Last known price of Google Pixel 2 XL was Rs. 45,499. This phone is available in 64 GB, 128 GB storage variants.
The days after the launch of the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have been the most dramatic that the company has seen in recent times. The sad part is how excited people were for the launch; after all, the first-generation Pixel had been a huge hit and everyone wanted to see how Google would one-up it. And since the iPhone X had been announced a short while prior, there was interest to see how the search giant would hit back at Apple.
Forget about hitting back, the products it released didn't even deserve to be in the same ring as the iPhone X. And even as some reviewers hesitatingly compared the two, no one dared declare Google's phone as a winner. Well, at least not with a straight face. Let's take a look at the list of problems that came with the Google Pixel 2 XL, that various people have reported ever since it launched in early October.
First came the complaints about screen burn-in. Initially, everyone assumed that it was just a small number of defective pieces, which then became a defective batch. A few days in, it was official - there was definitely an issue with the new LG displays that came on the Pixel 2 XL. The community made enough noise for Google to finally declare that they would offer a 2-year warranty and release updates that would address the issue.
Shortly after the screen issues, came the audio issues. Users mentioned a disturbance during calls, describing the sounds as high-pitched whines and clicks. While Google promised to work on an update, a strange solution quickly popped up on the internet - the sounds would stop if NFC was turned off. Other problems reported included a blue tint to the display when the screen was even slightly tilted, muddy colours and grainy texture and black smear when used with low brightness. To make matters worse, some users received units without the OS installed on it.
After this came complaints about black bars appearing on the camera view, when operated under LED lights or even low light. Now, this was something I experienced myself, and I've expanded on this in the camera section of this review.
Locally, there was a minor issue with the shortage of phones of the black and white versions of the XL being reported in India, with Flipkart issuing apology emails to the buyers, stating that there was a delay in receiving the shipment from Google. As compensation, Flipkart offered users a Flipkart Wallet voucher of â‚¹300. That's the equivalent of eating at an expensive restaurant and complaining about your experience, and the manager responds by giving you extra saunf. Or a sachet of ketchup. He might even go crazy and give you two.
What makes this entire fiasco puzzling is the fact that these are the early years of Google's Pixel lineup of phones. It doesn't make sense that they would release untested products that hadn't gone through stringent quality checks. Considering the momentum gained by the first Pixel, this was a missed opportunity for Google to cement itself as a legitimate competitor to Apple and Samsung.
But public opinion aside here's what happened when I got to try out the phone. Below is my first-hand experience reviewing the highly controversial smartphone.
Google Pixel 2 XL: Build Quality
So first of all, this phone is supposed to have a bezel-less design. This phone is about as bezel-less as Tusshar Kapoor is a good actor. In short, no. Personally, I prefer bezels on phones, but I have an intense dislike for marketing speak - I wouldn't recommend this phone to anybody looking for a bezel-less phone. We're talking about a world where phones like the iPhone X and Mi Mix 2 exist, and I'd even give a pass to the Samsung S8. The screen-to-body ratio of the XL is 76.4%, as compared to 82.9% and 83.6% from the iPhone X and the S8 respectively. In fact, bezels seem to embarrass Google - they avoided showing the display of the Pixel 2 while marketing the new phones. They paired the Pixel 2's back with the front of the Pixel 2 XL in all videos and ads during the time of the launch.
As for the build quality, it's strictly okay. It's supposed to be an aluminium body, but Google went ahead and coated it with a plastic paint for some reason. I admit the phone's a bit grippier, but the premium feel is completely lost due to this decision. Visually, the texture of the body looks fantastic up close. I can't say the same about the upper part of the back, which is made of glass. Unfortunately, this tends to smudge quite a bit. Nothing a quick wipe can't fix, but try doing that discreetly before you show the phone to someone. They'll accuse you of snacking during work hours (I wasn't accused of this, I promise).
