Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL Review

Google brings the best software, an amazing camera, great performance, and fast updates
by Myriam Joire on October 30, 2017
Positives
  • phenomenal, best-in-class camera
  • strong performance
  • excellent battery life
  • pure Google
  • water resistant (IP67)
  • beautiful wallpapers
  • active edge is great
  • loud and clear front facing speakers
Negatives
  • no headphone jack
  • no wireless charging
  • no micro-SD
  • massive bezels (Pixel 2)
  • display issues (Pixel 2 XL)
  • expensive
  • active edge could be more useful and open

The original Google Pixel phones leave a big legacy behind, and the Pixel 2 and 2 XL have a lot of hype to live up to. Their predecessors were simple, fast, and featured a great camera. The latest Pixel handsets look better, are faster, and incorporate Google’s AI. This year Google’s further refined the software experience to showcase its vision of the Android user experience.

Above is a detailed, deep dive video on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Those of you who just want an overview of what the new Pixel phones bring to the table will find our no-frills, bullet-point style review below. It’s dense with information and designed to provide the most amount of details in the least amount of time.

Pixel 2

Design

Google’s taken the lukewarm design of the original Pixel handsets and refined it.

• The Pixel 2 XL comes in black and white, the latter looking particularly cool because the glass band in the back is still black and the power/lock key is orange
• The Pixel 2 comes in black, white, and “kinda blue”, the latter featuring a turquoise power button
• Both Pixel 2 phones feature narrower glass bands in back than the original Pixel handsets
• The Pixel 2 cameras protrude slightly but this looks better than the flush original Pixel shooters
• The Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 2 have different screen aspect ratios, front glass edges, color schemes, and are made by different manufacturers
• The Pixel 2 XL’s “G” logo is embossed; the Pixel 2’s “G” logo is silk-screened
• There’s a notification light hidden above the display on both phones, but you have to enable it in the notification settings

Google Pixel 2 XL Photo Gallery


Google Pixel 2 Photo Gallery

Positive
• Both Pixel 2 phones feature an aluminum unibody design, but it’s finished using a “hybrid coating”. Some complain that it’s too much like plastic, but it isn’t as slippery as anodized aluminum, and feels great in hand.
• Both handsets are made of aluminum and glass, like all of today’s flagships
• The Pixel 2 XL (made by LG) looks like a modern device that keeps up with the “bezel-less” trend of 2017. It features a 6-inch 2880×1440 plastic OLED display in a body that’s the same size as last year’s 5.5-inch Pixel XL.
• Both are water resistant (IP67) this year, unlike last year

Negative
• Both are well made but still look pretty boring overall
• While the Pixel 2 XL has a more modern edge-to-edge design, it somehow manages to be taller, wider, thicker, heavier, and have larger bezels than its LG V30 cousin (which uses the same display)
• The Pixel 2 looks more dated/forgettable because of its 16:9 display, it’s massive bezels, and its 2D front glass with machined aluminum bevel
• The power button on both handsets lack the grip pattern found on the original Pixel phones
• Both Pixel 2 phones look less like siblings than the original Pixel handsets
• The Pixel 2 XL (made by LG) somehow feels cheaper than the Pixel 2 (made by HTC)
• Basically, there’s an overall lack of design coherence, unlike the rest of Google’s product line
• Both feature stereo front speakers but no headphone jack (argh!)

Display

• Pixel 2 XL: 6-inch, 18:9 ratio, 2880×1440 pixels (Quad HD+), 483 nits, plastic OLED (made by LG, same as V30)
• Pixel 2: 5-inch, 16:9 ratio, 1920×1280 pixels (Full HD), AMOLED (made by Samsung)

Positive
• The Pixel 2’s display is bright and crisp, and looks great despite being only 1080p. At 440 nits, it’s also bright enough to read in direct sunlight.

Pixel 2

Pixel 2 XL

Negative
• Colors on both Pixel 2 displays look somewhat dull compared to other OLED screens, but…
• Enabling the “vivid color” mode helps, so it’s clearly a display tuning issue
• This tuning issue is particularly obvious when comparing the Pixel 2 XL and LG V30 side-by-side (same screen)
• Despite the Pixel 2 XL’s wider color gamut and higher pixel density, the Pixel 2 display looks slightly better out of the box
• The Pixel 2 XL display exhibits a blue-ish tint when viewed off-center, and offers poor viewing angles for an OLED screen
• My Pixel 2 XL review unit is already experiencing slight OLED “burn-in” after just 10 days of use and is being exchanged by Google, who is aware of the problem
• While both phones have flagship-grade displays overall, they fall short of Samsung’s Galaxy S8/S8+ and Note 8 AMOLED screens

Google recently issued a statement about how it plans to address the Pixel 2 XL screen problems. While we definitely think this is one of the best handsets on the market today, we recommend you hold off buying the Pixel 2 XL until we test Google’s fix.

