With the launch of Pixel and Pixel XL, Google has stepped into the mainstream smartphone business (with its branding) to lock horns with Samsung and Apple. Google Pixel is a smartphone for all the Nexus fans who seek for a smartphone with barebone design, stock Android experience, and high-end hardware. Google Pixel smartphones are even better; an iPhone look-alike design, Siri alternative and the best hardware you can find. The Pixel variant we have for review is the Pixel XL Quite Black (32 GB). I used it for a whole week as my primary smartphone. Let’s see how Pixel XL performs (just to know, I’m a hardcore gamer).

Design

Google Pixel XL is getting so much hype not because it’s the first Google branded phone but also because of it’s design and appearance. Nexus fans know how Google makes a barebone design smartphones with the elegance of stock Android OS. We have seen the same design in lots of smartphones and Google needed to come up with something unique. And Google came up with a design which is simple yet appealing.

Google crafted this smartphone by adding the best hardware to the aerospace grade aluminum chassis. The phone has some curves with a nice chamfer running around the edges which not only looks cool but adds some grip to the smartphone and prevents slipping. A 5.5 inches quad HD display facing forward with a front facing camera, the ambient light sensor, and the earpiece. Below the screen is an empty space making the smartphone taller than it should be. There is a “Quite black” matte finish all over the aluminum body with a little more dark Google logo.

The sim card tray slot fills the emptiness on the left edge, 3.5 mm audio jack is located on the top edge. You’ll find the power button and volume rocker on the right side. The dual loudspeakers and USB Type-C is located on the bottom edge. The back of the phone is a little different from all other high-end smartphones, the top third part of the back panel is covered with a glass panel with the fingerprint sensor. The rear camera and dual LED flash are placed in the top left corner. Google Pixel XL can be the right size but still you need to do some tricks with your other hand to get everything done on this smartphone.

Camera

Now the second feature of the phone which makes the Google Pixel XL a perfect smartphone, camera. Google stated on the website that Pixel XL’s camera scored 89 on DxOMark which is the highest score ever awarded to any smartphone camera. Google crammed a 12.3 MP rear camera with dual LED flash and an 8 MP shooter on the front with a f/2.4 aperture for selfies.

First, how easy is to access the camera? Pretty easy and fast; double tap the power key and you’re in (enable/disable it from settings > moves). The camera UI is much similar to what we saw on Nexus 6P; swipe to switch between video and still picture mode. Double-twist your phone to turn on the selfie camera, and you’ll find all the other modes like slow motion, panorama, photosphere and lens blur in the hamburger menu on the left.

Google Pixel click pictures with a breeze, tap the shutter button and done! Adding the HDR+ effect takes few seconds. HDR+ enhances the image a bit (not much), adds a little color to it and smoothen the rough edges in the pictures. Although the aperture size of the camera lens is f/2.0 but still you can get best low light images using the dual LED flash. In settings, you can set front/back camera resolution, burst settings, enable/disable video stabilization and more.

Google Pixel XL captures each and every single detail in photos; colors are even better than any other smartphone camera I’ve ever seen. They are vibrant and pop out of pictures even in low light condition; HDR+ enhances the picture a bit, and results are amazing. You can feast your eyes on some pictures captured from the Pixel XL’s camera.

Google Pixel XL is capable of shooting UHD videos at 30 frames per second and Full HD at up to 120 frames per seconds. Pixel XL’s camera lacks optical image stabilization and uses EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) which use a gyro sensor to stabilize the videos. EIS gives the videos a “robot” like stabilization at 4K resolution, feels like the video is smooth and suddenly a “shake.”

Check this: Google Pixel XL vs iPhone 7 Plus camera: Which one is better?

Display

Google Pixel XL

Google selected the AMOLED technology for Pixel XL’s display; Google knows that the future is VR not mostly on smartphones but yes Google Daydream VR is here, and Pixel XL is one of the compatible smartphones. AMOLED displays provide a crisp and definite contrast which enhances the VR experience. Where all other brands are trying to reduce the bezels around the screen but this 5.5 inches Quad HD display is surrounded by thick bezels.

This 5.5 inches AMOLED display is Quad-HD with 534 ppi pixel density and protected with 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The display is bright and crisp, colors are vivid and shown as they should be and viewing angles are also good. As it’s an AMOLED display, so it won’t wash away while using it outdoor in the sun (you just have to increase the brightness but not to the max).

Software

Google Pixel XL

Google designed a whole new UI for Pixel smartphones; Pixel Launcher is the best launcher I’ve ever experienced. Google really has done a great job creating the UI for this smartphone and broke the mentality of those (including me) who thinks that user interface on Android smartphones is confusing. The user interface is nimble and smooth, feels like you can control each and every part of the smartphone even if you can’t carry your thumb to the other corner of the display. You can only know by experiencing this user interface by yourself.

