October 24, 2016
Share

The Google Pixel XL Review

Google had just released its own smartphones that are purely Google “inside and out.” The release of the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL is an effort by Google to reboot their phone lineup from the Nexus. Nexus is no more, Pixel is in. This is also Google’s first big step from software to consumer electronics.

Find out what we think of Google’s phablet, the Google Pixel XL.

Design

Google’s Pixel XL is the first time that the merging of Android and Google’s Chrome OS is embodied in a phone. Though HTC is the one manufacturing the Pixels and Pixel XLs, the Google Pixel XL is a product of Google taking control of its own devices. No more third parties, no more compromises, just all Google, from hardware to software to design. Google is proud that the Pixel XL (along with its little sibling, the Pixel) is built from scratch and not an HTC phone as a base.

The Google Pixel XL aims for a minimalist look, with no camera bumps and the glass panel behind it as the focal point. It comes in three colors: Very Silver, Quite Black, and Really Blue (limited edition). Its external design borrows heavily from the iPhone 7 Plus (and perhaps even its predecessor, the iPhone 6s Plus), with a similar metal unibody, camera location, and two bottom speakers.

pixel xl design

Despite the Pixel XL’s similarities with another smartphone, it has a few distinctly Google Pixel XL qualities, like the glass panel partially covering the upper back of the phone, its fingerprint sensor located at the back, and well, the Google logo. The Google Pixel XL’s charging port is a USB Type C. Naturally, the Pixel XL has a 3.5 mm headphone jack, like any well-meaning smart device looking out for our musical sensibilities.

The phone’s dimensions clock in at 6.1 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches, at 5.9 oz. Sadly, the Google Pixel XL is not waterproof. The Pixel XL is equipped with a high-pixel density screen. To be specific, it’s a 2560 x 1440 pixel (5.5 in) Quad HD AMOLED display with a 534ppi pixel density, richer than most smartphones to date. However, AMOLED panels aren’t that good in direct sunlight but have huge battery savings. It makes up for it in low light settings. It does have HDR+, brightening up dimly lit areas and reduces blurring.

The app icons for Google’s own apps appear as round tiles while any app you download from the Google Play store appear as square tiles so you can differentiate between the built-in apps and the downloaded apps.

Essentials

Time to put all the essentials on the table: the Google Pixel XL is Nano SIM capable and LTE capable, has Bluetooth 4.2, a multi-touch screen with the protective Gorilla Glass 4, a photo and video editor, and a document editor, perfect for the professional on the go (who likes Google). Apart from the fingerprint scanner, the Google Pixel XL also features a wide array of sensors like an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, compass, and a barometer. It can connect to a Google Wi-Fi router, Google Chromecast Plus, and other G-branded products.

The Google Pixel XL features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with a 4GB RAM and 32 GB or 128 GB of internal storage. It doesn’t have a MicroSD slot but don’t worry, Google Photos lets you move your photos and videos to the cloud for unlimited storage.

pixel essentials

The Pixel XL’s AMOLED screen beats LCDs in color accuracy and contrast, with a faster pixel switching time to prevent ghosting during virtual reality use. It’s perfect for Google’s Daydream VR headset, with accurate head tracking for a smooth VR experience. If you’re planning to get the Daydream VR set, the Google Pixel XL is the only fitting choice compared to its smaller Pixel sibling.

Its app launcher is an intuitive improvement from its Nexus line and beats other phones in this regard: just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to get to the launcher. It’s easy, accessible, and an elegant counterpoint to accessing basic settings and notifications by swiping from the top of the screen.

The Google Pixel XL sports a bigger non-removable 3,450mAh battery pack than the new iPhone but is still a little smaller than its Samsung and HTC counterparts. (At least it won’t be catching fire any time soon.) Google stated that the phone can give you seven hours of use from a 15-minute fast charge and a 26-hour use and 456-hour standby on a full charge, but we’ll verify that claim once it’s out in the market for some time.

Performance

As a general rule, Android lets you customize all aspects of your phone, while iOS gives you a more consistent and unified experience, better app support, and more reliable updates as they are more in control of their OS. Google changes tact with Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL as they take more control of the OS in the phone, limiting its customization options.

Google Pixel XL’s Snapdragon 821 processor runs smoothly on first testing but only because it’s not yet bogged down by apps you will eventually download, so we’ll have to see how time will treat it. Still, it is outclassed by Apple’s A10 Fusion processor in multi-core and single core performance.

pixel camera

Google Pixel XL runs on Android 7.0 Nougat and will receive updates directly from Google. “Nougat” also features a “sustained performance mode,” letting the device take on serious workloads from its various demanding applications. The smartphone also includes 24/7 live customer support which works well with Google’s advanced machine learning protocols for Google Assistant.

The Google Pixel XL also features an 8-megapixel front-facing camera and a 12.3-megapixel rear-facing camera with laser autofocus and dual-LED flash. The camera has a wide array of features such as 1.55µm pixel size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, and panorama. It can record video in 2160p at 30 frames per second, 1080p at 30/60/120 fps, and 720p at 240fps and comes with a stabilizing gyroscope.

