If you remember the mayhem caused by the Google Pixel 6 Pro from last year, then you'll also recall how simply divisive it was. Many Pixel fans will attempt to rewrite history and state that it was the best thing since sliced bread, but it was anything but. It was a good smartphone with a lot of problems, and in the case of the Google Pixel 7 Pro, Google has attempted to right a lot of those wrongs by approaching the same recipe with alternative ingredients.
For the most part, the company has managed exactly that. This is the best Google Pixel smartphone to have ever been released -- no contest. It has the best display of any Pixel (sans some issues that we'll get into), the best camera, and, controversially, the best SoC of any Pixel, too. Google Tensor G2 does a lot to right the wrongs of its predecessor thanks to improvements in the modem, GPU, and cores.
Does the Google Pixel 7 Pro score the highest in arbitrary benchmarks? Absolutely not. Is it a good phone that most people can (and will) like? Absolutely yes. It has a lot of charm, great software, and a fantastic camera that makes this device an excellent all-rounder. It's going to be my daily driver for the foreseeable future, and it's been a while since I've been able to say that about a Google Pixel smartphone.
Google Pixel 7 Pro
The Google Pixel 7 Pro is the latest and greatest Pixel smartphone, and it rights a lot of the wrongs that its predecessor faced. I can wholeheartedly recommend one of these for pretty much anyone.
Google Pixel 7 Pro: Specifications
Google Pixel 7 Pro
Dimensions & Weight
RAM & Storage
Battery & Charging
USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2
About this review: Google Ireland gave me the Google Pixel 7 Pro on the 10th of October, 2022, for IrishTech. While the company gave us a review unit, it did not have any input into the contents of this review.
Google Pixel 7 & Pixel 7 Pro: Pricing & Availability
You can buy the Google Pixel 7 Pro starting with 128GB of storage and 12GB of RAM for a starting price of $899. It's available throughout the U.S., Europe, and some countries in Asia. You can buy it today from Google's own store, Best Buy, and other retailers.
- Pixel 7:
- 8GB/128GB: $599
- 8GB/256GB: $699
- Pixel 7 Pro:
- 12GB/128GB: $899
- 12GB/256GB: $999
- 12GB/512GB: $1,099
Google Pixel 7 Pro: Design
The Google Pixel 7 Pro doubles down on the design language started by the Google Pixel 6 series. It has the same iconic camera visor on the back, an all-glass design, and rounded sides on the display. It does away with the two-tone design language, the curved sides are more subtle, and the camera visor has circles around the camera lenses to make them stand out more.
The metallic bar has a glossy finish on the Pixel 7 Pro, and it seems to dent and scratch fairly easily. I'd potentially look at picking up one of the recommended cases for the Google Pixel 7 Pro to try and prevent that problem. The camera visor also blends slightly more into the side rails of the phone. The Pixel 6 series last year was quite polarizing in its design, and I imagine that if you hated that design, you’re not going to be a fan of this one either, despite those refinements.
The power button and the volume button have also been moved down slightly, meaning that you can't reuse your cases from last year's Pixel 6 Pro if you're planning to upgrade. I still find the actual placement of the buttons strange, because it's a lot harder to take a screenshot than it probably should be. I'd prefer if the power button and the volume button positions were swapped. Finally, there's a mmWave window at the top.
As for the display, it gets pretty bright and looks excellent. It's a big 6.7-inch QHD+ 120Hz AMOLED panel, though it's set to full HD by default in the device settings when you first boot it up. We'll be working on a dedicated display review in the future so keep an eye out for that, but for the layperson like me who doesn't really care about color accuracy and all that, I find that the display is great.
The Pixel 7 Pro display gets pretty bright and looks excellent
The phone is basically the same weight as the Google Pixel 6 Pro, and the weight feels evenly distributed throughout the phone. The same "hollow" feeling is present as was the case with the Google Pixel 6 Pro, but I really can't bring myself to care. It's not noticeable in normal usage, and it's partially a byproduct of how easy it is to swap out the display on this device. In other words, you get added repairability, but you also get a hollow feeling. I know which I'm choosing.
There are dual speakers that actually sound more or less even, though it may sound as if the top-firing speaker is slightly quieter at first. That's because of its location, as it's placed inside the earpiece grille. These speakers don't sound as good as the Google Pixel 6 Pro's -- they're fine, but they have a much louder high-end. They don't hold a candle to the likes of the Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro.
