Google Pixel XL (128GB) Review

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I own a Google Pixel XL in Very Black with 128GB onboard storage.

I have had a Samsung Galaxy Note since the first one. I still have my Galaxy Note 4. (Actually, I have two of them! Unfortunately, I couldn’t go any further with the Note series for two big reasons.

  1. Samsung in their <sarcasm>infinite wisdom</sarcasm> decided not to sell the Galaxy Note 5 in Europe.
  2. The Note 7 had batteries that exploded in a very small, but large enough, sample of the phones that they sold.

I had had high hopes for the Galaxy Note 7, and was really looking forward to getting one. Unfortunately, as they were unsafe (and banned by every airline in the world, not good when you travel for work), it was not a possibility.

As I was eligible for an upgrade with EE, I decided to try the Google Pixel XL.

I had heard good things about it, and by and large, those are true. There are some small details that are not the best, and also some things that I would like to see in a potential Galaxy Note 8.

Things I Don’t Like

It’s slippery. I’m not sure whether this was an oversight, or a purposeful device to sell more accessories but it’s annoying. It’s far easier to drop this phone than almost any other phone I’ve had in the past. If you put it on a surface that is even slightly inclined, it will slide right off. I will likely end up buying a case. (To be fair if you follow the link, they’re nice cases, but considering this phone is already expensive it shouldn’t be an additional purchase.)

Stock android takes some adjustment. I’m used to using the TouchWiz UI from Samsung. It’s not the end of the world, but Samsung added some nice little touches to the UI that I took for granted until I switched to stock android. Things like the little numbers that tell you how many messages you have, and the ability to have more than three home screens are missing on stock android.

The bottom bezel is useless, except for holding the phone. On a Galaxy Note, the bottom bezel houses the fingerprint reader, the “View Programmes” button, and the back button. On the Google Pixel, the latter two are on-screen buttons, with a separate home button, and the fingerprint reader is on the back. This makes the bezel feel like wasted space. It also means you have an overlay under the favourites tray that has to house the buttons, taking up screen real estate. (To be fair, this doesn’t really get in the way.)

Things About Which I have Mixed Feelings

The fingerprint reader for this phone is on the back of the phone. This is very convenient when you’re holding the phone. It is very inconvenient when the phone is lying flat, as you must pick it up to use the fingerprint reader or type in your password.

Things I Like

I like the size of the phone. I actually prefer the heft of the Galaxy Note, but as phones go this is a good size. Again, I think they missed an opportunity with the bottom bezel, especially where screen real estate or extra buttons would be concerned, but size-wise it’s a good trade-off if I can’t have the Galaxy Note 7.

Stock android is really responsive. The TouchWiz UI can be laggy at times, but android doesn’t suffer from that. However, apps do seem to crash more, so I’m not sure whether that’s something android related, or whether Google doesn’t provide the same amount of QA time (if any) to third-party apps like Samsung reportedly does.

Things I Love

The camera on the phone is awesome. The pictures are great. The settings are at the same time comprehensive, and easy to use. Double-tapping the power button brings up the camera, which is a very nice touch. Additionally, since this is a Pixel, I have unlimited storage with Google for full-resolution photos taken with the device. The 4k video recording is fantastic too. (That’s why I got the 128GB model btw; even though you get unlimited storage for the movies as well, they have to be on the phone first, and more storage means longer recording times.)

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This was taken through the Patek Philippe store window and the detail is still amazing.

Google Assistant is great. One of the main things that I wanted to try with this phone was having access to artificial intelligence on a daily basis. While I can access Siri on my Mac now, I never have. I’m going to be doing more with the artificial intelligence in a bit, so keep an eye on this space, but suffice it to say, it’s really interesting to be able to ask questions of your mobile and actually get real answers (much of the time anyway). It also has the assistant feature, which is a swipe from the home screen, and that keeps me up to date with weather, traffic (not so useful admittedly, as I don’t have a car), stocks, and stories that it thinks I would find interesting (which I usually do).

Finally, the battery is spectacular. I know it’s not such a stretch to have an amazing battery since most mobiles have batteries that don’t often last the entire day, but this battery routinely lasts a minimum of 36 hours, and often up to 48 hours or more. What this means in practise is that I only have to plug it in every other day, and sometimes not even that, which is great. The accuracy of the battery metre (above 3% – after that it’s not so accurate) is virtually spot on, and if I check, I can tell exactly how much time I have. (I’ve learned at 3% or less I basically have no time.) There’s a battery saver, which can extend the time of the battery after 15%, but that’s not so useful in practise so far.

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Yeah, that’s accurate. I didn’t charge for two days but still had 12 hours left.

Would I recommend the Pixel? Absolutely. While it has taken some getting used to after four generations of the Galaxy Note, it’s been a great experience so far. Again, I’ll be doing more with the AI as I mentioned, so watch for an announcement!

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