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Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

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Interface and Functionality

Oreo looks great and feels right at home on Google hardware, but Active Edge fails to wow

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

As Google phones, both Pixel 2 models arriving running the company's hot-off-the-presses latest version of Android: 8.0 Oreo. If you've been following Oreo, you already have an idea of what to expect, and while the overall feel is very familiar, it doesn't take long before you'll start noticing all the little changes, like dots popping up on app icons to indicate unread notifications.

One of the nicer things about the Android implementation on these two handsets is how it's not afraid to take full advantage of these dense, sharp, pixel-rich screens; a lot of the time, we power on a new phone only to face huge icons and unnecessarily large text. By contrast, the Pixel 2 phones are very comfortable cramming a lot of information on their screens, right out of the box. Everything's still beautifully legible, and you can always scale down things in system settings if you prefer a different look.

Taking a cue from HTC and its U11 flagship, both Pixel 2 phones feature what Google calls the Active Edge – but make no mistake, this is Edge Sense. Just like on the U11, you squeeze the phone's body to trigger an effect, and the intensity of the squeeze needed to set off that action is customizable.

Unlike the U11, though, and its ability to quick-launch the app of your choice, this time Active Edge is laser-focused on its mission: connecting you with the Google Assistant. That works fine, don't get us wrong, but between long-pressing the home button, saying “OK Google,” and now this, Google's feeling more than little bit thirsty. We get it: you want people using the Assistant. And while that's alright, it's a shame that Active Edge isn't customizable like we know it could be.

Processor and Memory

Respectable flagship-class performance can't quite distract from the lack of storage expansion

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

Google takes a pretty standard approach to outfitting the Pixel 2 with its processing hardware, giving both the smaller phone and the XL the tried-and-true combination of a Snapdragon 835 and 4GB of RAM. While some Androids this year have continued to experiment with loftier memory ceilings, 4GB is more than sufficient for the vast majority of users, and we didn't run into any problems with this setup here.

Performance is unsurprisingly comparable to other similarly equipped Androids, with some benchmarks coming in a little lower, and some a little higher – but still a very representative showing across the board.

That's also true as we look at performance between the two Pixel 2 phones, and the only real discrepancy that stands out is some higher frame rates with the smaller handset – and considering how the Pixel 2 XL has to drive literally twice as many pixels as its little brother, that makes plenty of sense.

So while the Pixel 2 isn't head-and-shoulders above the rest of 2017's Android heavyweights, nor does it let us down, either – these phones are very much right up there with some of the most powerful handsets around.

We only wish the same could be said about storage, and particularly, microSD expansion. Instead, both Pixel 2 phones are available in your choice of 64GB or 128GB – but that's all she wrote. Yes, Google leans heavily on its cloud-storage offerings, but that's a poor alternative to instantly being able to add an extra 256GB local storage capacity.

Google's been actively rejecting microSD expansion for some time now, and that's exactly the case with the new Pixels, as well.

Connectivity

Google's love affair with USB Type-C shows no signs of cooling down

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

USB Type-C is nothing new for most smartphone users, but we have to give Google props for so thoroughly embracing the connector on last year's Pixel – a situation that very much continues (and expands) with the Pixel 2. We'll talk about battery life just a bit later on, but it's worth mentioning here that the Pixel 2 has that rare charger with its own USB Type-C port – letting you use a double-ended Type-C cable (facing either way you choose) to charge the phone.

Last year, we got both C-to-C and the more familiar C-to-A (the standard old non-reversible rectangle USB) cables in the Pixel box, but now the Pixel 2 simplifies with just C-to-C. There's still a C-to-A adapter in the box to ease the transfer of files and media off your old phone, but you're going to have to supply your own cable to use with it – no problem there.

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