Pixel Launcher

Pixel launcher is wounded up in a multiple dynamic home screen with a Google Pill search and weather on default home screen. A customizable Favorite tray with your favorite app shortcuts at the bottom of the screen. To reveal all the apps, just swipe up your finger on the favorite tray, and you’ll get app suggestions above the apps, these are the apps you use frequently. A search bar is there, in case you installed lots of apps and lazy enough to scroll all the way down (sound like me).

Google added a new feature to Android 7.1 Nougat; app shortcuts. Holding on to any app pops up a menu with shortcuts directly to open any specific part of that app. If you want to capture a selfie real quick, hold onto the camera shortcut and select “Take a selfie” or “Take a video.” It’s working on most of the Google related apps and also on some other apps like Twitter and Periscope. Holding on to apps for shortcuts in Pixel XL doesn’t feel like an unusual feature crammed to the OS, but it’s hard to use sometimes because you cannot carry your thumb to other top corners to bring up the shortcuts.

Google Assistant

Google Now was the first attempt from Google to stand with Apple’s Siri and recently released Cortana from Microsoft. Google wired this assistant to the home button in Pixel smartphones; this is the same assistant which you saw on Google Allo messaging app. Setting up the device for the first time will ask you to setup the Google Assistant for the first time.

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After setting it up, there are two ways to bring up the Google Assistant; hold down the home button or say “Ok Google.” There are three microphones in Pixel which picks up the commands clearly and accurately even in lots of noise. You can toggle some settings like turning on Wi-FI, Bluetooth, turning up the volume, skip tracks and more or you can perform some searches in the specific app like when you say “search for Hailee Steinfeld in YouTube,” it will open YouTube app and directly shows you the search results. You can do more with Google Assistant like play music, set reminders, ask about the weather, make calls and ask for directions.

Overall, Google succeeded in making an OS for Pixel smartphones and is complete in all ways. You got a beautiful and simple launcher which lags at nothing, a personal assistant who is rather very intelligent and the split screen UI which is still a step down from Samsung smartphones (lacks floating windows even in Quad-HD display).

Performance

In search for the best, Google added the best hardware ever. Google Pixel XL is the first smartphone featuring the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor with Adreno 530 GPU and four GB RAM. First, we should see how benchmarking apps thinks about this smartphone and where does the Google Pixel XL stand flagship smartphones from other brands.

AnTuTu Benchmark

On AnTuTu Benchmark, Google Pixel XL scored 143351 which includes 58771 of 3D, 45385 of UX, 32791 from CPU and 6604 for RAM. Comparing these scores to Samsung’s Note 7 doesn’t give much difference (about 5000 points).

Geekbench

Geekbench tests device for the processor power, how much the processor can do under stress. Geekbench offers score on how the processor performs with the single core and with multicore. Google Pixel XL got 1506 score for single core and 4103 for multi-core which is a lot lower than Samsung’s flagship devices; Samsung Galaxy S7 – 1806 and Galaxy Note 7 – 5228.

3D Mark

Now the real deal, 3D Mark; gaming benchmark for Android smartphones awarded a score of 2518 which is four scores more than Samsung Galaxy S7. Good news, Pixel XL is the best smartphone for gaming and other 3D apps like VR games. Check out the score and how it stand among other flagship smartphones.

Final real time verdict for Google Pixel XL’s performance, I used the device as my primary smartphone for a week and here is the verdict; from unlocking the smartphone to launching the camera and from high-end online multiplayer games to watching 4K content, I haven’t experienced a single lag or delay.

Battery

Google Pixel XL features a big 3450 mAh battery and with the rapid charging feature, battery goes from 15% to above 90% in one hour. If you are using the phone while fast charging (like I always do), phone heats up really quick but cools down too. Once charged, Pixel XL can make through all day even with intense usage and gaming.

Pros

  • Premium design
  • Accurate Google Assistant
  • Smooth Launcher
  • Rear camera is better than iPhone 7

Cons

  • Back glass panel prone to scratches and is slippery
  • Lacks SD card slot to extend memory
  • Fingerprint unlock is not fast enough

Bottom Line

Google Pixel XL is the best stock Android experience I’ve ever had, even better than Nexus smartphones. Pixel XL is great in every aspect, the only thing which bothers me is the lack of SD card slot and the price. Google should have thought of making Google Pixel a little more affordable for Nexus fan to replace it’s newly purchased Nexus 6P with Pixel XL.