Google's Pixel 7 Pro doubles down on the already-great design that the Pixel 6 Pro had. While I miss the dual-tone design and I'm not a big fan of how easy it seems the aluminum visor scratches, the rest is an improvement. This is an iconic, unique design that I absolutely love, and I'm really, really glad that Google is keeping it around for yet another generation. I would have loved compatibility with previous year's cases, but it's not a deal breaker in any way.
Google Pixel 7 Pro: Performance
Google Tensor G2 is the successor to last year's Tensor chipset, a mobile chipset made specifically for Google's own Pixel smartphones. Google likes to work on custom silicon for more specialized projects, such as its AV1 encoding VCUs for YouTube.
“Open up your camera and you have a live view and a lot of really interesting things are happening all at once. You’ve got imaging calculations. You’ve got rendering calculations. You’ve got ML [machine learning] calculations, because maybe Lens is on detecting images or whatever. During situations like that, you have a lot of computation, but it’s heterogeneous,” Phil Carmack, Vice President and General Manager of Google Silicon said in an interview with Ars Technica last year.
Heterogeneous means that all of it runs on different parts of the chipset at the same time. The difference between Tensor (and, thus, Tensor G2) and any other Qualcomm, MediaTek, or Exynos chipset is that Tensor is made for the software, and the software is made for Tensor. This chipset isn’t being used anywhere else, and it’s specifically created for use on Google's own smartphones. It gives it an inherent advantage in optimizing its own smartphones.
Last year, Google talked a lot about how optimizing individual parts may grant better peak CPU and GPU speeds which will look great in benchmarks, but they “don’t always reflect real-world speed”. As a fair warning, it is very true that Google's Tensor G2 does not compete all too highly in benchmarks. That's not to say that it's bad, but we're well past the stage where we can say that a phone will undoubtedly perform worse simply because it scores worse in an arbitrary benchmark. Besides, if it’s just as good an experience in real-world use as competitors that may score higher on CPU-bound tests, then who cares?
Google Tensor G2 has the following components:
- 2x Cortex-X1 cores
- 2x Cortex-A78 cores
- 4x Cortex-A55 cores
- 1x Tensor Processing Unit (TPU)
- 1x Low-power “Context Hub”
- 1x Titan security chip
- 1x Image Signalling Processor (ISP)
- Exynos 5300 modem
- 1x ARM Mali G710 MP07
The TPU is Google’s integrated machine-learning engine and is custom-made by Google for running the company’s own machine-learning algorithms. It’s tailored specifically towards the company’s vision for a smartphone. In the case of the ISP, key algorithms are now part of the chip itself, rather than part of the software to be translated and executed on the chip. One of the most interesting parts of the chip is the Context Hub, which enables low-power ambient AI features like always-on display and Now Playing to run all the time without noticeable battery drain.
Google Tensor G2 still retains ties to Samsung's Exynos chipsets, with drivers making direct reference to "Exynos" by name. This chipset also has a brand-new Samsung modem, the Exynos 5300. It's never been used in any previous Samsung device before, and from what we can see so far, it performs a whole lot better than last year's Exynos 5123 modem, meaning you get better network reception on the Pixel 7 Pro than last year's model.
Sustained performance and thermals
The Google Pixel 7 Pro still heats up a fair bit in some situations, but nowhere near the extremes of the Google Pixel 6 Pro. It's a lot more usable, no longer as hand-singingly hot, and it seems to dissipate the heat better across the body of the phone rather than centering all of it on the left-hand side. I have had a number of friends who bought the Google Pixel 6 series complain about the heat of their smartphones, and safe to say, the Google Pixel 7 Pro really improves things in that department.
As for sustained performance, the same applies, too. Last year, I identified a rather major performance drop-off when the phone hit a certain temperature. That doesn't seem to be the case here, as it manages to maintain performance even under load and in intense heat. Running the phone at full throttle for half an hour in our sustained performance tests shows an improvement over last year's Pixel 6 Pro, too.
Google has made some pretty big improvements in performance
One particularly interesting aspect of the above results is that it's throttling to a minimum value in and around the maximum of what the original Tensor could achieve. It throttles to roughly the same percentage, but even that throttle is already as good or better than what last year's Pixel 6 series could achieve.
What this points to is that Google has made some pretty big improvements, and it also means that it's unlikely Tensor requires as much energy to function at the same level as last year. This would explain why users are reporting generally better battery life.
