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Hands-on Google Pixel phone review

Google just launched its much-hyped new 2016 phone, the feature-packed 5-inch Google Pixel, made in collaboration with HTC. We’ve had a play at the official launch and here’s our hands-on Google Pixel review, giving our early thoughts on this awesome Android mobile.

Nexus no more, it seems. Google has rebranded its smartphones to Pixel for 2016 and the first to arrive is the simply-named 5-inch Pixel phone.

Packing some impressive specs, the Pixel already looks to be hot competition for the best Android phones of 2016 – even the mighty Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3. You get a good-looking metal-and-glass mobile housing the latest super-speedy Snapdragon processor, as well as a capable 12-megapixel camera for those everyday snaps.

Here’s our hands-on Pixel phone review, and don’t forget to check out our hands-on Pixel XL phone review too, for our thoughts on Google’s bigger 5.5-inch handset.

Read next: Pixel vs Pixel XL, what’s the difference?

Hands-on Google Pixel phone review: Designer blower

HTC and Google didn’t exactly go for super-innovative design with the Pixel phone, but the handset’s half-metal, half-glass rear is certainly stand-out. The top half is all glossy surface like the Galaxy S7’s, although the Pixel seems to be more resistant to fingerprints and greasy marks. Meanwhile the bottom half is solid metal, so it looks as if someone jammed an iPhone and an S7 together to create a strangely desirable Frankenstein’s Monster phone.

The Pixel actually reminds us of the iPhone 7 in terms of size and structure, with the wrap-around frame and pleasingly curved edging and corners. There’s a bit of aerial banding at the bottom, like with previous iPhones, but who really cares. More pleasing is the fact that the camera lenses are flush with the handset’s surface, so there’s no jutting edges.

Those gorgeous curves make for a comfortable grip and you can use the phone one-handed without too much stretching or fumbling, thanks to the relatively compact build. The Pixel feels quite rugged too, although it’s not water-resistant so you’ll want to avoid getting it wet.

Hands-on Google Pixel phone review: High def visuals

Power up the Pixel phone and you can quickly launch into the desktops using the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. It’s a seriously fast sensor, beating even last year’s Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P scanners for time taken to unlock the phone.

The Google Pixel’s 5-inch AMOLED screen is pleasingly crisp with its Full HD 1920×1080 resolution. Colours pop off the panel, making for some gorgeous visuals, while on top brightness I had no problem seeing what was going on, even beneath some strong demo room lighting. Viewing angles are also perfect.

Of course, if you’re a media nut who spends hours each week watching movies and shows on their phone, you might want to check out the Google Pixel XL instead. The more spacious 5.5-inch display boasts an even sharper resolution, and makes video look truly stunning.

Of course, this being a Google phone, you get the latest version of Android before everyone else. Android Nougat is as customisable as ever and adds lots of cool features, including full support for Google’s Daydream VR platform. Check out our guide to the best Android Nougat features.

Hands-on Google Pixel phone review: Performance powerhouse

Packing the latest Snapdragon 821 processor means the Google Pixel phone runs like a dream. Our demo unit didn’t stutter or stumble once, as you’d expect, even when zipping through dozens of different apps.

We’ll be sure to test in full for our complete Google Pixel review, of course. But with a ten percent performance increase promised over the 820 chipset, which was used in the nippy HTC 10 and LG G5 (among others), we’re confident this will be one of the most capable Androids of 2016.

Likewise, the 2770mAh battery will hopefully deliver more than all-day battery life during everyday use. You get Type-C USB for charging and fast charging is supported, which we’ll be putting to the test for our full review.

Hands-on Google Pixel phone review: Camera tech

Housed on the back of the Pixel phone you get a 12-megapixel camera with an f/2.0 lens as well as phase detection autofocus. From our hands-on time, the Pixel’s camera certainly seems to be a heavyweight. You get sharp, detailed results and tricky lighting is well handled by the new HDR+ mode, although we haven’t had a chance to test out a true low-light scenario.

Pixel owners also get free cloud storage for full-resolution photos and videos via Google Photos, so you can snap away and not worry about running out of space.

You can shoot Full HD or UHD 4K video using the Pixel phone’s camera and again the results seem sharp and packed with detail. There’s some impressive image stabilisation too, competing with the biggest rivals out there for smooth video capture.

Check back soon for our full in-depth Pixel phone review.

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