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Google Pixel 7 Review: Minimal Upgrades, But Still a Rock-Solid Smartphone

It’s smartphone update season, and Google recently launched its latest Pixel offerings, including the Google Pixel 7. By now you’ve probably already heard there are no standout features in this updated phone, but for Android lovers, a refresh of the design and the addition of some new-to-this-phone toys may be enough to make it a worthy upgrade.

The SPY team has reviewed a lot of new smartphones in 2022, and we’ve been eagerly testing the new Google Pixel 7 to see how it compares to the previous generation of Pixel phones as well as flagship models from Apple and Samsung. For our Google Pixel 7 review, we turned to Erin Lawrence, one of our most experienced product reviewers.

After spending a couple of weeks with this phone, we’re finally ready to break down what’s new, what’s not, and whether it’s a good smartphone for you. So if you’re wondering whether it’s worth upgrading, keep reading for the SPY Google Pixel 7 review.


Google Pixel 7 Review: At a Glance

Pros

  • Great, sharp display
  • Beautiful design
  • Outstanding camera
  • Solid battery life
  • All around great Android phone

Cons

  • Not many new or standout features
Specs:
  • Dimensions: 62.9 height x 76.6 width x 8.9 depth (mm)
  • Weight: 195 grams
  • Main Display: Full screen 170 mm (6.7 inches) QHD+ display with 19.5:9 aspect ratio
  • Rear Cameras: 50MP (f/1.85) main, 12MP (f/2.2) ultrawide
  • Front Camera: 10.8MP (f/2.2)
  • Processor: Google Tensor G2 with Titan M2 security co-processor
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 128, 256 or 512GB
  • Battery: 5,000 mAh
  • Water Resistance Rating: IP68 protection

What’s New With the Google Pixel 7?

The most noticeable change to Google’s 7-series phones is the slightly shinier new look. Now with the prominent camera band layered in a matte aluminum band, the phone looks sleeker and more modern. The pudgy camera band does also allow for an improvement in the cameras in the Pixel 7: The Pixel 7 now has the same camera array as the Pixel 7 Pro, which we’ll get to in a bit more detail. If you’re looking for nitty-gritty details, the Pixel 7’s screen is actually a millimeter smaller than the 6, not that you’d really notice it with average use.

Although it’s an iterative change, I still like the distinctive look of the Pixel 7. Sure, the camera hump continues to be pronounced, but I’m happy to see that Google modified the arrangement by swapping the glass strip in favor of a metal strip housing. Considering how prone the cameras were with last year’s Pixel 6 lineup, I’m glad to see the change.

Erin Lawrence | SPY.com

With a 6.3-inch display and smaller bezels, Google bills this as a deliberate decision, saying, “Pixel 7 is purposefully more compact than Pixel 6.” Weighing just 197 grams which is a smidge more lightweight than before, it’s offered in Snow (white), Obsidian (black) and brand new Lemongrass (a minty pastel green). The Pixel 7 has 8 GB RAM (Pixel 7 Pro has 12) with 128 GB / 256 GB storage.

The Pixel 7 is also now 25% brighter than the Pixel 6 for better operation outdoors and in bright environments.

The other surprise is that with these modest upgrades, Google is holding its price at last year’s MSRP of $599.


Google Pixel 7: Slight Improvements To Design and Performance

The new Pixel 7 smartphone does offer some improvements over the previous generation. Key among them is that the Pixel 7 is powered by Google’s newest Google Tensor G2 processor and comes out of the box with Android 13.

Running GeekBench 5, it managed to reach scores a smidgen under 3,000.  While it’s a far cry over what other high-end phones have attained , I did use it for everyday work tasks like email, watching YouTube videos, taking photos and videos, as well as using my personal favorite Recorder feature for notes and interviews. I found the phone to be quick and speedy and all the action seemed to unfold smoothly on the screen. Knowing that, synthetic benchmark tests don’t always represent the every day, real performance we see from using them.

The new Google Pixel 7 both looks and feels sleek and slippery and you should really invest in a good case to keep it safe. The edges on the 7 are a bit on the squared side, and they’re ever so slightly sharper than those on the Pixel 7 Pro which has more of a sloping design. Again, these aren’t likely to be features that will make or break your buying decision but it’s just something to be aware of.

Despite the outward protrusion of the camera band, the phone lays flat and the aluminum camera band actually gives you a bit of a ledge to grip, given the glossiness of the phone’s glass rear.

Erin Lawrence | SPY.com

The Pixel 7 has all the apps and software you need for most day-to-day business and personal tasks, including Gmail, Chrome browser, YouTube, plus Photos, Safety, Google Home as well as the basic text/Messages, phone and Camera.

The user experience is solid, it’s easy to navigate, and as Android phones are known for, you can customize many aspects of the design and user interface. Google’s Material You feature lets you take the customization and personalization of your phone to greater lengths, pulling colors from photos or wallpapers to create s unique and design-centric screen.

Another part of the reason why it feels so fast is because it’s powered by Google’s new Tensor g2 processor. In running a couple of synthetic benchmark tests, it managed to achieve a score 3,127 with GeekBench’s multi-core test. It’s actually better than the scores put up by rival smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S22.

Not surprisingly, it handled graphically intensive action games with ease. Animations were sharp and smooth, so it’s a solid contender as a gaming phone.


Google Pixel 7 Review: Still a Fantastic Display

The Pixel 7 screen has almost no bezel or edge, and it’s bright, sharp and detailed, making it easy to read or watch. If you want details, it’s got a 20:9 aspect ratio, Full HD+ resolution (1080 x 2400) OLED at 416 PPI. With an up to 90 Hz refresh rate, it should be good for gaming and watching action-oriented videos.

The Pixel 7 managed to achieve a peak brightness output of 1,400 lux in my testing, which made it more than bright to see on sunny days. Just for reference, the budget friendly Google Pixel 6a topped out at 885 lux, so there’s a vast improvement here.

Erin Lawrence | SPY.com

Battery Life & Charging

In my opinion, Google’s battery life has always outshone Apple and the iPhone. The “Beyond 24-hour battery life” is back again, which should give you more than enough juice for a day or two, depending on your use, and if not, Extreme Battery Saver can extend that up to 72 hours.

When it comes to the actual battery spec, the Pixel 7 has a 4,355 mAh battery, and that’s actually a smidge smaller (or maybe I should say “deliberately more compact”) than the Pixel 6 (that was 4,614mAh).

Pixel 7 also boasts Battery Share which lets you recharge your Pixel Buds Pro or another device off the back of the phone. It took me only about 50 minutes of charging to add 63% to the battery.

While admittedly I use this phone a little less than normal, the battery definitely lasted me about two days before needing a charge. However, I will say that it’s still less than its bigger sibling in the Google Pixel 7 Pro. That comes with little surprise because of the size disparity between the two, with the Pixel 7 Pro’s beefier 5,000 mAh.

Erin Lawrence | SPY.com

Google Pixel 7 Camera: Great Photos Are Standard

Google’s cameras have been superior for many years, and as I noted earlier, Google has again improved the camera in the Pixel 7 so that it’s now equal to the one in the Pixel 7 Pro. That will mean better low-light photography, improved 4K video and a wide field of view for group shots. The zoom is a bit better (8X Super Res Zoom on Pixel 7 while Pixel 6 had 7X). The front camera is also improved, up to 10.8MP from 8MP so your selfies should look a bit better. The rear cameras are the same as the Pixel 6.

I’ve always found the Google Pixel photos to be clear, colorful and detailed, even in awkward lighting situations or darker environments. I did feel that some of the photos can be almost too colorful, since there’s some pretty dynamic intensity in some shots that could make it lean a bit towards hyper-colorful. This was most notable in some close-up photos I took of silk flowers where the colors looked more intense than what I could see with the naked eye. So if the worst thing about the camera is, “too good on picking up color,” I can’t make any other complaints about the camera.

A close-up photo taken with the Google Pixel 7. Erin Lawrence | SPY.com

Some of Google’s special camera features are on rinse and repeat here including Cinematic Blur, which “makes Hollywood-like videos,” Real Tone, which better and more accurately replicates all skin tones, plus Night Sight, Portrait mode (which takes gorgeous selfies!), Photo Unblur (to improve your blurry pictures; new or old) as well as Magic Eraser for Photoshop-type editing right on your handset. I won’t go into detail about how these photo features perform since they’ve already been written about extensively.

A selfie captured by the author while testing the Pixel 7 smartphone. Erin Lawrence | SPY.com

The Verdict: A Lot of Smartphone for $600

This phone is by no means an overhauled device and none of the new features or spec improvements are worth upgrading for on their own. Overall, there’s a fresh new look and some minor feature improvements. If you’re the type of user who has to have the latest phone, or if you’re already due for an upgrade, then I definitely recommend making the switch. This is an intuitive smartphone with a very impressive display, and the photography features are even more impressive than the beautiful design.

Erin Lawrence | SPY.com

So, Should You Buy It?

None of these will probably entice you to switch particularly if you already own a Pixel 6. But if you have an older phone or you really count on using your smartphone for photography, then the Pixel 7 would be a more-than-worthy upgrade, particularly taking into account the price is the same as it was last year.

One of the other unintended benefits of owning a Pixel smartphone is that they will receive the latest Android software updates before others from Samsung, Motorola, or OnePlus. Not only are these updates accompanied with security fixes, but also software features.

There are also Pixel exclusive features you won’t get in other Android phones, like Live Translate, that translates message in-app instead of having to run Google Translate. For example, if you use WhatsApp to converse with others abroad, Live Translate will automatically translate messages within WhatsApp to make it more convenient for you to follow the conversation.

And lastly, the Google Pixel 7 is perfect for photographers that want a phone that not only takes incredible photos, but also having tools to edit and enhance them later on. Magic Eraser is one of those tools you never knew you’d need until you accidentally come across it in Google Photos. You don’t need to be a Photoshop pro in order to pull off Photoshop tricks.


Editor’s Note: SPY’s review of the Google Pixel 7 was originally published on October 30, 2022. After conducting additional brightness and speed tests, we updated this review on November 28 with additional information. Our overall assessment of the phone remained unchanged.