Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
A distracting Pixel 2 voice-call glitch is a sore spot on an otherwise nicely-assembled phone
Ninety-nine percent of the time, we don't have much to say when it comes to sound quality; phones are packed with so much advanced tech, how could they possibly mess up something as simple as voice calls. Well, right now there seems to be some kind of cloud of bad luck descending upon the industry: just weeks after our bad experience with a clicking noise infiltrating our iPhone 8 voice calls, we've hit a similar snag with the Pixel 2.
Of the phones we tried, our Pixel 2 XL connected voice calls without a hitch. But on the smaller Pixel 2, all our calls, from the moment we finished dialing until hanging up, were plagued by a clicking sound of their own – one much louder and more annoying than we experienced on the iPhone.
Hopefully, like with Apple, this is a matter of a software glitch that will be quickly patched, but it's nevertheless a disappointing way to get started with such a high-profile phone.
While nothing exceptional, both Pixel 2 phones can look forward to decently day-long battery life
Google gives the Pixel 2 a 2,700mAh battery, while the larger Pixel 2 XL arrives with a more phablet-sized 3,520mAh unit. And though these phones share some very similar hardware otherwise, we went into this expecting that the larger, much more pixel-rich screen on the XL would end up consuming a fair amount of that difference.
Indeed, in our custom endurance tests we found the Pixel 2 to get about eight-and-a-half hours of screen-on time, while the Pixel 2 XL pushed that slightly higher to just under nine hours. Both are some pretty respectable scores, and while you're still going to want to recharge every day, neither phone is hurting for available power.
Alas, wireless charging isn't available with either phone. Its presence would definitely be nice, but we're not quite ready to hold its absence against the Pixel 2.
Recharge times are decent, with the Pixel 2 going from dead to fully charged in a little under two hours, while the larger battery on the Pixel 2 XL took more like two-and-a-half. It's worth noting, though, that the XL hit a ninety-percent charge in under an hour, and it's just that last ten percent that really drags.
This year's Pixel phones are a bit like a mirror, which we can hold up to see a reflection of the smartphone industry as a whole: they take the solid foundation we got with the original Pixel phones while updating the formula with very 2017 changes like the 2 XL's 18:9 display or the disappearing headphone jack on both phones.
Performance is right in line with the rest of the flagship crop, and Google largely manages to recreate the easy-to-recommend camera experience that made last year's Pixel so special.
Some changes are really smart: the design of the original Pixel was a bit odd, and while the Pixel 2 doesn't abandon that look, it does tweak it enough to make the phone feel a little more palatable. Others, like the introduction of Active Edge (squeeze) to call Google Assistant, are less successful, but also don't take much away from the overall package. And really, the only outright miss is the death of the headphone jack.
Of the two handsets, we've got to say that we prefer the smaller Pixel 2 a little more. It's more comfortable to use, its speakers sound a tad better, and it feels like a phone that's more comfortable being what it is. The Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile, seems like it's trying a little too hard to offer users something new and different, without really taking full advantage of its big, super-wide display. But it's also by no stretch a failure – just a phone that doesn't feel as fully realized as its smaller sibling.
In the end, both phones are very solid choices. We wish they had some welcome extras like microSD expansion or wireless charging, but these features aren't going to carry equal weight with every shopper, and we imagine that for a lot of smartphone users, both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will easily give them everything they need.
Pricing starts at about $650 for the Pixel 2, or $850 for the Pixel 2 XL; doubling storage to 128GB adds an extra $100 to either model. Considering everything we've said, that makes the Pixel 2 feel like the better value, and $200 might be a little much to ask for a screen upgrade. Ultimately, we're just happy we have the choice, and whether you like your phones big or small, classic or forward-thinking, the Pixel 2 line has you covered.
Update: You can now read our Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL review!