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Huawei P10 Plus vs Google Pixel XL: Which is best for me?

Huawei P10 Plus vs Google Pixel XL: Huawei’s new 2017 flagship, the P10, also comes in a larger, beefier form known as the P10 Plus and we wanted to see how it stacks up against another top-tier handset that’s been supersized, the Google Pixel XL.

Huawei P10 Plus vs Google Pixel XL: Specs at a glance

  P10 Plus Pixel XL
Screen size 5.5-inches
Screen resolution WQHD (2560×1440)
Weight 165 grams 168 grams
OS Android 7.0 w/ EMUI 5.1 Android 7.1
Front cameras 8-megapixels w/ Leica 8-megapixels
Rear cameras Dual 12/20-megapixels w/ OIS 12.3-megapixels w/ EIS
Processor 2.4GHz/1.8GHz Kirin 960 2.16GHz/1.6GHz Snapdragon 821
Memory 6GB RAM 4GB RAM
Storage 64GB + microSD up to 2TB 32GB/128GB. Non-expandable
Battery 3750mAh w/ SuperCharge 3450mAh w/ USB-C PD

Huawei P10 Plus vs Google Pixel XL: Which is best for me?

Huawei’s new P10 line adopts more natural rounding than it predecessors, with a thin metal frame, soft edges and corners, and nicely textured hardware controls. The Pixel XL is much the same, with more glass partially covering its back (and its equally flush camera module), however, the XL can’t match the Plus’ waif-like profile, highlighted by a soft chamfer line around its edge. The overall footprint of Google’s phone is larger too, with thicker bezels around its screen, particularly above and below.

Of the two P10s, the Plus boasts the far superior display, not simply because it’s a larger 5.5-inch offering, but because it’s a true pixel pusher with its pin-sharp WQHD resolution. The Pixel XL too enjoys a far nicer screen than its smaller sibling, packing the same size, resolution and therefore pixel density as the P10 Plus, but leveraging AMOLED technology in place of the IPS NEO panel on Huawei’s phone.

As such, the most notable differences are brighter overall imagery from the P10 Plus, with punchier colours and better contrast from Google’s handset, although we were surprised to see lesser brightness drop-off from the Pixel’s display at more extreme angles, even if the difference was negligible.

Dive behind those screens and both handsets pack some serious heat. The Pixel XL was, until perhaps the arrival of the OnePlus 3T, the most powerful Android handset on the market, thanks in part to its Snapdragon 821 processor. Meanwhile, Huawei has been working hard to ensure that its HiSilicon chipsets are taken just as seriously and the Kirin 960 found inside the P10 Plus (along with the Mate 9 and P10) may have cracked it. It enables the Plus to go toe to toe in general UI fluidity and paired to the company’s Emotion UI 5.1 (which has various tools to kerb performance degradation over time), and the phone’s 6GB of RAM, should ensure the phone is as capable as the next Android flagship launched this side of the Snapdragon 835.

As for the user experience, it’s a classic case of customisability versus simplicity. The P10 Plus’ Android 7.0-based UX features a notably varied interface compared to stock Android with themes and, by way of the new front-facing fingerprint sensor, no navigation buttons. Instead, a tap on the sensor takes you back, a long-press takes you to your main home screen and a swipe opens the app switcher. It’s not the most natural way to interact with Android and perhaps one of those decisions that seemed better on paper than in its actual execution.

All that said, not even Google’s own Pixel and Pixel XL can be absolved of tinkering with the stock Android launcher completely. The Pixel Launcher running atop Android 7.1 on the XL adds in gesture controls like tilt-to-wake and a new swipe-up apps drawer action, as well as notifications access when swiping on the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. It’s still a markedly cleaner take compared to Huawei’s offering, you just need to decide whether you want a less is more, or more is more approach.

Big phones often come with big batteries and the Pixel XL packs a respectably sizeable 3450mAh cell, whilst the Huawei P10 Plus, despite a narrower frame, accommodates an even beefier 3750mAh battery. There’s the promise of seven hours from 15 minutes charge using the Pixel’s USB-C PD fast-charging but that’s practically eclipsed by Huawei’s SuperCharge tech, which in the case of the Plus supposedly promises 50 per cent charge from just 20 minutes charge time – we’ll believe it when we’ve tested it, but if the claim holds true, it’s not just Google who’ll have to step their fast-charging game up.

Arguably the biggest talking point about both of these phones is their cameras. The more established Pixel XL boasts one of the best, if not the best smartphone camera you can buy right now. It features a 12.3-megapixel Sony sensor with an f/2.0 aperture, shoots in HDR by default, displays some of the best image stabilisation tech around, despite solely being electronic and Google is offering free unlimited storage of both photos at full resolution and video at 4K resolution for life to really sweeten the deal.

The P10 Plus meanwhile comes with what could be considered the more interesting camera tech. Continuing its partnership with camera brand Leica, the P10 Plus features Huawei’s Leica 2.0 dual 12/20-megapixel sensor array, for the first time set behind Leica Summilux-H lenses. The main colour sensor features OIS and a wider f/1.8aperture than the Pixel XL’s, along with a dual LED flash and a laser autofocus array (just like the Pixel).

Huawei is pushing a more advanced portrait mode with better bokeh than was possible with the similarly specced Mate 9 from 2016 and the front-facing 8-megapixel snapper has also undergone some Leica treatment, which paired to the in-depth beauty software already available on the brand’s other top phones, makes for a richer experience than what’s on offer from the Pixel XL’s 8-megapixel front-facing snapper.

It would appear that Huawei’s making as strong a play as ever with both the P10 and P10 Plus and it would appear that the latter has what it takes to tackle Google’s Pixel XL. It wins out on design, expandability, battery and for some, the greater amount of personalisation the software affords users, whilst for others, despite the charms of the clean and powerful Pixel XL, it may simply fall to a matter of price.

The Google Pixel XL starts at £719 for the non-expandable 32GB model, with the 128GB tier selling for the significant sum of £819. Huawei’s new 5.5-incher meanwhile is expected to be priced at around £100 less than the base XL, if European pricing (€699) is anything to go by.

Read next: Huawei P10 Review: In Depth