For the second year in a row, Google has chosen October 4th to unveil all its new hardware. Yes, Google has its own hardware now, something that was not true in the past. After it sold off Motorola to Lenovo, Google started a hardware team headed by former Motorola CEO Rick Osterloh. The first round of Made by Google devices included the Google Home and Pixel. This year, there’s more of both along with some new devices. Let’s break it all down.
Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
The new Pixel phones leaked about a million times in the lead-up to the event. The leaks turned out to be pretty accurate, too. There are two new phones, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The smaller of the two phones looks similar to last year’s phones. It has somewhat large bezels above and below the 5-inch 1080p OLED panel, although it now has front-facing speakers to justify that a bit. Meanwhile, the Pixel 2 XL has a massive 6-inch OLED panel at 2880 x 1440. That’s an 18:9 screen ratio, so it’ll fill the surface area more efficiently. The screen’s corners are also rounded.
Internally, the smaller Pixel isn’t at a disadvantage compared with the larger one. This is something Google gets right, and a lot of other device makers do not. There’s no headphone jack, which was predicted in the leaks. However, there’s a Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box. These phones are powered by the Snapdragon 835 with 4GB of RAM. Around back is a single 12.2MP camera, which Google says is the best on the market. That’s based on a score of 98 from DxOMark.
Google dropped the 32GB base storage option this year, so the Pixel 2 and 2 XL start at 64GB with a 128GB upgrade. The Pixel 2 ships with Android 8.0 Oreo, and it will support Google Lens out of the box. That’s the machine learning-based object recognition engine Google demoed at I/O this year. Just point the camera at something, and Lens might be able to read addresses, find matching images, and more. I say might because Lens is in beta. It’s also exclusive to the Pixel 2 for now.
The Pixel and Pixel 2 will cost $650 and $850 for the base models, respectively. Verizon is the exclusive carrier partner, but the phones are available unlocked in the Google Store, and there’s a monthly payment plan.
Google Home Mini and Max
Google isn’t retiring the Google Home it released last year, but it is adding some new members to the Home family. At the low-end, we have the $50 Google Home Mini. It’s a little fabric-covered puck that’s basically Google’s take on the Amazon Echo Dot. You can talk to it and issue voice commands just like the regular Google Home–the main difference being the much smaller speaker, which isn’t suitable for music.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the Google Home Max. This device has all the Assistant features built-in, but the speakers are much larger. It has dual 4.5-inch subwoofers, custom tweeters, and a “smart sound” feature that optimizes based on your environment. Start saving up if you want the Max when it comes out. Google is asking $399 for this one.
There was also some broader news about Assistant at the event. All Google Home devices now can help you locate a lost Android phone. Just say “where’s my phone,” or something similar, and Home can ring the phone even if was left in silent mode. This works with iPhones too, but it’s just a phone call, and it can’t adjust the volume. Google Home also has tighter integration with Nest cameras and Cast devices. Using a voice command, you can have your Nest video feed beamed to a Chromecast screen.
The original Chromebook Pixel was one of Google’s first real in-house hardware projects (the Nexus Q doesn’t count). It’s been a few years since Google released its own Chromebook, but now there’s the Google Pixelbook. The pricing starts at $1,000, but it looks like a fantastic Chromebook.
The Pixelbook takes on the styling of the Pixel phones, with a glass inlay at the top of the back panel. The aluminum unibody frame is just 10.3mm thick, and the hinge folds all the way back for tablet or tent mode. It runs Chrome OS, but Android apps are supported out of the box. They’ll actually be worth using with the 2400 x 1600 touch screen.
The Pixelbook base model comes with a 7th gen Core i5, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. There’s also a Wacom-based pen for the Pixelbook, which Google says has a mere 10ms of latency and more than 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity. It’s not included with the laptop; you have to pay an extra $100 for it. That’s kind of crazy when you’re already paying $1,000 or more for a Chromebook.
Not all the new things at Google’s event were headliners. Google Clips seems like something of an afterthought. It’s sort of an action camera, but it’s not intended to compete with devices like the GoPro. The $249 Clips camera is supposed to be something you carry around and it just records on its own when the AI engine thinks something interesting is happening. The video is uploaded and used to generate video montages. That all sounds very high-minded, but who’s going to buy one at $250?
Since the new Pixels don’t have headphone jacks, Google has announced the Google Pixel Buds. They’re priced at $159, and at first glance look like any other Bluetooth earbuds on the market. They’re not even “completely wireless” like the EarPods. However, the Buds have Google Assistant built-in. Simply press the right earbud and Assistant is listening instantly; no waiting for your phone to respond to an Assistant request like you need to do with other earbuds. The Google Pixel Buds also have special integration with Google Translate when paired with the Pixel 2.
Lastly, both new Pixel phones are compatible with Google’s Daydream VR platform. Naturally, Google has some new Daydream View headsets to go along with them. According to Google, the $100 Daydream View has better lenses than last year’s model, and the field of view has been boosted. Google doesn’t say how wide the field of view is, though. The price is a little higher than last year’s viewer, but you get games worth $40 when you order the new Daydream View.
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