Google unveiled the highly anticipated Pixel 2 XL smartphone earlier this month and those who pre-ordered the device are finally getting their phones. Given the company’s new policy to target premium smartphone market instead of budget devices, the new Pixel 2 XL is priced pretty much the same as last year’s Pixel XL and also comparatively closer to other flagship smartphones released in 2017 from companies like Samsung and Apple. Whether it lives up to those standards or not, our Pixel 2 XL review should help shed some light on that.
Google Pixel 2 XL Review
A big part of Google smartphone’s continuing popularity is just how well the software and hardware combination works thanks to Google’s own oversight over the manufacturing process. While on the surface the Pixel phones might appear pretty basic and probably not worth the money as there are other comparatively priced devices, once you get down to using them is when they truly shine and our Pixel 2 XL review will reveal how that is also the case with Pixel 2 XL.
Google Pixel 2 XL Specs
- 6-inch QHD+ Display
- Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
- 64/128GB Storage
- 4GB RAM
- 12.2 MP rear Camera with [email protected] video recording
- 3520mAh battery with fast charge support
- Android Oreo 8.0 out of the box
Continuing the tradition from last year, Google once again opted for top of the line specifications for most of the parts when it comes to Pixel 2 XL smartphone. With a 6-inch 2880×1440 OLED screen, Pixel 2 XL is a big phone but not as big as most of the other top tier flagship offerings in the market right now. However, since Google went with LG to create a plastic OLED for the Pixel 2 XL instead of Samsung’s Super AMOLED, the display and color quality isn’t as great as you would expect from Samsung phones. Not only is the Pixel 2 XL display not as bright as Galaxy S8, in some cases the whites on the screen give off a bluish tinge, which can be distracting and the not so great viewing angles don’t help matters either.
The screen size in itself, however, gives it an edge for consumers who like big screens but don’t want a huge smartphone to weigh down their pockets or have comparatively smaller hands. The phone adopts a bezel-less approach like most other expensive smartphones but doesn’t go the full mile and instead sticks to a minimal bezel which is a good thing in this case. The bezel in Pixel 2 XL serves as the home for front facing speakers as well as the pressure sensitive edges to enable Google Assistant without unlocking your phone.
The back of the phone features a mixture of glass and aluminum, although the glass section is only around the camera while the rest of the back is aluminum covered in a coating to give it a rough look and feel for better texturing and grip.
To power this expensive smartphone, Google decided to go with the current top of the line SoC, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which currently powers pretty much every top tier device like Note 8, Galaxy S8 and LG V30. While most devices these days opt for 6GB RAM, Google is still using the old 4GB limit although that doesn’t necessarily mean that performance is worse but it will definitely have an impact when multitasking on your Pixel 2 XL as compared to devices like Note 8.
One of the biggest change in Pixel 2 XL compared to most other smartphones is Google’s decision to follow Apple’s path and remove the 3.5mm audio port from the device. While the phone isn’t exactly small that they needed the space which was being occupied by the audio jack, this decision isn’t exactly bad just a bit sudden and bold for Google. In its place, Pixel 2 XL owners can instead either use wireless headphones or use the 3.5mm to USB-C adapter included in the retail package to connect their old wired headphones. If headphones aren’t your thing, you can still enjoy crystal clear and crisp audio from the front-facing stereo speakers on the Pixel 2 XL which sound much better than devices like Note 8, which we reviewed earlier.
Despite sticking with a similar 12MP camera as last year’s Pixel XL and not jumping on the dual-lens camera bandwagon like other manufacturers, Pixel 2 XL manages to deliver what is easily the best smartphone camera we have seen in the market right now. As a testament to its potential, the Pixel 2 XL also holds a DxOMark score of 98 which is a considerable leap over the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus camera that sits at #2 spot with a score of 94.
