Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review

The Google Pixel 2 impressed us with its photo-taking capabilities so can its successor, the Google Pixel 3, impress us even more with its photo-taking capabilities - let's find out.

| Google Pixel 3 in Camera Phones

Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review: PB020015 | 1/250 sec | f/6.3 | 14.0 mm | ISO 800

Quick Verdict

The Google Pixel 3 is a great smartphone with an even more impressive camera. It might not have a dual-lens set-up but in all honesty, it doesn't need it as Google has done some clever things with technology to make sure you're not missing out. Image quality is excellent, portraits pop and the fact you can 'choose the best shot' after you've hit the shutter button is a brilliant feature that's particularly useful at sporting events. Yes, the battery could be better but it doesn't cause major issues so we're not too concerned about it (it's more just a niggle). We also really like the fact that a 5.5-inch screen has been packed into such a one-hand-friendly device. 

If you want a smaller sized smartphone that captures excellent images, you can't go too far wrong with the Google Pixel 3. 

+ Pros

  • Excellent image quality 
  • Useful camera features
  • Some will like that it's a compact smartphone
  • Easy to take great photos 
  • Impressive Night Sight mode 

- Cons

  • The battery could be better
  • No MicroSD slot to expand memory
  • No headphone socket


The Google Pixel range of smartphones are very popular with photographers simply because the camera is very good and they don't tend to be as expensive as some of the smartphones available from other popular brands such as Samsung and Apple. So far, they've not disappointed with the Google Pixel 2 XL scoring 4.5 stars when on test and, spoiler alert, the third version of this crowd-pleasing device is rather impressive, too. 

On test, we have the Google Pixel 3 but there is an XL version available, too, should you want a bigger phone with a better battery (you can compare the specs of the Google Pixel 3 with the Google Pixel 3 XL in our comparison).


Google Pixel 3 Features

Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review: PB020003 | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 800

Before we talk camera technology, let's talk design as the Pixel 3 has a larger screen (5.5-inch FHD+ 18:9) built into its compact body which might only be .5 of an inch bigger than the one built into the Pixel 2 but for such a small smartphone, it makes a big difference. Bezels have got smaller, too, which just makes the overall design look more modern and slick.

Previously, Google Pixel smartphones had a metal/glass back design but this has been exchanged for a completely glass back so Qi wireless charging is now supported and the widely available USB-C is the main charging point.

With so many smartphone companies racing to add more-and-more cameras into their devices, you wouldn't have been surprised to see the Google Pixel 3/Google Pixel 3 XL with multiple lenses but Google is bucking the trend and sticking with just one rear camera. They have, however, opted to add dual front cameras so you can get more people in your group selfies. Of course, Google Pixel developers work hard to add new tricks to their devices and the Google Pixel 3 is no different with improvements under the skin of the device (we'll talk about these later) and the addition of useful options such as a 'Top Shot' feature. 

Google has also introduced a new "Night Sight" mode that combines a number of photos, for much improved low-light shooting. 

Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review: Google Pixel 3 (1)

To make it easy to see what features the Google Pixel 3 has, we've popped them into a list below.

Key Features

  • Main camera - 12.2MP, f/1.8 rear camera
  • Optical & electronic image stabilisation 
  • Front/selfie camera(s) - Dual 8MP, f/2.2, ultra-wide-angle, fixed focus and f/1.8 wide-angle front facing camera
  • Digital Zoom
  • 5.5inch screen (Pixel 3), 6.3inch screen (Pixel 3 XL)
  • Video: 4K, 1080p, 720p, (rear camera), 1080p, 720p, 480p (front camera)
  • 2,915mAh battery (3), 3430mAh battery (3 XL)
  • 64/126GB Capacity 
  • Snapdragon 845 & 4GB RAM
  • Splash, Water and Dust Resistant
  • Digital bokeh and post-capture ability
  • Night Sight mode


Google Pixel 3 Handling

Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review: PB020041 | 1/160 sec | f/5.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 800

The first thing you'll notice when you pick the Google Pixel 3 up is how small it is in comparison to some other smartphones. Now, we're not saying this as a negative as it's quite refreshing to find a smartphone that fits in one hand and can be used, with ease, without needing to use your other hand. Of course, we do recommend you hold the smartphone with both hands when taking photos to minimise shake but for flicking through the image gallery, your thumb can easily do this. 

