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Google Pixel 2 XL Review: Bigger, better?

4

The Good

  • Premium performance
  • Two-day battery life
  • Slick design
  • Perfect photo capture

The Bad

  • Screen issues
  • Software needs some love

After using the Pixel 2 XL as our full-time handset for several days, here’s what we think of Google’s mighty updated smartphone.

Google's Pixel 2 smartphone might sport top-end specs, yet the Pixel 2 XL is the true premium device of the pair. Boasting a near edge-to-edge display with Quad HD visuals and a massive 3500mAh battery, the XL model is a true rival to the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and the new Apple iPhone X.

Of course, for you to even consider the Pixel 2 XL as your next phone, you’ll need to have a respectable cash flow. More of a gush than a trickle, that’s for sure. Prices start at £799 for the standard 64GB model here in the UK, or a whopping £899 if you want to upgrade to the 128GB version. Still cheaper than Apple’s iPhone X admittedly, yet also far more expensive than some rival handsets like the OnePlus 5.

So does the Pixel 2 XL do enough to warrant a purchase over the slew of brilliant Android phones available in 2017? Here’s our in-depth review. Check out our comparisons with other leading handsets below, and you can find all of our guides and in-depth features in our Google Pixel 2 hub.

Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL

Pixel XL vs Pixel 2 XL

Pixel 2 XL vs iPhone 8 Plus

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: Design

Living up to its name, the Pixel 2 XL is considerably bigger than the standard, comparatively compact Pixel 2 handset. This 6-incher is one of the bigger mobiles that we’ve handled in 2017, proving almost as massive as the 6.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and on par with the chunky Apple iPhone 8 Plus.

That spacious display does mostly fill the front of the phone, so you won’t see much in the way of unnecessary bulk. All the same, those bezels are noticeably thicker when compared with rivals such as the Galaxy S8+ and even LG’s V30. This isn’t quite as edge-to-edge as we’d have hoped.

One-handed use is of course rather tricky, even with the option of dragging down the notifications bar with a swipe of the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. If you want something that’s super comfortable to grip and easy to operate, check out the standard Pixel 2 instead.

Google Pixel 2 XL - Glass edged and water resistant

Google’s glass face curves gently at the edges before meeting the metal frame. You’ll spy a narrow trench between the two, which is a natural harbour for dust, grit and other crap. Nothing a quick scour with your fingernail can’t sort out, though.

The matt edging wraps seamlessly around the back of the Pixel 2 XL, with the usual glass partition up top; it’s a distinctive design that Google has made its own and we definitely like, especially with the neat contrast of the black and white model. With that sleek and simple finish, punctuated only by Google’s stamp down below, this mega-mobile is certainly a looker.

Even better, the Pixel 2 XL is pretty damned hardy. As well as the water resistant finish, this phone can tolerate a fair bit of bashing about and come off no worse for wear. We’d hate to drop the thing, although we’d be confident of its survival.

What works?

This is a good-looking, tough-as-nails phone with full water resistance, so you can flash it about in full naked glory without stressing too much.

What doesn’t?

Those bezels aren’t quite as slender as we’d have liked and one-handed use is far from simple.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: Screen and media

The Pixel 2 XL offers quite a different display to the standard Pixel 2 handset. In this case it’s not only a larger 6-inch screen, mostly filling the front of the phone, but also a pOLED panel of LG’s design.

Sadly, while the 2800x1440 pixel resolution serves up sharp, detailed images, we weren’t big fans of that display.

For one, you won’t enjoy the same clean whites as you do on some rival screens, such as Samsung’s brilliant Super AMOLEDs. Plus as soon as you begin to tilt the phone, a strange blue tint takes over.

Likewise, other OLED panels offer more vibrant colour reproduction, which is pleasing to the eye. By contrast, the Pixel 2 XL’s image reproduction seems quite lifeless - yet still lacks the realism of Apple’s new iPhones. In the display settings you’ll find a ‘vivid colours’ option, although this doesn’t really seem to do anything at all.

Google Pixel 2 XL - We weren't too impressed with the OLED panel

As for HDR video, this panel should certainly be capable of churning out images with realistic contrast, just like LG’s V30. However, neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime Video currently offer HDR movie streaming to the Pixel 2 XL, so we’ll have to wait and see if support comes later.

Despite all of these complaints, the Pixel 2 XL still sports a respectable screen that will certainly appeal to film fans. That stretched aspect ratio is well suited to movie playback and HD content looks good. We were just hoping for one of the very best displays on the market considering the names involved and the price of this blower.

We certainly have no complaints when it comes to those stereo speakers, positioned above and below the screen so your audio is blasted straight at your face. On top volume they’re really powerful and yet clarity doesn’t take much of a hit at all. Of course, as with all smartphone speakers, you can forget about bass and the like. You’ll need to rock some headphones to enjoy great-sounding music - and with the quiet culling of the headphone jack, you’ll need to use a Type C adapter for wired sets.

There’s still no microSD memory card support either, although the minimum of 64GB of storage space is good news for anyone with massive media collections. And you can always get around this with our guide to adding more storage to your Pixel 2 XL smartphone.

