The latest smartphones from Google have now been released and the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are among the world of Android flagship phones. When the Google Pixel and Pixel XL came out a year ago, they were well received though not without a few issues along the way. Now in their second generation, how has good improved on its Pixel brand. Last year seen HTC manufacture both the Pixel and Pixel XL, but this year HTC did the Pixel 2 and LG with the larger Pixel 2 XL. For this review we’ll be reviewing the Pixel 2 XL made by LG. For the last year I used the Pixel XL as my primary device, and for the last two-week the Pixel 2 XL has been my primary. Here we will see if I love the Pixel 2 XL as much as the original.
The Elephant In The Room…
This is probably the first time in my review history that I’m addressing something that has been happen out in the wild in a review here. The Google Pixel 2 phones have now been officially released for two weeks and three days now. In that time all matter of reporting have decried Google and the Google Pixel 2 (specifically the Pixel 2 XL model) for issues with the screen and a few other issues. The mob especially went ham on the screen, so let’s talk about this. The issues listed with the screen for the Google Pixel 2 XL can be listed as follows
– Screen now as good as other models on the market. Color aren’t as vibrant and more muted.
– When the screen is held a certain angles, the color can take on a Blue-ish/Green tint.
– There has been reports of either screen retention or burn-in present.
Now I won’t go into a full break down of these items, I will say this. The first issue, is more opinion and preference than technical issue. For years we have been fed these vibrant hues on smartphones by say Samsung and over time we gotten use to this being “how images are supposed to look”, but this isn’t the case. This is akin to walking into Best Buy and they have all the TV turned up to the highest level, so all the displays look enticing enough for you to buy. But out the box settings when you come up doesn’t look like how it did in the store. This is intentional. Google just decided to give us a display more on the color accuracy side than pumping up all the images to an unnatural state. Some will like it, others won’t. It looks like Google is making moves to allow you to choose in a coming update, so this shouldn’t be too much of an issue. I seen the difference but in no way though the display looked bad, I actually liked the change-up.
Now when it comes to the blue-ish/green tint. Yes I can see that on the Pixel 2 XL we are using. It is at an angle I find myself regularly using the phone, no. Should we see that on a highly expensive phone, maybe not. Should we expect that just because a device cost a lot of money it should just be perfect, maybe but unrealistic. Is it a deal breaker, not hardly. In the last two weeks of my using this phone day in and day out, I’ve seen it once or twice and it was usually when I was holding it in my hand and not even actively using the phone. Honestly it hasn’t call for a second look or care. However when it comes to any extended screen retention or burn-in, this should be taken seriously. Enough to not buy the phone, no. Honestly if you think there is any hardware maker who mass produces device that doesn’t have a small subset with issues, then you are kidding yourself. This is why we have RMAs, this is why we have return and/or exchange. It’s been two weeks, I know a crop of sites made it seem like this was a widespread problem across the line; but seriously it has affected a few. I haven’t had any major issues and I know a few others who are just find. Buy a Pixel 2 XL and if you have any issues, call tech support and get it replaced. Like you would do with any other product!
At First Look
When it comes to the real hardware it is clear Google isn’t looking for anything that stands out. I could go on and on about how other smartphones makers device look better, but is this really the case? Most phones is all screen upfront and black slab or colored one in the back. I for one tend to put my phone in a case as soon as I get to protect it from any potentially drops or scratches (and honestly if your of the “I don’t put cases on my phone, I like it without” camp, with the prices of these phones now, you’re taking unnecessary risks!). With a case on the phone these “design flares” aren’t even noticeable. Google’s Pixel phones are simply, unassuming and yes bland. But in this realm of bland, Google has made some nice design choices that I really like with the phone.
For the Pixel 2 XL this year, Google decided to join the near bezel-less crowd and while it’s attempt is full no bezel it does look good. From the left/right the bezel is just a sliver line compared to before. I do wish it went to the complete edge, but it does still look great. From the top/bottom we do still have some bezel though thinner than before. This of course is the space it uses for the front facing speakers, so while not true bezel-free, I can accept it for the return of some front facing speakers. Google also gives us the illusion of being no bezel when the phones is off. Unlike the original Pixel XL where you can see the color different in the bezel area, on the Pixel 2 XL you can only truly see the bezel when the full screen is on. In a stand-by or off state it can look as if it is all screen.
