The Pixel line represents a brand new chapter for Google as an end-to-end creator of consumer products. It extends the Made by Google ethos, which is to deliver high-quality devices that serve as the best containers for Google’s technology. This idea has been percolating with the expensive and premium Chromebook Pixel, and the similarly costly and ambitious Pixel C 2-in-1, and is now encapsulated in the Pixel family of phones as well as in Google’s Home and Wi-Fi focused devices.
5.5-inch 534ppi 2K AMOLED
Android 7.1 Nougat
2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, Adreno 530 GPU
32/128GB internal storage, 4GB RAM
12.3MP rear, 8MP front
LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, USB Type-C, 3.5mm jack
More than anything, the Pixel and the Pixel XL are vessels for Google Assistant, which is where Google sees its search and mobile future. This is the next level of the personal assistant—one that’s not just proactive and smart but can also engage in conversations with you. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the idea was for everyone to have “their own personal Google.”
Using voice as the key interface, you now have the best of Google at your disposal. One of the cool things it can do is give you a daily briefing at the start of the day, including your schedule, the weather, and even the news from sources like NPR or CNN.
The Pixel XL is very well put together and uses some neat engineering tricks to avoid having a camera bump and to include a headphone jack. Slightly thicker at the top, the Pixel XL tapers down slightly on the sides until one bevel almost completely disappears. It’s a neat trick, one that keeps the device balanced while making it look seamless and monolithic.
At first, I was bothered by the slate of glass on the rear where the Imprint fingerprint sensor lies, but I have gotten used to the look and feel of this. And it does give the Pixel its own character and quality feel. So, while the Pixel XL may look boring and indistinctive at first glance, there’s a lot to appreciate with its build quality and tactile feel.
Android 7.1 Nougat brings a new Pixel launcher, with rounded icons, which is minimalist yet quite intuitive. Google gets its own button (plus it can be triggered by pressing the middle navigation button or by voice), so it is front and center.
Performance and multi-tasking is top-notch. Pure Android plus the Pixel’s top of the line specs is a combo that’s tough to beat. This means slicing through apps and in between tasks is fast and friction-free. Honestly, performance on the Pixel XL is unlike anything I’ve tried on any Android device.
After a month of using the Pixel XL as my main smartphone, I have learned that it has one of the most remarkable cameras on any smartphone. This may not be the case in terms of hardware specs alone, but the computational muscle and staggering AI that ensures you get the best photos at any condition is simply stunning.
Even without Google Assistant, the Pixel XL is more than an accomplished smartphone. It offers easily the best Android experience you can get today. Performance is fast and precise, the 2K AMOLED display is gorgeous and bright, and the camera is simply delightful to use.