Google Pixel XL Review: The Best Camera Smartphone from Google

Google Pixel XL is a name which you'll often come across, whenever someone talks about the best smartphones available in the market at the moment, the Pixel XL is indeed one of them. A perfect contender for the throne? We'll find out that today. Before I begin, I'd like to let you guys know that I personally used Google Pixel XL smartphone for a month, and once I was convinced, that's when I started writing this review to share my experience with it. It's indeed an excellent smartphone but I'm not convinced with the price tag which Google has given it to flaunt. The 32GB variant of Google Pixel XL is priced at Rs.67,000 and the 128GB variant is priced around Rs.78,000 which is quite hefty for a smartphone, and No, you cannot expand the storage, you only get what it comes with on board. Also, a point to note here is that the Google Pixel does not belong to the old Nexus series, this is completely a new device made by HTC, under Google's directions. We'll take a deeper look into Google Pixel XL and find out if it really is worth its price tag. 

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Google Pixel XL is a name which you'll often come across, whenever someone talks about the best smartphones available in the market at the moment, the Pixel XL is indeed one of them. A perfect contender for the throne? We'll find out that today

Unboxing

Google Pixel XL comes in a squarish-shaped, simple yet attractive box with an image of Pixel smartphone on the front, with minimum branding, a simple G logo and a 'Phone by Google' tagline. The box slides open and reveals another box with a flap, opening which you'll find the Pixel resting inside. Below is an unboxing video of Google Pixel XL, from our YouTube channel.

Google Pixel XL comes with quite a lot of accessories, which include; the Charging adapter, a Type-C to Type-C cable, a Type-C to Type-A OTG adapter, a Type-C to Type-A cable for computer connections, A Quick Start User Guide, some documentation, a pair of Earphones and a SIM ejection tool. Please note that the Indian Retail unit comes bundled with the earphones, while the unit sold in other countries does not contain earphones. The accessories provided inside the box are of very high-quality & seems durable. The Charging adapter connects to the Type-C cable, and the other end connects to your phone. The adapter provided is a fast charging adapter and the USB to Type-C cable provided for computer connections supports USB 3.0 transfer speeds.

Build Quality & Design

The Google Pixel XL is a beautiful smartphone, yet there are some weird unattractive things about the design. The front of the Pixel XL is quite plain, there is no branding or any iconic thing which would distinguish it from others. The back has a weird glass section which takes one-third of the space, the remaining space is metal. This glass window on the back is probably the only thing which makes the Pixel stand out. The Pixel XL is quite sturdy & beautifully built, the materials used are of really high quality, no doubt. The phone was actually made by HTC, under Google's directions, but is being branded as the first smartphone Made by Google.

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The Google Pixel XL comes in a simple, yet premium design, no innovation here. At a point, it feels like an iPhone for Android users. The smartphone has been crafted out of aircraft-grade aluminum, it's much sturdier & premium as compared to other metal body phones. The proximity sensor is located under the earpiece, is much noticeable on the Very Silver & Really Blue variants than on the Quite Black variant. The earpiece grill is made up of cloth like material. The 8 Megapixel front camera is on the left of the earpiece. The top section also contains ambient light sensor & a notification light (which is disabled by default & has to be enabled by going into Notifications settings and turning on Pulse notifications light). There are no navigational buttons under the display, the chin area is just an empty space. The Google Pixel XL has curved sides, which offers a good grip and make it quite comfortable when holding. The smartphone is quite ergonomic & sometimes slippery.

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Coming to the sides, if you look carefully, you'll notice that the Google Pixel XL is actually a wedge-shaped phone, where the top section is slightly thicker than the lower section. It's not much noticeable unless you see carefully, also it won't be a problem as the difference is very slight. The right side of Pixel XL contains the Power key & the Volume rocker. The Power key was positioned above the Volume rocker, which was unusual to me since I'm used to the buttons being positioned the other way around. This weird placement was annoying to me initially, as it invited wrong button presses most of the time. A good thing here was that the Power button had some kind of texture, which helped in distinguishing between the buttons and within a few days, I got used to this new placement. The left side of Pixel XL contains the single Nano SIM tray. The antenna lines were visible on both the sides.

