Google Pixel XL

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL

You don’t have to shop in the big-and-tall section of stores to want the Google Pixel XL. It’s a powerful phablet at a still-reasonable size, and it’s made by Google.

This 5.5-inch Android phone is the successor to last year’s Nexus 6P, as Google is altogether ditching the affordable, developer-focused Nexus brand in favor of this new Pixel XL and its smaller 5-inch Pixel counterpart.

Here’s our hands-on video review of the Pixel XL

YouTube :

You’re getting top-of-the-line specs now, but also a noticeable price bump. The Pixel XL has a metal body, a 2K resolution screen and debuts a blazing-fast Snapdragon 821 processor with 4GB of RAM inside.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


Big highlights we’re testing out right now for our review include the 12.3MP camera on the back and the 8MP shooter on the front. Google says the rear camera is the best ever in a smartphone – we’ll be the judge of that. If you’re upgrading from a two-year old Android phone, the fingerprint scanner is also a big deal.

What hasn’t changed in the move to the Pixel XL moniker is that the new phone features the latest version of Android: Android 7.1 Nougat. This gives the phone Google Daydream VR capabilities to rival the Samsung Gear VR.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


The Google Pixel XL is sized to compete with the elegantly designed Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (that’s the one that doesn’t explode) and iPhone 7 Plus– but does it really pack enough punch to make it onto our best phones list? Let’s find out.

Price and release date

The Google Pixel XL price is more than your average Nexus phone at launch. The official price in the US is $769. That’s just as much as a top unlocked phone from almost any other manufacturer, including Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


Alternatively, in the US, you can buy the Google Pixel XL at Verizon and pay that price over the course of 24 months at a rate of $32 a month.

It was announced to be a Verizon exclusive, but don’t worry, that’s only for people looking for a subsidized plan. AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint users can just buy the unlocked version from the Google Store.

The Google Pixel XL price in the UK is £719. Again, that’s expensive for a Google-made phone. The same goes for Australia, where the phone starts at AU$1,269.

Google is readying its new Android 7.1 phone to launch on October 20. Pre-orders began on October 4 in the US, UK and Australia.

Design and display

The Google Pixel XL blends together glass and metal, and it’s attractive, even if the two-tone design on the back and large front bezels aren’t as stylish as a Samsung phone. And it’s way better than the renders that leaked.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


Glass makes up the top half of the back, where the fingerprint sensor and camera reside. There’s nothing notable on the button-free front of the phone, as Google uses on-screen buttons in stock Android.


Unless you’ve managed to get your hands on an Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe this is probably the first smartphone you’ll be able to try with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 processor. It’s a step ahead of the Snapdragon 820 that’s in just about every other big Android phone launched in 2016.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


What’s that mean for you, exactly? The new System-on-a-Chip promises better performance to the tune of a 10% increase in speed. It’s snappy from our quick testing.

It’s also helped out by the fact that there’s 4GB of RAM here, giving you a higher ceiling for opening up all sorts of intensive apps at once. The Nexus 6P had 3GB of RAM, which was the norm for 2015.

Once again, there’s no microSD card slot in the Pixel XL. That hasn’t changed in the Nexus-to-Pixel conversion. Instead, you’ll have to rely on the 32GB or 128GB of internal storage here. No, there’s no 256GB model either.


Don’t let the 12.3MP camera fool you in an age where some other Android phones have 20MP cameras, as Google claims that the Pixel XL’s camera is the best ever.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


We’ve heard promising claims before from Google, and while the Nexus 6P camera was good, it was still far from the best next to Samsung and LG phones in dimly light environments.

The rear camera uses large 1.55 micron pixels, which should help it capture more light, but it has an f/2.0 aperture – which is to say a fairly small opening in the lens, thereby letting less light in to begin with than some phones, so we’re eager to test out how exactly these camera specs amount to “the best.”

On the front, there’s an 8MP front-facing camera, which on paper is better than a lot of the 5MP selfie cameras that we’ve seen on many Androids, though we’ve snapped a few selfies and it’s hard to tell the difference in a poorly lit demo room.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


4K video is also here, and we’re interested to see how it turns out next to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG V20, since both those phones feature impressive steady shot technology. Google showed a demo of it working flawlessly, of course. Check back for camera samples in our full Google Pixel XL review.

Battery life

Impressive specs are nothing without longevity, but that may not be a problem here as the Google Pixel XL battery is supposed to last more than a day, thanks to a 3450mAh capacity.

That’s the same size as the Nexus 6P battery, but it’s likely to last even longer as the Google Pixel XL’s display is slightly smaller at 5.5 inches instead of 5.7 inches, so there’s less screen to light up.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


There are two more reasons the Pixel XL’s battery is likely to be better. First, the Snapdragon 821 processor should be more efficient than the Snapdragon 820 chip.

Second, and most importantly, Android Nougat features behind-the-scenes Doze 2.0 technology that better suspends needless activity while your phone is idle, on your desk or in your pocket.

We’ll run a full battery life test on the Google Pixel XL when we get a final review unit in our hands.

Early Verdict

You won’t have a rough transition between liking Nexus phones and enjoying the Google Pixel XL. It’s still the best way to enjoy the latest version of Android.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


The phone won’t take forever to get an upgrade to Android 7.1 Nougat, because it’s here out of the box, complete with Google Daydream VR capabilities. Future Android updates are going to debut on this phone, too, at least for a while.

