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Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Which is best for me?

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Google’s new Pixel smartphones are finally out in the wild and we wanted to see how the larger Pixel XL compared against another top-tier 5.5-incher, the Huawei P9 Plus.

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Specs at a glance

  P9 Plus Pixel XL
Screen size 5.5-inches 5.5-inches
Screen resolution Full HD (1920×1080) WQHD (2560×1440)
Weight 162 grams 168 grams
OS Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 7.1 Nougat
Front camera 8-megapixels 8-megapixels
Rear camera(s) Dual 12-megapixels 12.3-megapixels
Processor HiSilicon Kirin 955 Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Memory 4GB RAM 4GB RAM
Storage 64GB. Expandable via microSD up to 256GB 32GB/128GB. Non expandable
Battery 3400mAh 3450mAh

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Design

With both phones sporting similarly sized screens, you can expect similar footprints, but there are distinct differences to the aesthetic approaches the companies behind these phones have taken.

The Pixel XL, the hardware of which comes courtesy of HTC, shares some notable similarities to its own flagship, the HTC 10; with a relatively chunky sandblasted metal unibody design featuring a broad chamfer running the back edge. It feels solid and sturdy in your hand, but also surprisingly lightweight for its size at 168 grams.

There’s also a glass segment taking up a third of the phone’s back, which encompasses both its camera and a centrally mounted circular fingerprint sensor. It’s an odd design element that will likely divide people with regards to attractiveness, but at the very least it’s a distinctive inclusion on an otherwise unassuming looking phone.

Huawei clearly poured a lot of time and care into the design of the P9 Plus to help with its perception amongst more established rival flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. The brushed metal body and design elements like its fingerprint sensor are far more squared than on XL, but as a result, it looks and feels more like a precision instrument in the hand.

There’s a much smaller black glass bar spanning the top edge of the phone’s back where you’ll find the phone’s distinctive dual camera arrangement and Leica’s partnership branding, which makes for a cleaner look. Overall the P9 Plus is a tad lighter and significantly thinner than the Pixel XL, making for a more appealing offering with regards to design.

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Screen

If you’re a fan of AMOLED technology, you’re spoilt for choice between these two handsets. The Full HD panel on the P9 Plus offers great colours, deep blacks and some of the best overall brightness and viewing angles that Huawei has ever put into a smartphone display.

The ace up its sleeve is the inclusion of Press Touch technology, letting you push into the display to activate secondary features on select elements within the UI, not unlike Apple’s 3D Touch technology.

The Pixel XL doesn’t have any fancy pressure sensing tech, although similar shortcut functionality does reside within its (presently exclusive) Android launcher, but what it lacks in what’s arguably a gimmick right now, it makes up for in sheer visual fidelity.

The XL’s 5.5-inch AMOLED trumps the P9 Plus’s display by sporting Quad HD resolution (2560×1440). That means you get 534 pixels per inch rather than 401, as on the P9 Plus, giving you seamless imagery with imperceptibly small physical pixels, and that’s all on top of the same visual prowess offered up by the P9 Plus, with great colours, contrast and superior overall brightness.

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: OS

These phones both approach Android from opposite ends of the same scale; with the Pixel, less is more and with the P9 Plus more is more. Huawei’s phone runs a heavily skinned take on Android 6.0 Marshmallow called Emotion UI 4.1. It does away with an apps drawer so everything lives on your desktops, iOS-style, whilst the notifications shade features a two-pane design and you have rich customisation options covering everything from app icons to UI animations.

The Pixel and Pixel XL enjoy the same benefits as the Nexus phones before them. At launch they’re the first devices on the market to boast the latest and greatest build of Android, version 7.1 Nougat, wrapped in a bespoke launcher that feels like a notable departure from the previous stock experience in some ways, but for the right reasons.

Overall, the XL feels as though it offers the cleaner and more familiar operating system between these two phones, boasts smart features like gestures and offers users guaranteed updates for two years direct from Google and security updates for three years. In that regard, the P9 Plus doesn’t offer the same kind of longevity.

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Performance

Huawei’s own Kirin 955 chipset (backed up by 4GB of RAM) ensures that the P9 Plus feels like a suitably fast and fluid device in the current smartphone climate, but concerns arise when you look at long-term performance experienced by its predecessors, which show their age come the end of a standard 24 month stint.

The Pixel XL matches the P9 Plus in terms of memory, but sports the latest Snapdragon 821 flagship SoC from Qualcomm, an improvement on the already rock-solid Snapdragon 820 that’s powering the majority of 2016’s Android flagship smartphone contingent.

That chipset also gives the XL superior fast-charging chops, meaning you can get seven hours use from just 15 minutes at the wall plug out of the phone’s 3450mAh battery. Fast charging isn’t as rapid on the P9 Plus, but the 3400mAh cell does a commendable job of offering up around the same day and half of usage per charge.

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Cameras

Both phones bring interesting camera technology to the table, but for very different reasons. The P9 and P9 Plus turned heads when it was revealed that Huawei had partnered up with camera brand Leica to develop the optics and functionality found on its newest smartphones.

The dual 12-megapixel sensors of the phone’s primary camera work together well in general shooting, with crisp imagery, nice colours and decent exposure management. Where the experience excels though is with control over your capture experience, with bespoke filters designed to mirror Leica’s own cameras as well as manual control over both snapping stills and shooting video. The dual sensors also help when processing depth data for more realistic looking bokeh.

The XL, like its smaller sibling the Pixel, packs the best smartphone camera ever, according to DxO Mark’s mobile rankings, but whilst we wouldn’t unequivocally agree with the statement, it’s certainly up there with market leaders like the Samsung Galaxy S7.

By default it shoots in HDR (high dynamic range) and captures practically perfect snaps in all sorts of environments, it out-paces the P9 Plus in low light and offers video up to 4K, rather than Full HD, but doesn’t feature manual controls, instead boasting free unlimited cloud storage of uncompressed stills and video, courtesy of its creators at Google.

Google Pixel XL vs Huawei P9 Plus: Verdict

The Huawei P9 Plus boast the nicer design and the more interesting camera, whilst Pixel XL will offer users greater longevity thanks to its top-notch hardware and software. Each has its own place in the current smartphone climate, but ultimately it falls to price with the P9 Plus available for around £490, whilst the Pixel XL starts at considerably steeper £719.

Check out our video comparison of the Google Pixel XL and Huawei P9 Plus below:



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