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The Google Pixel XL measures 8.5 mm in thickness & weighs 168 grams, the footprint is larger but the smartphone feels quite light in hand. The top section contains the 3.5 mm audio jack, which was a happy sight since many other brands have started eliminating it. The bottom section contains the USB Type-C port, along with the speaker & the microphone. I was expecting stereo speakers, just like Nexus 6P, but that wasn't the case with the Pixel XL.

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The rear section contains the 12.3 Megapixel camera along with the dual-tone Dual-LED flash, laser autofocus system, and a secondary microphone. The Google Pixel XL has three microphones, which can be used for noise canceling. The glass window on the rear also contains the fingerprint sensor, which is easy to find with your index finger. The fingerprint sensor is one of the fastest I've ever seen till date. It quickly takes you to the home screen and works in all directions, however, unlike other smartphones, it does not work with wet hands. Overall, the Google Pixel XL is quite sturdy, beautifully crafted out of premium materials and very ergonomic, when it comes to design & build quality.

Display & Audio

Google Pixel XL comes with a 5.5" Inch AMOLED Display with Quad-HD resolution (1440 x 2560 pixels) and 534 ppi pixel density. The display is topped with 2.5D contoured glass, which is actually Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The display was specially designed to benefit Daydream, Google's latest & second VR platform after Cardboard. It's good to see that Google uses a QHD AMOLED display on Pixel XL, unlike Pixel, which uses a 5-Inch 1080p panel. The Pixel XL display is reasonably bright and can go up to 430 nits maximum, which is a good number. The AMOLED display is brighter, vivid with true blacks and is one of the best when it comes to sunlight legibility. Google promises 100 percent NTSC color gamut reproduction, the color reproduction is decent, there are no screen modes except for a Blue-light filter. Overall the display is one of the best we've tested so far, playing games, videos, movies on Google Pixel XL is a pleasant experience. 

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When it comes to Audio quality & performance, Google Pixel XL was decent. Talking about the loudspeaker, Google Pixel XL accommodates a single speaker which is placed next to the charging port. The speaker is pretty loud and clear, even at high volumes. Full marks for Google Pixel XL here. When the smartphone is connected to an external amplifier, the audio quality again impresses me, the output is excellent, even when the volume knobs are turned at high levels. When earphones are plugged in, the Google Pixel XL still performs good but some distortion can be noticed when we crank up the volume levels, especially on the earphones which came bundled inside the box. When tested with good quality earphones like Sony MDR-XB50AP, Sennheiser Cx275s, Brainwavz M3, Creative Aurvana In-Ear 2 Plus and Sennheiser HD 205 headphones, the output was decent and clearer. Overall the audio output was excellent when it comes to loudspeaker performance & performance when an external amplifier is plugged in, but I was expecting a bit more from Pixel XL when it comes to headphone performance, the output was decent but was no match for Apple iPhone 7 Plus when headphones are plugged in.

Hardware & Performance

The Google Pixel XL is among the first smartphones to come with Snapdragon 821 chips, but the version of the SD821 which comes with the Pixel XL is clocked at SD820 speeds so you won't see much improvement in performance over SD820. Coming to the hardware, the Google Pixel XL packs Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) chipset, which is a Quad-Core 64-bit processor (Dual-Core 2.15 GHz Kryo & Dual-Core 1.6 GHz Kryo) along with Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB RAM and internal storage options of 32GB & 128GB. There is no microSD card slot, so the memory is not expandable.

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The performance of Google Pixel XL was flawless throughout the duration of our tests & during day-to-day usage, thanks to the Snapdragon 821 chip, even though it is clocked at SD820 speeds, the performance was excellent and we did not come across any performance issues, no matter what we threw at it, including 4K video streaming, High-graphic games, 4K video recording, multitasking etc. Watching videos on the Quad-HD display of Pixel XL was a pleasurable experience, same goes for gaming. There were no heating issues, even when gaming for long periods. The Pixel XL did get a bit warm sometimes when gaming or recording 4K videos continuously for longer periods, but it never got uncomfortably warm like some other smartphones. You can take a look at the benchmark scores, to get an estimated idea of its performance. 

Benchmarks

With Google Pixel XL in hand, I was very excited to pull off the benchmark tests, to see how the hardware performs. We ran a few major benchmarks like AnTuTu, Geekbench 4, Quadrant, GFXBench, and 3D Mark. You can check the score we obtained after running all these Benchmarks below.

