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Google Pixel XL Review

Google Pixel XL 9

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Google Pixel XL Review

Introduction


Ask a dozen people what kind of company Google is, and you'll get a dozen different answers. It's a search company; an advertising provider; a cloud-services firm; a social network; a publisher; an entertainment hub – we could go on. And while “hardware company” is pretty far from first on that list, it's a role we see Google return to time and time again, and with some markedly renewed vigor in recent years.

While we've had Google smartphones since the early days of Android, thanks to the Nexus program, lately it's felt like Google's attitude towards phone hardware has been shifting. There were a couple years of affordable phones, a return to flagship-level prices, and most recently an emphasis on phablet-sized models. But this year Google's smartphone operations are undergoing arguably their most meaningful change since the launch of the Nexus One, as the Nexus brand fades into the background, replaced by Google's new duo of Pixel phones.

Google Pixel XL Review
Pixel brings users the same sort of unadulterated Android experience as we've come to expect from Nexus devices, as well as the same commitment to timely updates. But there's also a new emphasis on style, with both the 5.0-inch and 5.5-inch Pixel handsets sharing the same look – something we couldn't say last year for the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P. And more than that, Pixel is arriving as a showcase for new tech like Google's Daydream VR system.

What does all this mean for the actual Pixel phones? Has Google brought us some devices that have what it takes to steer shoppers away from high-profile handsets like Samsung's Galaxy lineup? Or will Pixel end up feeling more like a niche item for the tech-savvy or those who like to live on the bleeding edge – a characterization frequently visited upon Nexus phones? Let's find out, as we take a look at the larger of the two new Pixel phones, the 5.5-inch Pixel XL.

In the box:

  • Google Pixel XL
  • USB Type-C to Type-C cable
  • USB Type-C to Standard-A cable
  • USB Type-C to Standard-A (Quick Switch) adapter
  • Power adapter
  • SIM tool
  • Intro cards (hardware, thank you, Google Assistant, Play Music 3-month trial)
  • Warranty booklet

Design

An ambitious design brings us a Google phone that may well have other manufacturers feeling jealous

Google Pixel XL Review
Google Pixel XL Review
Google Pixel XL Review
Google Pixel XL Review

Crafting a smartphone these days that offers a unique look is no small feat. As some brands churn out featureless slate after featureless slate, or others find themselves repeating variations on the same standard design over and over again, a breath of fresh air can be hard to come by. But with Google's new Pixel phones, the company may have done just that.

Maybe the first thing you'll notice about the Pixel XL – and the smaller Pixel, as well, which shares the same basic design – is this glass panel consuming the upper third of the phone's otherwise metal back. We've seen smaller adornments like this before (think: the camera “stripe” on last year's Nexus 6P), but the Pixel XL pushes it to a whole new level. At first, it's a look that may inspire some push-back; after all, it's easy to think of metal as a particularly robust and premium smartphone material, while glass just seems all sorts of damage-prone.

While time will tell just how well the Pixel XL holds up to a little use (and abuse), it didn't take long for us to come around to the phone's partially glass-covered back. One real benefit is the tactile effect the use of multiple materials affords, making it particularly easy to reach into your pocket and instantly know which direction the phone's facing. And while we can't deny that the glass is more fingerprint-prone than the metal making up the rest of the back, its aesthetics have really started to grow on us.

Google Pixel XL Review
Google Pixel XL Review

Moving around the hardware, we've got a USB Type-C port and the phone's (mono) speaker on its bottom edge, the SIM tray on the right (with no hybrid microSD functionality – this is Google, after all), an analog headphone jack up top, and the power button and volume rocker on the right. The edge sports a hybrid design of its own, with a smooth curve transitioning to the phone's back, an angled bevel marking the move to the handset's face, and a solid, flat stripe in the center. The effect there makes for a phone that feels seriously nice to hold, while also offering a comfortably solid grip.

With all this metal, the Pixel XL has some appreciable heft to it, coming in at 168 grams. That's right about the same as the Note 7, though a bit lighter than the iPhone 7 Plus.


Google Pixel XL
6.09 x 2.98 x 0.34 inches
154.72 x 75.74 x 8.6 mm
5.93 oz (168 g)

Google Pixel XL

Apple iPhone 7 Plus
6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
6.63 oz (188 g)

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches
150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm
5.54 oz (157 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Google Nexus 6P
6.27 x 3.06 x 0.29 inches
159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm
6.28 oz (178 g)

Google Nexus 6P


To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.


Display

Bold and crisp, sure, but other specs fall short of the mark

Google Pixel XL Review

Like the 5.7-inch panel on the Nexus 6P, the 5.5-inch screen on the Pixel XL is an AMOLED component, returning with the same quad-HD 1440 x 2560 resolution. It's protected by Gorilla Glass 4, which has an ever-so-slight curved-edge effect.

As we'd only expect form an AMOLED display, colors are really bold, with bright, saturated hues and inky-dark blacks. White balance looks good (but not great) in our tests, but the color gamut itself is a bit over-saturated.

