Google Pixel 4 review: A great camera isn’t enough to justify the high price

In the Pixel four, Google has shipped a great digicam boosted with program wizardry. The company’s 1st telephoto lens is top of its class (do not just take our word for it: Right here are 24 photographs taken with the Pixel four). It tends to make portrait taking pictures a breeze and it truly is no more time impossible to zoom in on distant objects and just take a good image. I didn’t get a likelihood to check out out the camera’s new method for getting pictures of stars for the reason that they were not noticeable in the region I was testing. 

But for all the camera’s brilliance, the Pixel four and Pixel four XL (these telephones are virtually equivalent except in sizing and battery) are expensive provided the volume of storage integrated: The Pixel four starts at $800, (£669, AU$1,049) while the Pixel four XL costs $900 (£829, AU$1,279). They only come with 64GB at people costs, with no alternative to increase. If you want 128GB, you can expect to will need to tack on $one hundred far more.

Genuine, other premium telephones land in the same cost vary. But the Iphone 11 ($699 at Apple), which also has dual rear cameras and would not have expandable storage, starts at $699 (£729, AU$1,199) for 64GB — $one hundred significantly less than the Pixel four — and the 128GB variation is $one hundred fifty less expensive than the 128GB Pixel four. The Galaxy S10 costs $900 (£799, AU$1,349) but it has expandable storage, and the $950 Be aware 10 (£899, AU$1,499), which would not have expandable memory, at least has 256GB on board.

When it arrives to very affordable Android solutions, we reside in a planet of loads. There are about, oh, a million Galaxy S10 solutions you can pick from that have comparable cameras. The Galaxy S10E, while not as premium as the Pixel four, costs $750, has expandable storage and has two cameras. And then there’s the dim-horse OnePlus 7T ($599 at OnePlus).

To compensate for its restricted storage, Google is banking on Pixel proprietors employing Google Shots for storing photographs and video clips. But if you happen to be like me and you like onboard storage, syncing all your stuff with the cloud is not appealing. Google also adjusted its policy so that Pixel four customers do not have unlimited image storage at first quality. In its place, you can upload articles at substantial quality, which is a decreased resolution with significantly less depth.

If you happen to be joyful to use Google Shots and have the funds, look at the Pixel four. It does have some nifty captioning program with its Android 10 update, and you can expect to have a single of the best cameras close to. But if you want to get the most for your income, look at the Galaxy S10, the Be aware 10, the OnePlus 7T or even the discounted Pixel 3 from final year. All of these telephones have more time battery lifetime than the Pixel four far too, and the Pixel 3 costs only $499, has a great digicam and can update to Android 10. 

Consider a further dive into Pixel four comparisons: This is how the Pixel four differs from final year’s Pixel 3how it stacks up versus the Galaxy Be aware 10 and all the Pixel four specs compared to the Iphone 11, Galaxy S10E and OnePlus 7T.

Update, Nov. 1, 2019: Adds battery examination benefits and remaining scoring.

Pixel four gets two rear cameras, astrophotography

The Pixel 3’s most powerful feature was its exceptional digicam, and we were being impressed by how well it captured attractive photographs employing just a single rear digicam at a time when its rivals required two or far more. On the Pixel four, nevertheless, Google extra a next telephoto digicam (while which is continue to less than other telephones that wield 3 or even 4 rear cameras). Google says it went with a telephoto digicam as an alternative of a huge-angle for the reason that it felt it was far more important to zoom. The Iphone 11 Pro, Huawei Mate thirty and Be aware 10 telephones have huge-angle cameras while, which can fit far more articles in every body.

The next telephoto lens allows the digicam to just take improved portrait pictures. It also does a improved work at smoothing out tricky areas like hair and fur than ahead of. (A difficult image of me, shot on a significantly windy working day, did have patchy areas while.) You can also just take portrait photographs from farther absent now.


