There’s a fair bit to like about the Google Pixel, the first smartphone designed in-house by the company behind Android.
It was the packing Android 7.0 Nougat and the Google Assistant from day one, so it certainly act like a high-end handset, plus it has an amazing main camera.
Unfortunately, when put against the top of the top-tier Android competition, the Pixel falls short in some key ways – much like last year’s LG G5 did. Although a rather capable and intriguing phone on its own, the G5’s focus on modular accessories ultimately didn’t attract a lot of attention from flagship buyers.
Luckily, LG is well back on track with the G6, an appealing slab of top-end tech with a focus on a stunning, extra-tall screen with minimal bezel. We came away impressed, as our full review explains, and think it’s the company’s best phone to date.
The G6 overcame the ghost of last year’s G5, but can it also outrank the Google Pixel? Here’s how it all shakes out.
Design: Gotta be G6
It’s obvious: the Google Pixel and Pixel XL look just like the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (and 6/6s and 6/6s Plus) at a glance, but as is often the case, the imitation doesn’t quite live up to the original. Nor does it really compare to some of the more alluring Android handsets out there today, such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3T.
The glass cutout accent on the back is kind of neat, while the Very Blue colour choice (finally here in the UK) is certainly eye-catching, but the big bezels and antenna lines don’t stack up against the top Androids today. And it’s not even water-resistant. C’mon, Google.
Luckily, we feel a lot more strongly about the LG G6. Just look at the front of it: the screen takes up more than 85% of the face, with minimal bezel all around to accentuate what you’re looking at and playing. And the little rounded edges on the screen are a nice touch, as well.
All told, the design seems ultra-refined and premium, with glass on both sides, high tensile metal holding it all together, IP68 water resistance, and a well-placed fingerprint sensor on the back. It’s a beautiful-looking phone, not to mention a big step up from the G5.
Winner: LG G6
LAST YEAR’S MODEL › LG G5 review
Screen: Big and bold
One of the drawbacks of the standard Google Pixel was its insistence on a 1080p display, despite competing against flagships with Quad HD panels. Granted, the Pixel’s 5in screen is still sharper than the standard iPhone 7, but it’s a step down from the Samsung Galaxy S7 and even the LG G5. The Pixel XL, however, packs a 5.5in Quad HD screen for the extra cash.
Like the G5 last year, the LG G6 has its own Quad HD screen – but this isn’t the same panel. For one thing, it’s taller: LG opted for an uncommon 18:9 aspect ratio for the phone, which means the screen’s a little wider than traditional widescreen (16:9) in landscape mode. Luckily, LG has modes that re-render content to fit the screen without obvious stretching.
It’s not just a taller screen, either. The 5.7in IPS display also has a wider colour gamut to support high dynamic range (HDR), which delivers more contrast between bright and dark colours and will make supported content absolutely pop on the thing.
Netflix will add HDR support to its Android app, which means we’ll be able to experience Iron Fist and House of Cards at their best even when on the go. That’s awesome, and it totally seals the deal on LG having the better panel here.
Winner: LG G6
Also Read › LG G6 review
Power: All the same
It’s a wash here: the Pixel just launched a few months back, and features Qualcomm’s currently top-of-the-line Snapdragon 821 chip, which runs about 10% faster than the previous 820. It also has 4GB RAM within.
And the LG G6? That’s right: a Snapdragon 821 with 4GB RAM alongside. Both also run Android Nougat with the Google Assistant, and yes, both are incredibly swift and capable of handling just about anything you throw at it.
Yes, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is right around the corner with the speedier Exynos 8895 or Snapdragon 835 within (depending on where you live), but the Snapdragon 821 will remain plenty fast even when that hits stores.
In any case, there’s no big difference in performance for this particular matchup, given the essentially identical internals.
Also Read › Google Pixel review
Camera: Pixel packs a punch
If there’s one thing we can say in absolute praise for the Pixel and Pixel XL, without any reservation whatsoever, it’s that both of Google’s phones have fantastic back cameras. It’s the same 12.3 megapixel shooter on both, in fact, and it’s right up there with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 Plus as the best around.
During our testing, we found the Pixel to take excellent snaps with the HDR+ mode engaged, and the blend of phase detection and laser autofocus produced sharp low-light results. That’s true even without optical image stabilisation, although it’s also worth noting that the electronic video stabilisation here is fabulous.
The G5’s dual back cameras were pretty stellar aside from the fact that one was 16MP and the other 8MP, which meant your field of vision (FOV) choice also came with a quality choice.
The G6 keeps the duo but levels them out at 13MP apiece, meaning you’ll see fantastic results at both 71° (standard) and 125° (wide angle) with strong lighting. And it uses solely phase detection autofocus, switching from last year’s laser tech. In low light, the wide-angle lens tends to be a bit blurrier, however, due to the lack of optical image stabilisation in only that lens.
Both the Pixel and G6 will give you excellent shots most of the time, but side by side, we have to give the nod to the Pixel here. We see better detail, improved exposure due to multi-image processing, more light variance in HDR mode, and more clarity overall. The Pixel is the clear choice for on-the-go photographers who fuss over the little details. And really, you should at these prices.
Winner: Google Pixel
THE APPLE FACTOR › Apple iPhone 7 Plus review
Battery life and perks: The LG edge
Both the LG G6 and Google Pixel are built to give you a solid day’s usage on a full battery charge, but probably little more. The G6 has a 3,300mAh cell within, albeit with a larger and higher-resolution screen, while the Pixel packs 2,750mAh. In both cases, a full day was typically resonable with regular usage, but if you’re playing heavy-duty or GPS-enabled games or streaming a lot of media, you might need a top-up before bedtime.
When it comes to extra highlights, the Pixel’s biggest is surely Google Daydream. Both Pixel phones support Google’s own mobile VR platform, which has seen a steady stream of fresh content released since the debut, even if there’s not quite as much as on Samsung’s Gear VR just yet.
The Pixel is sold in 32GB and 128GB varieties, however it doesn’t have microSD support for expandable storage, and as mentioned before, it also lacks water resistance. For an Android flagship released in late 2016, both omissions are pretty significant and unfortunate.
The LG G6 covers both of those bits, with a microSD slot (to expand out from its 32GB internal stash) as well as IP68 water and dust resistance. However, so far, LG hasn’t said anything about any kind of virtual reality support for the device. The LG 360 VR headset for the LG G5 wasn’t very good, but maybe LG has something more refined or enticing in the works for down the line.
Winner: LG G6
Overall: LG looks good
The Google Pixel already seemed to fall a little short of the competition when it debuted last autumn. Despite being Google’s own model of how an Android phone should look and act, it only seemed to nail the latter part – given the price, looking and feeling like an iPhone knockoff didn’t really inspire a lot of excitement.
The Pixel XL was the better pick of the bunch, especially with that Quad HD display, but the added cost was pretty daunting. Both are very good devices in an era of brilliant flagships.
And the LG G6 is much, much closer to that level of brilliance. Ditching last year’s modular phase was for the best here, as the G6 instead focuses on delivering strong tech and pristine looks within a durable, reliable handset. It’s impressively refined, seriously fast, and has one of the best smartphone screens ever seen.
The Pixel matches the LG G6 on performance and takes the advantage on camera quality, but as a complete package, LG has the win here – even with the £50 premium over Google’s base handset.
Winner: LG G6
READ MORE › The 10 best smartphones in the world right now