Brightness, however, is more middle-of-the-road, and more than once we found ourselves wishing we could crank the display up brighter while out in early afternoon sunlight – the Pixel XL is still visible enough, but a slightly brighter screen would sure help with usability.

Indoors, the situation's a lot more favorable, and users who like to read in bed will especially appreciate just how low brightness can go. And while Google doesn't offer any tweaked display modes, or tools for fine-tuning color balance, we do see the presence of a “Night Light” feature, dialing-down blue colors in an effort to improve eye comfort while viewing at night.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Google Pixel XL 433
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
7337
(Good)
2.15
4.51
(Average)
3.95
(Good)
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 672
(Excellent)
2
(Excellent)
1:1431
(Excellent)
6981
(Excellent)
2.2
3.11
(Good)
2.63
(Good)
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 493
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6586
(Excellent)
2.03
1.47
(Excellent)
2.62
(Good)
Google Nexus 6P 356
(Average)
1
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6737
(Excellent)
2.26
6.46
(Average)
2.04
(Good)
View all


100 Comments
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posted on 18 Oct 2016, 08:09 17

2. Carl3000 (Posts: 228; Member since: 11 Oct 2014)


Why are iPhone reviews so much longer and in depth than any other phones you guys review? 9/10 is a great score but I'm personally disappointed in the battery life. Practically no difference from the 6P with SD810...

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:12 25

21. Harambe (unregistered)


PA's battery life is known to be bad. It basically runs a processor intensive script which just tests the CPU efficiency while screen and other components have very less weightage.

There is no way in hell an iPhone 7 can outlast the S7 edge. But on PA's test it does because the A10 is more efficient than the SD820.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:12 7

22. MaryPoopins (Posts: 204; Member since: 15 Jan 2015)


I can't comment on the Pixel, however I think most PA commenters would agree with me when I say that PA's battery test scores are complete horses**t.

You can basically throw out any comments they make about battery life and get your info elsewhere.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:29 5

31. NCAAtourney (Posts: 32; Member since: 15 Mar 2016)


iPhone 7 Plus = Best Phone Out

iPhone 7 kills every phone in performance. Holy sh!t!!!

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:35 20

36. Harambe (unregistered)


The iPhone's GPU is worse than a 400$ Oneplus 3. What do you say about that?

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:42

40. adi90 (Posts: 180; Member since: 21 Dec 2015)


Yes. Iphone 4's GPU is worse than 1+3. You are correct. But you should come back to 2016.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:44 2

42. LebronJamesFanboy (Posts: 484; Member since: 23 Mar 2013)


Can someone please explain why Audio Output through headphones is always so low on Android phones?

I'm genuinely curious. It makes me so upset they can't get this right. The audio Output score here is ridiculous.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:53 1

47. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 4163; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)


I don't get it. Not saying that the Pixel is bad, but the rating system.
What does this phone have that others don't, that it gets the score of 9?
Going through the review, I don't really find anything that makes it stand out of the crowd...it does not bring anything new, and yet there are lots of other devices that surpasses the Pixel in features with a score that's dying.
I might be hacked for saying this but this is what I felt going through the review.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:55

48. zeeBomb (Posts: 2275; Member since: 14 Aug 2014)


I'm fine done

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 09:59 2

49. kiko007 (Posts: 4429; Member since: 17 Feb 2016)


"The iPhone's GPU is worse than a 400$ Oneplus 3. "

A. No it isn't.
B. I didn't know the GPU was the only reason to buy a phone.
C. What good has that GPU done for Android? Still can't run games at 50 fps. Still can't run UI tasks at 60 fps. So.....why does that give you any bragging rights?
D. You just told techie that horsepower isn't everything. Then you say crap like this....smh. There's this thing called "optimization", OEMs should try it.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 10:01 10

51. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 4163; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)


GSMarena is more professional on the reviews, but PA does better on presentation.
I'm just here for the comment section...some people are quite the educator.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 10:12 4

53. Hyperreal (Posts: 295; Member since: 08 Oct 2013)


Well, its not true. Audio output in my HTC 10 kills my girlfriends Iphone 6. LG V10, LG V20, ZTE Axon 7 they all destroy Iphone in terms of audio loudnes and quality so I dont know what are you talking about.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 10:17 6

59. Harambe (unregistered)


A, Yes, it does. The Oneplus 3 does more than 20% better in sustained performance while the iPhone throttles by 40%.

http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph10685/83895.png

B. No, it isn't. But this was supposed to be a reply to a guy who thinks performance is the only metric to buy a phone.

C. Read B.

D. Read B.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 10:18 1

60. darkkjedii (Posts: 22997; Member since: 05 Feb 2011)


Why don't you get into the tech game, do your own reviews, and stop whining about PA's.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 10:21 5

62. Harambe (unregistered)


This is just the loudness score because the maximum voltage determines the Amplitude of the analog wave output. It is just the output voltage of the DAC(Digital to Analog Converter).

And the headphone output of phones made by HTC, Samsung' exynos variants, ZTE Axon, LG V series all beat the iPhone in output.

