The last Google device I ever used was the Nexus 6 and it was great. It was my first pure Android experience and I must say it really caters to a select group of people who likes a clean and bare boned OS. I really enjoyed how the Pixel showcased the naked Android and the simplicity of it. It definitely doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other Android phones but somehow it feels just right. The Pixel 2 XL has been opened before but you know just for dramatic purposes I’m going to unbox it again.
Design and Build Quality
The first generation Pixel had an overhauled designed that isn’t quite the same as the Nexus generation. The dual material aluminum at the bottom and glass at the top brings a nice contrast. This design element is brought over to the Pixel 2 XL with largely the same look, but with a glass that is not over the sensor. The back has a nice rough texture that’s easy to grip as well and the glass portion will be a fingerprint magnet.
The top and bottom bezels houses front facing stereo speakers which is very loud and although the bezels are quite thin, it’s still comfortable to hold it in landscape. Going to the fingerprint sensor, the placement is just nice for the index finger to rest on, without touching and smudging the glass. Unlock speed is very fast and will work when the screen is off as well.
The glass display comes with 2.5D glass that curves nicely to the metal frame and the back also does the same. Moving on to the buttons, the volume rocker and power button are very tactile and provides a nice feedback.
For other hardware, there is no headphone jack on the Pixel 2 XL. Instead, they included an adapter which I think it’s cumbersome. It’s more practical to use Bluetooth earphones in my opinion or in this case, Google Buds.
Overall handling of the Pixel 2 XL can be difficult 1 handed and Google also released a official case to give it more grip. The inner portion helps to clean dust and outside it’s made of fabric, which means it’s going to wear out and get dirty in time.
Hardware and Display
On to the display, the Pixel 2 XL has a 6 inch Quad HD, P-OLED Corning Gorilla Glass 5 display at 538 PPI. Sharpness isn’t an issue with that amount of pixels but I feel that the display is not as bright. Using it outdoors, I needed to bump the brightness to maximum.
One thing I noticed immediately when I got my review set is the blue tint when tilting the phone. It reminds me of the blue light tempered glass which in my opinion, it’s kind of annoying . To me it’s too obvious not to notice.
As you might have already heard about the burn in issue of the display, it’s also apparent on my review set. It’s difficult to notice with daily use and apart from checking it on purpose, it wasn’t really obvious. As for colors and contrast, personally I felt it was pretty vibrant. I guess it’s down to personal preference and it’s not that noticeable unless placed side by side with other smartphones. There is the color settings that might help as well.
The Pixel 2 XL is available in 64GB / 128GB storage and 4GB of RAM. In case you’re wondering, it supports USB OTG through the USB-C port. For those that still uses the normal USB thumbdrive, Google included the Quick Switch Adapter that can be used to bridge the connection. The actual purpose for the adapter is for easy migration to the Pixel from another iOS or Android device.
If you are worried about storage space, it comes bundled with free unlimited original quality storage on Google Photos until the year 2020.
Other specifications include NFC, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, IP67 water and dust resistance and a 3520mAh battery.
Software and Performance
Google devices has always featured top of the line specs and this time it is no exception. It’s powered by the Snapdragon 835 and Adreno 540, more than enough for today’s gaming needs and daily tasks. Antutu scored 159743 and Geekbench scored 1895 for single core and 6222 on multicore.
Anything from launching and switching apps, swiping on the UI and gaming is flawless. Multitasking is never an issue with the 4GB of RAM. There wasn’t any overheating when gaming for longer durations, and that is good news.
Reception bars ranged between 4-5 bars most of the time, no problems with calls and SMS. Tested cellular and WiFi speed and the results are pretty standard.
Moving on to software, the Pixel 2 XL is running Android 8.0 Oreo which is Google’s latest Android OS. The main focus of the Pixel devices is of course Google Assistant. The design revolves around Google Assistant and there are a few ways to trigger the Assistant, holding the home button, using voice and squeezing, yes squeezing. It’s the Active Edge and the other single use is to silence incoming calls.
At the launch in Singapore, Google released Assistant in Singaporean English. Yup that’s right, it’s also called Singlish. It’s kind of hard to explain what it means, it’s just how Singaporeans might talk to each other. If you want to know more, it’s better that you Google it.
