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Google Pixel XL review: Just like the Pixel, only bigger

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.

You interact with Assistant with your voice in a conversational, natural way, and it has a chat-like interface. After every interaction, there are suggested follow-up queries you can tap on to keep the conversation going. Compared to other voice assistants like Apple's Siri and Google's own previous Now platform (both of which sort of check out after finishing each task), Assistant builds upon previous queries, which made me interact with it longer.

Firing up Google Assistant (left) and asking Assistant where to find Japanese tapas nearby (right).

Lynn La/CNET

Is the camera all it's cracked up to be?

Yes. The Pixel camera blew us away. Photo quality is better than the iPhone 7 Plus, which was already terrific. There's just a few small flaws. One, the Pixel's Lens Blur feature for portrait shots absolutely pales in comparison to the iPhone 7 Plus' "bokeh" effect on Portrait mode. But this is an optional feature that Google can hopefully improve with a software patch, though without the 7 Plus' two rear cameras, it may never get iPhone-good. Second, although low-light pictures looked great on the Pixel, videos didn't look as clear. Go ahead and look at my photos in the slideshow below, and click here for CNET's head-to-head camera shootout as well as video shootout between the Pixel and the iPhone 7 Plus.

Is the Pixel XL as fast as other phones?

The two Pixels come out neck and neck with each other, and other big-screen Android phones too, like the V20 and the Galaxy S7 Edge (all of these Android phones use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 processor, while the Pixels use the 821). The OnePlus 3 edged out the XL in some tests, but the iPhone 7 Plus' proprietary A10 processor blew past all devices.

That's in diagnostic testing. In real life, the Pixels are fast, and speed differences are hardly noticeable. If you use any devices for your day-to-day needs, you're good to go.

Google Pixel XL Benchmark Scores

Google Pixel XL
1556
4201
28256
Apple iPhone 7 Plus
3531
6106
37889
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
1724
4062
28031
LG V20
1579
3634
29152
OnePlus 3
1752
4159
30337

Legend:

Geekbench 4 Single-Core
Geekbench 4 Multi-Core
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

How's the battery life?

The Pixel XL's bigger battery doesn't make much of a difference in longer life. Compared to the Pixel, the two are about the same (makes sense: its bigger screen sucks more power), but the XL runs about 30 minutes longer. In our lab tests, it clocked an average of 13 hours and 49 minutes of continuous video playback on Airplane mode. That's longer than the V20 and iPhone 7 Plus. The OnePlus 3 clocked in 14 hours and 17 minutes though, and the Galaxy S7 Edge outlasted them all with a 19-hour run.

Lab tests for battery time put the Pixel XL on the high end of 13 hours.

Josh Miller/CNET

Google employs fast charging technology that's supposed to charge the Pixels quickly. In 30 minutes, the XL was back up to 36 percent and fully charged within 2 hours. That's not incredibly fast considering that phones employing Qualcomm's Quick Charging technology usually take about an hour and a half for a full charge. So, the Pixel XL could stand to charge even faster.

If I don't get the Pixel XL, which phone should I get?

If the Google Pixel XL's impressive camera, useful Assistant and pure Android OS aren't compelling enough for you, you still have some ace options. The iPhone 7 Plus is one of the most well-built phones around, is fully submersible underwater, trounces the XL with its portrait shots and is fully integrated in Apple's ecosystem. The Galaxy S7 Edge is also dunkable, has expandable storage and an enduring battery life. And while I prefer the XL's camera, the OnePlus 3 still takes decent shots, is packed with high-end specs and costs nearly half as much.

Google Pixel XL Specs Comparison

Google Pixel XL Apple iPhone 7 Plus Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge LG V20 OnePlus 3
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1080 pixels 5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels 5.7-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels 5.5-inch; 1,920x1080 pixels
Pixel density 534 ppi 401 ppi 534 ppi 515 ppi 401 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.09x2.98x0.34 inches (at its thickest) 6.23x 3.07x0.29 inches 5.9x2.9x0.3 inches 6.29x3.01x0.3 inches 6.01x2.94x0.29 inches
Dimensions (Millimeters) 154.72x75.74x8.58mm (at its thickest) 158.2x77.9x7.3mm 150.9x72.6x7.7mm 159.7x78.1x7.7mm 152.7x74.7x7.35mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.92 oz; 168g 6.63 oz; 188g 5.5 oz; 157g 6.24 oz; 177g 5.57 oz; 158g
Mobile software Android 7.1 Nougat iOS 10 Android 6.0 Marshmallow Android 7.0 Nougat Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
Camera 12.3-megapixel 12-megapixel (telephoto); 12-megapixel (wide) 12-megapixel 16-megapixel; 8-megapixel (wide) 16-megapixel
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 7-megapixel 5-megapixel 5-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 A10 chip (64-bit) 2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapgradon 820 2.15GHz +1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Storage 32GB, 128GB 32GB, 128GB, 256GB 32GB, 64GB (varies by region) 64GB 64GB
RAM 4GB TBD 4GB 4GB 6GB
Expandable storage None None Up to 200GB Up to 2TB None
Battery 3,450mAh (nonremovable) 21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE 3,600mAh (nonremovable) 3,200mAh (removable) 3,000mAh (nonremovable)
Fingerprint sensor Back cover Home button Home button Back cover Home button
Connector USB-C Lightning Micro-USB USB-C USB-C
Special features Google Assistant built-in; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR ready Water-resistant; taptic home button; dual rear cameras with 10x zoom and depth of field mode Water-resistant; wireless charging Rear cover release key; both cameras capture wide-angle images; secondary screen on top Notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash Charging

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