System Performance

One aspect Google Pixel devices have always excelled at is performance. With every generation, Google had opted to customise the BSP stack and improve on Qualcomm’s mechanisms to be able to extract as much performance out of the SoC as possible. In recent years these customisations haven’t been quite as evident as QC’s schedulers became more complex and also more mature. The Pixel 4 again makes use of Qualcomm’s scheduler mechanisms instead of Google’s own Android Common Kernel. The Pixel 4 also arrives with Android Q which is one of the very few devices in our testbench which comes with the new OS version.

We’re testing the Pixel 4 at three refresh rate settings: the default 60Hz mode, the automatic 90Hz mode, and the forced 90Hz mode. As with the OnePlus 7 Pro earlier in the year, we’re expecting to measure differences between the different display modes.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Web Browsing 2.0

Starting off with the web browsing test, we’re seeing the Pixel 4 XL perform quite averagely. The odd thing here is that it’s showcasing worse performance and scaling than the Pixel 3 last year in all but the forced 90Hz mode. It’s also interesting to see how the forced 90Hz mode is able to post an advantage over the regular 90Hz mode even though the content of the benchmark doesn’t contain anything in particular that would have the automatic mode trigger to 60Hz.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Video Editing

In the video editing test, which isn’t all that significant in terms of its results, we do however see the differences between the 60 and 90Hz modes. Again, it’s odd to see the 60Hz mode perform that much worse than the Pixel 3 in this test, pointing out to more conservative scaling of the little CPU cores.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Writing 2.0

In the Writing test which is the most important sub-test of PCMark and has heavier workloads, we see the Pixel 4 perform very well and is in line with the better Snapdragon 855 devices out there.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Photo Editing 2.0

The Photo Editing scores of the Pixel 4 are also top notch and the best Snapdragon 855 device we have at hand.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Data Manipulation

The data manipulation test is another odd one that I can’t really explain it performs better on the forced 90Hz mode over than the automatic 90Hz mode.

PCMark Work 2.0 - Performance

Finally, the Pixel 4 ends up high in the ranks in PCMark, really only trailing the Mate 30 Pro.

Speedometer 2.0 - OS WebView JetStream 2 - OS Webview WebXPRT 3 - OS WebView

In the web benchmarks, the Pixel 4 performs quite average to actually quite bad, compared to what we’ve seen from other S855 phones. I’m really not sure why the degradation takes place, I’ll have to investigate this more once I have another S855 with Android Q.

Performance Conclusion

Overall, performance of the Pixel 4 is excellent, as expected. The big talking point here isn’t really the SoC or Google’s software, but rather the 90Hz screen of the phone. It really augments the experienced performance of the phone, making it stand out above other 60Hz phones this year.

That being said, unlike last year, I can’t say that the Pixel 4 is amongst the snappiest devices this year as that title was already taken by the new Huawei Mate 30 Pro with the newer generation Kirin 990. Unfortunately for Google, performance of the Pixel 4 will be a rather short-lived selling point as I expect the competition (which don’t already have the feature) to catch up with high refresh screens, and also surpass the Pixel as the new generation Snapdragon SoCs are just a month away from launch.

Introduction & Design GPU Performance


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  • brucethemoose - Friday, November 8, 2019 - link

    The cost difference between 64GB and 128GB of smartphone flash has to be trivial these days. Its hard to believe anyone is still doing it, much less that Google and Apple are doing it in $800 flagships. Reply
  • crimson117 - Friday, November 8, 2019 - link

    It's because the 64GB is priced lower to get you in the door, so they can upsell the 128GB to you for ~$50 more of mostly profit. Reply
  • Jcaro14 - Friday, November 8, 2019 - link

    Yeah this phone is not for you, if you are looking for the latest hardware design you should stick with Samsung, Huawei, or Xiaomi. The Pixel is design for the best Android Software experience. I'm if you had one you would understand but since you just go by what the tech snobs say, sadly you won't be able to experience this awesome software experience that the Pixel provides. Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, November 8, 2019 - link

    The Pixels are not the best "Android" experience, they're outright a Google experience.

    Most of the Pixel only features are geographically or language limited. If you're not using any of those features then the Pixel lineup is no any better at Android than say a Samsung device.
  • Pooppoot - Saturday, November 9, 2019 - link

    I disagree as someone who has used both and most Android devices! To me the Pixel line offers the "best" Android experience! It's a subjective matter though. Reply
  • Quantumz0d - Monday, November 11, 2019 - link

    Wrong. I've also used Pixel 3a and it's nothing vs a custom skin or even a barebone Lineage OS.

