Pixel Perfect: Week 1

Last week I started a collection on Google+ called “Pixel perfect.” The idea is to share the little things about using a device for an extended amount of time. These are things most phone reviews miss due to being written after only a few days. You can follow the Google+ collection to see these thoughts in brief, easy to read posts. Then once a week, they’ll be collated into an article here where I’ll expand on them. Read on for the first instalment of “Pixel perfect!”

Fit And Finish

Opinions on Google’s design choices vary greatly from person to person. Some hate it, others love it. I’m in the latter category. The Pixel isn’t the most stylish I agree, but I don’t think it’s ugly. The two-tone finish on the back of my very silver XL is distinctive enough to make the Pixel distinguishable in a crowd of silver and black slabs.

The buttons are clicky and tactile with just the right amount of travel. Sometimes even flagships can have buttons that feel mushy, which always puts me off. Thankfully the Pixel is good in this department.

All of the Pixel’s edges are chamfered and the overall “wedge” shape make it comfy to hold. The wedge is probably one of the most underrated aspects of the design. The bottom, where you hold the phone, is nice and thin while the thicker top half eliminates the camera bump and allows extra battery space. The 2.5D glass on the front and back blend nicely with the chamfers so that swiping from the edge of the display is a pleasure.

The aluminium used for the unibody is smooth to the touch without being slippery. Although I use a case when I leave the house, I like to keep my devices naked when it is safe to do so. The 6P was far too easy to drop and I count myself lucky that I didn’t damage mine.

Add all of these together and you get something quite special. Although I loathed the way things looked in the early leaks, the Pixel has won me over like the 6P before it.

Good Vibrations

Haptic feedback is easily overlooked for something that is so important to the feel of a device. The Nexus 6, along with most of Motorola devices for that matter, suffer from bad vibrations. I always heard the Nexus 6 vibrate rather than feel it which was especially bad for typing. The 6P improved on that and now the Pixel has taken another step forwards. The vibration motor is very quiet, but it’s easy to feel from your jacket pocket. If you turn the vibration down low for typing it almost feels like a physical keyboard.

Audio

I was disappointed when Google decided to give the Pixel XL one bottom speaker. The Nexus 6 and 6P had spoiled me with their dual setup. The speaker in the Pixel really isn’t that bad though. It gets reasonably loud and there’s not a lot of distortion. But I don’t like the position, it’s easily blocked by a finger. I hope Google change things with the Pixel 2, especially when you consider that they’ve made good speakers before.

In-call Audio

I wasn’t expecting much from the earpiece on the Pixel. When using other devices with a conventional earpiece I always have to max the volume. Once again the Nexus 6 and 6P spoiled me here. Because one of the dual speakers was used for call audio, the quality was great. Thankfully I didn’t need to worry. The earpiece isn’t quite as good as the ones on the aforementioned Nexus devices, but I’m not constantly maxing it out. I usually only need the volume at 75% which leaves me plenty of room for adjustment in loud environments.

Audio Capture

You know the Pixel has a great camera. Google spent a lot of money on advertising to make sure you know that. The pictures come out great in most situations and the video is smooth and rich. But nobody ever talks about the audio when recording video or using an app.
The phone has two microphones, one on the back near the camera and one to the right of the USB-C port. I don’t now what kind of mics Google used but they’re pretty good. I recorded some video in the forest one night and the audio was clear. You can even hear the owls and deer rustling around. The stereo comes across well too, especially with headphones.

It’s worth noting that the stock Google camera captures audio in mono. If you want stereo then you’ll want a 3rd party app for that.

Headphones

The quality is definitely better than the substandard performance the 6P gave in this area. I don’t have to max the volume and the quality is good.
The overall pros and cons are listed below.

Pros:
• Audio capture is a cut above the rest
• Earpiece reaches the perfect volume and sounds good
• Main speaker is loud enough to be heard in a different room

Cons:
• Main speaker is in a stupid position
• Speaker isn’t as good as previous Google flagships
• Faces the wrong way

That’s it for this week! I hope you enjoy this article and the ones that follow. If you have any questions about the Pixel feel free to let me know on Google+ or Twitter!

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