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Google Pixel 4 XL review: Same pros as the Pixel 4... and same cons, too

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The Good The Pixel 4 XL has a big screen that refreshes 90 times a second, so everything looks real smooth. It also takes outstanding photos, and its face unlock is the fastest we've seen.

The Bad The phone is expensive, doesn't come with earbuds and has no expandable storage option.

The Bottom Line There's no denying the Pixel 4 XL has one of the best cameras around, but its shortcomings don't justify its high price. Instead, consider the Note 10 or the OnePlus 7T. The Pixel 3 XL is another great candidate and is discounted at $600 now.

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8.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Camera 9
  • Battery 9

Review Sections

As the most leaked phone in phoneland, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL held few surprises when Google finally unveiled them on Oct. 15. We knew it would have a new facial recognition feature (here's how the Pixel 4's face unlock compared to the iPhone 11's Face ID when we tested both in four typical scenarios), a 90Hz screen and an exceptional camera. We also expected both phones to be nearly identical, save for their sizes and a few other things that are outlined below. Unlike Apple and Samsung, Google doesn't add any extra features, like another rear camera for example, to its bigger models. So if you want the complete rundown of the Pixel 4 XL, head to my review of the Pixel 4, where you can read more analysis and check out more photos.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL have fantastic cameras. But so do many other phones now. A couple of them even have their own capable low-light camera mode that can compete with the Pixel 4, like the iPhone 11 ($699 at Apple) and OnePlus 7T ($599 at OnePlus). The Pixel 4 XL doesn't offer expandable storage, earbuds bundled in the box or free unlimited photo storage at original quality, which Pixel users got for the last few years. Though the Pixel 4 XL is a great phone in and of itself and it has a superlative camera, it's pricey at $900 (£829, AU$1,279) for 64GB and $1,000 (£929, AU$1,429) for 128GB. In a field filled with players, most of them with more affordable price tags and similar specs, Google's new flagship simply doesn't offer enough at the right price compared to its rivals.


The Pixel 4 XL (left) and the Pixel 4.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Originally published Oct. 21.
Update, Nov. 1: Adds battery test results and final scoring.  

Pixel 4 vs. Pixel 4 XL: What's different

  • Price: The Pixel 4 XL is going to set you back $100 more than the Pixel 4. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL start at $799 (£669, AU$1,049) and $899 (£829, AU$1,279), respectively, for the 64GB base model. Then it's $899 for the Pixel 4 or $999 for the Pixel 4 XL if you upgrade to the 128GB version.
  • Dimensions: The Pixel 4 XL is slightly bigger and heavier than the Pixel 4, measuring 6.3 by 2.9 inches to the Pixel 4's 5.7 by 2.7-inch body. The two phones have the same 0.3-inch (8.2mm) depth.
  • Weight: The Pixel 4 XL's larger size makes it a bit heavier at 6.81 ounces (193 grams), while the Pixel 4 weighs only 5.71 ounces (162 grams).
  • Display: The Pixel 4 features an FHD display with 444 pixels-per-inch density, and the Pixel 4 XL is higher definition, with a QHD display and a pixel density of 537 ppi. But both phones feature a 90Hz OLED Smooth Display. 
  • Battery: The last big difference between the two phones is the battery. The Pixel 4 uses a 2,800-mAh battery (which is an even lower capacity than its predecessor, the Pixel 3 ($850 at Best Buy)), while the Pixel 4 XL has a 3,700-mAh battery.

Aside from screen size and battery, the phones are nearly the same.

Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel 4 XL camera

Once again, the Pixel 4 XL impressed us all with its camera. Overall, pictures are sharp, colorfully rich and had great contrast. The camera's digital zoom is excellent, and I was able to take steady shots of objects that were super far away. With the second telephoto lens, the camera takes better portrait shots and it does a better job at smoothing out tricky areas like hair and fur than before. The camera's handling white balance is also on the nose. Photos I took under yellow, warm lighting would come out as if they were taken in white light. In addition, the two sliders to adjust shadows and highlights give me a useful extra layer of control. In short, the Pixel 4 XL is one of my favorite phones when it comes to using the camera.

Pixel's lowlight mode (known as Night Sight) is still impressive, brightening up and sharpening dark scenes. I didn't get a chance to test the astrophotography mode because I was in New York and couldn't get to an area dark enough to take star shots, but my colleague, Juan Garzon was able to capture some. Stay tuned though, because we'll do a lot more camera testing with the Pixel 4 XL in the coming days and weeks.

Pixel 4 XL design

Featuring a prominent camera bump and a new orange color called Oh So Orange, the Pixel 4 XL has an expansive 6.3-inch screen that lets you comfortably watch videos or play games. Unlike the Pixel 3 XL ($929 at Sprint), the Pixel 4 XL doesn't have a notch. While this means its top bezel is now thicker, it also means you can enjoy watching content on a seamless, uninterrupted screen.

The big display also makes use of the faster refresh rate. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL's displays refresh at a rate of 90 times a second, while most phones refresh 60 times a second. This isn't totally new -- the OnePlus 7T and the Razer Phone 2 ($539 at Walmart) have respective 90Hz and 120Hz displays. But refreshing more often means playing games and scrolling through webpages and apps feels more fluid. Seeing this on a bigger screen makes the upgrade that much more noticeable.

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