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

The Pixel 3 XL screens calls, has wireless charging and delivers the same camera experience as the Pixel 3 -- all on a bigger display.

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Lynn La
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Lynn La

Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones

Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.

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6 min read

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.

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8.9

Google Pixel 3 XL

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.

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.

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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 serves up Google’s latest goods on a larger screen

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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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So far, I haven't noticed any of the same burn-in issues with the onscreen home key, which appeared on the Pixel 2.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One other thing I noticed is that while both Pixels have an OLED screen, colors on the Pixel 3 XL's display appear to be just a tad "cooler" than the Pixel 3. When holding it up to the Pixel 3 side-by-side, the Pixel 3 has punchier reds and purer whites compared to the 3 XL. I'd never notice this on its own, and in and of itself, the 3 XL still has a bright and vibrant display.

As for the notch, I ended up not minding it as much as I thought I would. It's undoubtedly the thickest notch I've seen, but seeing how wide the iPhone X's notch is, the black tabs look to be about equal in size. Plus, a deeper notch (rather than a wider one) allows for more room on either side for notification icons. If you absolutely hate it though, Google is working on an update to allow you to blacken the sides of the screen and "hide" the notch, similar to how you can do it on the LG G7 ThinQ and Huawei P20.

The phone also has squeezable edges that launch Google Assistant, a water resistant body and, for the first time ever, it comes bundled with wired earbuds. For more on these design elements, head over to my Pixel 3 review.

Pixel 3 camera test: Google's phone delivers again

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Processor performance and battery life

The Pixel 3 XL performs equally well with other top Androids that are also equipped with the Snapdragon 845 chipset, including the Galaxy Note 9, OnePlus 6T and LG V40. And while it's notable that the iPhone XS Max's A12 Bionic processor surpassed these other devices by a comfortable margin, all the phones felt equally fast when it came to day-to-day tasks like launching apps and firing the shutter.

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Google Pixel 3 XL 5,946Samsung Galaxy Note 9 6,344OnePlus 6T 6,590Apple iPhone XS Max 8,375LG V40 ThinQ 5,371
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Google Pixel 3 XL 62,199Samsung Galaxy Note 9 59,436OnePlus 6T 64,993Apple iPhone XS Max 77,200LG V40 ThinQ 59,503
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

Google Pixel 3 XL 2,386Samsung Galaxy Note 9 2,406OnePlus 6T 2,384Apple iPhone XS Max 4,774LG V40 ThinQ 2,409
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multicore

Google Pixel 3 XL 8,388Samsung Galaxy Note 9 8,827Apple iPhone XS Max 11,191LG V40 ThinQ 8,798
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Lab results for continuous video playback on airplane mode yielded an average of 16 hours, 49 minutes. Though that's notably shorter than the Note 9's exceptional 19-hour result, it's still a good time. It's on par with the OnePlus 6T and better than the V40, which clocked in at 14 hours, 24 minutes. It's also longer than the standard Pixel 3's 14-hour run time, and another reason beyond screen size to pay up for the XL. (We're still finishing up battery results for the iPhone XS Max, but early tests show that phone hovering around 17 hours.)

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Watch this: Unboxed: Google Pixel 3, 3 XL and the Pixel Stand
Unboxed: Google Pixel 3, 3 XL and the Pixel Stand
7:05

How does the Pixel 3 XL compare to other phones?

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From left to right: The Note 9, Pixel 3 XL and iPhone XS Max.

Sarah Tew/CNET
  • Pixel 3 XL vs. Pixel 2 XL: If you're holding on to last year's Pixel, know that you still have a great phone and a powerful camera in your pocket. The Pixel 2 XL will also be in line to get some of the updates that the Pixel 3 XL has, like Call Screen. And while I consider the Pixel 3 XL more than an "incremental" update, plus it hasn't been exhibiting the same burn-in issues that I noticed last year, it's safe to hold onto your Pixel 2 and wait out for the next update.  

