Google Pixel 2 XL hands-on: Bigger certainly seems better

Google Pixel 2 XL hands-on: Bigger certainly seems better


Google Pixel 2 XL hands-on: A step in the right direction

Google Pixel 2 XL price

Pricing for the Google Pixel 2 XL starts at £799 for the 64GB model and rises to £899 for the 128GB option.

Google Pixel 2 XL release date

The Google Pixel 2 XL is available to pre-order now, with a release date in November.

 

Hands-on with the Google Pixel 2 XL

Out of the two Pixel phones Google has just announced, the Pixel 2 XL comfortably feels like the more exciting option. The smaller Pixel 2 feels like the typical generational evolution. But the Pixel 2 XL actually seems like a flagship worthy of taking on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X.

The biggest difference between the two versions of the Pixel is the design. The Pixel 2 follows the blueprint of the original, but the Pixel 2 XL goes in a much more modern direction. Like the LG V30 and Galaxy S8, it slims down the bezel surrounding the display and pushes that panel right to the edge. It not only looks much slicker, but it gets you a bigger screen in a body that’s a similar size to the older XL.

Google has slightly updated the back of the phone too. There’s still a contrasting glass panel that covers the camera, but it’s shorter than before and I doubt the reaction to it will quite so contrasting. It also no longer covers the fingerprint sensor. Hopefully it won’t get quite so grimy as it did before.

Related: Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL

The Pixel 2 XL is a good looking phone, that’s comfortably nicer than its predecessor, featuring a full-screen front and decent sounding front-firing speakers. These do, however, come at the cost of the headphone jack. You’ll either be using a USB-C dongle or a pair of Bluetooth headphones, like the excellent Bowers and Wilkins PX, with the Pixel 2 XL.

Look past the design, and there’s not a lot that separates the Pixel 2 XL from the smaller Pixel 2. There’s a Snapdragon 835 paired with 4GB RAM, plus either 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. In my short time with the phone it felt fast, but then I wouldn’t expect anything less and the real test is how it performs over an extended period of time. The first Pixels impressed in this area, so fingers crossed it’s the same here.

The bump in storage is welcome too – the older Pixel XL started with just 32GB – but the lack of a microSD card will no doubt irk many. It as at least IP67 rated for water-resistance and new pressure-sensitive sides that can be squeezed to open up Google Assistant.

The two real strengths of the original Pixel were its excellent camera and clean software, and I am hoping both of these will impress again . Google has once again layered a Pixel Launcher over the top of Android 8.0, adding in a few new tricks that’ll probably trickle down to other Android phones soon. The search bar now sits below the icons, an odd move I must say, and there’s a new calendar widget that dynamically changes to show upcoming events and weather.

Android in its purest form, as seen on these devices, is still the best way to experience it. Samsung and LG’s skins might have more tacked on features, but the smoothness and lack of bloatware make unskinned Android so much slicker.

Related: Pixel 2 deals

I have high hopes for Google Pixel XL 2’s rear camera, but I will need to spend a lot more time with it to see just how has changed. The 12-megapixel sensor now benefits from optical image stabilisation, a big addition, plus a wider f/1.7 aperture that will let more light into the snaps. There’s also a portrait mode that uses machine learning to blur the background behind the subject.

There’s a 3575 mAh battery inside, plus fast wireless charging. No wireless charging, though.

Opening impressions

The biggest thing holding back the first Pixel XL was its bland design. Thankfully, with the Pixel 2 XL that’s no longer the case. This is clearly the phone Google is hoping will go toe-to-toe with the iPhone X.