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Pixel 3 XL vs. iPhone XS Max vs. Note 9 vs. LG V40: Specs showdown

Which big phone will rule them all?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Check out CNET's full reviews of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, now!

For lovers of large-screen phones, the game is on. Google lifted the lid off the new 5.5-inch Pixel 3 and 6.3-inch Pixel 3 XL on Tuesday, tossing the 3 XL into the mix of supersize phones ripe for holiday competition. The talent here runs deep, with the Pixel XL boasting camera prowess and raw internal power to rival the iPhone XS MaxGalaxy Note 9 and LG V40 ThinQ

The LG V40, which is available to preorder now, in particular can wag its three rear cameras at the Pixel 3 XL's single rear lens. It's worth noting, however, that the Pixel 3 XL takes a cue from LG by adding a second 8-megapixel, front-facing, wide-angle lens good for selfie shots with multiple people.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

The Pixel 3 XL has two front-facing cameras and a 6.3-inch notched screen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google's Pixel phone series is a lynchpin in the software giant's strategy of putting Google's services in more people's hands. Although Google still relies on hardware partners worldwide to propagate the Android platform, issuing its own phone gives Google the ability to control a high watermark experience from head to toe.

Meanwhile, these high-priced phones, which inch close to or have already leaped into $1,000 territory, are feeling pressure from cheaper-but-good phones from OnePlus, Motorola and Nokia. So far we've reviewed every phone in this lineup except for the Pixel 3 XL (that's ongoing now), so we have to hold off final judgment until our testing is done. For now, here's how the specs line up. Scroll to the end for a full specs comparison chart.

ReadEverything about the Pixel 3 and 3 XL you need to know

Screen size and clarity

Does this surprise you? The iPhone XS Max has the largest screen of the four, with a 6.5-inch display. The V40 and Galaxy Note 9 come in at 6.4 inches apiece and the Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3-inch display. But it's the LG V40 that has the highest pixel density, edging the others. We'll scrutinize them further in a number of lighting conditions, but all should excel at watching videos, reading stories and keeping up with social networks.

Now playing: Watch this: iPhone XS vs. Pixel 3: What's the difference?
3:28

3 rear cameras vs. 1

Our mega camera comparisons are still to come -- they take gargantuan effort, but are worth waiting for. What we can tell you is that the LG, iPhone and Galaxy phones are muscle-bound with camera options and tools. The LG V40's three rear cameras are especially braggadocious. For example, you can take a photo from each rear camera at the same time to either use individually or to stitch together.

All four of these phones lean on AI camera software. The V40 and Note 9 change your settings when it senses one of almost 20 scenes, such as pets or blue sky. And the V40 and iPhone XS Max take dramatic photos with digital lighting effects. The Pixel 3XL can take wide-angle selfies and promises clean, crisp low-light photos that never need a flash, and excellent digital zoom. 

Now playing: Watch this: Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL's cameras aim to raise the bar...
2:14

Later on, Google will also add a tool that picks your best shot for you when the motion setting is turned on -- so even if the photo you snapped is a complete blur, the Pixel 3 may have still captured something better. 

At stake here is the importance of the multicamera trend. Google's single rear lens throws down the gauntlet against phones with multiple rear cameras, like the V40's (and Huawei P20 Pro's) three rear cameras apiece. Are they really necessary for producing terrific shots or mostly window dressing to impress buyers and set the phone-makers apart? 

On the other hand, Google seems to think that a second lens does make a difference on the front-facing camera. We'll need to test these phones pretty exhaustively to see what the camera results tell us.

lg-v40-thinq-8802

Count them: 1, 2, 3 rear cameras on the LG V40 ThinQ.

Josh Miller/CNET

The storage space wars

Even just a few years ago, a 64-gigabyte repository of storage was pretty standard. Now, times have changed. LG and Google offer you 64GB just to start with. Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 ups the ante to 128GB at its lowest price, or you can pay more for 512GB. That doesn't even include the 512GB of external storage you can add with a microSD card.

Apple, meanwhile, gives the iPhone XS Max three storage options: 64GB, 256GB and 512GB, with no expandable storage. So although LG's V40 ThinQ does let you expand up to 2 terabytes (in theory; the microSD card market tops out at 512GB right now), the total falls behind Samsung's largest capacity. Google, meanwhile, maxes out at 128GB total, though it gives you unlimited photo storage online with Google Photos.

Total storage capacity: Pixel 3 XL vs. LG V40, Note 9, iPhone XS Max


Pixel 3 XL LG V40 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max
Highest onboard storage capacity 128GB 64GB 512GB 512GB
Expandable storage capacity None 512GB 512GB None
Total possible storage 128GB 576GB 1TB 512GB

Read also: iPhone XS vs. Galaxy Note 9: What a $1,000 phone buys you

Battery life

Comparing battery run-time on a single charge is tricky because there are so many factors at play. Battery life isn't determined by just the size of the battery (the capacity, measured in milliamp hours, or mAh). There's also an interplay between the processor, how efficient the phone's base level software is in managing resources, and, of course, what you're doing with the phone. 

The LG V40's battery has a smaller capacity than the Pixel 3 XL and Note 9. However, in real-world usage, LG's flagship phone is more than capable of taking you through your normal day.

