Google Pixel 2 XL Australian Review

Alex Kidman from finder with our video review of the Google Pixel 2 XL. Now the Pixel 2 XL is pretty much the last premium handset to launch in 2017 but the question is has Google saved the best to last? Let’s look at the design first and in design terms there’s really not a lot to the Pixel 2 XL. If you compare it against something like an Apple iPhone X or a Galaxy Note 8 it almost feels a little bit under designed. The display screen isn’t quite full screen, it doesn’t quite wrap to the edges, now there’s very good reasons for that. Google’s incorporated dual-firing speakers at the top and bottom, and on the sides you have the squeeze feature which they’ve adopted from the HTC U11 although, it’s a limited squeeze feature.

On the U11 you could say I want this to launch the camera, or I want this to launch an app,e or I want this to launch the Google assistant, on the new Pixel phones it’s the assistant or nothing, and that plays into one of the key strengths of this phone. This is a phone all about Google’s software. Google’s been really insistent that software is at the heart of what they think makes a phone special. The design is rather plain, it’ll only take a sim, this is very classic Google, they’ve never really supported microSD because they’d rather you had your data up in the cloud it also of course won’t actually take a standard headphone jack either. They do supply a USB-C to 3.5m jack adapter in the box but as with the iPhones and the other phones that have dropped the headphone jack that’s a bit more problematic than it really should be.

I miss the headphone jack and I suspect a lot of people do. It’s water resistant, which is a great feature to have and the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is quick, fast and well located. Samsung, if you’re listening, put your fingerprint sensors down low like Google does. It works. Then there’s the display screen and here there’s a bit of difference between the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL which I’ve got here. The XL has an OLED display which Google has fine tuned to the SRGB standard, and that’s a little less vivid than you’re probably used to on your Samsung Galaxy or on any number of Chinese-made phones where vivid is usually seen as a good thing, you want those reds and oranges really bursting out of the phone. They really don’t do that on the screen to the same extent.

Google has released an update which makes it a little bit more vibrant but it’s nowhere near as punchy That’s a kind of problem if you think it’s a problem. It looks a little different, it doesn’t actually look bad in that sense. Slightly more problematic is the very evident blue shift that you get if you tilt the phone at all. Now, again, this is a characteristic of display screens, they all do this to one degree or another but the Pixel 2 XL does it to a really noticeable degree. Not a killer problem, but not exactly what you want out of a premium priced phone. In terms of processing power, the Pixel 2 XL has a really interesting story to tell.

Now it’s running on the same Snapdragon 835 that you’ll find in just about every premium Android phone today and in sheer benchmark terms it runs just about the same as they do. You might think well it’s just the same as all the others. No it’s not. This is a far more responsive phone. It is of course running pure and clean Android and one of the big promises with Pixel as with Nexus before it was that you’d get updates first and you definitely do with this. But the end result is one of the snappiest, quickest phones I’ve used in years, it’s really very good at basic tasks and even more computationally intensive tasks because of course the Snapdragon 835 is no slouch. As for the camera.

Google’s only opted for a single lens solution, which might make you think that it’s a lesser camera, and it really depends on how you want to use it. As you may well be aware, DxOMark has rated the Pixel 2’s camera as the best in market. But you’ve really got to break that figure down to understand what it is and what it means for your actual usage. The key factor with Google’s camera is that it’s AI drive, it automatically analyses the scene and basically sets everything automatically for you, and for the most part it does this really, really well. You can get some very very good shots even if you’re a terribly ordinary photographer out of the Pixel 2 XL. However, if you’re more of a pro photographer, if you like your manual settings, they’re really hard to get to, and some of them you can’t get to at all. So if you like fiddling, this may not be the camera for you.

Google’s managed to incorporate a portrait mode into this, even though it’s not a dual lens. And computationally that’s quite impressive and the results are generally pretty good. Throw complex hair at it and it can be a little bit problematic, and there can be some instances in some lighting where you end up with an almost photoshopped-looking subject because they just don’t quite look like they’re in the scene they’re in. There’s a little bit too much blur or the blur looks a little bit artificial behind them, because of course it is, it’s just software derived. Is the camera better or worse? It comes down to your usage. I would tend to favour a dual camera approach, not just for a slightly more realistic portrait but simply for the flexibility that it gives you. You don’t get a 2x optical zoom, you don’t get a monochrome lens, you don’t get a wide lens. You get a single lens, a very good lens and the software supports it beautifully but you are stuck within that single frame of reference.

For a lot of folks of course that will well and truly be enough but if you crave a bit more playfulness in your photography maybe look at the other dual lens cameras and hopefully for next year’s Pixel phones that’s the route Google will take. So should you but the Pixel 2 XL? Well that depends. It’s premium price, whether you pick it up outright or on contract and you’ve got lots of premium options. If you love the idea of getting Google updates really really early and you really like having your data in the Googleverse, then yeah this is pretty much the obvious phone to buy because it’s so heavily tied into Google’s services.

If you want something a little bit more photographic flexibility I’d suggest you look around at options like the Note 8 or the OnePlus 5 or competitors even in the single lens space like Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium or even dare I blaspheme, an iPhone X or an iPhone 8 Plus. The Pixel 2 XL isn’t without its flaws but it is an exceptional phone. We’ve published our full review including photo samples, video samples and everything you could possibly want to know on finder so I encourage you to go and check that out today. Thanks for watching. .

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