Also one thing to note here is that the iPhone 7 uses an external DAC for output. So this test is irrelevant since I can push 5V of output through an external DAC from any android phone.

PS: Loudness has nothing to do with the quality of the audio pushed through. My oneplus 3 is almost as loud as an iPhone 7 in output and louder than my S6. But the S6 trounces both in quality.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 10:42 3

65. Nathan_ingx (Posts: 4163; Member since: 07 Mar 2012)


I think he actually meant 'here' and 'they' as in PA...not the score of the Android presented.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 12:05

72. sgodsell (Posts: 4309; Member since: 16 Mar 2013)


If the iPhone is the best phone out there, then why does Apple put one of the lowest resolution displays on any flagship? Oh wait, so Apple and it's Zealot's can go around boasting and bragging how fast it's graphics is. Let's see how the iPhone would do if they actually put a QHD display on their phones. Also Phonearena is still spreading lies on the minimum brightness. How the hell can a IPS display have just as low brightness as an AMOLED display. It's impossible, because the pixels are individually powered on and off on an AMOLED display. Whereas the entire IPS display is powered on iPhones. Also why is Apple looking to AMOLED in the near future. With these paid test results, why does Apple want to go with AMOLED, especially when these results show that Apples IPS displays are on par or better in most of the results.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 12:20 1

74. omnitech (Posts: 259; Member since: 28 Sep 2016)


iPhone displays are crap. IOS is good at hiding low resolution with their icons but it's obvioysly low res. Yet the reviews ignore it and champion useless crap like greyscale. Lol

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 12:22 4

75. omnitech (Posts: 259; Member since: 28 Sep 2016)


9.3 for the iPhone 7 is all you need to know about the iPhone arena review system. Summary, it's not a very good one.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 12:48

80. Birds (Posts: 1171; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)


I personally think they should do a CPU/GPU intensive test, a call test and a video playback test and combine the numbers similar to what GSM Arena does...

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 13:13

81. 0kax0el0 (Posts: 217; Member since: 15 Nov 2012)


I was thinking the same. We all suspect that PA gets generous donations to talk wonders about Apple, but maybe they do really apreciate simpleness.

Who needs wireless charging? Waterproof? High resolution display? Astounding design? Stylus? And all those features/gimmicks?

Certainly not PA, all they do care is a phone that's simple to use, not extra functions that are confusing. Those are nice bonus, but not important.

So reviews are based on simplicity to use and not the extra mile that any phone can go.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 13:17

83. Harambe (unregistered)


That would actually require some brain to do, something PA authors have taken an oath never to use.

posted on 18 Oct 2016, 16:05 2

105. marorun (Posts: 4569; Member since: 30 Mar 2015)


kiko007 plz dont come with more lies.

A. its not worst its about the same end result its only worst in benchmarking.
B for some its might be a good reason if you are a gamer or into VR
C. what a bunch of freaking lies i play all my game at 55 to 60 fps even super heavy game like world of tank blitz ( 57 average ) my UI is butter smooth at 60 fps as well.
D. Hardware and optimization are both important. IOS is much better on the battery life by example than android and nothing bad to say it.

posted on 19 Oct 2016, 05:14

117. ebilcake (Posts: 805; Member since: 16 Jul 2016)


I wouldn't pay any attention to their battery tests, they're usually wrong.

posted on 19 Oct 2016, 05:35 1

118. ebilcake (Posts: 805; Member since: 16 Jul 2016)


Based on what?

Manhattan - GFXBench

Onscreen2821 Frames (45.5 Fps) - OnePlus 3
Onscreen2959 Frames (47.7 Fps) - iPhone 7 Plus

A10 GPU looks decent enough

posted on 19 Oct 2016, 07:19

121. Supersonic (Posts: 226; Member since: 15 May 2015)


Oh really? The biggest s**t is iphone7

posted on 19 Oct 2016, 07:21

122. Supersonic (Posts: 226; Member since: 15 May 2015)


Yeah that is called review as per convenience. When there are no new features, PA simply say the phone is simple. Otherwise a s**t like iphone7 can not score 9.3.

posted on 21 Oct 2016, 07:41

127. yyzamin (Posts: 214; Member since: 26 Aug 2015)


It outperforms every Android on the market hands down.

posted on 21 Oct 2016, 20:38

131. dazed1 (Posts: 481; Member since: 28 Jul 2015)


Exynos S7 kills all in audio.

posted on 23 Oct 2016, 11:55

133. pego99 (Posts: 93; Member since: 01 Aug 2012)


PA's battery life is known to be bad.??
What is PA?
Phone Arena?
How does Phone Arena have a battery life?

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Display5.5 inches, 1440 x 2560 pixels (534 ppi) AMOLED
Camera12.3 megapixels
Hardware
Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, Quad-core, 2150 MHz, Kryo processor
4 GB RAM
Size6.09 x 2.98 x 0.34 inches
(154.72 x 75.74 x 8.6 mm)
5.93 oz  (168 g)
Battery3450 mAh, 32 hours talk time

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