Google Pixel 2 XL - The screen is crisp & the speakers throw out some good audio

What works?

The Pixel 2 XL’s screen is perfectly crisp, while the stereo speakers throw out some punchy audio.

What doesn’t?

For a premium smartphone, this display isn’t as good as we’d hoped, lagging behind rivals from Apple and Samsung.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: Features and OS

Android Oreo comes in its most vanilla form on the Pixel 2 XL, which will please any purists out there. This is one of the first Oreo phones to hit market of course, as you’d expect from Google, and so far we’re enjoying it quite a lot - although a few of the features need some work before we’ll really hop on board.

For instance, the picture-in-picture mode is seriously limited right now. If you want to use it with YouTube you’ll need to subscribe to Red, which isn’t even available here in the UK - great job, Google. Plus the Shazam-style music recognition only seems to work some of the time, and certainly not with any indie or obscure songs.

Check out our in-depth Google Pixel 2 XL tips and tricks guide to see our favourite - and least favourite - parts of Android Oreo in action.

Google Pixel 2 XL - The Pixel 2 XL features vanilla Android Oreo

As far as hardware features go, you get a nifty Active Edge sensor which mimics the Edge Sensor of the HTC U11. This can be used to call up the Google Assistant at any time, and it works perfectly, with the option of customising how hard you need to squeeze. However, we’d have liked the option of choosing which app to load. Personally we don’t use the Assistant nearly as much as the camera or Google Chrome, for instance.

Still, the Assistant is getting more useful all of the time. For instance, Google has just added Chromecast support, so now you can control your telly using just your dulcet tones.

Besides that, the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is pretty much the only other hardware feature worth mentioning. This is conveniently placed and super-responsive, with the option of swiping down to drag down the notifications bar. We found we hit this a lot by accident when using the Pixel 2 XL however, so we eventually ended up disabling the feature - as handy as it was.

There’s no kind of iris scanner or other high-tech alternative security features, yet the fingerprint sensor works perfectly, so it’s no biggie. The only time some kind of facial recognition would have come in handy is when we had wet hands, although you have the option of turning on voice recognition instead for those times. It’s less secure, but still works if your environment isn’t too noisy.

What works?

Android purists will enjoy the latest version of Google’s OS, unfettered with overlays and other third-party tweaks.

What doesn’t?

Android Oreo still needs a bit of love at this early stage, while a lack of killer features means the competition still has the edge.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: Performance and battery life

Like pretty much every other flagship phone released in 2017, the Pixel 2 XL packs in Qualcomm’s excellent Snapdragon 835 chipset. Backed by 4GB of RAM, it’s no surprise that performance is smooth at all times. We’d be surprised if Google’s mighty mobile shows any sign of slowdown any time soon.

Google Pixel 2 XL - Battery life on the Pixel 2 XL is excellent

Likewise, battery life is stellar. With standard use, including taking plenty of camera snaps and streaming a fair bit of music, you’ll get close to two full days of play time between charges. And when the Pixel’s sizeable 3500mAh cell is drained, that fast charge support means you can almost fully refill it in around an hour.

There’s no support for wireless charging of course, unlike Samsung’s flagships and the latest iPhones.

What works?

Silky smooth performance and long-lasting battery life is certainly appreciated.

What doesn’t?

It’s a shame that there’s no wireless charging support, as the tech is starting to grow here in the UK.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: Cameras

While many manufacturers are throwing dual lens camera tech on their premium smartphones (and now even some mid-range mobiles), Google has stuck with a good ol’ fashioned single lens snapper instead. And we can’t grumble, because the Pixel 2 XL certainly is a capable shooter.

The 12.2-megapixel rear camera with f/1.8 aperture lens is a strong rival to any other mobile optics we’ve tested in 2017. Photos almost always come out well, even in seriously challenging conditions. That’s thanks to the brilliant HDR+ mode and the Pixel 2 XL’s auto smarts.

However, it’s not all great news. The video quality so far isn’t quite up to snuff, with limited shooting options compared with some rivals also.

Check out our in-depth Pixel 2 XL camera review for our samples and full analysis.

What works?

On auto mode, your photos almost always look brilliant, no matter what you’re shooting (or where you’re shooting it).

What doesn’t?

Video recording has some issues and is still quite limited in functionality, compared with rivals.

Google Pixel 2 XL Review: Verdict

While the Pixel 2 XL is certainly a solid all-round smartphone, there are a few little niggling issues here and there that drop it some vital points.

We love the slick performance and fantastic battery life, while the funky design means it’s certainly a desirable handset. However, flawed video capture, half-finished software features and the debateable display all detract from the overall package.

So, is the Pixel 2 XL the best Android phone right no? Nope, it’s too expensive and can’t match the competition in a number of key areas. Here’s hoping some of those issues can be corrected in future updates, and maybe we’ll be more positive come our long-term review.

Read next: Best Android phones in 2017

Key Specs

  • 6-inches
  • 2880x1440
  • /
  • Android 8.0 Oreo
  • 12.2-megapixel
  • 8MP
  • Snapdragon 835
  • 4GB
  • 64/128GB
  • Yes
  • Active Edge sensor, fingerprint sensor, water resistant

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