Over the past several weeks, I’ve been
I’ve heard a number of people talk about how the Pixel looks more like an iPhone, but I don’t really see that in the physical design, except for the things that all modern smartphones have—a front that is mostly screen, with rounded edges and a camera on the top. It lacks the physical home button below the screen that
The back of the phone features a two-texture look, with a glossy top and a matte bottom; this doesn’t really bother me, but I can’t say it looks quite as high-end as the recent Samsung and Apple phones.
At 6.1 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches, it’s a hair smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus; at 5.93 ounces, it’s definitely lighter than the iPhone 7 Plus’s 6.33 ounces and a bit heavier than the5.54 ounces, though you probably won’t be able to tell the difference in daily use. It’s notably smaller than the Nexus 6, which had a 6-inch display compared with the 5.5-inch one used in the Pixel XL.
Indeed, the Pixel XL features a 5.5-inch 2560 by 1440 AMOLED display, which matches the resolution of other top-end Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge or the
The phone uses awith four of the company’s proprietary Kryo cores, plus Adreno 530 graphics, manufactured at 14nm. Compared with the iPhone 7 Plus, it scores a bit slower in some of the benchmark tests, though that’s partially due to the operating systems and to the higher-resolution display (which means more pixels to process). It seems comparable to other high-end Android phones, with 4 GB of RAM.
It has a 3450 mAh battery, and PCMag’s tests show it to last a bit longer than the iPhone 7 Plus, but not as long as the Galaxy S7 Edge. That matches my experience, though I didn’t find the differences to be very dramatic. As with all of them, I generally charge it every night. It does support fast charging, letting you get a good enough charge for several hours of basic use in 15 or 20 minutes.
The Pixel XL has a 12.3-megapixel rear-facing camera, and unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, it does not protrude from the back of the phone. It can take 4K or 1080p video, but unlike some of its competitors, it does not have optical image stabilization. It also has an 8-megapixel front-facing camera.
In general, I thought it took very nice pictures, among the best I’ve seen from Android phones. Daylight pictures looked very good, with bright colors, though I would rate the iPhone 7 Plus a tad higher. (Seefor comparative pictures).
I was even more impressed with low-light photos, where I saw noticeably less noise in the photos than I have from other cameras.
While the Pixel is a very strong phone, it does lack a few features that the Galaxy S7 line has, including an always-on display, wireless charging, water resistance, and support for a microSD card to expand storage—something that I’ve come to expect from most high-end Android phones. These features may not be game changers, but I do miss them. Like most Android phones—but unlike the new iPhones—it has an analog phone jack, which is of course quite convenient.
The big thing that sets the Pixel, and previously the Nexus family of devices, apart from other Android phones is that it runs the “pure Google” version of Android. This means it has no special skins and all of the Google apps—Gmail, Photos, Docs, YouTube, etc.—are front and center. And the Pixel should get all the Android updates as soon as they are available.
After updates, the Pixel is running Android 7.1 (Nougat), which offers a somewhat simplified user interface, but otherwise visually isn’t a huge difference from Android 6 (Marshmallow). Google’s own apps and collections now appear as round icons, with the collections doing a better job of showing you what is inside. Most third-party apps still have square icons, though one assumes that will change over time.
One noticeable difference is that it no longer has a separate apps button for getting to all of the applications; rather you slide up from the bottom of the screen to see all the apps. In appearance, this can make your home pages look closer to the look of the iPhone or earlier Huawei phones.
One nice feature Android retains is the ability to add widgets to your home pages. By default, the first home page of the Pixel includes a widget with the weather and date, plus an icon for searching on Google.
As with previous versions, swipe left to see the Google Now page, which shows you “cards” with the most pertinent information, such as upcoming appointments or traffic. Other minor changes include making the alerts that pop down from the bottom of the screen a bit more attractive.
Of course, the most highly touted change is the newly renamed Google Assistant, which you get to by saying “OK, Google” or by long pressing the home button. Like Siri, this assistant does voice recognition and tries to answer your questions. It has certainly improved since earlier versions, and in general, I found it better—though still a long way from perfect—in giving me useful answers.
Many of the Google apps remains quite good, especially Photos, which gives you unlimited storage, something you don’t get with Apple’s iCloud. Overall, even though the apps themselves work quite well Google seems to rely a bit more on the cloud.
Compared with other Android phones, the big difference is that the Pixel offers you an unfiltered path to these apps, and that makes it a bit simpler.
The Pixel comes in three colors—Quite Black, Very Silver, and Really Blue, and in two storage variants, with 32 GB or 128 GB. Technically, only Verizon sells the phone in the U.S., but it’s available unlocked through Google directly; I used that version on Google’s own(which in practice nearly always connected over T-Mobile when using cellular).
Overall, I found Pixel to be a very strong contender. It has a fast processor, very nice screen, and an excellent camera, particularly for low-light photography. It lacks some of the hardware features that make other Android phones stand out, such as a curved display, water resistance, and expandable storage. On the other hand, it gives you a purer, more consistent software experience without some of the extras other vendors might add (which often just get in the way). In short, the Pixel XL holds its own in any discussion of top-end Android phones.