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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Pixel 3 Review: Still The Best Android Phone Around, No Longer The Best Value

Google is on its third generation of Pixel phones, after years of making the best Android-powered devices around. The Pixel 3 maintains its commitment to software and hardware quality, but tough competition and poor value make it hard to recommend.

The Pixel 3 is still the best Android device you can buy, assuming you want a “pure” software experience and you’re not impressed by some of the more flashy features from the likes of Samsung. That’s especially true if you’re looking for an excellent camera: despite the single rear sensor, Google’s optics and image processing are second to none.

But the $800 entry price—a full $150 greater than last year—is a huge bummer, especially if you’re an old-school Nexus fan used to at least some semblance of value. And if you’re platform agnostic, then Apple’s latest iPhone X models (including one that’s a bit cheaper) make a compelling argument against Google’s latest flagship.

Note that we’re reviewing the smaller Pixel 3, with its 5.5-inch screen. The larger Pixel 3 XL has almost identical software with a larger 6.3-inch screen, including an unsightly “notch” that allows its corners to rub right against the phone frame.

Elegant Looks With A New Glass Back

The Pixel 3 looks a lot like the Pixel 2 from last year, with a few small but crucial differences. On the front the phone’s screen has been stretched on the top and bottom, employing the popular curved corners to minimize bezels, a la Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note series. Luckily, this doesn’t mean the stereo speakers are out, as they’re present and louder than ever. The combination is appealing, even without using and any tricks to curve the glass or the screen.

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Speaking of glass, the rear panel now uses it instead of metal on the original Pixel and Pixel 2. That’s good news if you’re a fan of wireless charging (which Google itself pioneered, then abandoned a few years ago, allowing Apple to make it into a headline feature). The Pixel 3 and its bigger brother are all compatible with standard Qi chargers, though the fast charging feature seen on Samsung devices for years is unaccountably reserved for Google’s own Pixel Stand and similarly licensed (and expensive) chargers. Google made a big deal out of highlighting the frosted glass on the bottom portion of the rear panel, keeping the Pixel’s two-tone rear aesthetics intact, but it’s impossible to deny that the phone is more fragile now.

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