The unit we received from Google is the Just Black color, but also available for the XL is the Black & White option (which has received the tag of the Panda version). The Just Black color is this year I would say is more true to Black than the Quite Black option of the original. Side by side you can see the deeper black of the Pixel 2 XL vs the more grayish black of the Pixel XL. Also changed is the glass panel on this year’s model. While it is still there, it is much smaller this time around being about half the size of the glass panel on the original Pixel XL. All in all, the Google Pixel 2 XL is a simple looking but has a refine feel about it. Google as much as it likes to think it is starting to become a hardware company, they excellent at software. And the Google Pixel 2’s hardware is a simple but good-looking vessel for their software!
Software Is Where They Are King!
Google is a software company! It should be no surprise that a software company like Google, the ones who created and support Android, would have excellent software on their Android device. This really is the reason you would want a Pixel phone, and this is the reason I love the Pixel phones! The Google Pixel 2 XL (and Pixel 2) run the latest version of the Android OS 8.0.0 aka Oreo and I love me some Oreo! Google each years gets better and more refine with their OS, and this year Android Oreo combine with the Pixel 2 XL phones is just wonderful. In one of only a few comparisons you’ll see me make to Apple, it just works. It is smooth, functional, responsive, and powerful. In the two weeks I’ve used the phone as my primary I haven’t had an issue that slows me down at all. When I need to do something it just happens, seamlessly and fast. Apps launches fluidly, buttons trigger responsively. Even the new active edge squeeze function which I was on the fence on works well (though sometimes too well, so you made want to adjust the sensitivity).
My experience these last two weeks have been without issue. Even among the scandal to rock the Pixel 2 XL, I haven’t lost any love for this device as it has functioned as expected in all instances. Some of my favorite new software features include the picture in picture mode for Android Oreo, which is great when I’m using Google Maps and may want to bring up something up but still have the maps on-screen. Or just watching a YouTube video and being able to keep watching while maybe checking an email. Also the Active Edge squeeze feature has increased my use of Google Assistant. I do find it much quicker to active and use than saying “Ok Google”, so while I was on the fence with it I do love this feature. Then there is the portrait mode for the camera. Truly it is a testament to Google’s software with its ability to do this effect well with only one camera lens vs others who need the two. And lastly you can’t forget Google Lens. This has been a very interesting feature, though not one I’ve so far used very often. But with the ability to scan an image and possibly bringing up relevant information is very cool. In my test, I had a picture of a hotel in Vegas and Grand Central and as you can see from the screenshots and it brought up useful information. A great feature to round out the feature set and as it gets better, the more I’m excited at its future!
Sight & Sound
Speaking of the camera, the Pixel 2 XL takes some really good pictures. I can see why now it has the highest mark from Donar. It’s most impressive feature is the portrait mode which Google does via software engineering can having two cameras on the back. You would think this lack of camera would limited their ability to have a nice portrait effect, but it does a really good job of doing so. Images taken with portrait mode really pop! As you can see below with these examples, this is all done via software engineering. Beyond portrait mode, time the first generation of the Pixel the Pixel 2 XL continues with being a great image taker!
Below is a few sample shots I’ve taken so far with the Google Pixel 2 XL…
But less not forget about the sound quality. I’m a big supporter of having dual front facing speakers in smartphones. I truly loved it when HTC first introduced it and BoomSound and mourned when they took it away. While this isn’t BoomSound, Google has given up having a completely bezel less phone to include front facing speakers. I thank them for that. The sound quality is much louder and sound is better thanks to having two front facing speakers than one downfiring speaker.
Should You Buy It?
You know I’ve been fortunate and my review unit hasn’t had the host of issues that some other reviewers have experienced and I know a few other reviewers as well who are just fine with their Pixel 2 XLs. I will say out of the most recent issues reported I have experienced the weird Google Assistant not recording what you say via Bluetooth headphones or car. It is a weird thing that doesn’t work when I activate by squeeze but works sometime fine when I use the trigger word Ok Google. Other than this I’ve been fine.
When you spend upwards of $649 for the Pixel 2 and $849 for the Pixel 2 XL you want to know your phone will work. Even with all the issues reported there are people who brought their Pixels and are just fine. But just like any consumer electronics sometimes you run into one that isn’t working as expected. You just don’t hear about it as intensely as people are talking about the Pixel 2, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have issues. If you experience issues you return it and get another. And with Google extending the warranty to 2 years you are well covered if anything happened!
So yes I recommend the phone and I think you should pick one up. It is a great phone and I love this thing!