|Screen Resolution||1440 x 2880 pixels|
|Screen Size||6 inch (15.2 cm)|
|Front Facing||8 megapixels|
|Video Camera||1080p @ 30fps, 60fps, 120fps|
|Battery (3G Talk)||Not available|
|Battery (Standby)||Not available|
|App Store||Google Play|
|Processor Type||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (2.35Ghz + 1.9Ghz)|
|Operating System||Android 8.0.0 Oreo|
|Release Date||October 2017|
|Main Connectivity||4G LTE|
|Maximum Data Speed||-|
|USB||Type-C 3.1 Gen 1|
|Telstra Blue Tick||No|
|Networks||GSM/EDGE / UMTS/HSPA+/HSDP / FDD-LTE / TD-LTE|
|Data Networks||GSM/EDGE: Quad-band (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) / UMTS/HSPA+/HSDPA: Bands 1/2/4/5/8 / DD-LTE : Bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/66 / TD-LTE: Bands 38/40/41|
|Text Messages (SMS)||Yes|
|Picture Messages (MMS)||Yes|
The Pixel 2 XL is one of the best Android phones you can buy, but it's not quite a homerun for Google. The amazing camera and performance are offset by potentially problematic screen issues and a design that pales in comparison to the competition. These aren't deal breakers, but they mean the Pixel 2 XL isn't quite the "go to" Android flagship Google wants it to be.
As the name might suggest, the Pixel 2 XL is Google's second attempt at its own smartphone.
Google has been making software for smartphones for almost a decade now, and even partnered with manufacturers including Huawei, Samsung, and LG on Nexus smartphones - reference devices but designed to showcase the latest version of Android - but it only started calling phones its own with the first Pixel last year. Other manufactures are still involved in making Pixel devices, but Google is responsible for the design, the specifications, and the software, and appropriately, is taking all of the glory.
LG handled the manufacturing duties for the Pixel 2 XL while HTC is responsible the smaller Pixel 2. Different manufacturers aside, the Pixel 2 XL is identical to the Pixel 2 in terms of hardware, with the exception of the screen and battery capacity.
Google's ownership of the project means the Pixel is the closest thing there is to an Android iPhone, in the sense that one company is taking responsibility for hardware and software. And this is truer than ever the second time around, for better and occasionally for worse.
Key specifications for the Pixel 2 XL include a 6-inch Quad HD+ display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, either 64GB or 128GB of storage, IP67 water-resistance, a rear-facing fingerprint reader, a 3,520mAh battery, and a 12.2MP rear-facing camera. While storage isn't expandable, Google is throwing in unlimited online storage for photos and video taken with the Pixel 2XL until 2021.
Google's been quick to boast that the Pixel 2 XL (and the Pixel 2) has the highest scoring smartphone camera ever, based on ratings from sensor quality benchmarker DxOMark. While a high DxOMark score is always promising, real world performance is far more important.
Thankfully, the Pixel 2 XL lives up to the hype. It consistently takes sharp, clear, and detailed photos. It's very good at dealing with challenging lighting situations. Contrast is excellent. It's insanely fast to focus and shoot. It kicks ass at night. You occasionally get some noticeable noise when shooting in lowlight, but there's little else to complain about.
There's no secondary lens on the back of the Pixel 2 XL, but Google's manage to add in a portrait mode predominantly using software. Portrait mode simulates DSLR-like bokeh, blurring the background behind your subject, and it's pretty impressive when you consider it's a single lens and software. The blur isn't quite as pronounce as what you'd get with the iPhone 8 Plus, but it still looks good. More importantly, the effect is quite precise and tends not to get confused by facial extremities - and for example, blur your ears - as you'd find on other phones.
Google's also brought portrait mode across to the Pixel 2 XL's front-facing camera, and it works almost equally well. It feels a touch less precise, but is nonetheless impressive for something that's software driven. Even with my hair out, the Pixel 2 XL did a convincing job of isolating my mane from the background, with only a few small inconsistencies giving away the fact it's all done in post.
While the Pixel 2 XL has a stunning camera, the lack of a secondary lens feels like a missed opportunity. If you're moving from a single lens smartphone, this will be a much of a muchness, but I missed having the option for higher quality zoom as on the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8.
