Pixel XL – Review – Lead by example

When Google decided to ditch the Nexus line up of mobiles, like every one of you, I was deeply disappointed. They launched a new line of mobiles: The Pixel and Pixel XL. The Pixels are totally different from the Nexus mobiles, in principle, and Google must have kept both the series alive parallelly. Google decided to do the heavy lifting with the Pixel and they introduced the Pixel as a phone from Google and the partner’s name (HTC) was kept in shadows.
Nexus has always been a developer’s device. I believe that Nexus is not a consumer device. It had the latest internals and software for the developers to play with. Nexus never had good build quality or camera or any other feature that would be a selling point for the consumers. But still people started buying Nexus and then they started complaining about it. Only a power user would appreciate a Nexus device. So the existence of the Pixel makes a lot of sense for the consumers. But the developers need their Nexus. We will not get into that debate now and lets talk about the Pixel XL. I have been using the Pixel XL for more than a month now and here are my thoughts.
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“Is that a new mobile in your hand? Yes. What is it? It the Pixel XL? Is it?”. That is the kind of comments I get when people see the Pixel XL in my hand. I expected “Oh! is that a Pixel in your hand?”. That actually sums it up. The Pixel XL has got a very dull, run of the mill, uninspiring design. Considering the fact that this is a premium device, the design is an utter disaster. The market is flooded with android mobiles and most of them have a unique design differentiator these days. The Mi mix, Honor magic, S7 edge are some of the premium mobiles that have a unique design and why can’t Google pull that off?
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The Pixel XL has got a metal body with matte finish and a glass tile at the back. The fingerprint sensor is at the back, just below the camera module. The power and volume buttons at the sides have a good tactile feedback. It is a single SIM (nano) device with no memory card expansion slot. The headphone jack is on the top, while the USB port, speaker grills  and mic are at the bottom.
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When it comes to build quality, the Pixel XL has a rock solid construction. I have dropped the mobile more than once and the mobile is still intact with no signs of the incident. My review unit has been handled by many tech reviewers before and still the mobile is as shiny as a new one. But the mobile is a thick brick with the least sense of fashion. Also it does not have any sort of water and dust proofing.
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The Pixel XL has a 5.5 inch AMOLED display with Quad HD resolution support. It has a pixel density of 543 ppi as this can cramp in 2560 x 1440 pixels in that 5.5 inch vibrant display. The display is protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The display is bright and vivid at all light conditions. The ambient light sensor is quick to detect the brightness and adjust the display. Being an AMOLED display, it has “always on” notifications on lock screen. Viewing angles are wide and direct sunlight readability is not an issues. The display on the Pixel XL is bright and brilliant and leaves me with nothing to complain.
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Hardware and performance

When it comes to hardware specifications, the Pixel XL leaves no stone unturned, It is powered by the powerful Snapdragon 821 chipset with 2 cores clocked at 2.15 Ghz and 2 cores clocked at 1.6 Hz. It has a 4 GB of LP DDR4 RAM and Adreno 530 GPU. When it comes to benchmark test and real world tests, the Pixel is a king. It is fast and furiously fast. I installed my usual set of 40 apps and filled the memory to the brim. Yet there is no sign of slow down. The mobile can also play 4k content without any stutter. I played all my usual resource intensive games and the mobile handled it all with ease. It may have only 4 GB RAM, but it can multitask faster and better than any mobile with 6 GB or 8 GB RAM out there. When you own a Pixel XL, you own the fastest Android smartphone on the planet and it is future proof for a few years.
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The mobile comes in 2 variants: 32 GB and 128 GB storage. It makes sense to buy the 128 GB as it does not have any expandable storage. Google does offer free and unlimited cloud backup, but still on-premise storage does matter. Pixel support OTG and there is a USB-C OTG adapter in the box.
The loudspeaker is good enough for voice calls and casual music over speakers. It has the usual set of connectivity options like Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi and it supports 4G VoLTE. Sadly the mobile is available only in a single SIM variant. Sound quality over headphones is also good. There is no headsets in the box, but I use my Creative EP630 earphones and Xioami headphones regularly and I find that the quality of sound delivered by this mobile is good enough even for the audiophiles.
It has a fast and accurate fingerprint sensor at the back. The fingerprint sensor can do a few extra tasks apart from unlocking the mobile. Gestures can be used to bring down notification shade.


The Pixel XL and Pixel have the same 12.3 MP camera and they both boast of having the best camera in all of smartphones. I was unsure of the DXOmark rating, until I held the mobile in my hands. This camera can click very sharp and detailed pictures in almost all lighting conditions. It has an excellent dynamic range and the HDR+ mode is magical. The camera is very reliable and every time I take it out of my pocket, I can be sure that I am going to click an awesome shot. The UI is plain, simple and vanilla. It does not have manual control. But the hardware supports RAW format and manual mode. So if you can download some manual camera app, you can unleash the full potential of the Pixel XL’s camera. In the lack of optical image stabilization, the electronic image stabilization offers to stabilize the video footage. Forget the DXOmark, in reality, the camera is good, but the S7 Edge delivers equally good shots, which much more flexibility and features on the software layer. But the Pixel XL definitely has a better camera than the iPhone 7 Plus. Check out the samples below.


Obviously the Pixel by Google, runs on the latest Android 7.1 Nougat. The pixel launcher is a new launcher from Google and it is fast and delivers a smooth launcher user experience. It has a new visual design along with a fresh set of icons.  On supported apps , long press brings up many actions that are relevant shortcut to the app. E.g: On the Camera app, long press shows up shortcuts like Shoot video or Shoot selfie. These shortcuts can also be saved as links on the home screen. Not many apps are supported right now. Google Assistant is available out of the box on the Pixel and frankly I don’t find it exciting as I don’t like to talk to mobile, no matter how smart it is. Needless to say, the UI is fast and snappy. The hardware compliments the software and they work in synergy for the best Android user experience ever.
Nougat on Pixel


The 3450 mAh battery gives me an entire day of battery life. I get about 5 hours of screen on-time, if I choose to play movies and games on it over the weekend. Pixel mobiles support Quick Charge 3.0. The Pixel XL’s 3450 mah battery charges from 0-40% in less than 30 minutes and for the full charge it takes about 1:30 for full charge. The supplied wall charger unit has USB-C port, but the box has USB-C to USB-C port and also USB to USB-C port. Battery life on the Pixel is not something to worry about.
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When the Pixel was launched, I was wondering who would buy it. When I reviewed this, I know the answer. It is for people who seek fast performance, who least care about customization, who least care about software tweaking and have a bottomless bank account. The 32 GB variant is priced at Rs 67000 and the 128 GB variant is priced at Rs 76000. It is obviously overpriced, but it is a premium mobile. But I wish Google had paid a little bit of attention to make this mobile a fashionable premium accessory. Samsung S7 Edge is one mobile which I would choose over the Pixel XL. The S7 Edge has a better design, equally good camera, interesting UI and a blazing fast performance. If you are ready to pay 67K and not willing to buy an iPhone, then you can get the Pixel XL.


A Technology evangelist, Giridhar reviews gadgets and mobile applications. He is also a passionate photographer and a user experience designer by profession.

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