I tested the all-black version of the 64GB XL, and in no social situation did anyone ask about the phone. Unfortunately, the Pixel 2 XL looks like a country cousin of the stylish LG V30. The phone is simply underwhelming in terms of aesthetics, when on its back. Most people assumed it was a Xiaomi phone. Not the best thing you can hear when you've spent a bomb on buying a premium Google phone.
Google Pixel 2 XL: Display
Dull. Not true colour, or accurate colour, or whatever fancy term Google wants us to believe, the word that best describes the screen of the Pixel 2 XL is: dull. But then I updated the phone - and Google had thrown in three colour modes in the Display Settings. They called it Boosted, Natural, and Saturated. While â€˜Natural' left the XL's display in dull mode, the Boosted option was definitely an improvement. â€˜Saturated' was, well, saturated. Since I use photo editing apps extensively, the first time I realised that the screen's colour calibration could be a problem was when my photos started looking different as compared to the ones taken from my previous phone. The images posted after editing on the Pixel 2 XL were far more colourful and saturated. But to be fair, it takes a while to get used to the screen of any phone. I was on track once I had the Boosted colour profile activated, though.
Outdoor visibility for the screen was decent. What I did like about the phone is how dark the screen gets while operating in a dark room. As someone who uses his phone extensively before sleep, this was something I could appreciate. The 2880x1440 screen with an 18:9 ratio has a pixel density of 538 ppi, but the impact of these specs is lost in the overall muddy look. The vibrancy that is usually associated with a quality pOLED display is simply missing. Seems like Google missed the bus on this one.
Google Pixel 2 XL: Audio and Call Quality
During my review, I didn't note any clicking sounds or other electronic noises during calls, even though I left NFC on to test it. I had no issues with call quality, though I did struggle with call clarity in some areas, I would pin the blame on my mobile service provider for that. But the phone worked rather well on both 3G and 4G connections and got full marks for it.
On to the audio features of the phone. Google complicated things further for music lovers by not including an audio jack on the XL. It expects you to use the USB-C port (keep up with technology, cretin). Okay, well how do the earphones sound, you ask? I can't tell because Google doesn't give you earphones anymore. They were nice enough to include a USB-C dongle with an integrated DAC (digital to analogue converter) though, with a 3.5mm adapter that you can plug your earphones into.Now, are you concerned about how you can charge your phone and listen to music at the same time? It's not all that uncommon, after all. Turns out there is a solution for that, provided by Google. The only catch is, you'll have to shell out about $45 for this solution. I'm not even kidding, Google's online store has an adapter that you can use JUST so that you can charge your phone and listen to music at the same time. But make sure you don't lose that adapter because it will cost you $9 to replace (It was $20 until a few publications raised a stink about it being twice as expensive as Apple's equivalent adapter).Make sure you read up before you purchase USB-C headphones to go with your Pixel XL. Not all headphones are compatible with the phone, and Google has released a recommended list of manufacturers that you can purchase from.
Google Pixel 2 XL: Camera
On to the next one. The camera is definitely in a class of its own. The 12.2MP camera with a f/1.8 aperture comes with optical image stabilisation and is definitely a strong feature of the XL. In fact, I personally believe that all the negative publicity the XL received overshadowed the fact that it had a stellar camera onboard. The camera is backed up by AI that allows you to take a â€˜Portrait Mode' image, which is typically offered by dual camera setups. The results are fantastic when you consider the effect is entirely software-based. I zoomed in to check how tacky the job was around the edges but was surprised to see how well the effect worked. Another thoughtful gesture from Google is that if you don't like the blur effect on Portrait mode, it saves a copy without the effect as well, so you can use that if you want.
It's the same for the 8MP f/2.4 front camera. Portrait selfies look a class apart, if you have an interesting background - it makes the most amateur selfies look professional (almost). The data processing of both cameras is simply incredible.
Now the bars effect that I mentioned earlier - my observation is that when the camera sensor detects high contrast between elements in your frame, it freaks out. I was taking a picture of the sun through the office blinds. Every time I would focus on the sun, the black bars would appear. I don't expect people to take too many pictures of the sun, however, but I imagine the bars would look in a club environment, or if you intentionally take arty photographs with high contrast. Not good at all, Google, not good at all.
