The Pixel has been a revelation of sorts for the avid smartphone audience the world over. To start off, being the first ever smartphone to bear the ‘made by Google’ tag means a lot, and the expectations were high. Secondly, being priced very optimistically, there had to be enough spunk in the phone’s hardware and software to make it come across as a worthy iPhone alternative in terms of price.
So does it do justice to that hefty price tag, and does it bear the weight of being a ‘Google Original’ on its shoulders with aplomb?
Much has been written about the phone since it was launched. But here at Gizmoids, we have had this thing with us for more than a month. Here’s what we think about it-
- Made of glass and metal, the Pixel XL is distinctive enough with its two-tone treatment and looks like nothing else on the market. That doesn’t mean it’s the best looking phone, though. It’s got a very individualistic, love-it-or-hate-it kind of a design. Choose which side you’re on.
- Thankfully there’s no camera hump on the back panel, so you don’t necessarily need a back cover to protect that exceptional lens from catching any scratches. The camera is accompanied by a dual flash and laser autofocus.
- The Pixel XL features curved edges and a rather fat demeanour in a world which is trying hard to get slimmer every passing day. The benefits of that slight flab are reaped with a big and fantastically long-lasting 3450 mAH battery, but more on that later. Despite its size, the Pixel XL feels light to the hand and fits rather easily in the palm.
- Power and volume buttons are on the right, with SIM tray on left. There’s no dual SIM or hybrid capability here. The 3.5 mm audio jack sits on top, with the dual speakers and USB type-C port sitting at the bottom. The phone also gets Google’s G branding at the bottom part of the rear panel.
- The Fingerprint sensor is positioned at the back for use with the index finger. It’s appreciably fast, but not the absolute fastest such system we have seen.
Don’t miss – Kolkata Pixel-ed : The City of Joy Pictured With the Google Pixel
- There are no capacitive touch buttons on the front panel, and you have to make do with on screen, software driven buttons for navigation.
- There’s No IP67 or IP 68 certification for the Pixel / XL. While that feature isn’t too important for many, a few others are looking specifically for that certification to be sure before blending their phone into their active lifestyle. At its price, we would have appreciated if Google shipped the Pixel with some water / dust resistance certification.
- Twin speakers at the bottom are loud and clear enough. The phone’s speakers, however, are now officially known to emanate static distortion while playing certain frequencies. Google has acknowledged this issue and is replacing the phones with the fault under warranty.
- The screen on the Pixel XL is absolutely fantastic and looks rich, bright and vivid when lit up. The colours appear a Shade bit more rich than natural, but make the images look fantastic on careen. The Pixel XL gets a larger 5.5-inch display with a 2,650 x 1,440 quad-HD resolution, while the smaller Pixel gets a 5-inch screen and a 1080p resolution. The phone has terrific contrast with deepest of the deep blacks and no greying out of dark areas. The viewing angle on the phone is great too.
- The Snapdragon 821 SoC along with and 4GB RAM offers blazing performance and you’d hardly ever witness a frozen frame of any sluggishness from this one even after loading it with the heaviest software you could summon.
- We tested the phone with Asphalt Extreme, Nova 3 and Sniper Fury on the phone and the experience was as flawless as it could get on a smartphone. Needless to say, lighter apps, multitasking, camera, audio and video playback and other tasks are handled flawlessly too.
- The stock Android experience of Nougat is pretty darned good, and the Google Assistant built in is very helpful to ask stuff like weather, general information, directions and suggestions for eating out. Oh, and it’ll tell you a genuinely authentic joke which would make you smile every time you ask it to.
- Our test unit is a grey coloured piece, and we received it in a scratched state. And while it has been a rugged device overall, the contrast silver metal shade that’s revealed after you scratch the surface doesn’t look too nice.
- You can also long press supported app icons such as Maps for shortcuts in a manner somewhat similar to the Apple 3D touch.
- Google launcher sits on top of the stock Android Nougat on the Pixel, though there is no app drawer and the overall experience is immensely easy and intuitive to use and understand. The Pixel XL has to be one of the most stupid-friendly phones out there.
- Multi-tasking on the Nougat is a blessing. You can do stuff like watch a video and browse a website at the same time just by pressing the overview / square button at the right bottom and then tapping the supported apps to multi-task.
- The Pixel gives you the option to create multiple users on the phone. While this is useful from a privacy standpoint, please remember that each user has its own set of individual apps which are not shared between the two logins. Also, the images and videos shot by different users cannot be moved across accounts. There is also a default Guest mode which can be employed if you have to lend the phone to someone for a short duration.
- The Nougat comes with a whole bunch of battery optimization features and includes improvements to Doze. And it really works, as the Pixel really sips on power and lasts longer than any other similar phone for every given unit of battery charge.
- The battery of the Pixel XL stands at 3450 mA. It’s large sized unit, and more importantly, the system knows how to make the best use of it. The Pixel XL would easily last you more one a half day with moderate use. It would easily last through the day even if your usage in on the heavier side. It comes with Quick Charge 3.0 and takes only one a half hours for a full charge. While it doesn’t match the mind-boggling speed of the OnePlus 3 / 3T in terms of charging, once charged it outlasts the 3T by a substantial margin.
- The camera on the Pixel is the best available on any smartphone on the date this review was written. Period. The DxOMark score of 89 that beats both the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 is just a number. We know it, because we have used and tested that camera extensively.
- While the aperture of f/2.0 isn’t as large as the iPhone 7’s f/1.8 or Samsung Galaxy S7’s f/1.7, this camera outperforms the ones on both those flagships by a fair margin. Although absent, optical image stabilization is never missed on this one. Our only gripe is that the colours and contrast are somewhat popped up, and not as natural as seen on the iPhone.
- For still images, you can choose from HDR+ off, HDR+ auto and HDR+ ON modes. Of these, the HDR+ On mode is the most effective and offer a stupefying dynamic range which is unmatched by any other smartphone camera. This mode, however, has to be manually selected once you open the camera app, as the default mode is HDR+ auto.
- Low light performance is unmatched. You can check our comprehensive photo feature ‘Kolkata Pixel-ed’ to witness the camera in action.
- Video options include 30 or 60 frames-per-second (FPS) at Full HD or 720p resolution or 30 FPS at 4K UHD resolution. The stabilisation system is pretty good and manages to mitigate even the more disturbing of the shakes. The 8-megapixel front-facing works really well too with great detail and good dynamic range. Camera modes include Slow Motion video, Panorama, Photo Sphere and a Huawei P9 / iPhone 7 Plus like Lens Blur mode. Everything works as it should. No gripes whatsoever.
- A highlight of the Pixel and Pixel XL is the unlimited storage you get for you high-resolution images and videos. You get unlimited storage even for 4K video, which makes it a fabulous deal from a storage perspective for professionals.
So should you buy it? Well, at prices starting from INR 57,000 the Pixel or the Pixel XL are probably the most expensive mainstream smartphones you could buy after the iPhone duo. However, this one outclasses its Apple badged rival in the imaging department by a fair margin. It shines with the latest hardware, the best Android software, and to top it all, offers unlimited storage for your images and videos, which, by itself can be a big draw for professionals who pay through the nose for that space.
So if imaging is big for you, go for this one without thinking twice. For those who care about other things more, maybe you’d do well saving a few bucks.