Even better, it’s the first to offer the fast Snapdragon 821 processor in the Western world. The Asus Zenfone 3 Deluxe didn’t come out in time to claim its “world first” title in the US and UK.

All of this makes the Pixel XL a more expensive phone than the Nexus 6P – but the cost is in line with other top-tier flagship handsets. It’s just more money than a Nexus device.

But think about it, no Nexus debuted both new specs and new software. Google is finally providing consumers with both on a stock Android device. That’s a big switch.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


We’ll have to get used to the Pixel name and this phone’s two-tone finish of shiny glass and matte metal on the back, and do our best to forget about the needless bezels.

That’ll be a simple ask if the camera and battery life hold up in our forthcoming full review of the new best way to experience the latest Android has to offer.

Hands-on review: UPDATED: Google Pixel XL


21 thoughts on “Google Pixel XL

  1. I did. I don’t think I said (and didn’t mean to imply) it had anything else.

  2. @araarutyan:disqus and @sovat_oung:disqus. This is why we’re curious to see how the Note7/S7 and Google Pixel/Pixel XL perform under our strict side-by-side comparisons. Stay tuned for an in-depth review and special feature in the next two weeks (release date is Oct 20, so around then). I’m curious to see how Google handles the post processing to make up for everything. It’s a smart phone, but THAT smart?!

  3. S7 and Note 7 cameras have better low light performance still, because they have F1.7 lens which togehter with sensor combo delivers better low light and you can check that DXO review of Pixel – basically every S7 camera picture is better than Pixel one

  4. Aperture f/2.0 is a con, huh? WTF DXOMark has said camera on the Google due smartphones is the best it’s ever tested on a smartphone.

  5. Hmmm… we don’t have any of those phones in the US either. We may soon. LeEco is launching its products in the US with an event this month (who knows when they’ll actually come out with phones), so maybe we’ll see it eventually. \n\nBut nothing Snapdragon 821 here. It’s the one reason/excuse Google has for charging an iPhone-level premium for its phones. It’s finally not a laggard when it comes to month’s old processor specs.

  6. Honestly I was thinking about Xiaomi Mi5s / Mi5s plus and LeEco Le 3 pro. The most powerful Android smartphone right now, according to Antutu. Right under iPhone 7 and both with snapdragon 821 inside.

  7. First in the West. Specifically explained in the paragraph that says

  8. Pixel is not the first Android smartphone with snapdragon 821.

  9. It didn’t. I have a 6P and I did side-by-side comparisons. I want it to be true. It wasn’t. The post processing amped up the brightness of photos, but that doesn’t mean they came out clearer. I’ll go back and retest it against the Pixel XL, iPhone 7 Plus, S7 Edge, Note 7* (my previous comparison was vs the iPhone 6S Plus, S6 Note 5) in two weeks time. Meet you here, @disqus_tXp310LJIb:disqus :)\n\n*if it doesn’t explode.

  10. The Nexus 6P is an excellent camera, and if the writer of this article had used one or at least researched the performance of the 6P camera, they’d realise that in terms of low light capabilities, the 6P often beat the note 7 in majority of conditions!\n

  11. It appears that they didn’t include OIS because the way they designed the camera and its software make it’s inclusion unnecessary. Until we’ve seen in depth reviews I would reserve judgment on the Pixel series. Water resistance is likely a null point as well since most phones these days are already designed to keep water out to an extent. SD cards have not been in a Google handset in years. Their inclusion is also not required and for two good reasons: \n\n1. Google Cloud/Photos and unlimited full size storage. \n2. The presence of an SD card no matter what speed class slows down Android due to it’s using system resources to access that on top of the on board memory. It literally makes android into a turtle.

  12. well thats funny cos the Pixels look a lot like iphones design. But agree would have liked microSD (S7 edge note have them and they’re fast) and water resistant. If they gonna charge as much they should have included at least one of those features. And they really need to up their bling game with those lame colors, only nice color is silver. I expect updates will continue well past 2 years, have an old nexus 4 still getting updates. Wonder whether they do wireless charging? S7 edge beats them all

  13. Looks like I’m staying with Apple. Google can’t get away with charging premium prices for their Pixel phones like Apple and Samsung can as there’s no OIS, it’s not waterproof and for people who live their SD cards, not SD card slot either. At least with Apple I know I’m going to get more than 2 years of software updates. Looks like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, S7 and S7 Edge is still the best you can get on Android. Google dropped the ball with the Pixel with its boring and unimaginative design.

  14. It looks really ugly, blue is the worst. The back is glaring with 2 colors and the front has 2 black spot (sensors?) that seems out of place, especially the black spot in the centre. Definitely needs a case to hide it.\n\nPixel certainly snatched the ugly crown from LG G5.

  15. Looks ugly! in this day and age of lower priced premium phones, Google has tossed it’s USP out the window in favour of premium pricing. This won’t work. It’s not Samsung or iPhone and the specs don’t warrant the high pricing charged. It doesn’t bring anything extraordinary to the table. What it offers has been done and dusted by other phones. Not wasting my money

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