Google extra a telephoto digicam to the Pixel four.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The camera’s HDR Plus feature, which compiles many images to give you a single photograph with the best publicity, can be seen in serious time. This is helpful, but I do not like how you can not switch off HDR in basic. I’m not constantly a lover of the influence, on any cellular phone seriously, for the reason that it can make photographs search unrealistic or extremely processed. While I can tweak images with the two new sliders for shadows and highlights, it truly is not intuitive how to use these sliders for the influence I want. I generally just randomly played close to with the sliders with no serious thought what the image would search like.

Pixel’s reduced-light method, Night Sight, is continue to impressive, brightening up and sharpening dim scenes. It can be so excellent that you can use the Pixel four to just take photographs of a starlit sky — a course of action that commonly calls for a DSLR, a tripod and a lot of persistence. I couldn’t examination the astrophotography method for the reason that I was in New York and couldn’t get to an region dim sufficient to just take star pictures, but I did contain a pic below taken by my colleague, Juan Garzon. The image is very impressive in that a cellular phone can seize starlight at all. Stars aside, the Pixel 4’s reduced-light method continue to impresses me every time I press the shutter.

The Pixel four will take sharp and lively photographs with great contrast. The camera’s mixture of telephoto and digital zoom performs great and I was able to just take constant pictures of objects that were being considerably absent. Although zoomed images continue to confirmed digital artifacts, it was impressive how apparent the images came out. The camera’s dealing with of white balance is also place-on: Shots I took less than yellow, heat lights would come out as if they were being taken in white light. So considerably, the Pixel four has a single of my most loved cameras to use on any cellular phone.

Shots taken on the entrance-experiencing digicam were not as crisp and sharp as from the rear shooter and in dim lights faces were being muddled close to the edges. But with sufficient lights, pictures were being sharp and colours were being legitimate to lifetime. 

One particular compact quibble — Google hid standard image options, these kinds of as the flash and timer, so you now have to faucet on an additional arrow on the camera’s interface to phone these equipment up. Although it declutters the interface, I locate it bothersome to faucet close to for some thing as standard as the flash.

The Pixel four quickly taken care of this sunny working day in Inwood Hill Park.

Lynn La/CNET

Although there are some patchy areas close to Jessica’s hair, portrait method continue to did a excellent work dealing with the blur influence.

Lynn La/CNET

Getting a image of stars with the Pixel 4’s new astrophotography feature.

Juan Garzon/CNET

Zooming in on a crane with the phone’s 8x digital zoom.

Lynn La/CNET

The earlier image, zoomed out.

Lynn La/CNET

Pixel 4’s radar-assisted facial area unlock and Android 10

Equipped with a sensor chip Google dubbed Soli, the Pixel four allows you to do a couple of new items like use your facial area to authorize digital payments and navigate your cellular phone with touchless gestures. This suite of capabilities is identified as Movement Sense, and you can toggle it on in Configurations.

Movement Sense makes use of radar for motion tracking, and it can feeling your hand when you get to for your cellular phone to unlock it (the facial area unlocking alone is carried out by an infrared digicam, just like Confront ID on the Iphone). This combo of readying and then firing up the tech tends to make facial area unlock more rapidly. I do not have to faucet to wake the screen or press any buttons beforehand, nor do I have to swipe afterward to use my cellular phone. It can be all just a single fluent, cohesive course of action.


Google’s facial area unlock makes use of a mixture of radar and infrared sensors.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Be aware that while facial area unlock is protected sufficient to authorize digital payments, it truly is not one hundred% infallible. Google acknowledges that a person who seems to be like you, these kinds of as a twin, can unlock your cellular phone. Confront unlock also performs with your eyes shut or when you happen to be sleeping, which is a large vulnerability. (I can already consider my friends staying able to idiot close to with my cellular phone if I’m caught napping close to them, and there are substantially far more really serious achievable eventualities.) Confront ID for the Iphone only performs if your eyes are open, and at a single issue it looked like Google would provide the same choice to customers, according to the BBC. But it would seem the firm taken off the alternative, and no a single is aware of why. (Google did not reply to a ask for for remark but promised to fix the trouble with a patch. The Eyes Open up feature turned obtainable in April 2020.)