The first thing you'll notice when you pick the Google Pixel 3 up is how small it is in comparison to some other smartphones. 

You might be thinking that a smaller smartphone means a smaller screen but in fact, you get a 5.5-inch FHD+ 18:9 screen built into the Google Pixel 3 which is plenty big enough for viewing photos. The display is also sharp, bright and colour reproduction is excellent. There's no top-notch eating into the screen either which some will prefer. Instead, the front-facing cameras (yes, plural) are built into a top bezel that's wide, as is the chin, but no more so than other smartphones that have a similar design. Plus, the side bezels are much thinner than on the Pixel 2 so the overall size of the smartphone feels much smaller. 

The two-tone look of the Pixel range continues with the Pixel 3 and the oddly named 'not pink' version we have on test is a grower in terms of its likeability but we're sure some will love it straight away. White and black versions are also available should you prefer. 

A similar look may give the range some continuity but the materials the newer smartphones are constructed from is different with Gorilla Glass 5 now coating the entire back (previously it was a metal/glass split) and it's the same glass as you find on the front panel of the Google Pixel 3. The only metal you now find on the device is in the frame which remains aluminium but it's been improved to offer more rounded edges/corners - a trend we're seeing from nearly all smartphone creators. We have to say we really do like the look of the Google Pixel 3 - smart, compact and trendy. 

The glass back does, of course, mean that wireless charging is now available on the Google Pixel 3 smartphones and to coincide with the change, Google has also launched a wireless charging dock. For those who prefer to plug their devices in, you can use the supplied USB-C cable which sits alongside USB-C earbuds in the box. This does mean that there's no headphone jack - something that still annoys some and there's no MicroSD card slot either so you can't expand the smartphone's memory. Mind you, with 64GB or 128GB storage available, along with unlimited photo storage (see the Ts&Cs for more info on this) you probably won't need one. It also runs Snapdragon 845 and has 4GB of RAM. 


Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review: PB020017 | 1/800 sec | f/11.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 800

Some might say that a glass back makes the device more prone to scratches but so far, we've not seen any appear (perhaps the colour hides them?) which is impressive as other smartphones we have on test do mark easily. As you expect, the screen does smudge easily with fingerprints but there doesn't seem to be a way around this (yet). Of course, to protect the Google Pixel 3 further, you can always pop it in a case. 

Active Edge is a feature that's not really photography related but it's pretty cool as you can 'squeeze' the smartphone to get the attention of the Google Assistant (Google's version of Siri). 

Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review: Google Pixel 3 (4) White Bg

Right... the cameras - there are three of them but not in places you might first expect them to be as the dual camera comes on the front, not the back. The front-facing 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle and f/1.8 wide-angle lenses have a field of view of 107-degrees and 75-degrees, respectively so you can get more people in your group selfies or simply shoot selfies with more of the landscape in the image. 

The Google Pixel 3 might not have a dual-lens rear camera or the fastest aperture but with Google's clever technology, this isn't a problem. 

On the rear is a 12.2MP dual-pixel lens that has an f/1.8 aperture, optical/electronic IS and a field of view of 76-degrees. You may have been moulded to believe that a single lens can't beat the quality of images produced by a dual-lens camera but you'd be wrong as some clever technology from Google, and its machine-learning software, means that it actually captures really good images (something we'll be talking about in more detail in the performance section). 

Both the front and rear camera capture 1080p and 720p video but the rear camera offers higher frame rates and also shoots in 4K.  

There are no major changes within the camera app but it's easy to use and there are plenty of interesting modes built in. Although, there isn't a Pro mode which some will miss but you can download third-party apps that give you access to such controls. 


Google Pixel 3 Smartphone Review: PB020043 | 1/125 sec | f/5.0 | 14.0 mm | ISO 800

When it comes to performance, for those of you who like to compare numbers, the Google Pixel 3 scored 2381 single-core / 8331 multi-core on Geekbench and 250642 with AnTuTu.

Battery life - The battery is rated at 2915mAh which is an improvement on the Pixel 2 with its 2700mAh battery but not quite on par with some of the other smartphones out there. It does last a day, when not using the smartphone for everyday use, but hammer the photo taking and you might find yourself reaching for the charging dock sooner. 

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