As to how Google Assistant is useful, you can almost use it in everyday activities. Set a reminder? Find the nearest 7-Eleven? Do a Google Translate? Find a recipe? It is the ease of use Google is trying to achieve and it will get easier and easier in future.
Picture-in-Picture is placing the app to window mode above other apps. It’s only available for certain apps and for Youtube, it works only if you are a YouTube Red subscriber. It’s kind of a bummer but there is a workaround for it. Instead of using the app, access YouTube in the Chrome browser, request for desktop view, go full screen mode and tap the home button.
The Pixel 2 XL is running Pixel Launcher with the Google Search bar at the bottom. Swiping to the right shows news in the form of cards and you can customize what kind of feeds and notifications you want to show.
You can add widgets, change wallpapers and even change the icon shape. For notifications, there is the ambient display which displays alerts on the screen when the phone is locked and will always show if you choose to do so. Believe it or not, there is also a LED light that is off by default. You can turn it on by using the Blink Light toggle.
If you noticed a dot on the app icon, it means there is a notification and you can tap and hold to display. You can even swipe it away on the popup. Another nice feature is the swiping of the fingerprint sensor for notifications.
One feature of the Pixel is that when it detects that a wallpaper has a dark tone, it automatically changes to Dark theme which is pretty sweet.
Smart Storage will automatically clear older photos and videos that have already been backed up in the event your device storage is full. You can choose between 30,60 or 90 days duration.
Smart Lock keep the Pixel unlocked if it’s safe under certain conditions. The trusted face unfortunately didn’t work for me. A couple of gestures that are quite useful is the double tap power button to launch camera and flip phone to toggle between back and front camera.
The 3520 mAh battery doesn’t seem huge for a 6 inch device, but there isn’t any issue lasting throughout the day. Even with Ambient Display on, it’s able to last at least 12 hours a day, with about 10 – 20% battery left. Screen on time was about 5 – 6 hours depending on usage. Heavier use will definitely drain the battery faster.
The Pixel 2 XL comes bundled with a 18W charger to take advantage of the fast charging. During my test it took around 2 hours 15 mins to charge from 0 – 100% which is pretty decent but I have seen phones that are faster. There is also a battery saver mode that can help extend battery life and you can set it to turn on at certain battery percentage.
As for the camera, DxOMark gave the Pixel 2 XL a score of 98 for a smartphone, highest rated currently. I would usually take benchmarks with a pinch of salt and prefer to rely on real experience. It comes with a 12.2 MP back shooter and a 8MP front facing camera.
There are just a few camera modes like Panorama, Photo Sphere and Portrait. There is actually an option for HDR+ control that lets you choose different types of HDR but leaving it to auto works best in my opinion.
Focusing and shutter speed is really quick in daytime shots and photos. As for night shots, it slows down a little but still manages to keep things quite clear. Macro shots are pretty good as well but as usual, zooming will definitely be grainy.
If you are hoping for a comprehensive Manual mode, there isn’t one. The settings you can adjust is focus and exposure lock, and White Balance.
As far as I know, portrait mode usually uses dual camera for depth sensing but the Pixel 2 XL only has 1 camera but still able to capture Portrait photos. In short, they are using Dual Pixel to capture depth and finishing up using software. It’s even ported to the front facing camera.
Google Lens is a tool for image search. If you come across maybe a landmark or building for example, take a photo and tap the Google Lens icon. It will do it’s magic and let you know what’s in the photo and the information about it.
As for video, it’s able to record up to 4K and the OIS really does a great job.
The Pixel 2 XL has its flaws like any other smartphone but it’s still a very capable phone. I really enjoyed the simplicity of pure Android, but still having the right amount of features. The camera is really good, perfect for point and shoot and I really liked the front facing speaker and the texture of the metal back.
If the battery was a little bigger that would be perfect but as for the display, personally the blue tint is a little overwhelming to me. It’s going to differ from person to person and if you don’t mind the display, I think the Pixel 2 XL is really worth to get it. For Singaporeans, the Pixel 2 XL is already available at Singtel stores islandwide.