Google just launched two new ‘Pixel’ brand phones built in collaboration with HTC, the 5-inch Pixel and the 5.5-inch Pixel XL. We went hands-on at Google’s official launch and here’s our first-look Google Pixel XL review, revealing how this mighty mobile could destroy competition like the OnePlus 3.
We’re already suitably impressed by Google’s standard Pixel phone, a 5-inch mobile that’s hot competition for the best Android phones of 2016. However, even the mighty Samsung Galaxy S7 and OnePlus 3 could be blown away by Google’s bigger own-brand handset, the 5.5-inch Pixel XL.
Packing the same attractive design, blistering performance and capable camera of the smaller Pixel phone is just the start. The Pixel XL also boosts the screen up to a Quad HD panel that’s truly stunning, while adding a bigger battery too.
Here’s our hands-on Pixel XL phone review, and check out our hands-on Pixel phone review too, to see what we think of its smaller sibling.
Read next: Pixel vs Pixel XL, what’s the difference?
Hands-on Google Pixel XL phone review: One mighty mobile
The Pixel XL is essentially a bigger version of the standard Pixel phone, which means you get the same curvy glass-and-metal design. But this time, it’s a real pocket filler.
Just as the 5-inch Pixel reminded us of the iPhone 7 in terms of dimensions, the 5.5-inch Pixel XL makes us think of the iPhone 7 Plus. So like the iPhone 7 Plus, this phone is a bugger to use with one hand. It’s pretty slender and not too heavy at 168g, but the reasonably thick bezels beneath and above the screen bulk it out and make stretching your thumb to the top of the display a real chore. Two-handed use is thankfully fine and those curved edges make for a comfortable grip.
Around the back, the Pixel XL stands out from the smartphone crowd thanks to its cool and unusual half-and-half glass and metal construction. Up top you get a glossy surfacing which thankfully seems quite resistant to grease and scuff marks. While on the bottom half, the XL is pure metal. It’s a very cool look, and a welcome antidote to non-stop all-metal mobiles.
Beware water, however; unlike the Galaxy S7 and Xperia XZ, this handset will drown if dunked.
Around the back of the Pixel XL, you’ll see that the camera lens is flush with the surface; no awkward jutting bits. There’s a fingerprint sensor mounted in the centre, which quickly and securely unlocks the phone when turned on.
Hands-on Google Pixel XL phone review: Media monster
The Google Pixel’s 5-inch AMOLED screen has been boosted for the Google Pixel XL, not just in size but also resolution. The more spacious 5.5-inch display boasts a Quad HD resolution, which delivers incredibly detailed and vibrant visuals. In other words, the Pixel XL is already strong competition for the likes of the Galaxy S7 Edge as the best media mobile of 2016.
You get a microSD memory card to expand the on-board 32GB or 128GB of storage space. That’s a key feature that was missing from last year’s Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P, so it’s a blessed relief to see it return for the Pixel XL phone. Especially if you carry around a massive media collection, like us.
Hands-on Google Pixel XL phone review: Performance powerhouse
Packing the latest Snapdragon 821 processor means the Google Pixel XL handset runs with a silky smoothness at all times. Android Nougat doesn’t stutter and apps load up instantly, although we’ll need to use the Pixel XL as our full-time phone to truly test the handset’s performance.
Of course, with a ten percent performance boost promised over the Snapdragon 820 chipset (used in lots of flagship 2016 Android phones like the HTC 10 and LG G5), we’re confident that the Pixel phones will be two of the most powerful mobiles of the year.
The Pixel XL rocks a bigger battery than the smaller Pixel phone, with a mighty 3450mAh cell crammed inside that metallic frame. We’re hopeful that the XL will give you all-day battery life on a single charge and hopefully will last well into a second day too, although again that’s something we’ll be testing out for the full Pixel XL phone review.
Hands-on Google Pixel XL phone review: Camera tech
Around the back of the Pixel XL phone you’ll find a 12-megapixel snapper with an f/2.0 lens and phase detection autofocus. In our hands-on tests it certainly seems to be a worthy premium snapper. Photos are crisp and clear, with plenty of detail packed in. And if you have to deal with tricky lighting, the new HDR+ mode should help to prevent murky areas and produce natural colours.
Likewise, the camera takes snaps as soon as you hit the shutter button, thanks to that nippy autofocus. There’s no processing lag either, so you can shoot away until your finger finally tires, with zero delay between shots.
You can shoot home movies in up to 4K resolution, or in Full HD with strong image stabilisation. And no worries if you shoot loads of stuff every day because Pixel XL owners get unlimited free cloud storage via Google Photos – with your photos and videos stored full-resolution.
Check back soon for our full in-depth Google Pixel XL review.