Power draw and performance
Burnout Benchmark allows us to easily measure the power consumed by a chipset in a smartphone. When we tested the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 initially, we spoke with the developer, Andrey Ignatov, to get a sense of how the app works. He told us to run the app with a fully charged device on the lowest brightness and with airplane mode enabled, and so, all of the data collected here is under those conditions. Ignatov told us the following tests are run on different components of the SoC as part of the Burnout Benchmark:
- GPU: Parallel vision-based computations using OpenCL
- CPU: Multi-threaded computations largely involving Arm Neon instructions
- NPU: AI models with typical machine learning ops
Google Tensor G2 uses about the same energy as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 at first, with both chipsets peaking in energy usage just below 14W. While that's a lot of power, that kind of drainage would only ever happen temporarily. As you can see from the above graph, Tensor G2 does not maintain that for longer than a minute. It sits at just above 10W for a while and then drops down to as low as 5W (though temporarily).
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 does a significantly better job in CPU performance over time, achieving significantly better than Google's Tensor G2 -- all while requiring only a couple more watts of power. In GPU, things are a little bit closer, but the Adreno GPU of Qualcomm's latest chipset still outdoes Tensor G2's Mali offering fairly handily.
The higher wattage required to get a higher amount of CPU performance is largely why the Google Tensor G2 still produces quite a bit of heat. Wattage gets converted to heat, which is why the power is drawn at once, the warmer your phone will be.
Gaming performance and storage speed
The Google Pixel 7 Pro comes with the ability to decrease your display resolution to 1080p -- something that, for some reason, is actually set right out of the box. You can increase your display resolution to 1440p from your display settings, but if you're a gamer, maybe pause for a moment.
With a lower screen resolution, you'll have a much better time when playing games, and that's thanks to the fact that there are fewer pixels that your phone needs to render. This in turn reduces stress on the GPU and ensures a better, more fluid gaming experience. If you're playing titles like Genshin Impact or anything else graphically intensive, it might be worth switching to 1080p when playing just for that extra frame rate boost.
These scores are good enough for gaming, and are significantly better than what Google Tensor was capable of last time around. It's still not quite on par in graphical performance when compared to other flagship devices, but it's high enough up there that most people won't care. As is always the case, don't buy a Google Pixel phone for gaming, but if you like to partake in a bit of light gaming, then there's nothing wrong with picking one up.
As already mentioned, arbitrary benchmarks don't really mean anything these days. If you're going to judge a phone based solely on a benchmark, then you'll end up with phones that prioritize performance over all else. Smartphones like the Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro would likely come out on top (a great device, mind you), but others, like the Black Shark 5 Pro with all of its excessive thermal output would as well.
Google Pixel 7 Pro: Battery life & Charging
The Google Pixel 6 Pro was a mess when it came to battery life. For some, it was manageable, but for others (like myself) it wasn't great at all. While I noted in my review at the times it was below average for me, it only got worse over time. The phone would heat up, it would thermally throttle, and the battery life was terrible.
With the Google Pixel 7 Pro, it's certainly more of a mixed bag, but I can handle it a lot more than I could last year's model. While I'm still working out quirks in relation to battery life (for example, the display is a disproportionate energy drainer at higher brightness), it's been a whole lot better than last year's model.
There are a couple of reasons for this -- the first is that Google switched the A76 medium cores to A78 cores. It's a small improvement, but there are efficiency and performance improvements to be had from that switch. While those improvements documented by Arm also account for a downgrade in node size (the A76 was originally designed for 7nm), the 50% efficiency improvement isn't all explained by a decrease in size.
This is essentially the second generation of nearly the same product, and the engineers will have worked out more techniques for improving efficiency and power consumption
On top of that, there's also the element of experience. This is essentially the second generation of nearly the same product, and the engineers will have worked out more techniques for improving efficiency and power consumption. For example, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1, I asked Qualcomm at the time if they attributed the efficiency improvements to the switch to TSMC. While they admitted that it was a big factor, they said their engineers, the second time around, had spotted things they would have done differently on the design and the driver level and reimplemented them in better ways. As a developer myself, I can definitely attest to finding improvements when trying to reimplement things the second time around.
Case in point, from my own usage, the Google Pixel 7 Pro heats up less, seems to drain less energy randomly, and overall, is a major, major improvement for Tensor G2. Is it perfect? No. Is it computationally a Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 competitor? No. However, it's much improved, and given that the software experience and performance does make this a high-end flagship chip competitor (outside of gaming), I can look past inefficiencies when analyzing a chipset in smartphones that are considerably cheaper than the competition with a lot of great features. I have still run into the occasional random battery drainer, but aside from that, it's been good.