Battery life testing


Pixel 3 XL LG V40 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max
Battery capacity 3,430mAh 3,300mAh 4,000mAh N/A, but Apple claims it will last 90 min. longer than iPhone X
Battery drain result To be tested 14 hours, 24 minutes 19 hours, 20 minutes Tests ongoing
Real-world testing To be tested Easily lasts from 6 a.m. to late night with moderate use Easily lasts from 6 a.m. to late night with moderate use About an hour more than the iPhone XS, but you'll want to charge it after half a day of use

Apple won't supply specific battery capacity and instead provides vague, relative descriptions. For example, the iPhone XS Max is said to last 90 minutes longer on a single charge than the iPhone X. Our iPhone XS and XS Max battery tests are still ongoing, so we'll have more data in the near future. Here's CNET's video drain test protocol, which we weigh in addition to real-world observation.

lg-v40-thinq-8705

The LG V40 takes dramatic portrait selfies through those two cameras up front.

Josh Miller/CNET

Extra features

All four phones have wireless charging and waterproofing, so the main differences come down to camera performance and their individual claims to fame.

The Galaxy Note 9 has its S Pen stylus (which now also works as a remote), the V40 its five cameras and the iPhone XS Max its FaceID, Memoji animations and portrait lighting mode (the V40 has portrait lighting, too). 

The Pixel 3 XL promises incredible zoom and pin-sharp photos quality even in low light. 

The value of these extras comes down to personal preference. 

For example, if you're enchanted by photography, portrait mode expertise might call to you. If you're a power user who likes the tactile use of a stylus, then the Galaxy Note 9 has no rival.

Extra phone features


Pixel 3 XL LG V40 ThinQ Samsung Galaxy Note 9 iPhone XS Max
Water-resistant X X X X
Wireless charging X X X X
Stereo speakers X X X X
Secure face unlock No (Android's face unlock isn't secure enough for mobile payments) No (Android's face unlock isn't secure enough for mobile payments) X (Iris scanning) X (Face ID)
Total number of cameras 3 5 3 3
Portrait mode X X X X
Portrait lighting No X No X
AI scene selection No X X No
Stylus No No X No
3D emoji feature No X (Animated emoji) X (AR Emoji) X (Animoji, Memoji)
02-cash-money

The best phone deals hinge on seasonal promotions.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Price and value

The Pixel 3 XL and LG V40 ThinQ are the least-expensive big phones of the bunch in absolute terms, but depending on which carrier or store you buy it through, the savings may not amount to much. In the US, for example, the V40 sells from $900 to $980.

For a little more, you could get a phone with a stylus or longer battery life (the Galaxy Note 9), or access to Apple's customer service at its retail stores (iPhone XS Max).

The Pixel 3 XL is more straightforward, selling for either $900 (64GB) or $1,000 (128GB).

There's also the question of storage. For the maximum capacity, the Galaxy Note 9 gives you the best deal of them all, though if you're trying to get to 512GB, you'll save money buying an LG V40 and making up the difference with a microSD card.

For the best deal, keep an eye on seasonal promotions. That may very well shift the balance for you one way or another when buying any phone.


Pixel 3 XL vs iPhone XS Max, Galaxy Note 9, LG V40


Google Pixel 3 XL iPhone XS Max Samsung Galaxy Note 9 LG V40 ThinQ
Display size, resolution 6.3-inch "flexible" OLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels 6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688x1,242 pixels 6.4-inch Super AMOLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels 6.4-inch OLED; 3,120x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 522 ppi 458 ppi 516 ppi 537 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6.2x3x.03 in. 6.2x3.0x.3 in. 6.37x3.01x0.35 in. 6.25x2.97x 0.3 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 158x76.7x7.9mm 157.5x77.4x7.7mm 161.9x76.4x8.8mm 158.8x75.4x7.6mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 6.5 oz.; 184g 7.3 oz.; 208g 7.09 oz.; 201g 5.96 oz., 169g
Mobile software Android 9 Pie iOS 12 Android 8.1 Oreo Android 8.1 Oreo
Camera 12.2-megapixel 12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera Dual 8-megapixel 7-megapixel with Face ID 8-megapixel 8-megapixel (standard), 5-megapixel (wide)
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.5GHz octa-core) Apple A12 Bionic Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz) Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Storage 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 64GB
RAM 4GB Not disclosed 6GB, 8GB 6GB
Expandable storage None None 512GB 2TB
Battery 3,430 mAh Not disclosed 4,000 mAh 3,300 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back cover None (Face ID) Back cover Back cover
Connector USB-C Lightning USB-C USB-C
Headphone jack No No Yes Yes
Special features IP68, wireless charging support, Pixel Buds USB-C headphones in the box Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM (nano-SIM and eSIM); wireless charging; Face ID; Memoji Water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; S-Pen with Bluetooth connectivity; iris and facial scanning Water resistant (IP68); wireless charging; DTS:X 3D Surround; Quad DAC, AI-enhanced camera; Cine Shot
Price off-contract (USD) $899 (64GB); $999 (128GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB) $1,000 (128GB), $1,250 (512GB) Varies: $900-$980
Price (GBP) £869 (64GB); £969 (128GB) $1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB) £899 (128GB), £1,099 (512GB) TBA
Price (AUD) AU$1,349 (64GB); AU$1,499 (128GB) AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB) AU$1,499 (128GB), AU$1,799 (512GB) TBA

Update, Oct. 10: Added more details.

Read now: Hands-on with the Pixel 3 and 3 XL

Read next: Everything Google just announced