If you think Apple and Samsung are the only ones making a difference in the premium smartphone segment, you haven't been paying attention. Google has taken some remarkable strides on that front.
After discontinuing the Nexus series, Google launched Pixel last year and the phones received good praise from critics, but failed to match Samsung and Apple on the sales front.
In 2017, Google came up with Pixel 2 series, and things seemed to be looking up for the world's largest web search company.
As Google launched two flagship variants this year, the Pixel 2 XL stole the spotlight with its large display and compact design. But that's not the only thing the Pixel 2 XL is being lauded for.
International Business Times, India, had the opportunity to review the Pixel 2 XL for a period of three weeks, wherein the phone's performance, camera, battery and overall experience was noted based on day-to-day operations.
In this article, we are going to share the pros and cons of the Pixel 2 XL, which should interest any potential buyers since the handset just went on sale on Wednesday, November 15.
We've already covered the Pixel 2 XL's design and an overview of the phone in our first impressions. Now, let's discuss how practical the Pixel 2 XL is – since its competitors are Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X.
Design & Display
The metallic lower back might seem odd to many, but it ensures users have a solid grip on the device. It's practical because most operations on the phone are performed with the lower-half of the phone held in hand.
There is a glass portion towards the top of the rear panel, which houses the rear camera and the LED flash, and there's rarely any physical contact.
There's a fingerprint scanner, which is easily accessible and impressively fast. A lone USB Type-C port takes its place at the bottom, while the speakers have been moved to the front – above and below the display.
The rounded edges around the back panel and the 2.5D curved glass add to the easy handling of the device. Under that 2.5D curved glass, which is in fact a 3D Gorilla Glass 5, there's a massive 6-inch QHD+ display. But the magic of 18:9 aspect ratio makes Pixel 2 XL handy in its best form.
It's unjust to ignore the problems Google has been facing with the Pixel 2 XL's display, but we did not encounter any burn-in issues during our review period of three weeks.
During the review, Google also rolled out software updates, and the latest one added a new "Saturated" colour option, which truly brings out the vibrancy of the qOLED display. The blue tint while viewing white images from side angles is indeed visible, and there was no fix at the time of our review. But we note that it never got in the way of the user experience.
However, the phone had difficulty capturing touches around the edges, which is quite annoying. The issue has been reported by others as well, but there should be an OTA update soon to fix that.
Google Pixel 2 XL might not be an eye candy while comparing to the iPhones and Galaxies, but it sure does make practical sense in every corner. It's sad to accept the loss of 3.5mm audio jack, but it seems to be the way forward for all smartphones.
Google Pixel was an excellent camera smartphone that never received its fair share of fame. While it isn't an easy task to outdo an excellent camera while meeting the expectations of consumers, Google has actually managed to exceed expectations this time.
Google Pixel 2 XL's camera is the best example of not judging the book by its cover. Yes, there's a single lens at the back, but it sure can outperform the best phones out there. In three weeks, we extensively tested the camera, everything from portrait and landscapes to macro and selfies. End result: Mind-blowing results.
With every shot on the Pixel 2 XL, Google surprised us with the capability of artificial intelligence.
While everyone's talking about the excellent portraits, even in challenging lighting conditions, we would like to commend Google on packing the world's best beautification feature (or as Google calls it, Face retouching) we've tested on any smartphone.
Google Pixel 2 XL also performed well under low lights, which has been quite challenging for many phones even at the premium price range.
Google Pixel 2 XL has excellent dynamic range, colour reproduction and well-balanced contrast and brightness. Overall, landscape and macro photographs come natural on the Pixel 2 XL.
These are the results of the Pixel 2 XL's camera, which has a single 12.2MP lens with f/1.8 aperture, OIS, PDAF and LDAF. We even shot some videos using the Pixel 2 XL, and the results couldn't be better.
But after shooting continuously for a few minutes, the handset heated up pretty intensely, not allowing us to record further. Restarting the device allowed us to continue video recording normally.
Besides this one-time issue, the Pixel 2 XL did an excellent job at stabilising the video – thanks to both optical and electronic image stabilisation.
