After months of leaks, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the Pixel 4 would look like when I picked one up for the first time, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the bezels are huge, the forehead and chin are terribly asymmetrical, and the camera square isn’t nearly as pleasing as the iPhone 11’s. But the design of the Pixel 4 isn’t quite the eyesore I expected it to be.

And, besides, the Pixel 4 isn’t trying to sell you on its looks. Not once during its hour-long presentation did Google talk about precision milling or diamond chamfering. Google wants you to choose to buy a Pixel 4 on the strength of its features, not its outward appearance.

To the end, the Pixel 4 does feel really nice to hold. It’s a touch thicker than the Pixel 3 (8.2mm vs. 7.9mm) and heavier (193 grams vs 183 grams), and the difference is palpable. It’s not that it feels chunky—no, it feels more solid and substantial.

The matte back—which extends all the way to the top now, eliminating the trademark two-tone look—feels more like metal than glass, and the aluminum sides are polished to give them the same texture. The black sides also serve to give the rear colors some pop, and this gives the standard white color a whole new dimension. This year’s new “limited” orange color is very Halloweeny, and I wonder if Google will keep selling it after this month.

pixel 4 xl front Michael Simon/IDG

The Pixel 4 XL has a whole lot of bezel surrounding its 6.3-inch screen.

The Pixel 4 XL’s Quad HD display already received an A+ rating from DisplayMate, which notes that it has 10 percent higher peak brightness, much higher absolute color accuracy, and improved display power efficiency than the Pixel 3 XL. That wasn’t noticeable to my eyes, and the Pixel 4 XL’s screen still looked duller than the iPhone 11 display, and doesn’t feel as vibrant as the display on the Galaxy Note 10+.

The front of the phone probably has more bezel than the iPhone 11 Pro Max, Galaxy Note 10+, and OnePlus 7T put together, but part of me commends Google for choosing function over form. Even though it doesn’t have a second selfie cam like the Pixel 3 (but you can still take group selfies), the Pixel 4 packs a ton of tech into its forehead, including an IR camera, dot projector and flood illuminator for Face ID-style 3D facial recognition. It’s a first for a U.S. Android phone, and it’s easily the Pixel 4’s coolest new feature.

Face ID finally has a challenger

Face unlock isn’t a new feature for Android phones, but most handsets rely on a 2D image from the front camera, which isn’t secure or recommended as a first line of security. The Pixel 4’s system creates a 3D map of your face that’s stored inside the phone’s Titan M Security Chip so it can be used for purchases and authentication beyond unlocking.

Like the iPhone 11, you won’t find another biometric authentication method on the Pixel 4. That’s because Google has nailed Face unlock. After the initial set-up, which takes about 30 seconds of head rotating, you’ll able to choose whether you want to skip the lock screen when raising your phone to unlock. It’s makes the system feel that much faster than the iPhone 11, and makes the Pixel 4 feel like it’s a true extension of your body.



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