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The AnTuTu score for Google Pixel XL was 139724, while the score on Geekbench 4 was 1539 for single-core and 4038 for multi-core. The score of Quadrant benchmark was 30595, GFXBench GL (T-Rex at 4K resolution) was 54 fps and finally, the 3D Mark score was 2503 on slingshot extreme and 27,509 on storm unlimited.

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Overall the performance of Google Pixel XL was excellent throughout, It clearly was one of the best smartphones we've ever reviewed till this day.

Software & Google Experience

Google came up with a brand new UI based on Android 7.1 Nougat, and Pixel phones were the first ones to house the new UI. The new interface comes with a new launcher design and various new tweaks, animations, and features. The home screen now consists of a Pill-shaped bar with Google logo on the Top-left side of the screen, tapping it quickly launches the Google search option, same can be done by sliding the screen from left to right. The bottom section contains a bigger transparent frosted dock, with five icons and below that are the three navigational virtual keys. There is no app drawer button, instead, the app drawer can be launched by sliding the dock from bottom to top. The app drawer holds 5 icons in a row and the new Pixel UI comes with rounded icons. Google also added a 3D touch like feature which can be accessed by long-pressing the app icons. The long press will prompt contextual actions, but for now, not all apps support this feature.

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Long-Press Actions like 3D Touch

This is a new quick feature on Pixel smartphones, it's pretty much like Apple iPhone's 3D Touch feature. Now you can long press app icons on your home screen, this will pop-up a quick menu with basic actions for that particular app (see below image). This is a nice little feature and comes handy every now and then. At the moment this feature is not available for all apps, almost all Google apps & system apps support this feature, but will soon be available for third-party apps.

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Google Wallpapers

The new Pixel launcher comes with a whole lot of awesome wallpapers, which include the breathtaking Live Wallpapers, which uses Google Earth images with a parallax effect, which makes them appear moving when you slide to different pages on your home screen. There are some other wallpapers which change colors & pattern as your battery discharges, some change depending on the weather conditions in your location. My personal favorites were the rotating earth wallpaper, which shows the day & night transactions of the user's current location. Google finally released their Wallpapers app on Play store, you can go ahead and download it, to experience these stunning wallpapers.

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Google Assistant

Google Now has been replaced by the new Google Assistant, which pretty much does the same job as the previous Voice search, but is more contextually aware and tries to understand you more by pulling information from your device, like your location, calendar, profile, the apps you're using etc. It can help you in many other ways, you can trigger the Google Assistant by the hot word "Ok Google" or by pressing the home key for a few seconds. The Google Assistant also supports Indian English, It also speaks to you in a stereotypical Indian English accent, which I hate, but still you can get your things done, for example; sending messages, setting alarms, reminders, timers or searching Google etc.

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Notification Bar

The notification shade now features a slim bar with six quick shortcuts on the first swipe, the second swipe downwards expands it to a larger panel with 9 shortcuts on a page and the brightness slider. There is an inbuilt Night mode which adds a Blue-light filter on top of your screen preventing your eyes from strain. You can even schedule On/Off Blue-light filter as per your choice.  The overall Google experience on the new Pixel Launcher was a delight, the launcher was extremely fast & smooth throughout. The new stock Android appeal was something which I truly liked about Pixel XL.

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Unlimited Storage for Photos & Videos

When it comes to the stock apps, well, there is no Gallery app, Google Photos is the gallery app by default, same goes for Music, there is no music app, Google Play Music is the default music app. Google basically eliminated all previous stock apps and replaced them with Google-branded apps. You'll find all major Google apps pre-installed in Pixel XL. There is no my files app as well. Google is now providing unlimited storage to store all your photos and videos in high resolution for free, you can upload all your photos and videos and free up some space. Google also came up with a new Free up space feature, which automatically moves your photos and videos to the cloud storage, over Wi-Fi, if not accessed in the last 90 days. This feature is very helpful, it frees up space by moving files which are not required by the user at the moment. You can easily download the files back, whenever needed. The Free up space feature also works for other files which are there in your smartphone. even in your download folder. This feature moves the files to the cloud, if not accessed in the last 90 days.