Finally, let's talk about the highlight of the camera: its portrait mode. Since there is portrait option on both front (8MP) and rear cameras, we had no difficulty in getting DSLR-like images using the Pixel 2 XL.
The best part about the Pixel 2 XL's Portrait is it doesn't matter how dim or bright the lights are, it will work effortlessly.
The outlining of the subject is pretty accurate, but we sensed the lack of the secondary lens in some shots. On all the occasions, we were impressed with Pixel 2 XL's selfies in Portrait and most occasions the rear camera Portrait came out flawless, which wouldn't be possible without the Face Retouching feature.
Enough said. Take a look at some raw samples shot using the Pixel 2 XL:
And if you worry about storing all those incredible photos and videos, the Pixel 2 XL comes with 64GB/128GB storage options. But we advise you to take advantage of the unlimited cloud storage facility, which works in real time — syncing and backing — and you'll never regret it.
We often test phones based on their performance, but we decided to make an exception with the Pixel 2 XL. The phone has been designed to offer the best user experience. So we decided to take the Pixel 2 XL on a three-week experience test run.
From the phone's capability to launching apps swiftly and using them on a large 6-inch landscape, the Pixel 2 XL does not disappoint. Are you an avid gamer or a movie buff? The Pixel 2 XL passes with flying colours as we tested it on both scenarios.
The Pixel 2 XL handled Pokemon GO and Netflix binge-watching pretty impressively. Squeeze to launch Google Assistant, or simply saying those magical words – Ok, Google – are absolute life-savers as we found ourselves relying on the integrated AI more on Pixel 2 XL than any other phone.
Android Oreo is a whole other experience altogether. The Pixel 2 XL is one of the few phones running the latest Android software, and it'll be among the first to get the next one, too.
While the Oreo's optimisation is neat on the UI and performance levels, there are little features like automatic display of the song being played in your surrounding and swipe right to access useful feeds in one place that add value to your experience. (We weren't shy showing it off).
The phone's fingerprint scanner works efficiently, but the placement of the sensor at the back triggers unintended scans multiple times. The front speakers do a fairly decent job, but using headphones is advised for action-heavy movies.
Overall user experience as well as performance of the Pixel 2 XL should make this phone a compelling flagship choice for many. After all, the Snapdragon 835 chipset with 4GB RAM is a reliable setup that's not easy to grow old.
Google hasn't compromised on the features. With a high-res display on high-performing phone, it is reasonable to ask how well the battery is on the Pixel 2 XL.
In our three weeks of testing, the Pixel 2 XL averaged at seven hours of run time. This included 4G switched on at all times, music playback, extensive social media browsing and sharing, video recording, camera usage, offline and online messaging, and a regular amount of calls.
With contineous Netflix streaming, 50 percent of the battery was exhausted in five hours time.
But we weren't quite impressed by the so-called fast charging. Firstly, the charging speed was inconsistent during our review. It took 90 minutes to charge from 30 to 90 percent and sometimes less or even more. We experienced heating of the phone while charging the phone with hotspot on and occasional use of browsing through social media sites.
Another noteworthy point here is the charger itself. There's a USB Type-C connector on both sides of the cable, so you'll either need to carry a Type-C to USB connector or have a spare standard USB Type-C charging cable.
Is Google Pixel 2 XL worthy of its price tag, which starts at Rs 73,000? To a large extent, yes!
If you love photography and carrying a DSLR isn't convenient all the time, we highly recommend Google Pixel 2 XL. In fact, if camera is the only aspect, you won't lose out with the Pixel 2, which is cheaper than the XL variant. But the Pixel 2 XL gets a better display and frankly looks better than the smaller sibling.
If looks matter to you, the Pixel 2 XL isn't the best one out there as there's Apple iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, and the upcoming OnePlus 5T. But the Pixel 2 XL has been designed smartly keeping consumers in mind.
If you consider everything else, the Pixel 2 XL poses a tough challenge to those who are looking to buy the iPhone 8 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
We are guessing the iPhone X might have some potential against the Pixel 2 XL, which we'll find out when we review the Apple flagship.
Until then, we find Pixel 2 XL to be a solid flagship contender in a monotonous trend if Google finds a way to fix all minor issues with the Pixel 2 XL.