Camera Video Recording

Video recording on the Pixel 3’s is still limited to 720, 1080 and 4K at 30fps. The resulting video is encoded in H.264 and Google offers a switch to enable EIS, or to leave it disabled and solely rely on the OIS of the camera. The disadvantage of EIS of course is that it’ll result in a narrower field-of-view compared to the native FoV of the camera.

Pixel 3:      Pixel 2: 

Overall, the only big difference in video recording quality between the Pixel 3 and its predecessor, at least in these sample videos, is that the Pixel 3 is seemingly doing a much brighter exposure. This also resulted in some loss of contrast in some scenarios, and also less saturated colours. Oddly enough the new Pixel 3 also limits the digital zoom available when video recording, only going half as far as on the Pixel 2.

Speaker Evaluation

The Pixel 3 comes again with stereo front-facing speakers. This time around Google promises great improvements in the audio quality thanks to improvements in the software audio processing. To test this, we’re using our new speaker measurement methodology, and to do more direct comparisons I also revisited the Pixel 2’s speakers so that the size difference to the Pixel 2 XL doesn’t affect our evaluation.

Speaker Loudness

In terms of speaker loudness at maximum volume, the Pixel 3 is about 0.6dB louder when holding it in one hand, and showcases a 1.1dB advantage when cupping the phone with both hands. There’s some variability here as I prefer to measure the phones in-hand, as to represent the audio response as you would have when listening to the phones in real life.

The small difference between the one-handed and two-handed results showcase the front-firing nature of the speakers, showing that they have good frontal directionality.

Moving on, we’re doing a frequency response measurement sweep from 20Hz to 20KHz. The measurement is done with the phone in landscape mode held in two hands, with the palms again naturally cupped around the phone, as you would hold it when gaming.

The one very weird result about the Pixel 3 that differs from any other phone I’ve measured, is that the speakers go a lot further in the high frequency range than any other phone. Now this should be positive in general, however the Pixel 3 here oscillates significantly in terms of volume at the high frequencies, and this is plainly audible when doing the frequency sweep test, something unique to the Pixel 3.

Applying a psychoacoustic averaging filter to the results and comparing it to the Pixel 2, we see exactly how the speaker improved in terms of its sound output. I calibrate the volume of all phones in this comparison to a level of 75dbA on a pink noise output, so all phones are at the same perceived volume.

The Pixel 3 improves throughout from the bass range up to the low mid-range, showcasing a significant increase in volume in these frequencies, something that should be immediately audible. The Pixel 3 also has an abnormally loud output in the high frequencies above 15KHz – normally where other phone speakers would drastically fall off. The issue here is whether the big dip around 12KHz will adversely impact the phone’s audio.

It’s very hard to accurately convey speaker quality as recording equipment will always change the frequency response. I tried my best in terms of measuring this as best as I can through recording the phone’s output through a binaural microphone setup. The best playback experience for these recordings is achieved through headphones, or better, IEMs.

My calibrated speaker setup is meant to serve as a baseline to which the recording microphones should be compared to.

Comparing the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 2, there an evident increase in bass and depth of the audio, marking a significant improvement over last year’s model. The issue here is I feel there’s too much components in the high frequencies and the sound can seem notably harsh and shrill at maximum volume.

Another issue is that the phone is seemingly suffering from distortions – this something that I’ve also encountered on the G7 and seems to be linked to the fact that the glass back of the phone is allowed to vibrate a lot, instead of the sound pressure going out through the speaker grill. Also, if you happen to partially cover the bottom (bass) grill, the speaker membrane will notably distort. Pressing against the back will also change the frequency response of the audio.

Overall, the Pixel 3’s speaker are still a significantly improvement. I still prefer the iPhone XS and S9+ speakers – but the Pixel 3 is not far behind, especially having very strong mid-ranges.

Camera - Low Light Evaluation - Night Sight Conclusion & End Remarks
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  • saleri6251 - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    Hello Andrei,

    Thanks for the review as always. Just curious do you have any thoughts on the Titan M Security Chip?
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    I didn't have much time to get into it, we covered Google Hot Chips presentation:
  • cha0z_ - Monday, November 5, 2018 - link

    Hey, as we speak about chips - can you include/test the note 9 exynos? It's bigger body compared to the s9 and also has a lot better coolling. We all read your articles about the exynos 9810 + a lot about in @ xda, but it will be really nice to see where the more popular note 9 exynos stands with it's bigger coolling and body compared to the competition and s9/s9+.

    If you have the time and the desire, otherwise it's also cool - you do a lot of great reviews about phones/mobile SOCs. Keep it up and cheers!
  • cha0z_ - Monday, November 5, 2018 - link

    No edit here: I am aiming primary at the sustained performance of the system/GPU tests. I am sure you already guessed it, but for the other members of the community.
  • jordanclock - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    As a P3XL owner, I can say this review completely matches my experiences.

    Also, that camera comparison is insane and Andrei is a mad-man for taking that many pictures AND THEN REVIEWING THEM ALL.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    Thanks! The camera was a lot of work.

    This should also serve as a good comparison between all important phones over the last year or two. It's something I hope I won't have to do again till the S10.
  • jordanclock - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    That last night shot is pretty similar to a comparison I showed my friends when they thought that it was just a gimmick.

    Have you also found that using the night shot for every shot seems to be a good default? I found that in general the night shot results are "good enough" compared to HDR+, but obviously has the benefit of better low-light results.
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 2, 2018 - link

    I've posted night mode pictures in daylight scenes as well, just to answer this question.

    There's no obvious difference and you can stay in night mode all the time, the only negative is that it'll be slower in terms of capture.
  • melgross - Sunday, November 4, 2018 - link

    I’ve read that night mode is done after capture, not during, as Google, and other manufactures do their auto modes. So likely that’s why it’s slower.
  • s.yu - Sunday, November 11, 2018 - link

    Thank you for again the best set of samples on the net!
    This night mode just doesn't cease to amaze me, it preserves DR and enough(I'd say over 80%) resolution while accurately suppressing noise that it surpasses auto often enough even in daytime!
    This is two notches above Huawei's night mode implementation, while Pixel's auto was better in the first place.

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