REVIEWS

Google Pixel Stand 2 review: Unjustifiable

Google has supported wireless charging on plenty of phones over the years—even a few of the old Nexus phones had Qi coils inside. With the Pixel 3, Google released its first official wireless charger in years known as the Pixel Stand. That device has continued to offer slightly enhanced charging speeds for Pixel phones, but now there’s a new Pixel Stand, and the second-gen version offers much higher maximum speeds.

The Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro can charge at up to 21 and 23W, respectively, matching wired charging speeds. However, that’s just the maximum speed. Most of the time, the Pixel Stand charges much slower. That makes the $80 price tag hard to swallow, and the stand’s Pixel-exclusive features don’t work well enough to make up for that.

The Pixel Stand 2 is a capable charger, but bugs and a high price tag make it a tough sell to all but the biggest Pixel fans.


SPECIFICATIONS

  • Brand: Google
  • Speed: 23W (Pixel 6 Pro), 21W (Pixel 6), 15W EEP Qi devices
  • Dimensions: 82x71x113mm
  • Weight: 2.8 oz (71 g)
  • Adapter included: Yes
  • Input: USB-C 30W

PROS

  • Fast wireless charging for Pixel phones
  • Useful features like charge speed adjustment and photo frame
  • Compatible with all Qi devices

CONS

  • Buggy Pixel features
  • Expensive
  • Boring design

Design, hardware, what’s in the box

The new Pixel Stand looks about as boring as you can make a wireless charger. It’s done up in white and gray, and it lacks the funky minimalist design of the first-gen version. That’s probably because this one is much beefier with support for up to 23W wireless charging. All that power means Google had to do something about heat generation, so the Pixel Stand 2 has a small cooling fan hidden under its nondescript housing.

The only visible branding is the debossed G on the bottom. Around back, there’s a USB-C port where the included charger plugs in. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Stand has a removable six-foot USB-C-to-C cable, which some high-wattage chargers do not. It also comes with Google’s new 30W adapter. So, you can unplug the cable and use the wired charger if you prefer. This brick has USB-PD and PPS, so it should fast charge just about anything up to 30W.

When you drop your phone on the Stand, a small LED in the bottom lip will light up briefly to let you know charging has started. The lip at the bottom holds it in place fairly well, but the phone will shift if you move the Stand around. Because it’s taller, the Pixel 6 Pro tends to move more. Note, all photos in this review show the Pixel 6 on the Pixel Stand 2.

Performance and features

The Pixel Stand 2’s claim to fame is its higher charging wattage. While the first-gen stand could only manage 10W, this one can do 23W for the Pixel 6 Pro and 21W for the Pixel 6. Yes, there are some wireless chargers that operate at even higher speeds, but it’s still a big improvement for Google—older Pixel phones topped out at 18W for wired charging.

So, will the Pixel Stand 2 charge your phone quickly? Yes, but probably not as fast as you think. Due to the inherent difficulties in measuring wireless charging speeds, I can’t tell you the exact real-world wattage over time. However, the Pixel Stand 2 performs at similar speeds to the 30W wired charger when the phone is low on power. That 0-50% block goes by fast, but the charging rate slows down considerably as the battery gets closer to full. In my testing, a full charge cycle for the Pixel 6 clocks in at about two hours and just a touch longer for the 6 Pro. The Pixel Stand 2 is more appealing if you’re the type to run your phone down to almost nothing before you drop it on the charger. If you’re only draining it to 70% before it goes back on the dock, the Pixel Stand 2 isn’t going to be a big help.

Because the Stand can operate at such high speeds, it needs an internal cooling fan. It doesn’t run all the time, but when it does, you will absolutely notice it. The small fan has a high-pitched whine, which stands out from the background noise in my office. I’m sitting about equidistant from my desktop PC and the Pixel Stand. With the Stand’s fan running, it’s louder than the six fans in my PC. I do like that you can control the charging speed with the quiet and max toggles. Quiet, naturally, charges slower to keep the fan from spinning up. The max setting sticks closer to the full charging speed, but it runs the fan almost constantly.

Google guides you through a detailed onboarding process when you first place your Pixel on the Stand. The options are the same as the old version—you can view photo slideshows, access smart home controls, and use “OK Google” while your phone is on the Pixel Stand 2, but some features are buggy. For example, “OK Google” reliability was sporadic, and my smart home controls often failed to connect even after multiple attempts to set them up. I’ve found that the Pixel Stand 2 simply doesn’t always recognize the phone correctly sometimes, either. I’ll set the Pixel 6 down, the LED flashes orange, and then nothing happens. Picking the phone up and returning it to the stand usually solves the problem, but at that point, any convenience from wireless charging has been squandered. Adding a case (even Google’s official plastic one) makes the connection even more sketchy. It happens maybe 10% of the time. I’m not sure if this indicates some sort of hardware issue with my unit, but we’ve reached out to Google and will update if we get anything concrete.

While the theoretical functionality is impressive, the reality is somewhat more, well… classic Google. The Pixel Stand 2 didn’t even work at maximum speed until the January update, so I can’t say I’m surprised there are still issues.

Should you buy it?

Probably not. Google is looking for $80 here, and that’s too much. The Pixel Stand 2 is no doubt a powerful wireless charger. The 21-23W Pixel charging is nice to have, and it can even fast charge standard Qi devices up to 15W. It has the sort of bugs I might forgive on a cheaper device from a startup, but this is Google. This is a company with the resources and money to release a wireless charger that works perfectly. And yet, here we are. Hopefully, Google can fix some of the bugs, and a sale wouldn’t hurt, either.

Look, if you love your Pixel 6 and want to have the best experience possible, the Pixel Stand 2 is going to help get you there, if only for the faster wireless charging. For those who don’t mind using a cable or coping with slower wireless charging, you should save that $80. A perfectly serviceable wireless charger that can hit 12W on the Pixel 6 costs less than half as much, and 12W is nothing to scoff at.

Buy it if…

  • You want to take advantage of all the Pixel 6’s features
  • You don’t mind spending big on premium accessories

Don’t buy it if…

  • You rarely let your phone get low before putting it back on the charger
  • You refuse to spend $80 on a phone charger

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