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  • Google Pixel 4 review—Overpriced, uncompetitive, and out of touch.

Add this to Google Keep. On your phone or tablet, go to images. This year, Google seems like it is really trying to find something unique to offer, with new features like the Google-developed "Motion Sense" radar gesture system, face unlock, a 90Hz display, the next-gen Google Assistant, and a new astrophotography mode. At the prices Google is asking, though, the Pixel 4 is hard to recommend.

The company saddled the phone with an ultra-premium price tag, but the Pixel 4 can't compete with ultra-premium phones. The phone falls down on a lot of the basics, like battery life, storage speed, design, and more. The new additions like face unlock and Motion Sense just don't work well.

It seems like Google just cut too many corners this year. The strongest feature of the Pixel line—the camera—hasn't really gotten better, either. The camera sensor is the same as last year, and the big new software feature, astrophotography mode, is also available on older Pixel devices and the much cheaper Pixel 3a. The Pixel 4 isn't bad in a vacuum, but the rest of Google's Android competition gets better every year, while Google stands still. Google just can't do premium right. So, when can we have the Nexus line back?

We'll start with the best part of the Pixel 4: the back. The Pixel 4 is, as usual, a glass and aluminum sandwich, with a Gorilla Glass 5 front, an aluminum frame exposed along the sides, and a glass back. When we talk about the rear design of the Pixel 4, note that between the three available colors, there are two totally different finish options that greatly affect the feel of the device.

The black version has a standard glossy glass back that uses Gorilla Glass 5, and the black version feels like the usual slippery fingerprint magnet that all glass phones are. The white and orange colors use a different glass panel that isn't Gorilla Glass, though, and these get a special soft-touch treatment. While this soft-touch glass back might be reminiscent of the soft-touch back on the Pixel 3 last year, this year there have been a number of improvements.

Second, while the Pixel 3 coating tended to absorb and hold onto fingerprint grease, the Pixel 4 hides fingerprints very well. The soft-touch Pixel 4 back looks and feels clean all the time, and I'm not compelled to scrub it down with soap and water every five minutes like with the Pixel 3.

I'd rather we just not make phones out of glass at all, but if we have to, the soft-touch coating on the white and orange Pixel 4 really is the best in the market. The back provides an agreeable amount of grip that you don't get with regular glass. It looks great, it stays clean, and it seems durable.

Google Pixel 4 review: is this pixel-perfect?

The entire back of the Pixel 4 is great, actually. This year, Google jumped on the multi-camera bandwagon and added a 16MP telephoto lens. It's a similar solution to the iPhone 11, but I daresay Google's camera block looks better. In person the black interior does a good job of hiding the clutter of the camera hardware, which I think looks cleaner than the purposefully highlighted lenses of the iPhone People love to imagine shapes in these camera assemblies, so if the iPhone 11 Pro camera block looks like a stovetop or fidget spinner , the Pixel 4 looks like a shocked robot or Pikachu face.

Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL review: the best Android experience

Thanks to the black interior, though, the Pixel 4 is considerably more subtle about it. The black camera block provides a pleasing contrast to the white or orange backs, and the black ring around the perimeter of the phone ties it all together pleasantly. The back really is handsome.

Google Pixel 4 review: the ultimate Android phone has a big flaw

While the sides are eventually aluminum, you won't be touching any bare metal when you hold the Pixel 4. The sides have what Google calls a "matte finish hybrid coating," which just feels like a hard plastic shell. It doesn't seem any grippier than anodized aluminum, so I'm not sure why Google bothered. The camera's digital zoom is excellent, and I was able to take steady shots of objects that were super far away.

With the second telephoto lens, the camera takes better portrait shots and it does a better job at smoothing out tricky areas like hair and fur than before. The camera's handling white balance is also on the nose. Photos I took under yellow, warm lighting would come out as if they were taken in white light. In addition, the two sliders to adjust shadows and highlights give me a useful extra layer of control. In short, the Pixel 4 XL is one of my favorite phones when it comes to using the camera. Pixel's lowlight mode known as Night Sight is still impressive, brightening up and sharpening dark scenes.

I didn't get a chance to test the astrophotography mode because I was in New York and couldn't get to an area dark enough to take star shots, but my colleague, Juan Garzon was able to capture some. Stay tuned though, because we'll do a lot more camera testing with the Pixel 4 XL in the coming days and weeks. While this means its top bezel is now thicker, it also means you can enjoy watching content on a seamless, uninterrupted screen. The big display also makes use of the faster refresh rate. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL's displays refresh at a rate of 90 times a second, while most phones refresh 60 times a second.

But refreshing more often means playing games and scrolling through webpages and apps feels more fluid. Seeing this on a bigger screen makes the upgrade that much more noticeable.

Test summary

Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy , which we encourage you to read. Discussion threads can be closed at any time at our discretion. Don't show this again. Samsung Galaxy S20 5G. Design 8.

It's the fourth generation now, yet we've got to ask—what's the point of the Pixel line?

Features 8.