The battle for the top Android phone is always interesting because there’s so much to choose from. Some devices go all out, and others are minimalistic, and then there’s the case where there’s a specific list of phones that’s designed to showcase the power and minimalism of the pure Android experience.
This is the Google Pixel 4 XL, what the company calls as the Google Phone, period. This is the OnePlus 7T, what the company dubs as Smooth like never before.
Chances are that if you’re an Android purist and are looking for a powerful alternative, these two devices are at the top of your list. One for being what Google envisions as the ideal Android phone, and the other because it even challenges Google at what the Android experience should be.
You’d think that this comparison would be a no-brainer because what other company would be fit to show us Android better than Google, and yet you’d be shocked at how the tables turn. I’m Jaime Rivera with Pocketnow and this is OnePlus 7T vs Google Pixel 4 XL.
Technically this is not really a fair comparison. The OnePlus 7T is a whopping $300 less expensive than the Pixel 4 XL. You could even assume that both of these devices are not in the same category, and yet, let’s just say you should not judge a book by its price tag.
Hardware wise both devices are made of aluminum and Gorilla Glass 5, with OnePlus adopting a more reflective approach than Google. Surely one of the first to bring matte glass to the market was OnePlus, but Google’s glass is so matte, it looks and feels like if you’re holding a plastic phone. This means that if you value how clean your phone looks with use, the Pixel wins that part.
The 7T is less than half a mm taller, and a hair thicker, but then the pixel is a mm wider and around 3 grams heavier. I’d say that the taller aspect ratio on the 7T gives it a lighter feel when you hold it over the pixel, but that donut camera hump is so intrusive that it even makes the stove on the Pixel look better when placed on a table.
Now even if their footprints are relatively similar, OnePlus is more efficient in its use of space. It’s evident most when you compare these displays. The OnePlus 7T has a taller 6.55-inch AMOLED panel vs 6.3-inch P-OLED on the Pixel 4XL on a nearly identical footprint. The Pixel then swings back with more resolution at Quad HD+ vs Full-HD+, giving it nearly 130 more pixels per inch vs the 7T. Still, colors on both are fantastic, along with viewing angles, and I could even say I can count on both just the same in direct sunlight. Both are capable of DCI-P3, but only the 7T does HDR10+ vs HDR, and only the Pixel does a full Always-On display vs the ambient approach on the 7T. The cool factor of 90hz refresh rate is available on both though, so expect fast and fluid operation on most everything you do, regardless.
Those of you looking for life without a Notch, grab a Pixel, but honestly the teardrop on the 7T is nearly indistinguishable, and I honestly prefer its more symmetrical approach to the bezels. Those of you who prefer a more secure way to unlock your phone, Google theoretically has a better solution with its facial recognition over the on-display optical fingerprint scanner on the 7T, but that crashed and burned the moment you can unlock it without your eyes open. And finally, those of you who care about loud dual firing speakers, you’ll be served just fine on both.
You’d say the display battle is a tie since each phone holds its own, but that changes dramatically when you compare internals. For $300 less, the OnePlus 7T just demolishes the Pixel 4 XL thanks to a newer and more advanced processor, 2 more gigs of RAM, double the storage that’s also UFS 3.0, a slightly larger battery, and a much faster charging solution. Really the only spots where the Pixel stands a chance is because of its Qi wireless charging, and the fact that it does have an IP rating versus a non-certified splash resistant on the 7T.
Notice how this started as more of a tie, and then the specs for the price just completely tipped the scale towards OnePlus. I’d call the 7T the winner of hardware mainly because of this.
Right now I know what you’re thinking. Software is gonna flip things back towards the Pixel because it’s “The Google Phone,” right? Wrong..
If software updates is something you value then a Pixel will always make every other OEM look bad, but let’s not forget that the OnePlus 7T launched first, and already bought Android 10 out of the box.
Software is really more a matter of taste, and in that sense there are things I love about each of these phones and things I don’t. I do prefer the Pixel’s launcher aesthetic, even if OnePlus looks more like Stock Android than even Google’s own phone. I also prefer the Pixel for offering the Google feed to the right, where you only get that on a 7T if you were to pick the T-Mobile carrier variant. I also prefer the Pixel’s way to launch the Google Assistant over a squeeze, which is a power button approach on the 7T, so long as you enable it on the settings. I even prefer Google’s Living Universe approach to wallpapers vs what you get on the 7T.
