hardware. As I said above I don’t really mind the size of the bezels above and below the screen, but the overall look of the phone that just feels set in the past — even when compared to the curves of the Pixel 2 XL. The closest thing you get to visual flair on the Pixel 2 is in “Kinda Blue” with its contrast-colored power button — that isn’t saying much. Aside from that, the rest of it is just very generic.

Some (myself included) appreciate the clean, simple and understated lines of the Pixel 2. But I see the desire from others to have their phone actually turn heads and get noticed. The Pixel 2 isn’t stealing any quick glances the way a Galaxy S8, LG V30 or HTC U11 is.

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Great phone

Google Pixel 2 One month on

Over a month after first giving a strong recommendation to the Pixel 2, I can easily still stand by it. In my eyes, it still offers the absolute best overall Android experience, carefully weighing usability and features both in the hardware and software.

It’s the best Google has made and a fantastic phone I think anyone would be happy using.

The screen size is relatively small compared to the rest of the flagship industry, but it offers great one-handed usability with plenty of room to get typical tasks done. The software doesn’t have every feature, but it has amazing speed and consistency along with seamless integration of Google’s latest features and apps. And then there’s the camera. What an amazing selling point. Anyone can pick up a Pixel 2 and take wonderful photos in a wide variety of situations with no photography skills at all.

We can all quibble about the value proposition of the larger Pixel 2 XL at $849, with a larger screen and battery not quite justifying the $200 price bump. But when you look at what the Pixel 2 offers for just $649 it’s no surprise that I and the rest of the Android Central team rate it so highly. And an extra month of use has only solidified my feelings on this great phone. Even taking its imperfections into account, it’s the best phone Google has made and one I think anyone would be happy using.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

  • Pixel 2 FAQ: Everything you need to know!
  • Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL review: The new standard
  • Google Pixel 2 specs
  • Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel 2 XL: What’s the difference?
  • Join our Pixel 2 forums

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