I still detest that Android 13's battery reports require me to use a third-party app to measure the screen on time (I use GSAM), but we make do with what we have. As you can see from the above, my screen on time varies wildly. I'll get five hours of screen on time in an otherwise intensive day (which is good), and then other times, I'll get as little as three hours. The screen on time is inherently personal to a user (and as such, should not be the only metric of comparison), but it's a decent way to compare battery lives when it's unlikely my phone usage will wildly differ from one phone to the next.
I haven't really been able to figure out the cause of why I have some days with a whole lot less battery, though, aside from noticing that my battery drains way quicker with the brightness up. Another thing I've started to do is reboot my phone daily, and for whatever reason, that seems to improve the battery life situation too. I'm not particularly sure why... but it does. We'll be following up with more detailed findings.
The other major issue that I do have with the Google Pixel 7 Pro is its charging speed. The company says that 23W charging with a USB-PD-compliant charger will get you 50% in half an hour, which is true, but to fully charge the phone takes in and around an hour and a half. A little tip though: while Google only sells a 30W charger, the Google Pixel 7 Pro does not charge at 30W, nor does it even come with a charger. You'll need to buy a separate charger.
For anyone who has used any kind of fast charging technology, this is pretty slow. While I respect the dedication to a single standard in the support of USB Power Delivery, it is a bit of a hard pill to swallow. You can't expect to toss the phone on to charge for ten or fifteen minutes and get a day's power or anything like that. OnePlus famously once said you could get "a day's power in half an hour" with the OnePlus 3, and it would charge from 0% to 60% in that time. We haven't even reached that in the Google Pixel series six years later.
The phone does get a little bit warm when it’s charging, but it's not uncomfortably hot. I can use it regularly when it's plugged in charging, especially with adaptive charging enabled when I'm charging it at night. Adaptive charging slows down the charging speed to ensure your phone will be at 100% by the time your alarm is set, meaning if you're going to sleep for six hours, what would normally be an hour and a half to charge will take roughly six hours. That means you get a much slower charge, but in exchange, much less heat.
The Google Pixel 7 Pro, just like its flagship predecessors, supports wireless charging. The charging coil is right in the center on the back and will work on pretty much any Qi wireless charger that you have lying around. It supports up to 23W charging on a Pixel Stand 2. The charging coil is in the center on the back of the phone, and that’s where you can also reverse wireless charge at 5W speed. Reverse wireless charging (dubbed “Battery Share”) will charge any Qi-enabled device and can be useful in a pinch.
Google Pixel 7 Pro: Camera hardware and overall impressions
The Google Pixel 7 Pro has a few camera hardware changes in comparison to the Google Pixel 6 Pro. It retains the same 50MP Samsung GN1 main sensor, but from there, it's basically all different. The ultra-wide has been swapped over to a Samsung GM1 (instead of an IMX586), and it's also 21% wider and can be used for macro photography. As for the telephoto, it's increased from 4x to 5x, and Super Res Zoom has increased from 20x zoom to 30x zoom.
The Samsung GN1 primary sensor measures 1/1.31 inches, it has a 1.2μm pixel size, an f/1.85 aperture, and an 82-degree field of view. Google also employs Quad-Bayer pixel-binning on this camera, giving a real resolution of 12.5MP. There is no option to take a high-resolution 50MP photo in the camera app either.
There are other improvements too, mostly in the Image Signalling Processor (ISP) and in Tensor G2's AI models for photography processing. Most of these changes are behind closed doors though and the company wasn't too verbose in explaining what has actually been improved or changed.
My overall impressions are, coming from the Google Pixel 6, that there isn't much change. In fact, while I've found that Night Sight performs better (both in quality and in speed), I feel that autofocus can actually be worse than the Pixel 6 Pro. I suspect this is just a software oversight that can be ironed out, but for now, it's been pretty frustrating taking photos and having them come out blurry. I've noticed this to be the case nearly only at night, so I really hope that there's a software fix for this. It makes it quite difficult to just take my phone out and take a photo.
Sometimes, it just seems to struggle with autofocus in the dark.
As for the other cameras, these are overall pretty good changes. It's nice to have an actual macro mode that isn't terrible, and the increase in telephoto from 4x to 5x is a welcome change. There are improvements (again thanks to AI) in zoom levels between 1x and 5x that make use of that telephoto too, so overall, it's a pretty clever camera system.
There are some Night Sight changes too. Most notably, you can choose between it being off, a three-second Night Sight shot, or a six-second Night Sight shot.
The one thing that bothers me about the camera experience is the same problem that has bothered me on every Pixel smartphone. It’s the fact that there isn’t a dedicated gallery app—instead, you need to use Google Photos. Google Photos feels quite bloated for just quickly looking at pictures I just took, so I felt the need to install a third-party gallery app. I realize I might be in the minority when it comes to this, though, so if you’re used to the Google Photos app, then you won’t have any issues with it on the Pixel 6.