The Pixel 2 XL offers one of the most polished Android experiences money can buy, as it well should, given Google is responsible for both the software and hardware. You get a clean, "pure" Android experience out of the box, which almost certainly helps in making it one of the fastest phones we've tested.
While the Pixel 2 XL is free from the bloat you often see on competing Android devices, it has a few exclusive software features. My favourite is song detection on its ambient lock screen: the Pixel 2 XL will just tell you what's playing in the background, provided the song is popular enough. It does this without being prompted and even works offline. This is achieved using a locally stored database of around 10,000 or so songs that gets updated weekly. It won't replace Shazam (which can identity millions of tracks), but it's neat when you’re out and about and want to know what's playing. Admittedly, the whole always listening thing is kinda creepy, but your phone's doing that either way.
Pixel phones are first in line to get Android software updates from Google, and more importantly, Google is now promising three years of guaranteed upgrades, which should see the phones through to Android R. Google only promised two with the original Pixels, meaning the second-generation will all almost certainly have the longest lives of any Android phone. Google still isn't quite up there with Apple, which tends to offer four or five major operating system upgrades for iPhones, but extended support for the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is a step in the right direction. Three years of guaranteed updates also applies to Google's monthly security patches, which realistically are even more important than new features.
While the Pixel 2 running the latest and greatest Android - Oreo - it seems to have introduced a couple of quirks not present in past versions. Google's made a big emphasis on battery life management, and placed stricter restrictions on what apps can do in the background. This does however mean the Pixel 2 XL is quite fond of pointing out apps you have running, such as Facebook Messenger, and bugging you about them with notifications. You can disable these, but it's like "duh, I know Messenger is using battery, you don't need to tell me".
In terms of battery life, the Pixel 2 XL is fine. More than a day on a single charge isn't possible, but my usage still left me with somewhere between 15 to 25% left around the end of the day. The buffer could be a little larger, but I didn't feel the need to top up "just in case" throughout the day either.
Google is one of the few phone manufacturers that hasn't gone down the "all glass" path with its 2017 flagships, and is still using aluminium for most of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL's backs. With the exception a small glass cut out around the camera, the Pixel 2 XL is predominantly aluminium, although it doesn't exactly feel like it. The phone almost has a powdery polycarbonate texture to it, rather than smooth nothingness you'll typically find on other phones with an aluminium build. As such, there's a nice grippiness to the Pixel 2 XL, which will hopefully help you not drop it.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are the first devices in the Pixel family to be certified as water-resistant. Both have a rating of IP67, which means they can be submerged as deep as one metre for as long as 30 minutes. As always, it's worth noting that IP ratings technically only apply to fresh water: the Pixel 2 XL should still survive any aquatic adventures with other liquids, but you'll want to rinse it off with fresh water as soon as possible.
Screen dramas have permeated much of the coverage around the Pixel 2 XL, and understandably so, the screen is pretty much the most important - if not most used - part of a smartphone. If you've manage to miss out on the hullabaloo, there's been a few issues surrounding the Pixel 2 XL display that could potentially sway you to another device.
The first of these was a fairly subdued colour palette, with the Pixel 2 XL looking muted in comparison to the displays on phones like the iPhone 8 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8. Google has addressed this a software update that lets you switch on a more "vibrant" mode, making the screen more saturated.
The display issue that still persists is "blue shift". If you're looking not looking at the Pixel 2 XL straight on, the screen will appear slightly blue, as if the display were a cooler colour temperature. This is most noticeable if you're rotating the phone in your hand, where you can actually notice the transition in colour. The issue doesn't actually affect the viewability of a display - just it's apparent colour - but it’s nonetheless a surprising problem for a flagship smartphone in 2017. The vast majority of smartphone displays no longer distort when viewed from odd angles, so the Pixel 2 XL's blue shift problem feels like a bit of a blast from the past.