The Digital Image Stabilization performs well in action shots. Focusing is quick and effective, aided by laser and face detection. While in camera mode, you can gently twist or shake the phone to switch between the front and back cameras.

Special Features

The Google Pixel XL is also Google’s first chance to showcase Google Assistant, which promises to be exclusive to Pixel phones and other Google devices. It’s designed for machine translation and image recognition. You can hold down the home button or say “OK Google” (it’s the default “hot word” which means you can change it) to start the app. It can also be triggered by a single gesture, can automate tasks, and bring you relevant information based on your queries and on-screen content.

It doesn’t simply link you to the data like Google Now, but also delivers it in a non-robotic, natural-sounding voice. It’s capable of understanding complex commands, aware of what you’re viewing on screen (a neat trick that only means it’s also “looking” at whatever you’re looking at) and where you are in the world, provided your GPS is on.

pixel allo

The Google Assistant is only one of its smart apps. The Pixel XL also features Google Allo, an instant messaging mobile app that includes a virtual assistant and provides a smart reply function that allows users to reply without typing. Reviews of the app describe the back and forth exchanges as coherent and almost human-like, beating even Siri.

The app also learns from all the information you put in. As you keep conversing and add more data, the app starts putting highly relevant suggestions above your keyboard designed to keep the conversation going without typing. Google Assistant is deeply integrated with the apps in the Pixel XL, so the more you use it, the more helpful the apps become.

Alongside Google Allo is Google Duo, a video-calling app that’s basically like Google Hangouts and will effectively replace it to take on Apple’s Facetime. It’s available in both Android and iOS and has already quickly climbed to the top of the free apps on Google Play within two days of its initial release.

Spec Table

Display

5.5-inch AMOLED
2560 x 1440
534ppi
Fingerprint- and smudge-resistant oleophobic coating
Gorilla Glass 4

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
2.15Ghz + 1.6Ghz, 64Bit Quad-Core

GPU

Adreno 530

RAM

4GB
LPDDR4

Storage

32/128GB

MicroSD

No

Cameras

12.3MP rear camera with f/2.0, 1.55μm large pixels, Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF), Laser Detection Autofocus (LDAF), 4K (30fps) video capture, HD 240fps (8x), Full HD 120fps (4x) slow motion video, broad-spectrum CRI-90 dual-LED flash

8MP front camera with f/2.4 aperture, 1.4 µm pixels, Full HD video capture (30fps)

Battery

Non-removable 3,450mAh

Fast charging: up to 7 hours of use from only 15 minutes of charging

Media

Single bottom-firing speaker
Adaptive audio amplifier
3 microphones (2 front, 1 rear) with noise cancellation

Wireless and location

4G LTE with 3x Carrier aggregation
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, dual-band (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.2
NFC
GPS and GLONASS
Digital compass

Network

World-wide network/carrier compatibility with:1

GSM: Quad-band GSM

UMTS/WCDMA : B 1/2/4/5/8

CDMA: BC0/BC1/BC10

TDS-CDMA: N/A

FDD LTE: B 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/29/30

TDD LTE: B 41

LTE 2xCA: B2+B2, B2+B4, B2+B5, B2+B12, B2+B13, B2+B17, B2+B29, B2+B30, B4+B4, B4+B5, B4+B7, B4+B12, B4+B13, B4+B17, B4+B29, B4+B30, B5+B30, B7+B7, B12+B30, B25+B25, B29+B30, B41+B41

LTE 3xCA: B2+B2+B12, B2+B2+B13, B2+B4+B4, B2+B4+B5, B2+B4+B12, B2+B4+B13, B2+B4+B29, B2+B5+B30, B2+B12+B30, B2+B29+B30, B4+B4+B12, B4+B4+B13, B4+B5+B30, B4+ B7+ B12, B4+B12+B30, B4+B29+B30, B41+B41+B41

Pixel is an unlocked phone and works on major carrier networks.

Ports

USB Type-C

Nano SIM

3.5mm audio jack

USB 3.0 data transfer

Sensors

Pixel Imprint

Accelerometer/Gyroscope

Magnetometer

Barometer

Proximity sensor/Ambient Light Sensor

Hall sensor

Android Sensor Hub

Other

RGB LED notification light

Wireless charging

No

Water resistance

IP53

Software

Android 7.1 Nougat

Colors

Very Silver, Quite Black, Really Blue (Limited Edition)

Dimensions and weight

154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6mm

168g

Design
4 out of 5
Essentials
4 out of 5
Performance
3.5 out of 5
Special Features
4.5 out of 5
Overall

THE VERDICT

This is Google’s first foray in smartphones and though it features an innovation like the Google Assistant as a smarter SIRI, its price tag is a little too lofty for its features. Let’s hope the high price means we can get more from the new tech in the Pixel XL in conjunction with other apps. So we’re giving this one 4 out of 5 stars for its innovative boldness alone, though we may bring that rating down if the phone doesn’t deliver after a few weeks of use.

4

Good
4 out of 5