Google Pixel 7 Pro: Camera app
The Google Pixel series has always been known for one standout feature -- Google Camera. It's where a lot of the magic happens on Google smartphones, and it's got a few cool features that put it above the rest. It's pretty simple and easy to use, and there's not a whole lot that it can't do. Just keep in mind that there is no Manual or Pro mode on Google Camera -- Google's entire software philosophy is on making photography a seamless experience that you as an average consumer don't have to worry about. So if you are someone who likes to take complete control over how you shoot a photo, a Google Pixel isn't the best choice. You do get RAW support, so it's not completely hopeless on this end either.
Google Pixel 7 Pro: Main camera
The main camera is generally the bread and butter of every smartphone, and that's the case here, too. It's unchanged hardware-wise -- it's the same Samsung 50MP GN1 sensor as was on the Google Pixel 6 Pro, though a lot of what Google has always done in cameras is more software-based. As an example, it's the same hardware, but the company has managed to increase the speed of Night Sight shots.
If you want to take a look at the uncompressed photos from the main sensor, they're in the below Flickr album.
Please note that any photos shown here are compressed, and so, for any pixel-peeping, you'll want to look at the Flickr album above for the best-quality shots. Overall detail and lighting can still be examined even in compressed conditions, which is what we're going to be looking at here.
I took the Google Pixel 7 Pro out around Dublin and took a number of shots around the city, both during the day and at night time. As expected from a Pixel, I was greatly impressed by the photos that I took. The photo on the left was taken in a relatively quiet part of the city, though with a nice sky view in the evening time. On the right is a busier part taken just minutes later, and the sunlight casts over the glass building ahead. It doesn't overexpose anywhere in the sky and is pretty true to life, which is an important aspect to get right.
Of close-up subjects and of city skylines, it's able to pull off a great shot pretty much every single time
Overall, the Google Pixel 7 Pro does a great job in daylight, though that's the case with most smartphones. Of close-up subjects and of city skylines, it's able to pull off a great shot pretty much every single time. Thanks to the sensor, there's also a small amount of natural bokeh when taking shots of close-up objects -- see the photo of the Google Pixel Watch up above for an example of that.
As for nighttime shots, the Google Pixel 7 Pro yet again does a stellar job at balancing light with darkness. There are no over-exposed areas, and nor is there too much noise in the shot. Obviously, things like moving people and cars are blurred, but by all accounts, the photos that it gets out are really, really good. I don't have a lot of complaints here -- it's just excellent.
On top of being an all-around better performer, the stabilization is superb
As for video, again, the main camera of the Google Pixel 7 Pro does wonders. This is much, much better than the Google Pixel 6 Pro. On top of being an all-around better performer, the stabilization is superb as well. Recording at 4K 60 FPS is no problem for this camera's stabilization, and I've dealt with plenty of flagship smartphones that have struggled in those conditions.
Google Pixel 7 Pro: 5x Telephoto and Super Res Zoom
The 5x telephoto on the Google Pixel 7 Pro is pretty interesting and does a good job for a zoom lens. It definitely suffers a little bit quality-wise when taking photos at 5x zoom, but it looks good enough for most scenarios that you'd be using such a zoom in. For anything in between, you'll probably just zoom normally anyway.
In normal daylight, it works fine, even if it looks somewhat smoothened out. It struggles to capture detail on things that are far away, such as the above. While it's good for seeing further, I wouldn't rely on it getting you a good photo every time. I cropped the photo from the main sensor to further compare, and while it's not as detailed, it captures color better.
It's a decent telephoto camera in daylight, but I feel like users will more likely gravitate towards a 2x or maybe even 3x zoom. The 4x telephoto on the Google Pixel 6 Pro was zoomed in enough to have utility over the other sensors, while not too zoomed in that it totally lost quality. With a 5x telephoto, it's a lot more situational, and the quality drop-off is quite extreme in some photos.
From what I observed, in low light, the telephoto camera entirely falls apart. Photos are often grainy or even blurry at times, and I've noticed that the camera can suffer quite a lot from light diffraction too, hence why the lights above look like stars. It's not as a result of a dirty lens either -- it was cleaned before taking any of these photos. It just does that, which is unfortunate. I don't really care, but I'm sure some people will. I'm just disappointed that the photo quality is this poor in low light.
As for Super Res Zoom, the results at 30x are surprisingly decent in normal lighting. It's easy to use and I got some pretty good results out of it, considering how far it was.