Google Pixel 2 XL: Performance
Now comes the part that makes me an instant Android fanboy. The speed. The lightning-fast speed of this phone will leave anyone surprised. Nothing is too heavy for this phone, which ships with Oreo out of the box. The most massive game graphics, large files, multiple open apps, split-screen multitasking - nothing makes this beast slow down. And in that way, it becomes a fantastic smartphone. Because a phone is supposed to be an extension of yourself, in the sense that you think it and the device gets it done. This phone is the obedient, proactive and enthusiastic son my dad always wanted. At no point did the Pixel 2 XL even stutter. It's a flawless system that just works. Instantly.
Gaming on this phone was a dream - heavy games like Dead Trigger 2 and Asphalt 8: Airborne loaded so fast, I didn't know what to do with the extra time. I have literally never played Asphalt 8 without the phone struggling and hating the day I bought it. The Pixel 2 XL, however, would enthusiastically load everything well ahead of schedule. This phone gets maximum points for being an excellent gaming device.
Google has left little tricks all over the OS for you to discover and sometimes, simply work in the background. First of all, the always-on display. I've been a fan of this feature from the time I first got it on my Moto X. It's a non-intrusive display that lets you see the time, date and any notifications you receive on your phone. You can alter the security level so that the feature doesn't show sensitive information. I think it looks classy when a screen always has information on the screen and you don't have to pick it up all the time and turn the screen on. What disappointed me, however, was that the notifications weren't interactive. I don't get why they don't have more functionality, considering I could do so much more with the always on display of my Moto X back in 2013.
A new feature that was introduced on the Pixel 2 phones is Google Lens. The function basically analyses a photograph for visual cues and returns information about whatever you took a picture of. The very first thing I did is take a picture of my MacBook, and I've shared the image below for you to see.
Google has also released an update for Lens to be integrated into Assistant, to be rolled out over the next few days or weeks. But this is something that bothers me about Google, and I understand its subjective. The company tends to release incomplete features and apps, and Lens falls into that category. I'm sure it will work at some point, but it's obviously quite far away.
Another nifty feature is â€˜Now Playing', which identifies the song playing in the background, wherever you are. While Shazam and Soundhound already do this, I'd much rather have Google do this for me. Another interesting thing about this feature is that all the song data is in the phone's storage. Strangely, it doesn't allow users to connect to any online database for songs that aren't on the local storage. I didn't get that part because new songs release almost every day.
A few other features that caught my eye were the live wallpapers and the adaptable notification shade. While the wallpaper feature added minute activity to the wallpaper, kind of like a cinemagraph, the notification shade would switch between a light and a dark theme, depending on the tone of your wallpaper. I thought that was very cool - because a contrasting notification shade can feel jarring when you pull it down over a wallpaper.
As for the ActivEdge feature of the phone, which pulls up Google Assistant when you squeeze it, I found that useless. You can adjust the sensitivity of the squeeze, but at no point did I find myself accidentally activating it. And since we don't traditionally squeeze our phones, I forced myself to use it as often as I could, but even after a week, it was precisely that - I was forcing myself to use the feature. Why do with a squeeze what you can do with a single tap? It would have been great if Google let us assign functions to the squeeze because I imagine I'd use it more often if I could trigger video recording, or Snapchat, or even updating apps with a squeeze. And I say this as someone who uses Assistant and Google Now regularly.
I found the signal reception of the XL while using WiFi to be exceptionally good. It's a cut above the rest because I travelled throughout my office using the XL along with a Chinese budget smartphone (I can't name it, but it rhymes with Nope-O) and the XL played YouTube videos comfortably while the budget phone kept struggling and gasping for the signal.
Google Pixel 2 XL: Battery Life
The first time I connected the charger, the always-on display flashed â€˜Charging Rapidly' at me. I was pleased - I knew I would be on time to work. Except it didn't charge rapidly. The phone took almost 1.5 hours to hit 100%, from 2%. So I kept a closer check on it, and charging seemed to slow down somewhere around 75%. After that, the phone took forever to reach the maximum.
