Google Pixel & Pixel XL Review!

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Pixel? How many pixels does this phone have?

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones are Google’s first attempt at a premium flagship, Google has even changed its name from Nexus to Pixel, clearly distinguishing its new line of smartphones.  Both Pixel & Pixel XL feature 12.3MP back camera, 8MP front camera, back fingerprint sensor, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, 4gigs of RAM, USB Type C, 3.5mm headphone jack, storage of 32GB or 128GB, and virtual reality through its new Daydream VR headset. The only real difference between Pixel and Pixel XL are its display sizes and battery capacity. The Pixel has 5-inch 1080P vs. Pixel XL’s 5.5-inch 1440P and Pixel’s 2770mAh vs. XL’s 3450mAh battery size.

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If you like bigger-size phones with higher resolution, Pixel XL is definitely the choice while Pixel is also excellent choice for those who prefer smaller phones. Battery size is much smaller on the regular Pixel but in our HighOnAndroid SOT test, both phones get great battery life of 8+ hours and the smaller Pixel actually has slightly longer battery life.  The Pixel is probably the most solid phone I’ve ever held, it is a rock-solid phone with all metal unibody design that you won’t find elsewhere. Check out JerryRigEverything’s bend test video and you will see this phone is literally iron man when it comes to build quality. The design is somewhat odd with half glass on back and very big bezels (probably the biggest I’ve see) but without a doubt this is the strongest phone ever.

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Display on Pixel phones are super sharp and bright with its AMOLED display. The 1080P for Pixel’s 5-inch screen is just perfect and will prolong your battery life while the 1440P is excellent for much larger 5.5-inch Pixel XL. Viewing angles are great and if you are used to Galaxy smartphones, you will love Pixels’ excellent screens. AMOLED screens also are more efficient than LCD in general so it will also help with battery life.  Performance is excellent on the Pixel phones with its stock Android 7.1 Nougat. Google has steadily improved performance over the years with updates of its OS and performance is certainly deafening in my opinion nevermind smooth performance in UI, games, and app switching. Pure Google OS also means no 3rd-party lags and pure raw performance that Google intended for Android.

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Of course, Pixel phones have the latest Android OS with the 7.1 Nougat and for those of you who want the quickest firmware updates, there is nothing better than Google phones. Even when Google stops updating in a few years, you will still be able to update to latest OS easily with custom ROMs. And yes, Google phones are the most easily customizable phones in the world as you can root and install custom ROMs to add new features. If you want a phone that has easy root and custom ROM support, this is definitely the way to go. While stock Pixel phones appear to be without many software features, you can easily tweak and add ton of features using custom ROMs.  Pixel phones also feature Google Assistant, which can be activated with voice while the phone is off and it is a virtual assistant that will help you get things done.

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Camera on the Pixel is probably the best overall camera to come out this year. Pixel overthrones the Galaxy S7 Edge in DxoMark rating. First, its low-light performance is simply the best and with added EIS/Gyro stabilization, 4K video recording is also the best I’ve tried. Google also offers unlimited cloud storage of all of your photos and videos in original resolution with Google Photo. This means that you can 100TB of photos and 4K videos, all of the original files can be stored free for life on Google Photo. It is also really easy to sync your photos/videos to Google Photo then delete them off your device to free up storage. So long as you have good internet/WiFi, you can essentially store all your photos/videos on Google Photo cloud.

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But Max, I don’t want to spend more than $600-800 on a new brand phone just because of the camera! Well, if you don’t want to spend the money on Pixel, the good news is that last year’s Nexus 6P has identical performance for photos. Nearly all of photos taken with Pixel and 6P look identical, especially in low-light. While Google has added a better stabilization 4K video to the Pixel, its still camera is exactly identical to last year’s 6P. If you don’t need the latest Snapdragon 821 processor, you can get the 6P, which should be on fire sale during this Black Friday for less than half the price of a Pixel XL. Buy the 6P for $250 on Black Friday and buy a good gimbal like Feiyu G4 Pro Gimbal for another $300 and you should still have money left over with a better 4K stabilization than Pixel XL. Besides that, you can keep using the gimbal for years even after you upgrade your phone.

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Battery life is excellent on the Pixel phones, both phones got over 8 hours on our HighOnAndroid SOT(Screen-On-Time) Test. Although not as long as Galaxy S7 Edge,with Pixel’s efficient AMOLED screen coupled with more-efficient Snapdragon 821, you will be able to get all-day battery life no problem. This is certainly one of the best battery life you will find on 2016 flagship phone.  Pixel phones also are Google’s first-ever virtual reality-enabled smartphones that support Google’s Daydream VR out of the box. While it’s not polished as Samsung’s Gear VR and there’s only a handful of apps, it comes with a 3-axis controller that adds another dimension and a ton of apps should be available in the next few months. If you want latest Google VR, this is the phone to get and you will be one of the first to experience Google’s new features with virtual reality.

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What’s missing with the Pixel though? There’s a lot of features missing like a microSD card, which can be useful for those of you who have bad internet and cannot take advantage of free unlimited cloud storage or like bad microphone that is probably one of the worst I’ve tried. Thinking of taking some videos in any kind of wind? Forget it as Pixel microphones are mono and have absolutely no wind/noise filter of any sort. Pixel phones also are not waterproof and no wireless charging, at the premium price you would imagine having at least one of the 2.

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Overall, Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones prove to be indeed very premium phones that are worth every penny – . With the best camera on the market with excellent battery life and latest Android 7.1 Nougat, the Pixel & Pixel XL are certainly excellent choices for those who prefer Google’s Pure Android experience along with fast fingerprint sensor and an excellent build quality that is tough and built to last.  While lacking in features, Pixel makes up for in its excellent camera ability, unlimited storage of photos/videos, and Google Assistant. While you could buy something else with more features, Pixel phones may be just perfect for those who don’t mind paying a premium for the latest and greatest Google phone.

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Max Lee

Max Lee is the founder of HighOnAndroid.com. Max makes Android tutorials and review videos for people who want to get high on Android over at his YouTube channel and Korean YouTube channel.