Given the Pixel 2 XL's display is still viewable on an angle, the severity of this issue is a matter of opinion. I've found it doesn't bother me day-today; I'm either looking at the Pixel 2 XL directly, where blue shift isn't an issue, or at it on my desk, where the colour has already shifted so I'm not dealing with the awkward transition where the display is half and half. It's not ideal, but I wouldn't call it a deal breaker.
Of course, there is the school of thought that when you're buying a phone that starts at $1,399, you shouldn't be making these kind of trades off. All I can say is that it hasn't lessened by enjoyment of the Pixel 2 XL, but if you're concerned, head into a store and get hands on before you buy one. Telstra and JB Hi-Fi both have demo units on display. Notably, the smaller Pixel 2 doesn't share these screen issues.
The Pixel 2 XL makes uses of an extra tall 18:9 display, as is the trend this year. While tall screens may be in vogue, not all apps have been optimised for them yet. Hearthstone, for example, leaves you a large black bar on the right of the display. Watching video in landscape tends to put it in the middle of the screen, with black bars on either side.
This following criticism also comes down to taste, but I'm not the biggest fan of the Pixel 2 XL's design. The phone's front-facing stereo speakers add a noticeable amount of height to the phone, and top and bottom bezel aren't symmetrical. I'm probably being a bit anal, but I find the lack of symmetry visually disconcerting. It's not a bad design by any measure, but the Pixel 2 XL is less elegant than the other 2017 flagships on the market, including the smaller Pixel 2. It's also one of the biggest phones around, up there with the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 in physical dimensions, which makes one handed usage challenging.
Google might have called out Apple for axing the headphone jack last year, but it's done exactly the same with Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. You get a USB Type-C to 3.5mm dongle in the box, but no USB Type-C headphones. While the dongle is fine, it borders on being hilariously large, and given the size of the Pixel 2 XL, will awkwardly jut out of your pockets. Wireless headphones are the way to go for the best experience, but it would have been nice to see Google also include a basic pair of USB Type-C headphones in the box. Or better yet, a basic pair of Bluetooth buds.
While most Android smartphones support expandable storage, Pixel and Nexus devices tend to not. The Pixel 2 XL is no exception, with Google seemingly goading you into using its cloud storage services instead. We'd say that the 64GB starting configuration isn't an unreasonable storage option for most Pixel owners - and a welcome improvement over last year's 32GB models - but long term Android users may be surprised by the lack of a microSD slot.
The Pixel 2 XL isn't the flashiest Android flagship, but it's the most pragmatic buy, alongside the smaller Pixel 2. If you're spending top dollar on a phone, you want some assurance of post purchase support, and Google is promising three years of security updates, and three years of major operating system upgrades. No one matches that in the Android world.
The Pixel 2 XL might be one of the most expensive Android phones around, but unless other Android manufactures step up and match Google, its software will last the longest. You'll get the latest features, and more importantly, you'll some assurance of security.
I mean, it helps that the Pixel 2 XL is also a great phone with an amazing camera, solid battery life, and all round great user experience. The device is marred by a couple of issues - colour distortion on the display, the lack of a headphone jack, and a design that's not quite as cutting edge as the competition - but if I were in the market for Android flagship, the Pixel 2 or the Pixel 2 XL would be at the top of my shopping list.
The Google Pixel 2 is smaller, cheaper, and doesn't the exhibit the same screen issues at the Pixel 2 XL. Despite this, it's still powered by the same top-of-the-line hardware and has the same fantastic camera.
If shiny new things are your thing, the iPhone X is the flashiest phone around. The iPhone X does away with the humble home button for an impressive edge-to-edge 5.8-inch display in a body that's only a little bit bigger than the 4.7-inch iPhone 8. The lack of a home button does however mean you're relying on facial recognition to unlock your phone, or alternatively, you can go back to a PIN. While the Pixel 2 XL might be a bit more of a pragmatic device, the iPhone X is all glitz and glam.
If you're looking for a large phone that's a little more affordable, the Mate 10 is a great option. Retailing for $899, Huawei's latest is $500 cheaper than a Pixel 2 XL outright and doesn't make too many trade-odds. It has a slick design, an amazing camera, and it's superfast. The Mate 10 isn't water-resistant and it runs Huawei's customised version of Android, but it has expandable storage and a headphone jack.
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