  • Pixel 3 XL vs. Galaxy Note 9: Though I like the Pixel 3's camera over the Galaxy Note 9 at times, Samsung's phone has a lot of things going for it. It has monster battery life, a headphone jack and expandable memory. On top of that, it comes with an embedded S Pen stylus, adding more productivity and software goodies than the Pixel 3 XL. 
  • Pixel 3 XL vs. OnePlus 6T: If you can afford the Pixel 3 XL, you'll get a superior camera and prompt updates as they roll out from Google. But the 6T is a superb, more affordable, alternative given that both phones come with the same processor and a barely skinned version of Android Pie out of the box.
  • Pixel 3 XL vs. iPhone XS Max: The iPhone XS Max doesn't have expandable storage or a headphone jack like the Pixel 3 XL. But it does offer FaceID for unlocking the screen and digital payments. Plus, the 256GB model of the iPhone XS Max costs $1,249 (£1,249, AU$2,049), and gives you more for your money than the Pixel 3 XL in terms of storage. However, it's not that closely integrated with Google's ecosystem and I prefer the Pixel 3 XL's camera and the way it punches up colors. (For a deeper dive, check out CNET's Pixel 3 vs. iPhone XS camera comparison.)  
  • Pixel 3 XL vs. LG V40: The V40 is a solid choice if you want a built-in headphone port and external memory for about the same price as the Pixel 3 XL. Plus, it has the same wide-angle camera features on the front as Google's phone, but with an additional wide-angle camera on the back. But the Pixel 3's battery lasts longer, and I do prefer its camera over the V40, despite the latter phone's versatility.

Google Pixel 3 XL spec comparison


 Pixel 3 XLGalaxy Note 9OnePlus 6TiPhone XS MaxLG V40 ThinQ
Display size, resolution 6.3-inch OLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels6.4-inch Super AMOLED; 2,960x1,440 pixels6.41-inch AMOLED; 2,340x1,080 pixels6.5-inch Super Retina OLED; 2,688x1,242 pixels6.4-inch OLED; 3,120x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 522 ppi516 ppi402 ppi458 ppi537 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.2x3x.03 in6.37x3.01x0.35 in6.20x2.94x0.32 in6.2x3.0x.3 in6.25x2.97x 0.3 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 158x76.7x7.9 mm161.9x76.4x8.8 mm157.5x74.8x8.2 mm157.5x77.4x7.7 mm158.8x75.4x7.6 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.5 oz; 184g7.09 oz; 201g6.53 oz; 185g7.3oz; 208g5.96 oz; 169g
Mobile software Android 9 PieAndroid 8.1 OreoAndroid 9 PieiOS 12Android 8.1 Oreo
Camera 12.2-megapixel12-megapixel wide-angle, 12-megapixel telephoto16-megapixel standard, 20-megapixel telephoto12-megapixel standard, 12-megapixel telephoto12-megapixel standard, 16-megapixel wide-angle and 12-megapixel telephoto
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel standard, 8-megapixel wide-angle8-megapixel16-megapixel7-megapixel8-megapixel standard, 5-megapixel wide-angle
Video capture 4K4K4K4K4K
Processor 2.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor (2.8GHz + 1.7GHz), or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810 (2.7 GHz + 1.7 GHz)2.8GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845Apple A12 BionicQualcomm Snapdragon 845
Storage 64GB, 128GB128GB, 512GB128GB, 256GB64GB, 256GB, 512GB64GB
RAM 4GB6GB, 8GB6GB, 8GBNot disclosed6GB
Expandable storage None512GBNoneNoneUp to 2TB
Battery 3,430 mAh4,000 mAh3,700 mAhNot disclosed3,300 mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back coverBack of phoneUnderneath displayNone (Face ID)Back
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CLightningUSB-C
Headphone jack NoYesNoneNoYes
Special features Water resistant (IPX8); wireless charging; Pixel Buds USB-C headphones includedWater resistant (IP68); wireless charging, S-Pen with Bluetooth connectivity; Iris and facial scanningIn-display fingerprint sensor; dual-SIM, Dash Charging; notifications toggleWater resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging; Face ID; MemojiWater resistant (IP68), wireless charging, DTS:X 3D Surround, Quad DAC, AI-enhanced camera, Cine Shot
Price off-contract (USD) $899 (64GB), $999 (128GB)$1,000 (128GB), $1,250 (512GB)$549 (6GB RAM/128GB), $579 (8GB RAM/128GB), $629 (8GB RAM/256GB)$1,099 (64GB), $1,249 (256GB), $1,449 (512GB)$950.00
Price (GBP) £869 (64GB), £969 (128GB)£899 (128GB), £1,099 (512GB)£499 (6GB RAM/128GB), £529 (8GB RAM/128GB), £579 (8GB RAM/256GB)£1,099 (64GB), £1,249 (256GB), £1,449 (512GB)Converts to £724
Price (AUD) AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,499 (128GB)AU$1,499 (128GB), AU$1,799 (512GB)Converted: AU$774 (6GB RAM/128GB), AU$817 (8GB RAM/128GB), AU$887 (8GB RAM/256GB)AU$1,799 (64GB), AU$2,049 (256GB), AU$2,369 (512GB)Converts to AU$1,306
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8.9

Google Pixel 3 XL

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9Camera 9Battery 10
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