A Look at the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

While tech heads around the world waited with baited breath at the reveal of the new iPhone 11, the wait for the Google Pixel 4 event turned out to be anticlimactic by comparison. Not because of the phone itself, but because the device was plagued by leaks in the weeks leading up to the Sept event, and many suspected that Google themselves were the culprits since nearly every aspect of the Pixel 4 and 4XL was known beforehand. Surely there must be something big still hidden behind the curtain, right?

Unfortunately, the leaks were real, and while there were a couple surprises left, in the end the Pixel 4 and 4XL event only served to confirm what we already knew: new Pixels were coming, and for the first time, there was a major redesign and a dual camera setup on the back of the phone. So what are the changes, and of course, which Pixel is right for you? Bfads.net answers this and more in our look at the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4XL.

Design and Form Factor


The first three generations of Pixel phones stood out because of their unique two tone back, which featured a glossy glass top complimenting a matte lower half. The Pixel 4 and 4XL change that up to a more uniform design, with one solid color and finish surrounding the camera suite that is raised slightly and is backed in black. This gives a bit of contrast to both the “Oh so Orange” and “Clearly White” matte finishes, and blends nicely with the glossy “Just Black” finish.

Colors aside, the entire Pixel 4 and 4XL got one of the biggest redesigns the Pixel line has seen, and now sports an aluminum bezel surrounding the phone, also with a matte finish, with a completely flat screen and lacks rounded edges or any bleeding over the sides of the phone, which should please anyone that likes to install glass screen protectors over their smart phones.

There are still stereo speakers, however only the earpiece speaker is front facing, while the other is positioned at the bottom of the phone next to the USB C port. Finally, the contrasting power button is back along with the volume rocker on the right hand side of the phone.

Beneath the 90hz Smooth Display

Beneath the 90hz Smooth Display

Before we get into the most exciting hardware improvement in the new Pixel 4 and 4XL, let’s get the base specifications out of the way. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL have what is considered standard fare for a 2019 flagship. Each have a Snapdragon 855 octa-core processor, 4GB of LPDDR4x RAM, and come in 64GB or 128GB varieties. The only notable hardware difference between the two is the battery, with the Pixel 4XL able to house a 3700 mAh thanks to its larger size, whereas the Pixel 4 sports a 2800 mAh battery.

The major hardware revision comes in the form of the new 90hz smooth display. The Pixel 4 features a 5.7” 440ppi OLED screen, while the 4XL has a larger 6.3” 537ppi screen, both running at 90hz. This means that the image on the screen is refreshed 90 times per second, and for many, this feature is something they’ve never heard of, since most smart phones feature screens that run at 60hz, but this improvement brings buttery smooth motion to the screen whenever you’re scrolling, swiping between apps, and dragging items across the screen.

While this can be dazzling to look at, it does come at a cost of accelerated battery drain. For this reason, the Pixel 4 and 4XL will actually shift the screen down to 60hz when there is no motion detected, and then ramp the refresh rate up to 90hz once things start moving. At time of writing, this has proven to be a bit buggy, with the screen sometimes not boosting the refresh rate when needed, but Google has already stated that a software fix for this issue is coming.

One other part of the screen that stands out is the much larger bezel at the top of the screen that houses the front facing cameras and speaker. With the last generation of Pixels, this was mostly eliminated and replaced with a notch where the front facing camera lived, but suddenly with the 4 and 4XL, the bezel is back, but that’s because the phone is actually housing some entirely new phone tech.

Radar Sensor – A Smart Phone First

Radar Sensor – A Smart Phone First

Google is touting that the big innovation with the Pixel 4 and 4XL is the inclusion of the world’s first fully functional radar sensor in any smart phone, a technology they call Soli. Soli lives on the Pixel 4 and 4XL’s new bezel at the top of the screen, and is always on, running on low power, and waiting to detect motion from your hands.

So far, the most notable and useful application of Soli is detecting when you’re about to pick up your phone so the Pixel can power on the face unlock cameras and be ready to detect your face and unlock your phone once it comes into view. Google touts this implementation as the fastest biometric face unlocking mechanism in the industry, and whether or not you believe face unlock is faster (or more secure) than unlocking with a fingerprint does not matter, unfortunately, since there are no fingerprint sensors on the Pixel 4 or 4XL.

Soli can facilitate other interesting interactions, for instance when your alarm is going off in the morning, it can detect your hand shewing the alarm away, silencing the sound and then waiting for a follow up gesture to either snooze or dismiss the alarm. You can also use Soli to skip tracks backward or forward with the swipe of your hand during music playback.

For now, at least, this encompasses most of what Soli does, and since Google does not let third-party app makers access Soli, further improvements and use cases will have to come from Google directly.

Finally, a Second Camera

a Second Camera

The camera is one area of the smart phone that Google has dominated since the first Pixel landed back in 2016. In fact, when other phone manufacturers started adding multiple cameras, Google famously proclaimed that Pixel phones did not need extra cameras to have the best smart phone camera, and for the most part, they were right.

But its 2019, and clearly things have changed since the Pixel 4 and 4XL are the first Pixel phones to feature more than one camera. Surprisingly, the new camera is not an ultra-wide, as is present in every other phone that features more than one camera (now that it’s on the iPhone 11) but instead the secondary camera is a telephoto with 2x optical zoom.

The primary camera is 12.2MP while the new telephoto camera 16MP, and the camera setup features dual LED flash and auto focus with phase detection. So, what do the dual cameras bring to the table? Like other phones before it, the Pixel 4 and 4XL uses multiple cameras to provide better depth of field, and of course, to help improve Google’s famous Night Sight mode, allowing clear, vibrant photos even at night or anywhere with dim lighting. In the past, Pixel phones have only ever featured digital zoom, so the addition of the telephoto lens marks the first time optical zoom has been featured on a Pixel.

The obvious drawback here is that it leaves the Pixel 4 and 4XL as being the only 2019 flagship phone without an ultra-wide camera. These cameras are, of course, not necessary for taking great photos, but many find them fun to shoot with and make it easy to photograph large groups or objects even if you’re standing relatively close.

The Pixel 4 and 4XL also miss the mark when it comes to video. While Apple and other flagship makers have included the ability to record 4K video at 60fps for the last couple of years, Google has still only included 4K 30fps on the Pixel 4 and 4XL. Not a massive drawback, but it could be a deal breaker for some who want the best video quality possible on a mobile.

Price and Final Thoughts

The only thing left to cover is the retail price of the new Pixel 4 and 4XL

Model 64GB 128GB
Pixel 4 $799 $899
Pixel 4XL $899 $999

The storage options here seem a bit paltry compared to other smart phones out there, with flagships like the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max available with up to 512GB of storage, but keep in mind that Google allows unlimited only photo storage on Google Photos for free with any Pixel device.

Of course, what we don’t know is what kind of deals we will find on the Pixel 4 and 4XL this Black Friday. Last year, we saw some great doorbusters on the Pixel 3 and 3XL, with Best Buy offering a $200 discount and Target offering a $200 gift card with purchase. If you’ve got your eyes set on a new Pixel phone this Black Friday, check back with BFads.net daily, as we’ll break every ad leak and early Thanksgiving sale as they happen!

November 6, 2019
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