The Pixel 2 XL features a 12.2 MP f/1.8 rear camera and an 8MP front-facing one. Despite a single sensor in the rear camera, Google managed to work some software magic and enable the portrait Bokeh mode in Pixel 2 XL, which we will talk about in our software section of this Pixel 2 XL review. In auto mode, which most people use for their smartphone photography, Pixel 2 XL works great in good light conditions but low light photography is where the smartphone truly shines. The Pixel 2 XL camera can gather a bit more light than S8 or Note 8 and then increase the shutter speed to reduce blur on moving objects. The color quality of pictures is also better than other cameras out there, most of which tend to produce less natural-looking skin tones.
Google also claims that the phone has an inactive Pixel Visual Core processor which they might activate at a later date and should improve the camera even further, especially HDR photography in mixed light conditions. There is no word on when exactly will this be upgraded but it is a planned feature for the Android 8.1 update to be released after the next few weeks.
The front-facing camera of Pixel 2 XL seems to be similar to Galaxy devices with an aperture of f/2.4 to f/1.7 but the result is far superior to those of Samsung phones, especially in good light conditions. On top of the image quality, the Portrait bokeh mode also works with the front camera so that is an added bonus.
The Pixel 2 XL ships with the stock Android Oreo 8.0 firmware, untouched by bloatware or any third party applications so it gives you a true Android experience. Thanks to Google’s guaranteed 3-year software commitment, you can be assured that not only will your Pixel 2 XL receive timely updates but you will also have access to the next 3 major firmware updates releasing over the next few years.
As we mentioned earlier in our Pixel 2 XL review, while on paper the camera of the smartphone may not seem much but thanks to Google’s software magic, it is easily the best smartphone camera available right now. Despite a single lens, through software you get access to portrait mode feature which requires dual-lens camera smartphones usually. The result of the feature is also on par with other devices. On top of that, the phone also has a Motion Photo mode that lets you add short videos to your still photos, much like Apple’s Live Photos. With the upcoming 8.1 firmware, the camera will only get better with improved HDR photography.
The other big advantage the Pixel 2 XL camera has through software is the included support for Google’s Daydream VR and improved VR and AR functionality as well as other neat features like Google Lens. Using Google Lens, you can scan your photos to receive more information about the object you scanned such as a monument.
The general Android UI has also seen an overhaul specifically designed for Pixel 2 devices. The Google search bar now sits below the lowest row of icons so you can reach it easily on the big screen and there are also new homescreen widgets that show weather and calendar appointments. If you listen to some music and want to know which track it is, you can allow your Pixel 2 XL to listen to its surroundings and it will display music it hears onto your phone’s lockscreen.
Below is a summary of all the pros and cons of Pixel 2 XL as mentioned in our Google Pixel 2 XL review above.
- Large yet decently sized screen for a premium, minimal bezel look
- 12MP single lens camera with the best result in market
- Good battery life with 3520mAh capacity that lasts a day with ease
- Edge squeeze to activate Google Assistant for search and other help
- Top of the line processor and fast, unbloated performance thanks to stock firmware
- Latest Android firmware for years to come ensuring perfect performance
- Price! At $850 for the 64GB model, it is going to be a hard sell for anyone who isn’t a Google fan and would prefer devices like Galaxy S8 in similar price
- Limited internal storage with no way to upgrade through a microSD card
- Lackluster display quality that ruins the colors and feels flimsy on an otherwise premium phone
If you are a fan of Google’s devices and looking to upgrade, going for the Pixel 2 XL should be a no-brainer as it does everything the company’s phones are known for and even kicks things up a notch in certain departments. For those who currently use company’s like Samsung or LG but aren’t exactly fans and would be open to purchasing a Google phone, the Pixel 2 XL is definitely worth a look despite its price tag. While the limited storage and lack of a 3.5mm audio jack might be a no for some people, majority won’t care about these and if that is the case, the Google Pixel 2 XL promises 3 years of amazing software support, great hardware performance, and the best smartphone camera, if you can live past the sub-par display quality.