Editors' Note: The Pixel 7 Pro isn't a huge departure from its predecessor, but it builds on an already superb phone with improved cameras, delightfully smooth operation and a beautiful new design. It's one of the best Android phones you can buy in 2022, and that's why it's now been awarded a CNET Editors' Choice Award. The original review follows.
I've spent over a month using Google's new flagship phone and it's a superb smartphone that's deserving of its flagship title. Google's $899 (£849, AU$1,299) Pixel 7 Pro only has a few changes from last year's-- a phone that won my CNET Editors' Choice award pick in 2021 -- but the tweaks the 7 Pro has received all add up to make this phone even better.
Instead of needlessly replacing everything it did with the Pixel 6 Pro, Google instead made subtle refinements, packing the 7 Pro with improved cameras, some new neat tricks and dare I say it, an even more attractive design. And of course it's running the second-generation Tensor G2 chip, Google's in-house processor. It's very much evolution over revolution, and the $599 Pixel 7 is taking much the same track. It's a small step, so if you have a Pixel 6 Pro already, this isn't a phone to consider upgrading to.
- Stellar camera with awesome new features
- Design refinements look classy
- Android 13 is bliss to use
- Battery life is only OK
But if you're using an older Pixel phone -- or any phone from before 2020, for that matter -- then you'll get a lot from the Pixel 7 Pro. It's powerful enough for demanding gaming, it can take stunning photos from its three rear cameras and the Android 13 software is slick and enjoyable to use.
And it does all this while undercutting Apple and Samsung on price, especially compared to the $999and the $1,199 . And sure, the Pixel Pro isn't cheap, but if you want to put cutting-edge flagship mobile technology in your pocket, it's a superb option.
One month with the Pixel 7 Pro
It's mid-November and I've now spent over a month using the Pixel 7 Pro since it first landed in my hands. You can readon how the phone has coped in this time, but in short I'm still just as impressed with it as when I first published this review in October.
I still love the refreshed design, the Android 13 software runs beautifully well and while on benchmark tests that Tensor G2 chip might not be a powerhouse, I'm yet to find anything in the real world that can really slow it down. I claimed battery life was good, but not outstanding in my initial review, and I stand by that -- you can get a full day of use, but don't expect to get far into the second day if you don't give it a charge overnight.
I've spent a lot of time testing the cameras, putting itand putting its . The Pixel's shots are beautiful, offering some of the best-looking shots of any phone around, but it's , so keep that in mind if dark city streets are your photo subject of choice.
Overall though the Pixel 7 Pro remains a superb Android phone that ticks every box you'd want from a top-end smartphone and does it at a price that manages to undercut its main rivals.
Subtle tweaks make for a beautiful Pixel 7 Pro design
The design is similar to last year's 6 Pro but refined. Google has kept the characteristic strip along the back of the phone that houses the multiple cameras. But it's now a recycled aluminum strip that blends seamlessly with the metal surround of the phone, which I think gives it an even more luxurious look.
The back is still glass and the front still curves nicely at the edges. But if I'm nit-picking -- which I am -- there's a bit of a lip between the curved display and the metal surround, so the two don't blend seamlessly together. It's definitely noticeable when you hold it, but does that actually matter in everyday use? Of course not.
It's IP68 rated for water- and dust-resistance, so spilled drinks are no concern. I do worry, however, that the shiny aluminum strip could be susceptible to damage -- in the short time I've been using it, several small hairline scratches are visible on its surface and over time that could become more pronounced. Whether that's a problem remains to be seen. It could even develop a nice patina, like aged brass tools, that actually enhances the look.
The display measures 6.7-inches and has a 3,120x1,440-pixel resolution -- exactly the same as the 6 Pro. It's sharp, bright enough to easily see outside and it's got bold, punchy colors that I found lent themselves well to vibrant YouTube videos, but still managing not to look overly saturated or unrealistic. There is a "Natural" color mode if you do want to tone that down, though.
