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Google Pixel 3 XL review: Everything we love about the Pixel 3 on a bigger screen

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The Good The Pixel 3 XL has a top-of-the-line camera that includes an enhanced low-light feature and it can now take wider selfie shots. It's water resistant, has wireless charging and its Google Assistant has convenient new skills such as call screening.

The Bad The phone's onscreen notch is taller than other phones'. It doesn't have expandable memory or a headphone jack.

The Bottom Line The Pixel 3 XL is pricey for a phone with no expandable memory, but its standout camera and premium hardware make it one of the best phones of the year.

8.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Camera 9
  • Battery 10

It's one of our favorite phones of the year, but the Pixel 3 XL isn't what we usually see from big-screen phones. For instance, it costs less than $1,000 (more specifically, $899, £869 and AU$1,349), and it has only one rear camera lens. Save for its notch, higher price tag and bigger battery, which compensates for the larger screen, the phone basically serves up a nearly identical experience to its smaller 5.5-inch Pixel 3 counterpart.

And that's a good thing. As the recipient of CNET's Editor's Choice, the Pixel 3 is one of the best phones you can buy. As such, the 3 XL is one too. Its already-fantastic camera is now even better at taking low-light pictures thanks to a recent update, and it even takes better photos than the iPhone XS. Its digital voice assistant, the Google Assistant, adds handy features such as screening robocalls and the phone comes with unlimited cloud storage for photos.

36-google-pixel-3-xl
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With the Pixel 3 XL, Google hops on the notch bandwagon.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Pixel's lack of expandable storage is a bummer, and it complicates its overall value. Even though the starting price for the 64GB model is cheaper than that of the iPhone XS Max and Galaxy Note 9, the gigabyte-to-price ratio is cheaper with the second-tier iPhone XS Max. And the Note 9 costs more but can add up to 512GB of external memory.

If the Pixel 3 XL is out of your budget, consider the OnePlus 6T. It also has high-end hardware, a nimble camera and a big 6.41-inch screen, but starts at only $549 (£499 or AU$774, converted) for 128GB. If you're open to iOS, the iPhone XR is $150 cheaper than the Pixel 3 XL and is worth looking into as well. (Keep in mind that all three phones don't have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but Google does include USB-C headphones and a 3.5mm adapter in the box.)   

But if you can afford it, the Pixel 3 XL is a top Android pick. It's more expensive than the Pixel 3, and may not be as premium as the iPhone XS Max or Galaxy Note 9, but its ridiculously good camera and timely software updates make it a first-class phone to get.

For a more in-depth breakdown, including camera and software analysis, head over to my Pixel 3 review.

Editors' Note, Nov. 15: We've updated this review, originally published Oct. 15, with final camera testing and additional impressions. 

Pixel 3 XL design and screen

Last year's Pixel 2 XL experienced some issues with screen burn-in, wherein remnants of images remained on the display, even when the screen changed. After using this phone for a week and a half, I haven't seen or noticed any of the same burn-in problems, including any remaining home key images, when I displayed an all-white or gray color swatch. 

Whether on TVs or phones, OLED displays are more prone to the issue after all, and I also haven't handled this Pixel for very long. It's important to keep in mind that image retention can happen with any OLED phone's screen -- yes, even Apple acknowledges the possibility. So far though, it's not appearing in the Pixel 3 XL.

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