12 Mug Warmers to Keep Your Coffee at the Perfect Temperature
October 4, 2017
Japan Now Have Floating Hotel Pods That Take Guests To Deserted Islands
October 6, 2017
Show all

Pixel 2, Pixelbook, and Home Max—All the Big News From Google’s Gadget Event

Today, Google released a slew of devices, from smartphones and smart speakers to smart laptops and smart accessories. The annual flood of Google gadgets started with some AI updates (which is either exciting or horrifying, depending on who you ask). Then Google got to the stuff that’s going to be the hardware wrapper for this powerful AI.

Here’s what’s coming.

GOOGLE HOME MINI AND MAX

Last year, Google also announced the Google Home alongside its new lineup of Pixel phones. Amazon’s Echo used to be its primary competition, but not anymore. This year Apple joined the fray by announcing its own smart speaker, the HomePod, and other speaker manufacturers are embracing Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

Just as Amazon has its own suite of Echo devices (with more added just last week), Google is also offering up more flavors of Google Home. First up is the Home Mini, which, as the name suggests, is a Google Home packed inside a much smaller, puck-shaped device—like Amazon’s Echo Dot. It communicates with its four LEDs under the its fabric to tell you when it’s listening. The device comes in a variety of colors—black, grey, and coral—and will work much like last year’s Google Home. Though it will have a less powerful speaker packed inside, but its circular shape means it can project 360-degree sound no problem and can connect to external speakers.

The Google Home Mini will retail for $50 in the U.S., and is available for pre-order starting today. Google also announced that Nest (owned by Google) and the Home and Home Mini will now work in tandem, acting like a smart brain for all your connected devices.

The Google Home family will also get some new abilities, like a broadcast feature that acts like a home intercom system and other tech that helps kids learn new things. It’s also been tuned to recognized a child’s voice as well.

Because of the Mini’s small size, it’s not a great choice for all the audiophiles out there—hence, the Home Max. With stereo speakers for a great sound quality, the Max is meant to do battle with Apple’s HomePod and also Amazon’s latest Echo Plus.

The Max’s speakers is over 20 times more powerful than the original Google Home, so should have no problem filling your space with noise. It also comes with Smart Sound, so the Max can adapt its audio to however your home is setup. It also works with Spotify and other streaming services (except Apple Music, of course), and like the Home, it has Google Assistant built in.

Google says that it will be able to hear you even if its blasting music at high volume. The speaker can also be stacked vertically or horizontally, and of course, it works with all your other Home speakers.

The Max will cost $400 ($50 more than Apple’s HomePod) and will be available sometime in December. Google’s also throwing in a 12-month YouTube Red subscription for free.

PIXELBOOK

Ever since Google introduced the Chromebook to the world, it’s been in the business of building the snazziest Chromebooks out there, much more premium than anything else on the market. The original Chromebook Pixel and its followup in 2015 cost a ton (too much to really be worth buying) but deliver some of the slickest laptop hardware you can find, period.

It looks like Google is keeping that trend alive with the new 10mm-thick Pixelbook. With a 2-in-1 hinge, the Pixelbook can transform from a laptop into a tablet (albeit a rather bulky one). The 12.3-inch QuadHD screen is also capacitive and works with a Pixelbook Pen designed specifically for the device. Google worked with Wacom, a much-loved stylus company, to get the pen right and Google showed that the Pen also works with Google Assistant. For example, if you want to know who someone is, just circle his or her face with the pen and Google will provide the answer.

Inside, the Pixelbook is running an Intel Core i5 processer, one of the most powerful chips you’ll find in any Chromebook, and supports Google Assistant (the first laptop to do so). It also comes with an Assistant key that lets you call up Google’s AI helper and type to it, in case you don’t want to talk to your laptop in public.

The Pixelbook comes in 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB variants and comes with up to 16GB of RAM, and prices start at $1,000 and the Pixelbook Pen costs $100. You can pre-order them both starting today and will be in stores October 31st.

PIXEL 2 AND PIXEL 2 XL

With Apple releasing its iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and the souped-up iPhone X, Google is firing back with its Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

Where the 2016 Pixel built a solid foundation, these smartphones create something that seems a worthy competitor to the ever-popular iPhone. These Pixels come with curved OLED displays, waterproofing, and the most powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon chip available as a processor. Unfortunately, yes, Google also got rid of the of the headphone jack.

Google has also slimmed down the Pixel’s bezels, which were obnoxiously large on last year’s Pixel, and also put in curves around the display’s corners, similar to the Samsung Galaxy S8. You can also squeeze, yes squeeze, the phone, and it will activate the Google Assistant. This is a similar feature found in the HTC U11, a smartphone from a hardware company Google just bought last month.

Arguably, the Pixel’s best feature last year was its camera, and Google has only improved things. Google increased the dynamic range and added better autofocus and optical stabilization. It has also added a portrait mode, using machine learning to blur the background and sharpen the foreground.

For video, the Pixel and Pixel 2 uses digital and optical stabilization for incredibly smooth videos. You can also create motion photos. Although somewhat similar to Apple’s live photos, the Pixel 2 instead keeps certain animation information of a photo, but preserves the photo as a still, adding a little bit of motion to your otherwise still life photography.

On the software side of things, Google’s new phones will be running pure Android Oreo, which we got a taste of back in May and is already running on last year’s Pixel. You’ll also get updates directly from Google, meaning no waiting around for your carrier or smartphone maker to get around to it. One of the updates is Google Lens, which is providing information for the real world around you. Take a picture of a painting in a museum, and Google will provide context by just analyzing the image. However, this isn’t a Pixel 2 only feature—it will preview on the Pixel first and will slowly find its way onto third-party smartphones.

Coming in at 5-inches and 6-inches, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL cost $650 and $850, respectively, and you can pre-order starting today (you’ll get a free Home Mini if you do).

These new phones come in white, black, and light blue for the Pixel, and white and a white-black hybrid for the XL. If the supply is anything like it was last year, you’re going to want to pre-order as soon as possible if you want to get your hands on one.

Google also developed some accessories, like its own pair of wireless earbuds, called Pixel Buds. They work closely with the Pixel 2 for pairing and using the Google Assistant, and it can also translate languages on the fly. During the live demo, the headphones essentially worked like a Babel Fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The earbuds also come with a charging case, which gives you 24 hours of battery combined together. They’re $160 and you can pre-order them starting today.

Then there’s Google Clips, a camera that uses AI to snap candid pictures throughout your day. The camera looks for stable shots of people you know, and uses on-device machine learning to try and figure out what the best possible pictures are. Also, nothing leaves the device unless the user decides to download or send the images, which is a nice bit of security. It’s as simple as a camera as you can get. Set the camera down, and let it do its thing. It’ll set you back $250 bucks.