Google Pixel Stand (2nd generation) review: nice but not a must-have
The latest Google Pixel stand is less of a “must-have” accessory if you’re a Pixel phone owner and more of a “nice to have.” At $79, its primary job is fast wireless charging, and it does it well. But unless you’re a Pixel 6 or 6 Pro owner and you’re really sold on one of the handful of extra features supported by your phone, you’d better save your money and buy a cheap third-party charger.
Aptly named Pixel Stand (2nd generation) is Google’s second iteration of a fast wireless charger built to complement its Pixel phones. You don’t need a Pixel phone to use it, as it works with Qi-enabled gadgets, but you’ll need a 6 or a 6 Pro to get the fastest charging speeds. You’ll also need the January 2022 or later security update, which if you’re a Pixel 6 owner, you’ll want to download anyway for a whole host of reasons.
Like the original Pixel Stand, it does some multitasking while charging your phone. While your Pixel phone is placed on the stand, it can display images from your Google Photos albums as a sort of digital photo frame. During setup, the first time you place your phone on the charger, you can specify which albums you want to retrieve images from, and the photos will be displayed in batches of five to ten at a time, in a slideshow style.
Other functions are aimed at use next to the bed. There is an option to turn on “do not disturb” automatically when the phone is placed on the charger, and you can have the screen turn off automatically in a dark room. There’s also a “sunrise” alarm that gradually brightens your screen in the 15 minutes before your alarm goes off. You can specify a time period for this feature so that it won’t be applied to other alarms all day – just your wake-up call.
As for its main job – charging your phone – it does this effectively. I noticed some false starts here and there when I put the phone on the stand, and it started to charge, only to stop for a moment before picking it up again. This presented no problems; it just gave me a few moments of concern when trying to figure out if it was properly mounted on the stand.
The Pixel Stand 2 offers 23W charging with the Pixel 6 Pro and 21W for the Pixel 6 – pretty fast for wireless charging on a phone not made by OnePlus. It took a completely drained Pixel 6 Pro battery from zero to 100 percent in almost exactly two hours, which is impressive. My more typical daily use case was charging the battery on a Pixel 6, dropping it from 70-80 percent back to 100 percent, which took about 30 minutes on the fastest charge mode. The stand offers a slightly slower charge of 15W for other Qi-enabled phones and devices.
As for the extras, I like the photo frame feature more than I thought. I’m not sure I want to commit to owning and managing images for a dedicated digital photo frame, but I happen to have dozens (okay, hundreds) of photos of my four-month-old child on Google Photos that I enjoy looking through. Having them displayed on my desk on my phone is kind of a nice middle ground – I can really see and appreciate the many, many photos I take without fiddling with another device. I’m sure my colleagues reviewing smart home technology can point me to some smart displays that already do this sort of thing, but I digress.
If I have one complaint about this feature, it’s that it tends to pick favorites and show them over and over. This may be because it prefers portrait shots, and I tend to shoot more landscape shots. In any case, you can tap the screen to end the current slideshow and swipe the lock screen to shuffle the selection and start a new one.
The bedside-focused features of the stand also work well. The sunrise alarm is a pleasant way to wake up, and the ability to detect a dark room and turn off the screen accordingly makes it a good bedside companion. But these features are a bit at odds with the stand’s main draw: fast wireless charging. When I charge my phone overnight, I don’t need the absolute fastest speeds. I wouldn’t see the picture frame much either as my phone doesn’t spend much time on the nightstand during the day.
I also encountered some issues with Google Assistant while using the stand. After tapping the Assistant icon on the lock screen while in the dock, the phone records my voice commands but uselessly ignores everything it just heard me say and shows “How can I help?” text on the screen. However, accessing the assistant by saying “Hey Google” on the lock screen works just fine, and that’s not a standard feature — just something you can enable on any Pixel phone.
Then there’s the built-in fan; it’s fairly quiet, but when the fan is on full blast, the assistant has a hard time hearing me. You can choose a silent charging mode to avoid this, but then you will miss out on those super fast charging speeds.
The Pixel Stand 2 isn’t cheap: At $79, it’s a lot more than the $30-ish standard Qi charging stands you can find on Amazon. If you have a Pixel 6 or 6 Pro, want really fast wireless charging, and think you’d like most of the extras that the standard (2nd generation) offers, you’ll probably find the $80 well spent. But if you’re only slightly interested in the bedside or picture frame features and fast wireless charging isn’t essential, save yourself some money and go for a standard Qi charger. You can even add a digital photo frame to your cart for the same price.
Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge