The Google Pixel 2 XL is so incredibly close to being the perfect smartphone for me. It has a modern design with a display that has relatively thin bezels, has dual front-facing speakers, and stock Android 8.0 Oreo with guaranteed updates straight from Google for the next three years. I’ve been using this smartphone as my daily driver for the past few weeks ever since it arrived on my doorstep on October 18th.
These are my thoughts of Google’s Pixel 2 XL:
The design of the Pixel 2 XL is similar to last year’s model. The glass top portion doesn’t extend around the fingerprint scanner, which I suppose is better for repairs in case the glass portion breaks. Below is an aluminum slab that is coated with paint that has been mixed with a material to give it some added texture and grip. Because of this, it’s not going to feel as cool to the touch or metallic.
I was using this smartphone naked for about a week until my official Carbon Pixel 2 XL case arrived. This case cost $40 but it’s crafted out of cloth and looks absolutely stunning. It feels great and doesn’t add too much bulk to the smartphone. The Google icon has a rubberized coating to it for whatever that’s worth. It’s $40 well spent in my opinion.
What you won’t find in the smartphone is a headphone jack, which isn’t a deal breaker for me but it’s something that I definitely do appreciate because I don’t have a Bluetooth receiver in my car. You also won’t find a microSD card slot for expandable storage. You’re going to be stuck with the onboard 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. But there is unlimited Cloud storage to backup your photos in their original quality so that’s really cool. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL also both feature IP67 water and dust resistance, meaning you can submerge this phone in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes.
Now let’s talk about the display. The display has received a lot of negative press for a number of valid reasons. In fact, I made a separate video about that. In a nutshell, the display isn’t as vibrant as many other OLED panels. There is a noticeable blue tint when viewing the phone at an angle and there are reports of burn in even after only several days of usage, something that I have experienced.
The issue that actually bugs me the most is the black smear. When scrolling through content with black colors, you will notice the black colors smear or lag across the screen. It’s especially prevalent at low brightness and there’s really no getting around it. It cannot be fixed with an update, like some of these other issues can be. You just have to deal with it.
This display is subpar when compared to other OLED panels with similar specifications. There’s just no denying that. But even so, the QHD resolution is nice to see as are the thin bezels and rounded display edges.
The number one reason you should buy the Pixel 2 is for the software. It is unrivaled and I prefer it over iOS. First of all, it’s extremely clean. You have your home screen with Google Now and your app drawer is just a swipe away. The widget up top provides quick access to the weather and calendar. And the Google search bar has been moved to the bottom of the display for easy access. There’s also these really cool live wallpapers that move and don’t really drain too much battery. It looks really nice.
If you use a lot of Google services, which I think is most people; especially if you’re watching this on YouTube. You will absolutely love this smartphone and you won’t even consider something like an iPhone. Google is integrated so tightly into this smartphone in every possible way. Google services work better on this phone than other phones. YouTube, for example, has been optimized to crop videos to fit the 18:9 aspect ratio of the Pixel 2 XL. All you have to do is pinch to zoom and if you’re watching a video, you can just press the home button and the video will automatically be put into Picture-in-Picture mode so you can multi-task while watching the video. This phone is a multi-tasking beast. In addition to PiP, you can run two applications on the screen at the same time and if you want to switch between the last app you recently used lightning fast, you can just double press the overview button. These aren’t new features but I love them and I use them every single day.
There are some other software tricks: the Now Playing feature exclusive to the Pixel 2 will detect what song is playing in the background without you doing anything. What’s even more incredible is that it does so by using a database that’s stored in your smartphone. It doesn’t even have to connect to the internet.
Oh and get this, you can literally squeeze the phone to activate the Google Assistant. It works about 8 or 9 time out of 10. I use this feature every single day. It’s especially handy in the car when you don’t want to be looking at your phone. If you want a completely hands-free approach to activate the Google Assistant though, you can always just say “Okay Google.”
As for performance, the software does help make the hardware shine. Under the hood is a Snapdragon 835 chipset with 4GB of RAM. It would be nice to see 6GB of RAM given the pretty steep price of this handset. But 4GB still manages to keep things buttery smooth for the most part. I haven’t been gaming a lot on this device but I see no reason why it shouldn’t do well in this department.
The camera performance is top of the line. There’s evidence that points to it being the best smartphone camera on the market but there’s only one 12-megapixel main sensor on the back but it has an f/1.8 aperture, Optical Image Stabilization, and just a ton of software tricks.
The sensor uses dual pixels to split up each pixel to store more information. Google then uses that information to properly expose the photo, improve dynamic range, and brightness. And as you can see here, photos tend to come out very sharp. Sometimes, they come out looking a little bit too sharp but you’ll see that where many cameras struggle to properly expose like the bright sky foreground, the Pixel 2 has no problems. The same can be said at night, when trying to expose like a florescent sign. Without going into too much detail, I’m just very impressed with the results.
The Pixel 2 XL can also capture portrait photos despite it having one lens. All it uses is software and the results are actually very appealing. Sometimes there are issues with the edges of the subject, that’s especially true with objects. But overall, it works well and is nice to have. You can also take portrait selfies and they too look very good.
Believe it or not, the stereo front-firing speakers had me to be the most excited about in the Pixel 2 XL when it was announced. They do sound very good and I’m very glad that they’re here. But I did find them a bit underwhelming. I’m not sure if it’s because my expectations were just so high or because I was expecting some HTC BoomSound Stereo speakers.
The 3,520mAh battery has been able to get me through a full day of pretty heavy usage most days. But I’ve actually only ever started my day off on a full charge like maybe once or twice since owning this smartphone. Usually, I’ll just plug it in with a USB-C cable and charge it up a little bit when I get a low battery. I do wish this phone had wireless charging built-in but it doesn’t. You can, however, buy a wireless charging receiver like I did.
This is the Pixel 2 XL. It’s an expensive smartphone that starts at $850 for the 64GB model but it’s one of my favorite smartphones even with a subpar display. This is coming from a guy who actually dismissed the original Pixel for its lackluster hardware. You can go watch our review of the Pixel XL and see that for yourself. The hardware on the Pixel 2 XL is not perfect but the added front-facing stereo speakers, the water-resistance rating, and thin bezeled display really helped me look past other hardware shortcomings.
The software experience is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before with the exception of the previous Pixel and Nexus devices. It just continues to get better each and every year. It’s really cool to see Google is just continuously making the software better and better. My advice for those who want better hardware, look into the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. It has an incredible display, has a Stylus built in, and has wireless charging-- it has a lot of amazing hardware features. You can also look into the Pixel 2-- it costs $200 less and starts at $649 and doesn’t have all these display issues. What it does have is a rather hideous display bezels.
With that said, I’m curious to hear your thoughts of Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. Let me know in a comment down below.