Google Pixel 4 Review

November 14, 2019 | Amy Davies |

Introduction

The Pixel 4 is the latest flagship smartphone from Google.

As we’ve seen before from the company, one of the key aspects of this smartphone when it comes to marketing and promotion of the product is how well the onboard camera performs.

While previous generations of the Pixel phone featured just one lens, the Pixel 4 marks the first time the company has included a dual lens and camera setup.

That means you get a 12.2 megapixel 1/2.55-inch sensor which is paired with a 27mm f/1.7 lens, alongside a 16 megapixel sensor which is paired with a 50mm f/2.4 lens. Unlike other flagships, such as the iPhone 11 Pro, there’s no super wide-angle lens.

Just as we’ve seen before, the Google Pixel 4 is available in two sizes. Both the standard Pixel 4 and the larger Pixel 4 XL feature the same camera setup.

You can’t expand the inbuilt storage with the Pixel 4 - instead it is available in 64GB or 128GB versions, only. At the time of writing, the Pixel 4 price starts from £669, while the Pixel 4 XL price starts from £829.

This price puts it in the same bracket at the more “budget” of the two new iPhones in Apple’s line up - the iPhone 11, as well as other mid-range phones, such as those in the Honor or OnePlus line-ups.

Ease of Use

Google Pixel 4
Front of the Google Pixel 4

For the purposes of this review, we’ve been using the standard sized Google Pixel 4, which has a 5.7-inch screen. This puts it as one of the smaller smartphones on the market, but you may find that you prefer a smaller phone - especially for example if you have smaller hands.

We’ve also been using the new colour for the Pixel 4 - “Orange” - which is actually more like a hot coral colour. Again, it’s down to personal preference whether or not you like it, but it’s certainly distinctive.

The Pixel has always had a slightly utilitarian appearance, but here we’ve got nicely rounded curves that give it a premium look.

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Rear of the Google Pixel 4

One thing you’ll notice about the Pixel 4 display is the lack of a notch to house the front-facing camera - that’s the same on both the Pixel 4 and the Pixel 4 XL (the Pixel 3 XL did feature a notch).

By losing the notch, you lose out on a little bit of screen space, but the overall appearance is arguably more attractive.

The easiest way to launch the native camera app from the lock screen - or indeed any screen - is to double press the button on the side of the phone.

As we’ve seen from previous Pixel phones, the native camera app is a relatively straightforward setup. It doesn’t come complete with a huge array of different shooting modes, while enthusiasts may be disappointed by the lack of any kind of manual, advanced or “professional” mode.

Google Pixel 4
The Google Pixel 4 's Camera Mode

On the plus side, it is possible to shoot in raw format (something which you need to select the from the app menu).

By default, the app launches in the standard “Camera” mode. This is the mode you’ll want to use for the majority of your shots. If you tap the screen, you’ll see some options appear.

First of all there’s the new control for adjusting brightness and shadows, which is controlled via two sliders on the right hand side of the screen. You can also tap a lock icon to enable AF/AE lock, which comes in handy if you’re photographing something with lots of areas of high contrast.

You’ll also notice a “1x” in a small circle which also appears on a slider. This refers to the zoom, and you can drag the slider along to move between the 1x lens, the 2x lens, and digital zoom options in between the two and beyond the 2x lens. You’ll be able to jump straight to the 2x zoom lens if you double tap quickly on the screen, too.

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The Google Pixel 4's Shooting Modes

A small arrow at the top of the screen can be tapped to reveal some hidden options, which includes switching motion on/off, switching on the self-timer, switching on or off the flash, and choosing a different aspect ratio.

You’ll also see the option to switch on raw format shooting if you’ve already enabled this from the main menu. To get to that main menu, tap the cog icon and you’ll see a number of different settings which you can access and change, such as switching on camera sounds, saving the location of your photos and switching on “framing hints” - which gives you hints for taking better photos.

Moving back to the main shooting window - along the bottom of the screen (or to the right if you’re holding the phone in landscape orientation) - you’ll see all the other shooting modes which the camera offers.

To the left of the standard Camera mode, you’ll also find Portrait and Night Sight. To the right of Camera, there’s Video and a More option. Tapping the More option brings up choices including Panorama and Slow Motion. Unlike some other Android models, particularly from the Huawei brand, there isn’t a huge amount of choice here - which is likely to be disappointing for enthusiasts.

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The Google Pixel 4's Image Playback

Night mode is something that we first saw on the Pixel 3. It works by merging together a series of short exposures for the effect of a long exposure, in low light.

New for the Pixel 4 is astro-photography mode, which is part of night mode and will be activated automatically when the phone detects the scene is appropriate. Living in a city it’s fairly hard to get it to activate, and during our time with it, we weren’t able to find a situation which triggered it, but it could be useful for those who take photos in more remote areas.

Portrait mode is something we’ve always been impressed by from the Pixel phones. Despite the name, it can be used with subjects other than humans, such as pets and still life.

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Rear of the Google Pixel 4

It creates a shallow depth of field effect, and it will save two versions of the image on your phone - one with the effect applied, and one without - the latter can be useful if it doesn’t quite work out that well.

In video mode, you can shoot at up to 4K at 30fps. By shooting in Full HD, you'll get access to different frame rates - there’s 30fps and 60fps to choose from, or you can even leave it up to the phone to choose between the two.