[Review] Google Pixel XL

You have seen the MANY commercials. Probably plenty of online ads. You may have even walked into a Verizon store or Best Buy and seen it in person. The Google iPhone killer. The Nexus predecessor. The Pixel XL.

 

Let me address a few elephants in the room right away…

 

Yes. It looks like an iPhone from the front. It is priced exactly the same as the iPhone. It even comes in the same 2 sizes as the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.

No. It is not “Only on Verizon”. It is available unlocked directly from Google and supports all 4 major carriers in the US.

No. It is not waterproof and who cares?

 

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I will try not to go too far into the history of Android or Nexus devices but you should know some of these details. Also some basics to know are that Android is a smartphone operating system. Droid is not. Droid is a branding Verizon uses for exclusive Android powered devices they release on their network. Also, Galaxy is not either. Galaxy is the branding for Samsung made devices. They also are powered by and run the Android operating system. Android is Google’s open source OS that is used by smartphone makers all over the world. They skin it, chop it up, and make it unique to their devices. Google has in sort of made their own smartphones that showcased the latest and untouched versions of Android. The Nexus line. Although very popular with Android enthusiasts and developers, these were not devices geared toward the mainstream consumer. They were software controlled by Google and partnered with manufacturers to make new Nexus devices yearly. They were not “made by Google”.

The new Pixel and Pixel XL are the first devices designed from ground up, both software and hardware, by Google. HTC is manufacturing the devices but everything is designed by Google. HTC also made the very first Android powered device, the G1, along with the very first Nexus, the Nexus One. They make amazing, top of the line, and premium hardware so it makes sense that Google would employ HTC for their first mainstream device.

Made by Google. What does that mean? So if you never owned a Nexus device you may not know what pure Android looks and feels like. It doesn’t have gimmicky features you may see on some devices. It is the fastest because it is untouched. Updates are controlled by Google, not another manufacturer, so updates are fast.

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The Pixel (the XL in this case) does not look like anything new or groundbreaking. 5″ and 5.5″ size screens. Very simple front. No curved glass. You can say the front looks boring even. The body is all metal and feels solid, smooth, but not heavy at all. The back has a little more character. Google kept the fingerprint sensor on the back like the previous 2 Nexus devices. It has a glass window covering most of the top of the device which allows better antenna performance and NFC for tap to pay. I think it looks fine and it give the device much needed character. The entire back is flat with no camera bump present. A single bottom facing speaker along with USB-C charging port. 3.5mm headphone jack at the top. I would like to take a jab at a certain device that lacks this feature, but it’s almost 2017 and you should probably be using Bluetooth anyway.

I do miss the front facing speakers like the ones on my Nexus 6P, Nexus 6, and on previous HTC devices back to the HTC One. I thought I could never get another device without them, but I have adjusted just fine.

I have large hands and do feel that even the XL is a bit small. Again, coming right from the Nexus 6P with a larger 5.7″ screen and larger body. This likely will not be an issue for most.

Google Assistant is the new AI built into and exclusive to the Pixel. Think of Apple’s Siri but more like a person. Google Now has existed on Android devices for years, but Google Assistant is the next evolution. Below are some of my favorite Google Assistant vs. Siri YouTube videos I have come across. I can say that I have used the assistant far more than I had ever used Google Now on previous devices.

Camera. Google claimed the camera on the Pixel is the best camera on a smartphone, ever.  DXOMARK gave the Pixel camera the highest rating of all time. It is extremely quick and processes HDR photos so fast. Records 4k videos. It goes toe to toe with the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy cameras out there. In some cases truly producing even better photos. I have been pleased. My Nexus 6P actually still takes amazing photos. In all reality, what are you doing with your photos you take on your smartphone? Facebook? IG? Twitter? The photo quality is overkill for online social media. I would say you could really go out and print out some very good physical prints from photos taken with the camera. I know, who does that? I snapped photos during a recent wedding and I will shares those photos below.

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The Google Photos app already gives you unlimited cloud backup of your pics and videos just at a compressed but still high quality. This is a FREE Google service for Android and iPhone. Google gives you unlimited full high resolution cloud backup of pics and videos using the Pixel. You can pay for additional cloud storage to have full resolution using Google Photos but it is nice you get this included with the Pixel. I personally think everyone should be using Google Photos no matter what phone you use. If you have ever run out of space and had to dump/delete your photos or if you broke or lost a phone and lost all your photos…you should be all about this free app.

Google Photos – Google Play Store | Google Photos – App Store

Pricing. I already eluded to the fact that this is priced along with the iPhone 7 and other 2016 flagship devices. Some Nexus fans are bothered by this due to the relatively lower priced Nexus devices in previous years. I personally have no issues with price. If you wouldn’t drop this kind of money on an iPhone or a Galaxy, then you probably won’t on the Pixel either. You get what you pay for with a high end flagship. There are tons of quality mid range devices that are cheaper. If you’re a Verizon customer and taking advantage of their financing options than it will not cost you any more than others. I also mentioned earlier that it is in fact sold unlocked for any carrier directly through the Google store.

The 5″ Pixel 32GB is $649.00 or $27.04/month for 24 months with Google Store Financing. Add $100 to make that 128GB.

The 5.5″ Pixel XL is $769.00 or $32.04/month for 24 months with Google Store Financing. Add $100 to make that 128GB.

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As you can see there are financing options through Google as well that are not too different than your carrier’s financing options. They also offer a protection plan as well. You can pick the device up at Best Buy as well.

Conclusion. Is the Pixel the best Android smartphone available right now. Yes. As simple as that. The Note 7 was some pretty hard to beat hardware, but we all know what happened there. People are already talking about the Galaxy S8 for next year, but you can either buy the best now, or always be waiting for the next best device to drop. It does not have a memory card slot, but it is almost 2017. Take advantage of the cloud and never lose your data. It is not waterproof. Who cares? Unless you work or live in or around water all the time, you do not need a waterproof phone. There are waterproof cases available that can remedy those few weeks out the year that you are at the beach or poolside. Lifeproof has you covered.

If you just cannot stomach the price of the Pixel, I would still definitely recommend picking up a Nexus 6P. It topped my best phones to purchase last Holiday season and will likely be at #2 behind the Pixel this year. Still top of the line specs and up to date with latest Google software.

We already have a few case reviews for the Pixel XL up as well so check them out!

 

Craig has been an Android user since the G1, perhaps that is why he tends to favor the HTC flavor when it comes to his Android devices. With 7+ years of mobile phone retail management experience, Craig is in touch with both the techie and the everyday consumer. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigP17

  • Mike Torres

    Nice review ?

  • Thanks for review!

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