I pre-ordered the ba­sic Pix­el (5", 32G, Sil­ver) be­cause the 5X was get­ting on my nerves (more be­low); here are early-days notes. Tl;­dr: Ug­ly, solid, fast, cool cam­er­a.

No new build · So, here’s the se­cret in­sid­er sto­ry of where lit­tle mo­bile builds come from. Word goes around that the soft­ware has to ship by Date X to meet the hard­ware launch date. Usu­al­ly it’s not ready, so what hap­pens is they ship an in­ter­im build and then, some weeks lat­er when the phones hit the shelves and peo­ple are start­ing to turn them on, they get prompt­ed to down­load the “real” build.

Objets d’art

Ob­jets d’art

Not this time, a first in my pretty-comprehensive ex­pe­ri­ence of new An­droid flag­ship­s. The OS it came with is the OS I’m run­ning, and I have to say the bug den­si­ty is pleas­ing­ly low. Gmail crashed once in the first cou­ple days, but didn’t dam­age any­thing.

Wires! · It came with: A wall plug with a USB-C sock­et on the back, a USB-C/USB-C wire, a USB-C/USB-classic wire, and a lit­tle USB-C/USB-classic hard-plastic thing. Nor­mal­ly I’d de­cry this as ex­cess, but our house­hold had reached crit­i­cal den­si­ty of USB-classic wires, al­ways one to hand when you need­ed one, and thus the sharp ini­tial build-up in the USB-C in­ven­to­ry is wel­come.

A first for me was the wire-based transfer-your-Android-life func­tion. Run a USB wire be­tween them, let ’er rip, and whoosh! go all your con­tacts and pho­tos and mes­sages and what­ev­er from old to new. It still has to down­load and in­stall your apps (yawwwwn), but boy, does that ini­tial trans­fer ev­er go fast.

Autumn evening in Vancouver

Vancouver’s per­ma­nent­ly un­der con­struc­ton.

It’s ug­ly · I got sil­ver be­cause all the oth­er phones in the house are fea­ture­less black rect­an­gles and I got sick of look­ing round the liv­ing room for mine then pick­ing up the wrong one. But it was a bad col­or cal­l.

I mean, se­ri­ous­ly. It’s re­al­ly a dingy not-quite-white, big blank bezels top and bot­tom of the screen with cam­eras and sen­sors stand­ing out block­ish­ly, met­al sides in­ter­rupt­ed by ran­dom strips of plas­tic here and there. I’ve nev­er owned an iPhone but I’m told the Pix­el looks like one. Ex­cept for, don’t they say that iPhones look good?

I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to make two-thirds of the back met­al, one-third whitish.

It’s more or less ex­act­ly the same size as the Nexus 5X it re­placed, but no­tice­ably heav­ier. The fin­ger­print read­er is in the same spot on the back, and works per­fect­ly. I have no emo­tion­al re­ac­tion to the way it feels in my hand.

Any­how, I’m se­ri­ous­ly in the mar­ket for a de­cent case.

Trans­late · My lit­tle girl’s in a Mandarin-bilingual el­e­men­tary school; she was hav­ing trou­ble with home­work so I woke up the phone and said “OK Google, trans­late ‘I’ll be there by noon’ in­to Mandarin‘’, and it did. I was im­pressed. Do all phones do that now?

An­droid 7.1 · The new launch­er looks OK, but the search bar that used to run across the top has been re­placed with a pull-tab to get Google stuff, and a time/­date/weath­er read­out. I’m grumpy be­cause I lost a cou­ple app spaces in the grid, and the apps on my front page are some­thing I cu­rate very care­ful­ly.

Aside from that, well… the no­ti­fi­ca­tion in­ter­ac­tion has been changed slight­ly in a way that doesn’t help me but oth­ers might like. Other than that, can’t say as I see much new.

Bat­tery · Me­h. It gets through the day, but just bare­ly. If I could have got one that was 25% thick­er and had sub­stan­tial­ly more bat­tery I’d do that in a flash. But that’s not what the world’s mobile-phone de­sign­ers ap­par­ent­ly want to hear.



Per­for­mance · I even­tu­al­ly came to hate the Nexus 5X per­for­mance. Not be­cause it was slow, as such; once you got an app up and run­ning it was just fine. But it didn’t have enough mem­o­ry, so apps didn’t stick around and were al­ways be­ing restart­ed. And the app-start pro­cess was hor­ri­ble, I think for the rea­sons de­scribed in the AnandTech 5X re­view  —  scroll down to the “NAND Performance” sub-head.

The Pix­el keeps lots more apps around and starts them faster. The sub­jec­tive dif­fer­ence in “how fast it feels” is dra­mat­ic.

The app I par­tic­u­lar­ly care about start­ing fast is ob­vi­ous­ly the cam­er­a. I use Lightroom’s  —  hey, a pho­tog has to buy in­to one cloud or an­oth­er and for bet­ter or worse I’m in Adobe’s. Rough tim­ings: The Google cam­era starts in just un­der one sec­ond, Lightroom’s in well un­der 2.


At my lo­cal bot­tle shop.

The cam­era · Look, all mod­ern mo­bile cam­eras are to­tal­ly great giv­en enough light. One big delta is low-light per­for­mance, and rather than say any­thing, I’ll let you judge by the pix em­bed­ded here. All of them are low light, none straight-outta-the-camera. I have to say that Lightroom’s in­te­gra­tion be­tween edit-on-the-phone and edit-on-the-Mac is fab­u­lous.

Should you buy one? · They’re not cheap, par­tic­u­lar­ly. You can count on hav­ing the lat­est soft­ware. I think the hard­ware is ac­tu­al­ly good. But don’t get Sil­ver.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Hanan Cohen (Oct 27 2016, at 04:21)

I also like to have good control over my home screen. I am very happy with the Nova Launcher.


From: eerie quark doll (Oct 27 2016, at 08:50)

I recently acquired the XL in black for continued Project Fi use (go go Fi - i can't say enough good things about Fi); i had the Nexus 6 prior to this.

The first day, the size decrement was noticeable but not a deal killer; beyond that, doing things out of order (starting Hangouts before my contacts were synced, re-pairing to the Moto360 before all the apps were downloaded from the Play store) was the only pain in phone transfer. I do notice that fewer apps are held in stasis than with the 6.

My battery life lasts for days, but i rarely use the phone, so the standard YMMV applies.

All in all: positive.


From: eerie quark doll (Oct 27 2016, at 09:04)


I too use Nova Launcher instead of Pixel launcher; two cheers for both that, and the new UI of the dialer in Nougat.


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