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Google Pixel 2 hands-on review: Back and better than ever

Google's second-generation flagship delivers the goods - at a cost

Features

First up, bad news for anyone that hasn't gotten on board with the wireless headphone revolution yet; Google has jettisoned the Pixel 2's headphone jack, presumably to cut down on the device's thickness. In our opinion, we think wireless headphones are a superior option anyway, but if you're someone that still insists on being physically leashed to your device whenever you're listening to music, you'll have to use the bundled adapter to connect them.

On a much more positive note, Google has finally got with the programme and introduced waterproofing to its flagship device. It's one of the most useful features of the past few years, and it's now one more area where the Pixel can go toe-to-toe with the rest of the industry's most popular phones.

Sadly, expandable storage is still nowhere to be seen. While the ability to add a microSD card for extra storage space is a popular feature, its absence isn't a dealbreaker as the Pixel 2 has 64GB of onboard storage as standard. Google's offer of unlimited full-resolution storage for pictures and video via Google Photos is back as well, so you should have plenty of room for the rest of your data.

Software

Unsurprisingly, Google has put a huge emphasis on the Pixel 2's software. The Pixel's clean, intuitive UI and clever software features were one of the best things about the device, and the Pixel 2 ups the ante even further with a slew of software and AI-based enhancements.

As with the first version, the Google Assistant is baked into the Pixel 2 from the ground up. Along with long-pressing the home button, you can also squeeze the device - similar to the HTC U11's squeezy interactions - to summon the Assistant.

The camera includes a load of AR features, the Assistant supports the Routines recently introduced for Google Home, and it uses machine learning to automatically identify songs that are playing around you, displaying them on the lock screen.

Obviously, the Pixel 2 will also launch with Android O as standard, and will be first in line for new security and feature updates.

Camera

The unquestionable highlight of the first-generation Pixel was its camera, a snapper which has remained unbeaten by any other phone - until now. The Pixel 2 has earned an unprecedented score of 98 from camera testing group DXOMark, smashing the first Pixel's previous record to become the highest-rated smartphone camera in history.

This score isn't awarded lightly, and the Pixel 2 is hands-down the best smartphone camera we've ever seen. The 12MP, f/1.8 rear camera features Optical Image Stabilisation and HDR+, resulting in some amazingly impressive and high-quality shots. As if that wasn't enough, it also includes iOS-style motion photos and portrait mode.

This last feature is particularly interesting, as most other phones that offer a similar feature do so by using a dual-lens configuration, but the Pixel 2 just has the one lens. Instead, it uses AI to distinguish between the background and the foreground. This means that you can take portrait mode selfies with the front camera as well.

Video is equally well-served, with the Pixel 2 able to apply both OIS and EIS to a video simultaneously. This 'fused video stabilisation' is perfect for shooting on the go, when mation would otherwise render videos all but unwatchable.

Verdict

Google has followed up its debut phone with a device that is both polished and powerful. Combining top-class software and formidable hardware, the Pixel 2 is a flagship to rival the likes of the latest iPhone or Galaxy models.

The only slight fly in the ointment is the price; the regular Pixel 2 will set you back by GBP 629, while the bigger Pixel XL 2 costs just under GBP 800. That's seriously pricey - but if you can stomach it, you'll likely be getting the best Android phone that money can buy.

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