Camera

Coming to the main feature of Google Pixel XL, the camera. If you're a techie like me, then you must be knowing that Google Pixel phones have one of the highest rated cameras, though when seen on paper, the camera specs are same as Nexus 6P & Nexus 5X smartphones. The Google Pixel XL packs a 12.3 Megapixel rear camera, Sony IMX377 sensor (1/2.3" sensor size) with f/2.0 aperture, 1.55µm pixel size and a combination of Phase Detection & Laser Autofocus. Another great feature which the Pixel XL comes with is the HDR+, which works great and is auto-activated by default, no matter how many times you switch it off. it will be enabled when you open the camera app next time. This is annoying, really, trust me, but it's for your own good since HDR+ really enhances your photos. The Pixel XL comes with Electronic Image Stabilization or EIS sensor (gyro based) but lacks Optical Image Stabilization or OIS. 

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The Google Pixel XL comes with a new Google Camera app, the camera interface on Pixel XL is very simple, the bottom bar contains the Shutter key with the camera switcher on the left and gallery shortcut on the right. The top-left contains a quick menu button, while the top-right section contains toggles; Timer, HDR+, Grid, White balance, and flash. You can simply swipe the screen for the video mode. Some other features which come with the Google Camera app are; PhotoSphere, Lens Blur, Panorama, Slow Motion etc. The camera shutter is very fast with no lag. You can quickly launch the camera by double-tapping the power button from any screen or even when the phone is locked.

The rear camera on Pixel XL is the best we've tested so far if I have to describe the Pixel XL camera in one word, that'll be Awesome! The images shot with Pixel XL had a lot of detail with nicely saturated colors, controlled noise, and good dynamic range. The Auto HDR+ helps here with the dynamic range, I usually shot with the HDR+ option turned on, since I loved the output as compared to it turned off. The camera shot impressive images in low light conditions, you can check yourself in the sample images. I'll recommend you to keep the HDR+ option on in low lighting conditions, as it enhances your photos by eliminating noise without compromising detail. The rear camera can shoot 4K videos at 30 frames per second, Full HD 1080p videos at 60 frames & 30 frames per second and finally HD 720p videos at 240 frames per second. The EIS sensor works great, It stabilizes the video and makes it a lot smooth, I agree it's not like the OIS, but something is better than nothing. I was truly impressed with the video recording capabilities of Google Pixel XL.

Google Pixel XL Camera Sample Shots

The front camera on Google Pixel XL is an 8 Megapixel shooter with f/2.4 aperture, 1/3.2" sensor size, and 1.4 µm pixel size. The selfies captured by Google Pixel XL were amazing, the best a phone can capture in my opinion. The photos clicked by the front camera were very detailed with good color reproduction, dynamic range, and skin tones. The camera works great even in low light conditions, especially when the HDR+ mode is turned on. The front camera can also capture Full HD 1080p videos which is a good option. Overall the front camera is amazing in almost all lighting conditions.

Connectivity & Reception

The Google Pixel XL comes with the latest Snapdragon X12 modem and supports LTE Cat. 12, which means the download speeds can go up to 600Mbps and upload speeds up to 75Mbps, which is quite a number. Google Pixel XL also supports VoLTE  Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (dual-band), Bluetooth v4.2 with A2DP & LE, GPS (with A-GPS  & GLONASS), NFC (with Android Beam), USB Type-C connector with USB 3.0 speeds. The smartphone comes with a USB-OTG adapter inside the box which can be used for OTG connections. Pixel XL comes with a dedicated processor for the environmental sensors which Google calls the Android Sensor Hub. This dedicated processor constantly monitors the inputs which include the voice commands, even when the main processor is standby. The network reception throughout the duration of testing was good, we even took the device to a hill station and the network reception there was still pretty good.

