The Google Pixel XL big in every way; Price, Size, Specs, Camera quality and more. If I could describe the user experience as big too, I would, but unfortunately, I can only describe that as smooth for now.
The Pixel XL is so good, I was actually questioning whether it’s still running Android or not. The camera performance is as advertised and I left my DSLR camera behind for my day-to-day shoots.
What else is big about the Google Pixel XL?
I have a love/hate relationship with the Pixel XL; it’s the device that costs a lot of money but doesn’t feel as premium as the likes of the iPhone or the Mate 9. When you take it out of the box, it feels light – which is not a bad thing, as it’s quite big – and feels cheap. No one will be asking you what phone you have in your hand anytime soon.
This is Google’s attempt at designing a phone and if you were to compare to the Nexus 6P designed by Huawei, I would say the latter feels more premium and nice in hand. For an expensive device, you don’t get stereo speakers or waterproofing which you get on competitor devices.
On the back of the Pixel XL (and it’s younger brother, the Pixel), there’s a Gorilla Glass 4 present and prominent around the top third of the area, it’s also where the fingerprint sensor and camera sits. One positive I find about its finishing is how it offers extra grip when using the XL.
The rest of the Pixel XL is finished in anodised aluminium, so if you live in a cold country, it does get a little chilly. There’s also no camera bump and the back is completely flat with a subtle “G” logo on the lower area.
Measuring 153 x 76 x 8.58 mm and 7.3mm thick, It’s very comparable in size to the 7 Plus, but still feels lighter in hand. With just an IP53 waterproof rating, you can’t get the XL wet, so you probably need to get a phone insurance or get a case – or both.
On top of the device, there’s a 3.5mm headphone port which is good news, since everyone is trying to do something different by removing it completely these days, and on the bottom is a USB Type-C port and two speaker grills. Don’t be fooled, though, only one of them is a down firing speaker.
On the right side is where you’ll locate the volume rocker and riveted or groovy finished power button. On the opposite side is where your nano sim goes and although there isn’t a slot for storage expansion, Google provides a cloud alternative for that – more on this later.
Flip over to the front, there’s a 1080p 5.5-inch AMOLED display and no physical home button. The lack of any physical home button, yet a big bezel is a strange design choice, but I’m sure Google’s got a reason for that.
The bland design of the Google Pixel XL may not be for everyone, however, once you fire it up, all that feeling goes away as it offers a really great user experience. If you like you can also choose from the colour options available, including Very Silver, Quite Black and Really Blue – a Very interesting naming system.
Elsewhere, under that big display is a 3,450mAh battery which should last you all day and another reason to opt for the bigger version over the smaller Pixel which packs just 2,770mAh battery.
Overall, the Pixel XL’s design is one that you may love or hate regardless of any review you read online. It’s one to see face to face, have a feel and see how it makes you feel. For me, everything about this phone is the internals and software.
Software is refined and feels smooth – Android 7.0 Nougat
When Android 7.1 Nougat was announced, I couldn’t wait to try it out and what better way to experience it than on a phone made by Google?
The Pixel XL ships with Android 7.1 Nougat + Google’s new Pixel Launcher experience, offering things like a long-press on certain app icons to bring up a list of actions, similar to 3D touch on iOS.
You can also send images straight from keyboard apps, enjoy Daydream support, swipe gesture to bring up the app drawer and more. Google Assistant has also replaced Now on Tap and Google Now and it’s a lot more natural in the way you interact with it in comparison to Siri.
Not only can you do the usual like set alarms, play a song via Spotify, you can also interact with Google Assistant contextually, so if you asked about the weather, you can follow up in the same conversation without having to start all over again.
There’s also something I haven’t seen before on other smartphones, a fully integrated, free customer support. Using the new customer support system, you can chat to Google via chat or phone to solve any issues you may have with your device. It’s very interesting and a feature that is very useful.
The Pixel XL does not come with an external storage expansion option, however, with Smart Storage, all pictures and videos gets backed up to Google Photos in high resolution (it’s also unlimited), and when you run out of storage space on your device, media files already backed up gets deleted or removed from your physical storage.
Google Pixel XL’s camera could be the best thus far
With the highest DxOMark given to a smartphone so far, the Pixel XL 12MP camera is not only good on paper but actually, delivers some very mouth-watering and eye-popping performance.
Although it features a wide f/2.0 aperture, it’s not as wide as that of the iPhone 7, but again when compared and used in the real world, I prefer the results on the Pixel XL, maybe because of its large 1.55μm Sony sensor.
OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) is missing here, but there’s electronic image stabilisation – using gyroscopes – included which is just as good in most lighting condition. HDR+ is also back and improved; it’s even more clever in the way it works than it was before.
It essentially takes photos before you even press the shutter in order to avoid blur and to speed up the process. HDR, in theory, takes low, mid and high exposures, then stitches them together, which would normally mean you wait, but now it’s so quick you might as well keep it on all the time when you take photos.
In low-light conditions, the XL really excels well; with a wide aperture lens and a large Sony sensor coupled with a dual-LED flash and laser autofocus, you get a lot of detail, accurate colours without over exposure and eye-pleasing images. Let’s not forget that you can also use the Google Pixel XL to capture 4K videos.
Google Pixel XL is super fast and you can do what you love for longer
Under the aluminium case is a 64-bit quad-core chip running at 2.15Ghz coupled with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 530 GPU. All tech talk aside here, the reality of what’s under the XL’s shell is that it’s rapid!
The speed of the XL can be experienced throughout from booting up from cold, navigating the device (thanks to a slick software too), transitioning between screens and multitasking, also very quick. What I really like about the XL is that it’s not something you experience for a bit when it comes to speed, it’s consistent every day. I often experience Instagram crashing on the S7 edge, and not a single app crash since day one.
Are you a gamer? casual or hardcore? don’t worry, the XL’s got you. Every game we have thrown at the XL just offers an exceptional experience hardly seen on Android smartphones. You experience no lag or jittery graphics and unlike the iPhone with frames dropping at times, you don’t get that experience with the Pixel XL.
When it comes to battery life, its 3,450mAh battery will last a day and a quarter, and that’s with WiFi on, Bluetooth on (for Fitbit Charge 2 regular sync), GPS for mapping, gaming, emails, social media activity, calls/WhatsApp and taking pictures. If you’re not as hard and resource heavy, you can get a day and a half out of it and thanks to USB Type C, you can charge faster.
Is it the one to buy?
Whether you’re an Apple fanboy or you need a pure Android experience, the Pixel XL is one for you. With the whole Note 7 debacle, the XL is a clear alternative after the S7 edge. It is to Android users what the iPhone is to iOS users; it offers a smooth and fast processor, the camera quality is really good in any lighting condition with consistency.
Although you can use some Pro features, you usually don’t need it at all. When the aperture or bokeh is put to test against iPhone 7Plus’s Portrait mode the winner was clear, with the XL coming on top. The only thing that may get you thinking twice is the price tag, but if you can get past that, you won’t be disappointed.
The Pixel XL was sent to us for review and was used as our daily driver over three weeks. All opinion remains UNILAD Tech’s.
I write about all things tech!