Sadly the love story with the Pixel ends there. Sure you now get a dark mode, but try to schedule it on a Pixel. I know, you can’t. OnePlus, on the other hand has been doing it right since day one. Try to install more than one Whatsapp to handle multiple accounts on the Pixel, you can’t. Leave that to OnePlus. Try to lock certain apps on the Pixel with biometrics for added security. You can’t, and you guessed it, OnePlus has been doing it for years. Stupid annoying things like using a USB flash drive work flawlessly on the 7T and every other Android phone along with their mothers, but on the Pixel, you need to format the drive. Like, why?
And the list goes on. From the OnePlus gaming mode, to one of my favorites – Reading Mode, to even Zen Mode, OnePlus has clearly been working harder on giving you added benefits on Oxygen OS that a Pixel user would only dream of.
You’d then say, well Google makes Android, so that Pixel must be crazy optimized for battery performance when compared to every other Android phone. Oh man, I hate to break it to you, but there’s only one battery king in this comparison, and it’s the 7T. I barely get through end of day with the 4 XL, where I can get an extra day with the 7T easily.
Really the only section where I give points to a Pixel is its added optimization for Google Fi. Sure, a 7T supports it, but it doesn’t jump around networks as well as a Pixel. And if you care about phone calls, I’d give the same points for both as calls sound just as great on each.
So fine, let’s reach the section where the Pixel is sure to win. Let’s talk about the cameras since the Pixel has always won that one, right? Well.. The comparison even to my surprise was tighter than I thought. Google was rather stubborn about how much it prefers telephoto over wide, while OnePlus doesn’t bother to make you choose and gives you 3 focal lengths to choose from.
During the day if I asked you to tell both photos apart, I doubt you’ll be able to. If anything the Pixel is a tad warmer and in certain cases sharper than the 7T, but the differences are really negligible. Google’s dynamic range is superior in dynamic range, and slightly more saturated, but not by much. Sadly the Pixel lacks that wide-angle that gives the 7T so much more versatility.
The reasoning is, the Pixel will give you better results when zooming in through software and optics. Still when comparing two photos at 8X digital zoom from both, I’d say neither phone produced a fantastic result.
The 7T also brings hardware that enables a Super Macro feature that the Pixel lacks. Once you get really close into a subject, the Pixel will ask you to step back while the 7T focuses and takes the shot just fine.
Where the Pixel just demolishes the 7T is in low light, but not because the OnePlus wasn’t able to pull decent performance. It’s mainly because the Pixel was able to get a sharp photo even with the minor hand shake that all of us humans have, while the 7T was only able to do keep up and not render a blury shot half the time. Sure the 7T includes night mode for the ultra-wide, but don’t even bother, that one performs worse.
If we were to talk about portraits, things get really interesting. The 7T offers the option of a wider crop, but you can’t revert the results as you can with the Pixel. I’d call the 7T’s results more natural, but it’s hard to deny how epic the results are from the Pixel regardless.
Thing is, if we were to do selfie portraits, the 7T wins. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the Pixel is great and all, but it falls apart if you add more than one person to the shot, while the 7T detected three people on each shot and delivered a decent photo, I would say, though a tad soft.
If we were to compare video neither device is what I’d call my favorite in this department. Stabilization is great on both, but only the 7T can do 4K at 60 frames per second, even if it oversaturates the footage beyond what my eye saw at the moment.
And then sadly both are capped at 1080p when it comes to selfie video, so honestly I can’t tell you that this is a reason to consider either at the time you buy when compared to other offerings in 2019.
To conclude, let’s just say that this comparison was more of a no-brainer than I thought. For the longest time, Google has been Google, and what they’ve excelled at was at least years ahead of competitors. From the camera performance, to the fluidness of pure Android, to the timely software updates, the premium you paid for a Pixel was well worth it thanks to the guaranteed experience.
Sadly, I have to say that the Pixel 4 almost seems as if Google was content with its results in 2018, and simply molded the same experience into a different chassis. During that period of time, a company like OnePlus that does not have the scale as Google, has clearly shown us that the Google Premium is no longer justified.
Sure there are spots where the Pixel camera wins, but there were others where it didn’t. Match this with the added specs and software experience that you get from the 7T, all for $300 less, and again, what you have here is a no-brainer decision.
I’m sorry Google. We all really want to love the Pixel 4, but just like OnePlus learned from the mistake of overconfidence with the OnePlus 2 back in the day, I think it’s time you do the same. If it were my money, the OnePlus 7T is not just a better buy. It’s a better phone in almost every way you compare them.
What about you? Which device would you pick from these two? Chime in the comments.