Google Pixel Stand review

Google's new charging dock gives your Pixel phone more than just juice

The Pixel Stand uses the power of Google Assistant to make your Pixel 3 useful when it’s out of your hands.
The Pixel Stand uses the power of Google Assistant to make your Pixel 3 useful when it’s out of your hands.
The Pixel Stand uses the power of Google Assistant to make your Pixel 3 useful when it’s out of your hands.

Highs

  • Fast wireless charging for Pixel 3
  • Easy access to Google Assistant
  • Large music playback controls when phone is docked
  • Smart Do Not Disturb trigger
  • Helpful Sunrise Alarm

Lows

  • Smart features only work on Pixel 3 and 3 XL
  • Qi support limited to 5W

We don’t expect much from wireless chargers. We want them to charge our smartphone when we place it down, and that’s about it. Cue our surprise when Google announced the Pixel Stand, a wireless charger that’s quite a good deal smarter than any other on the market. It’s raising the bar for what we expect from wireless chargers.

But there are some caveats. The Pixel Stand is meant for the Google Pixel 3 and the Pixel 3 XL smartphones. It’s a 10-watt charger using Google’s proprietary technology, so the only way to get another wireless charger that will juice up the Pixel 3 fast is to shop Made By Google-certified accessories. The Pixel Stand does support Qi wireless charging, but only at 5 watts. For that reason, we do not recommend buying the Pixel Stand if you do not have a Pixel 3 smartphone. While it will charge up your Samsung Galaxy phone or iPhone, there are plenty of other faster wireless chargers that are much cheaper. If you do have a Pixel 3, however, the Pixel Stand is absolutely worth the $79.

The basics

The Pixel Stand is quite plain. It’s meant to disappear into your home, and that’s easy because there aren’t a lot of visual flourishes to make this wireless charging stand stick out. You can place your phone vertically or horizontally to charge it, and there’s a ridged line on the base to keep the phone from slipping off.

There’s only one color option available — white — which may not be the best choice when paired with the silicone and polycarbonate material. The Pixel Stand attracts a good deal of lint and dirt, so it may require some cleaning over a short period of time. We do like the stand’s grippy bottom, which keeps it from moving around on any surface you place it on. Our Pixel 3 also sat straight on the stand without jiggling around, even when we were swiping around on it.

It comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable, which plugs into the included 18-watt USB-PD (Power Delivery) wall adapter, and there’s an LED on the base that lights up to indicate the phone is charging. It certainly charges up the phone fast, but if you’re trying to fill up your phone as fast as possible, the wired charger included in the box is the way to go (or just unplug the cable from the wireless charger and plug it into your phone).

Smart features

The spotlight falls on the Pixel Stand’s smart features. It may look like just another wireless charger, but there’s a good deal happening under the hood as soon as you place a Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL on it.

Inside the Pixel Stand is a microprocessor that triggers a secure “handshake” when you place the Pixel 3 down (there’s no Bluetooth, NFC, or Wi-Fi involved in the connection). The Pixel asks the Stand for its unique ID number, and then the phone computes it so they both have the matching number, a process known as hashing. This number is then stored in both the phone and the stand. This ensures that your phone recognizes this specific Pixel Stand, in case you have multiple stands, as you can customize each Pixel Stand to have different purposes.

You can access the Pixel Stand’s settings in your phone’s Connected Device settings. You’ll have the ability to completely turn off your phone’s screen, including from the Pixel 3’s always-on display, so you get no visual disturbances. That’s handy if the Pixel Stand is next to your bed.

What’s also helpful is you can set a Pixel Stand to trigger your phone’s Do Not Disturb mode. This doesn’t necessarily turn off the screen, but it does mean the screen won’t light up or alert you to any notifications when the phone is docked. It’s another way of minimizing alerts if you’re trying to go to bed, but this is something you can toggle on or off. So, if you have own another Pixel Stand — say, by your desk — then you’ll likely want to make sure it doesn’t trigger Do Not Disturb mode.

Alternatively, you can also turn your Pixel 3 into a digital photo frame when it’s on the Pixel Stand. You can set up “Photo Frames” using Google Photos, and your phone will display photos from specific albums you’ve selected. It’s a nice way of making use of what’s often a blank screen as you wirelessly charge.

But perhaps the feature we’re most fond of is Sunrise Alarm. Fifteen minutes before your alarm is set to go off, the Pixel 3 will start showing an ambient light to help wake you up. We’ve found ourselves walking up naturally during this light-up stage more often, right in time to turn the alarm off before it rings. The usefulness of this feature will vary by person, but we believe it’s helpful in waking up naturally.

The Pixel Stand uses the power of Google Assistant to make your phone useful when it’s out of your hands.

Apart from these core features of the Pixel Stand, placing a Pixel 3 on the wireless charger also introduces a more helpful user interface on the always-on display. You get one-tap access to Google Assistant (or you can still say, “Hey Google”), and depending on the time of day, you will get suggestions to tap on that are powered by Assistant. For example, if it’s early in the morning, you’ll get the option to trigger the Assistant’s “My Day” feature. This will automatically pull up your calendar, reminders, and weather and traffic alerts, and it will start playing the day’s news or podcasts (you can tweak your source preferences in Assistant’s settings).

Google Pixel Stand
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re playing music on the Pixel 3, you’ll get big music controls on the always-on display when the phone is docked on the Pixel Stand, which makes it easier to tap and control playback. It will also display larger album artwork, which is a nice aesthetic. Sadly, we’ve found this doesn’t work in landscape mode, as it still shows the album artwork in portrait orientation.

And finally, there’s also a smart home tie-in, though it seems to be quite limited at the moment. If you have a Nest Hello video doorbell, you can quickly see who’s at the front door with just a tap of a button when the Pixel 3 is resting on the Pixel Stand. There’s no mention of other smart home integration, but we imagine support for other products could be added over time. We don’t have a Nest Hello, so we haven’t been able to test this out.

Price, availability, and warranty information

The Pixel Stand costs $79, and it’s available now from the Google Store. Google offers a standard one-year limited warranty that covers manufacturing defects, and nothing else.

Our Take

The Pixel Stand is the perfect companion to the Pixel 3. It essentially turns the Pixel 3 into a Google Home Mini, but with the added benefit of charging it as well. We think Google could have allowed these features to work on other Android phones though, since many of these features are software based.

Are there better alternatives?

No. This is one of your best bets to wirelessly charge your Pixel 3 and 3 XL fast, though there are other certified chargers from the likes of Belkin.  What’s more, no other wireless charging stand will give you the variety of features the Pixel Stand does. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind wireless charger.

If you’re just looking for a simple wireless charger for your Pixel 3 or any other smartphone, check out our guide to the best wireless phone chargers.

How long will it last?

We expect this wireless charger to outlive the Pixel 3 — expect it to last five or more years. The build quality is solid, and you’ll likely have upgraded to a new phone before this stand loses its value.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you have a Pixel 3 or 3 XL, this is a no-brainer.

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