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Battery Performance

The Google  Pixel XL packs a 3450 mAh battery which is quite the industry standard for 5.5" Inch premium smartphones these days. The USB Type-C port supports fast charging, and according to Google, Pixel XL can run up to 7 hours with just 15 minutes of charging. Instead of using Qualcomm Quick Charge, the Pixel XL uses a new USB Delivery Standard for fast charging. We personally tested the fast charging feature with the supplied charger on a Google Pixel XL with 0% battery, and below are the results we obtained. We checked the battery percentage at 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 1 hour, 90 minutes, 2 hours and so on until we hit 100 percent. Below are the results we obtained at different times after plugging in the smartphone.
The Google Pixel XL charged 0% to 9% in the first 15 minutes of plugging in. And 0% to 39% in 60 minutes. After this, the phone kept changing rapidly and charged 100% in 2 hours 11 minutes.
We tested the battery performance in a video loop test, Google Pixel XL lasted 13 Hours 38 minutes which is quite impressive. With heavy usage which included gaming, 4K playback, 4K video shooting, Internet browsing over Wi-Fi and over a cellular network, Google Pixel XL still lasted more than a day. With moderate usage, it easily lasted a day and a half, and sometimes almost two days with no juice left. The inbuilt Battery Saver feature does help in stretching the runtime of Google Pixel XL for a few more hours. I was totally impressed with the battery performance, the various battery test results we conducted showed satisfactory results, besides Pixel XL was quick when it comes to charging, so in case you've run out of battery, you can get enough juice to last the phone for a good few hours by charging it for 20 to 30 minutes.

Verdict

I think I've covered all the important information regarding Google Pixel XL in my review, I hope I did, but if I missed something, you can straight away comment down below & I'll try to reach back to you asap. So coming to my final words about Pixel XL, Google has done its job well, the smartphone is an excellent piece of technology available in the market for humans, sure it does have its own set of advantages & disadvantages, who doesn't? nothing is perfect. The display on Google Pixel XL is one of the best, I've ever used, thanks to the AMOLED 1440p panel, watching videos, movies, playing games etc, are quite a pleasure. The Google Pixel XL is a must for people who are looking for a high-quality phone camera, the one present on the Pixel XL is probably the best one out there, especially when it comes to low-light photography, the HDR+ mode enhances your low-light photos and makes them so much better. The daylight performance of the camera is simply excellent, and it definitely is one of the best smartphone camera available at the moment. The front selfie camera is just as good as the rear, you can take a look at the Sample camera shots clicked by Google Pixel XL. When it comes ti video shooting, the Pixel XL shoots amazing videos which are not only of high-quality but quite stable. It's impressive how Pixel XL shoots stable videos, even though it lacks OIS sensor, the EIS works really great (much better than on other phones) the videos shot are decently stable & smooth.

The built quality is excellent, the smartphone is quite solid and made up of high-quality aluminum & glass. The battery performance is simply awesome, you can see the stats above to get a better idea, I was very happy with the battery performance. The new Pixel stock Android feel was again something which I liked, but it was disappointing to see that many of the basic features were missing, there was no gallery app (Google Photos is the new default gallery), no customization options, minimal design & functions etc. The processor is good at handling heavy tasks, its fast but not faster than the predecessor SD820 (since the SD821 of Pixel XL is clocked at SD820 speeds) so when you compare the Pixel XL with phones like OnePlus 3, LG G5 or HTC 10, you won't find any major performance difference. The Pixel XL is good when it comes to multitasking, the 4GB RAM handles multiple apps well, you can even use the split window feature and perform two tasks simultaneously. When it comes to Audio, Pixel XL delivers decent output & loudness via the speaker, when earphones are plugged in, the output is decent but some distortion can be noticed at higher volumes. Well, I don't want to add much here since I've covered everything above, let's conclude this review. 


My Rating: 4.5 Out of 5

The Google Pixel XL is a pretty solid smartphone with top-of-the-line hardware, excellent camera, amazing battery backup and pretty much everything. The new Pixel experience brings back the stock feel in a new avatar. The Google Assistant is a nice little addition, though I find myself using it quite rarely, but it's still a good way to kill time when getting bored, just throw some random questions and you'll be amused. I'll definitely recommend the Google Pixel XL to those who are looking for a high-quality camera phone with top-notch hardware & style status. People who are Android fans but secretly adore iPhone looks & feel, be ready, Google Pixel XL comes to the rescue, I like to call the Pixel XL "An iPhone for Android lovers" - And It does justify that tag.

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About Jimmie Luthra

Jim Luthra is a Third Officer in Merchant Navy and Chief Editor of The-Area51.com, He is a Blogger, Guitarist, Painter, Book Lover, Tech Geek, Basket Ball Lover, Traveller and Fitness Freak. He loves Traveling and Adeventure Sports.
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