There's no question it's a big phone, which is great if you love big-screen gaming or watching a lot of videos on the move. But people with smaller hands -- or who simply prefer smaller phones -- could find it cumbersome, especially when holding it one-handed. You can opt for the smaller Pixel 7 with its 6.3-inch display, but you'll also make tradeoffs by not having a telephoto camera. Speaking of which…
Pixel 7 Pro: Superb cameras, with welcome upgrades
The cameras on the Pixel 6 Pro were superb, capable of taking gorgeous images that rivaled any of the top phones around and I'm pleased to see that Google hasn't lost its touch here. The Pixel 7 Pro's 50-megapixel main camera takes stunning photos, with beautiful dynamic range and vivid colors. It's grouped up with a dedicated 48-megapixel telephoto lens that's exclusive to the Pro, and a 12-megapixel ultrawide camera.
In my time testing the phone so far I've been really impressed at the images it's been able to take. It put up a seriously strong fight against the iPhone 14 Pro, often delivering better-looking colors than Apple's flagship could achieve. It even performed well against the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Sure, Samsung's 10x optical zoom is longer, but I actually find that the 5x optical zoom on the Pixel to be a real 'zoom sweet spot' for me that I actually find myself wanting to use much more often.
It's taken some glorious shots on my test photo walks around autumnal Leith, Scotland, with vivid blue skies being captured perfectly and tons of detail recorded by that high-resolution sensor.
The optical telephoto zoom has been given a boost from 4x zoom to 5x. That might not seem like a huge difference but it gives that extra reach in its zoom to help you crop tighter in scenes and find more interesting compositions that'll be lost to your iPhone 14 Pro-packing friends with their 3x max zooms.
Like the main lens, the telephoto zoom captures images with spot-on dynamic range and little noticeable color shift when you switch lenses. The 48-megapixel resolution means that images look pin-sharp, but it also gives some scope to further digitally zoom in. Personally I love the telephoto zoom here; it's a great sweet spot between the iPhone's 3x zoom and the Galaxy S22 Ultra's 10x zoom that means I'm more likely to actually use it.
Switching to the ultrawide lens lets you pack much more into your scene and I'm impressed that there's again almost no noticeable shift in colors between lenses, with the deep blues of the sky and the warm tones on the buildings of Leith looking almost identical, whatever zoom mode I was using.
The ultrawide lens's new autofocus system brings a neat new macro photography feature. You can now focus within a couple of inches, which lets you get super close up to the more tiny things in the world like bugs or flowers. It works well too, automatically switching to macro mode when it detects a close up object and focusing quickly. It offers the same solid image quality as the lens provides on any regular wide-angle image too. Sure, it might not be a must-have feature for most people, but it's a fun addition on those occasions when a fancy-looking bug wanders your way and you want to capture a close-up shot for the 'gram.
Night time images are good too, with the Night Sight mode able to take 6-second exposures, capturing huge amounts of light, even in dark conditions. Night shots are bright and crisp, although I've found issues with flaring if there are street lamps dominating in the image, which sometimes spoils the look. Against the competition, night shots from the Pixel 7 Pro look brighter and sharper than from Samsung's S22 Ultra, but the iPhone 14 Pro's look brighter still.
Google has continued to make a variety of AI improvements to the camera software too, with updates to its Real Tone algorithm for better capture of darker skin tones. My colleague Lisa Eadicicco put that to the test in CNET's Pixel 7 review by taking photos with the Pixel 7, the iPhone 14 and the Galaxy S22, then having the people in the photos pick their favorites -- you can check out that review to see how the phone fared. There's a new Guided Frame feature that uses audio cues to help blind and visually impaired people take selfies. A neat new trick is the Photo Unblur tool which, as the name suggests, attempts to sharpen blurry or out of focus images.
I tried it on a handful of older photos from my library and the difference can be noticeable, with the definition improving significantly in some shots after the tool has done its magic. It didn't seem to make that much difference to others, however. So if your image is simply a blurry mess, no amount of software tinkering is going to rescue it.
The Pixel 7 Pro's camera system is superb overall that'll suit both keen mobile photographers and casual snappers equally well. Those zoom shots in particular are a favorite of mine and it's that zoom that's one of the bigger upgrades of the 7 Pro over the base Pixel 7, along with the macro mode. For me, that's enough reason to spend the extra, but you'll have to work out for yourself how much of a priority zoom is in your photography.
Pixel 7 Pro has solid performance and slick software
The phone runs on the second generation of Tensor G2, Google's homemade processor. It was a bold move for Google to create its own chip from scratch, rather than use one from the likes of Qualcomm, but in practice it makes little difference to your experience using the phone on a day-to-day basis. The Pixel 7 Pro functions like any other Android phone and although its scores on benchmark tools aren't beating any of its rivals, it's got more than enough power to run beautifully.
