Google Pixel XL review:

Just like the Pixel, only bigger

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CNET Editors' Rating

2 user reviews

The Good The beautifully designed Google Pixel XL features a superb camera, an expansive display and the robust Google Assistant.

The Bad The XL is Google's priciest phone yet. The camera Lens Blur feature needs improvement and it's not as water resistant as its top-tier rivals.

The Bottom Line Get Google's fantastic Pixel XL if you can cough up the cash and simply want more pure Android goodness on a bigger screen.

8.8 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Camera 9.0
  • Battery 8.0

Early 2017 update

The Google Pixel and its super-sized sibling, the Pixel XL, are our favorite phones of the moment, bar none. Both strike a terrific balance between speed and beauty, ergonomics and straight-up usability; the XL also delivers a bigger, sharper display and marginally more battery life for an additional $120 (or £120 or AU$190). The Pixel is the purest vehicle for Android Nougat 7.0, Google's mobile operating system. It's a relatively quick-charger. And it offers the most seamless integration with Google's Daydream View VR headset (though the list of compatible phones continues to grow).

Of course, the Pixel isn't perfect; the rear panel's glass treatment may be an aesthetic misfire for some, and it's vulnerable to cracking. It's also not as water-resistant as others, and though its camera is superb, the iPhone 7 Plus delivers superior video quality in portrait mode (read more about how the two stack up). Still, these are mostly minor quibbles; if you're looking for an alternative to the latest model iPhones, the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are worth a serious look.

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The Google Pixel XL.

Josh Miller

Looking ahead, Google hasn't officially stated anything yet about the future of the Pixel line, but there are rumors swirling about innovative AR and VR developments and, possibly, a foldable display. Given that Google typically delivers its new phones in May or June (and that Apple usually makes introductions in September), the Pixel is poised to remain at the top of the pile for some time to come.

Editors' note: The original Google Pixel XL review, first published in October 2016, follows.

It's the Google Pixel XL's time to shine. With Samsung's $3 billion, exploding Galaxy Note 7 fiasco painfully out of the picture, the 5.5-inch Pixel XL is the premier high-end large-screen phone to get.

Its overall excellent camera and deep integration with Google's new Assistant software give it an edge over the OnePlus 3 and LG V20. Samsung's Galaxy S7 Edge remains an outstanding 5.5-inch phone as well, but the Pixel XL (and smaller, somewhat cheaper Pixel) compels us with that pure, unadulterated Android experience.

I can (and do!) heartily recommend the Pixel XL for large-screen users who want a top-notch camera and pure Android with prompt updates. To save a little cash, opt for the smaller Pixel.

This review answers your major Pixel XL questions, but because both Pixel phones are so incredibly similar, you should read my complete Pixel review for all the nitty-gritty details.

Wait, what happened to the Nexus?

For the past six years, Google partnered up with other phone makers like Motorola, Samsung, and most recently Huawei and LG, to make its Nexus phones. But Google is ditching that sub-brand and starting over. Now, it's folding these two phones into its family of in-house designed products, known as Pixel (which already includes a tablet and laptops). And though HTC assembled the Pixel phone and Pixel XL together, Google designed and engineered it.

Goodbye Nexus, hello Pixel.

Josh Miller/CNET

What's the difference between the Pixel and Pixel XL?

Google's two new phones are nearly identical. The only hardware differences are the XL's larger, sharper display (with a higher pixel density) and bigger battery. It's also pricier, at about $120, £120 and AU$190 more than the Pixel. Everything else, including the processor, camera and design, are the same.

Because there's so little difference, choosing between the two really comes down to size -- if you like a larger phone, get the Pixel XL. Otherwise, the Pixel's just fine. Unlike the case of the Apple iPhone 7 and dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus, you won't miss any features by going smaller.

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