But what amazed me is that when I used my phone moderately, the phone lasted one and a half days easily. That to me, is exceptional, given the performance level of the phone. I had a long day with heavy usage as well, and yet again, the phone lasted until the wee hours of the morning. The battery life was just as impressive even a couple of weeks later.
What's interesting about the battery is the software AI behind it. A really cool feature is the remaining battery estimate, which is based on your usage. Google got rid of its simple calculations, instead of predicting your battery life by studying how you use your phone over a few days.
Honestly though, I'd have happily given up the smart battery for wireless charging. Now that both flagship phones from Apple and Samsung support it, it's strange that Google didn't include this feature.
Google Pixel 2 XL: Verdict
Coming to the end of my review, my own brutal criticism made me introspect whether I was too harsh with the Pixel 2 XL. Was I being too critical? Was I just part of the echo chamber that is the Android smartphone community? Were our expectations too high?
The simple and correct answer is no. Because Google has the resources and the capability to make a great phone. And the main reason for the expectations was the humongous price tag. You don't put a price tag like that on a phone unless it can compete with the greats. More than the phone letting down the expectations of the Android community, it simply does not justify its asking price. It's about time Google started behaving like a startup and established itself as a serious smartphone manufacturer.
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 MSM8998|
|Display||6.0 inches (15.24 cms)|
|Front Camera||Single (8 MP, f/2.4, Wide Angle Camera(25 mm focal length, 3.2" sensor size, 1.4 m pixel size))|
|Rear Camera||Single (12.2 MP, f/1.8, Wide Angle Camera)|
|Launch Date||November 15, 2017|
|Dimensions||6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inch (157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm)|
|Build||Case: Aluminium, Back: Aluminium|
|Water Resistant||Yes, Water resistant, IP67|
|Colors||Black, Black and White|
|Chipset||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 MSM8998|
|No of Cores||8 (Octa Core)|
|CPU||2.45GHz, Quad core, Kryo 280 + 1.9GHz, Quad core, Kryo 280|
|Operating System||Android v8.0 (Oreo)|
|Internal Memory||64 GB|
|Resolution||1440 x 2880 pixels|
|Size||6.0 inches (15.24 cms)|
|Protection||Corning Gorilla Glass v5|
|TouchScreen||Yes, Capacitive, Multi-touch|
|Color Reproduction||16M Colors|
|Screen to body percentage||76.71 %|
|Pixel Density||537 pixels per inch (ppi)|
|Rear||Single (12.2 MP, f/1.8, Wide Angle Camera)|
|Sensor||CMOS image sensor|
|Flash||Rear (Dual LED Flash)|
|Front||Single (8 MP, f/2.4, Wide Angle Camera(25 mm focal length, 3.2" sensor size, 1.4µm pixel size))|
|Camera Features||Auto Flash, Auto Focus, Face detection, Touch to focus|
|Shooting Modes||Continuos Shooting, High Dynamic Range mode (HDR)|
|Image Stabilization||Yes, Optical Image Stabilization(OIS), Electric Image Stabilization (EIS)|
|Video||Rear: 3840x2160 @ 30 fps, 1920x1080 @ 120 fps, 1280x720 @ 240 fps, Front: 1920x1080 @ 30 fps, 1280x720 @ 30 fps, 640x480 @ 30 fps|
|USB OTG Support||Yes|
|Wi-Fi||Yes with a/ac/b/g/n/n 5GHz, MIMO|
|SIM Configuration||Single SIM (SIM1: Nano)|
|Network||4G: Available (supports Indian bands), 3G: Available, 2G: Available|
|Voice over LTE(VoLTE)||Yes|
|Wi-fi features||Mobile Hotspot|
|GPS||Yes with A-GPS, Glonass|
|USB||USB Type-C, Mass storage device, USB charging, USB On-The-Go|
|Fingerprint sensor||Yes, Rear|
|Other Sensor||Light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Compass, Gyroscope|
|Audio Jack||Yes, USB Type-C|