Google’s new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones are smarter, faster, take better photos and have the undeniable Google styling cues.

The Japanese have a saying, “Mochi wa mochiya” – for rice cakes go to the rice cake maker. I am beginning to think that for pure Android at its best go to the pure Android maker. Enter Google’s Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

To carry the Japanese sayings further, “Motoki ni masaru uraki nashi” – no fountain can rise higher than its source. What I have found in using the phone for a few days pre-release is that Google knows its stuff (with the help of the HTC crew/technology it bought last year). It wrings every scrap of performance and intelligence from the flagship Qualcomm 845 processor and thumbs its nose at the multi-camera movement.

I am sure Google engineers said, “Let’s prove that multiple camera lenses are the lazy way to take better photos.” Google’s single camera is class leading, and its AI smarts make taking a good shot easy.

This is the first look – a full review will take another week or so.

5.5” Google Pixel 3 and 6.3” Google Pixel 3 XL

Pixel 3

(Australian website here)

The two phones are almost identical save the screen, battery and weight so don’t feel shortchanged if you buy the more pocketable Pixel 3. That is a clever move by Google as often other brands make unacceptable compromises between Standard and Plus sizes. So we will just refer to it as the Pixel 3 in this overview.

First impression

My review unit is ‘Just Black’, but it also comes in Not Pink and Clearly White. I love the attention to detail with the soft touch matte textured Gorilla Glass 5 back that gives great grip and eliminates all but the oiliest of fingerprints. It has a full aluminium frame and fingerprint magnet Gorilla Glass 5 on the front. That is good to minimise the risk of cracks when dropped, but I recommend a tempered glass screen protector and bumper case as well.

Google now includes fast wireless (10W) and fast charging (18W), IP68 water/dust resistance and USB-C Gen 1. All of which gains extra points in GadgetGuy’s flagship review paradigm.

Missing, on purpose, is a microSD slot. Google offers unlimited photo and up to 4K video Photo Cloud storage. Its cloud allows for facial, scene and location recognition to help organise photos.

The catch 22 is that in Australia mobile data is costly, so you need to ensure cloud transfer uses Wi-Fi only. But it also supports OTG which means that you can plug in an external USB-C or SSD and use Files to transfer data to that device. Considering a 128GB USB-C flash drive is about $50 it is cheap backup storage.

Horsepower to burn

The 10nm Qualcomm 845 is the 2018 flagship system on a chip. It appears in the LG G7 and V40 ThinQ, HTC U12+, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note9 (some markets), Sony Xperia XZ2/Premium/3, OPPO Find X/Lamborghini and many more.

Compared to last year’s flagship 835 it is about 25% faster, 30% faster graphics, better battery management, has Quick Charge 4, and a 3rd generation Hexagon DSP for advanced AI.

Google has slightly underclocked the chip to ensure good thermal management. Initial multi-core GeekBench tests show it is about 15% slower than the LG V40 ThinQ but its faster than the Huawei P20 Pro.

We are yet to analyse how ‘standard’ the Pixel 3 implementation of the 845 hardware is (as it should be) or if it has used other component brands for cost saving.  We suspect that as an Android reference device it uses everything the 845 can throw at Android and that is a good thing.