Navigating around the interface is swift and lag-free. High-resolution videos stream without issue, switching between open apps is immediate and demanding games like Asphalt 9: Legends and Genshin Impact play at max settings without any noticeable issues. In short, this phone packs a lot of power, but it's the behind-the-scenes stuff that Google says has been boosted with the new processor.
The chip is built with AI and machine learning, with Google saying it's better at AI tasks such as speech recognition, face unlock, object detection in imagery and background noise reduction when you're taking calls.
It's running the latest Android 13 software, which offers a clean and uncluttered interface which I really enjoy using. It's got no bloatware or preinstalled apps on board, which helps it feel streamlined. And, as with Android 12 on the Pixel 6, you can change all the system fonts' color automatically to match the image you've set as your homescreen. Google calls this Material You and it just makes it easy to give your phone a personal touch.
So what don't I like about this phone? Well, battery life could be better. After one hour streaming a YouTube video on Wi-Fi with the screen at max brightness, the 7 Pro's battery dropped from full to 95%. The Pixel 7 dropped to 97% in the same time while both the older Pixel 6 Pro and Pixel 6A dropped to only 98%. After a further hour, the 7 Pro dropped to 87% and was down to 80% after a third hour -- still below the 83% of the Pixel 7 after 3 hours.
Is battery life bad? No, not at all. It's fine. It's just not as good as it could be. But it'll still comfortably get through a day of mixed use. Like pretty much all phones, it'll need a full recharge when you put it on your bedside table at night. But if squeezing every drop of battery from your phone is important then the battery life is worth keeping in mind.
Pixel 7 Pro: Bottom line
The Pixel 7 Pro might not have the same pizzazz the Pixel 6 Pro had last year, but it still offers plenty of improvements to result in a superb phone. The $300 premium the Pro carries over the $599 Pixel 7 is well-reflected with the phone's 48-megapixel telephoto camera, along with the same, larger screen brought over from the 6 Pro.
There's little else I can say that I don't like about this phone, but it's worth mentioning that many of the Tensor-specific features like Photo Unblur, improvements to Real Tone and Night Sight are shared with that cheaper phone. But the hardware exclusives the 7 Pro does have make it just as deserving of carrying that "flagship" status alongside the best from Apple and Samsung.
Google Pixel 7 Pro specs vs. Pixel 7, Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
||Pixel 7 Pro||Pixel 7||iPhone 14 Pro Max||Galaxy S22 Ultra|
|Display size, resolution, refresh rate||6.7-inch LTPO, 3,120x1,440 pixels, 120Hz||6.3-inch OLED, 2,400x1,080 pixels, 90Hz||6.7-inch Super Retina XDR, OLED display, 2,796x1,290 pixels||6.8-inch AMOLED, 3,088x1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||512 ppi||416 ppi||460 ppi||501 ppi|
|Dimensions (millimeters)||162.9 x 76.6 x 8.9 mm||155.6 x 73.2 x 8.7 mm||160.7 x 77.6 x 7.85mm||77.9 x 163.3 x 8.9 mm|
|Weight (ounces, grams)||7.5 oz; 212g||6.9 oz; 197g||8.47 oz.; 240g||8.08 oz; 229 g|
|Mobile software||Android 13||Android 13||iOS 16||Android 12|
|Camera||50-megapixel (main), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 48-megapixel (telephoto)||50-megapixel (main), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)||48-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)||108-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultrawide) 10-megapixel (telephoto) 10-megapixel (telephoto)|
|Processor||Google Tensor G2||Google Tensor G2||Apple A16 Bionic||Snapdragon 8 Gen 1|
|Storage/RAM||12GB + 128GB, 12GB + 256GB, 12GB + 512GB||8GB + 128GB, 8GB + 256GB,||128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB||8GB + 128GB; 12GB + 256GB; 12GB + 512GB; 12GB + 1TB|
|Battery||5,000 mAh||4,355 mAh||Undisclosed||5,000 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Under display||Under display||No (Face ID)||In-display|
|Price (USD)||$899||$599||$1,099 (128GB), $1,199 (256GB), $1,399 (512GB), $1,599 (1TB)||$1,200|