    AOSP is being degraded with every Pixel revision. Pixel uses proprietary System UI and they offloaded a lot of Android's AOSP apps to their own - Messaging, Phone, Browser all are EOLed in AOSP. Pixel System UI has the worst customization features ever. And even their latest Recorder app is using Scoped Storage, thus once you record you do not see it in your Filemanager/filesystem which is BULLSHIT and can be shared from app (WTF?) plus no icon pack support too or the garbage launcher. Nova decimates that to oblivion.

    Best is subjective, I like LG because of no bloat (Smartworld and one more app that's all) vs others like Samsung because it has all the things you need from time location, notification dots numbering on status bar customization to even notification transparency on lockscreen, Plus AOD watch faces and all. OnePlus offers faster Android UX. Mind you all these are proprietary and beat Pixel user experience a.k.a Google Experience ( dumbed down experience )

    So yeah there's no Best, old times Nexus used to have the best Android experience with it's pure Stock AOSP skin. Then there was Cyanogen Mod with insane customizations and free themes, halcyon days of Android. Lineage OS and it's derivatives like Resurrection Remix have tons of features in built and there are lot of ROMs which massively improve on UX and speed / customization like Potato ROM.
  • s.yu - Wednesday, November 13, 2019 - link

    I had to work with an S4 Lite 4 years ago for a few months because my phone at the time got stolen, and it lagged to the point of being unusable so I said what the hell and flashed Cyanogen, however it continued to lag without notable improvement. Reply
  • generalako - Friday, November 8, 2019 - link

    . Reply
  • generalako - Friday, November 8, 2019 - link

    I'm not a tech snob, but a long-time Pixel user. Hardware DOES MATTER when I pay $800.

    Quality control DOES MATTER.I RMAed two different Pixel 2's and thre different 2 XL's. I RMAed three different Pixel 3's and two different 3 XL's. That's unacceptable for a flagship phones. The number of widespread QC issues in this series of phone is unprecedented -- as someone who buys and tests flagships, and also sell them, I have never seen anything like it.

    Battery DOES MATTER. Medicore battery size for the size and thickness, and battery life for battery size being mediocre as well, leading to bad battery life, generation after generation, is unacceptable.

    Display DOES MATTER. Going with a mix of Samsung OLED and shitty and cheap LG OLED, treating their calibrations differently, is unacceptable. As is bad calibraiton (especially gamma -- how can you provide black crush like this, year after year!?). As using LG OLED full of grain and color uniformity issues. It's like they're ordering the cheapest units they can get their hands on, from both LG and Samsung.

    RAM DOES MATTER. When they can't prove themselves by good RAM management, but instead bad, then 4GB is not enough and impedes on actual user experience. 6GB as well over time.

    Storage DOES MATTER. Spotify downloads alone take up 32GB. And when they decide to completely abandon the customers with free original backup on photos, this becomes even more important.

    And on and on it goes. I used Pixels for years because, as you point out, software smoothness and consistency is important for user experience. But none of it excuses all the other range of issues they have, nor does it justify the price tag they have. Pixel 3a gives me Pixel UI smoothness as well, for example, and it costs $400

    I actually jumped to the 3a from the 3, due to all the issues I had, and consider it an overall superior unit. Even Pixel 2 was a superior unit, as the Pixel 3 regressed in display quality, battery life and even smoothness (for some reason).

    Don't forget that Google was doing the superior software schtick with Nexuses as well: Nexus 5 is one of the best phones every made, Nexus 7 v2 the best tablet ever made, precisely for this reason. But they were cheap units. Likewise, Pixel 3a is Google's best Pixel ever, and Chromecast, Home Mini, etc. are their best products. Problem is that Google wants to make "flagship" units where it provides mostly same low-quality, but for 2-3x the price. That's unacceptable. You know that.
    Pixel 4 isn't a $800 device just as the Pixel Slate wasn't a $1000 device.
    I can't believe I waited so long for this device and was naive enough to think that maybe Google would learn. But they never do.
  • s.yu - Saturday, November 9, 2019 - link

    In their argument, the BOE panels are probably cheaper? Reply

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