Google Pixel XL review:

Just like the Pixel, only bigger

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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

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

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.

The Pixel (left) and the scaled up Pixel XL (right).

Josh Miller/CNET

Google Pixel vs. Google Pixel XL

Google Pixel Google Pixel XL
Display size, resolution 5-inch; 1,920x1080 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 441 ppi 534 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 5.66x2.74x0.34 (at its thickest) 6.09x2.98x0.34 (at its thickest)
Dimensions (Millimeters) 143.84x69.54x8.58 (at its thickest) 154.72x75.74x8.58 (at its thickest)
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.04 oz; 143g 5.92 oz; 168g
Mobile software Android 7.1 Nougat Android 7.1 Nougat
Battery 2,770mAh 3,450mAh
Price off-contract (USD) $649 (32GB); $749 (128GB) $769 (32GB); $869 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £599 (32GB); £699 (128GB) £719 (32GB); £819 (128GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,079 (32GB); AU$1,229 (128GB) AU$1,269 (32GB); AU$1,419 (128GB)

What's so special about Google's Pixel phones?

Two things. First, it comes with "pure" versions of the Android 7.1 Nougat software out of the box, and will be the first in line for future updates. Second, the Pixels have Google Assistant, an AI bot that uses machine learning and Google's vast search database to answer all kinds of questions. It can look up facts and places to eat, schedule reminders, translate phrases and more.

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