Camera

The best camera currently on the market — bar none

• Same cameras on Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
• Slightly improved rear camera hardware this year compared to last year…
• 2017 Pixel 2: 12MP sensor, 1.4 micron pixels, f/1.8 lens, dual-pixel autofocus, EIS and OIS
• 2016 Pixel: 12MP sensor, 1.5 micron pixels, f/2.0 lens, laser autofocus, EIS (no OIS)
• The front camera retains the 8MP sensor, 1.4 micron pixels, f/2.4 lens

Positive
• AI algorithms and the Snapdragon 835 processor enable even better, faster HDR+ processing, dynamic range optimization, noise reduction, and motion blur compensation
• This results in mind-blowing camera performance
• The Pixel 2 cranks the image quality up to 11!
• It’s the new standard that the competition will be aiming to match over the next year
• Portrait mode uses AI algorithms to separate the foreground from the background, without requiring a dual camera system
• Portrait mode works on both the front and rear cameras, and works very well
• Portrait mode also uses the dual-pixel AF system in the rear camera for depth sensing
• The AI algorithms use machine learning/neural networks tuned by Google’s vast database of images, and can be updated over time
• More info here
• Google Lens is like Amazon Visual Search or Bixby vision but benefits from Google’s vast database of places and things. It’s VERY cool…
• Motion Photos is like Apple Live Photos: it records a 3 second 1024×768-pixel video alongside the original image
• Fused video stabilization now uses EIS and OIS together for even better results
• There’s now a face retouching feature in portrait mode and for the front camera

Negative
• Still no manual camera controls

Here are some sample photos:

As you can see in the sample photos, the Portrait Mode is quite good at identifying the edges the objects that are in the foreground.

Camera UI screenshoots

Software

• Both handsets run Android 8.0 (Oreo)
• The new launcher relocates the quick search bar to the bottom of the home screen
• The At-a-Glance feature at the top of the home screen now shows upcoming calendar events in addition to the date, time, and weather
• Notification dots appear on app icons that have notifications pending
• The always-on display shows the date, time, notification icons, and notification contents (briefly) as notifications appear
• Gorgeous new animated wallpapers, especially the “living universe” series
• Now Playing is an optional song ID feature that runs transparently in the background, even without a network connection
• Google Lens, the aforementioned image ID feature
• Fast pair detects when you turn on a compatible set of wireless headphones or earbuds near the phone and prompts you to pair it, then lets you download any matching custom app

Positive
• Overall, it’s a very polished and user-friendly experience that’s pure Android

Google Lens

Negative
• We think one of the main reasons to get a Pixel handset is pure Android, but — as we pointed out in our Essential Phone review — Google isn’t always the first to implement new features in software. So while the user experience is superb, it can feel incomplete when you’re used to certain features being built-in.

Sound

No issues with call quality, data speeds, or reception (we tested the Pixel 2 XL on 3 in Hong Kong and T-Mobile in San Francisco)

Positive
• The stereo speakers are quite good, but the Pixel 2 sounds louder and fuller at maximum volume than Pixel 2 XL
• There’s a decent sounding digital USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter/dongle in the box; just don’t lose it!
• Now Playing, the aforementioned offline song ID feature
• It displays the name of the song currently playing on the lock screen and in the notification bar

Negative
• No headphone jack, which is user-hostile and stupid, especially when Google made fun of Apple about it just last year…
• Google (like HTC) is not really in a market position to remove a feature that most people still want
• Gigabit LTE is disabled on both phones for whatever reason (cost, packaging?)

Performance

Positive
• Snapdragon 835, 4GB RAM, 64 or 128GB of storage
• Thanks to the Snapdragon 835 and pure build of Android 8 (Oreo), these are super quick phones
• Like the HTC U11, Active Edge lets you squeeze the Pixel 2 phones to activate Google Assistant or silence incoming calls…

Negative
• No micro-SD card slot
• Unlike the HTC U11, Active Edge can only be remapped using a third-party app
• Active Edge could be more useful and open

Pixel 2
Geekbench single 1920
Geekbench Multi 6302
AnTuTu 160502
3DMark 2821
PCMark Work Battery Life 9.51
Pixel 2 XL
Geekbench single 1897
Geekbench Multi 6288
AnTuTu 159036
3DMark 3578
PCMark Work Battery Life 8.09

Battery Life

The Pixel 2 XL features a 3520mAh battery, and the Pixel 2 uses a 2700mAh battery

Positive
• We’re using the Pixel 2 XL as our daily driver, and battery life is excellent, even during busy days (we typically end the day with 20-30% battery)

Negative
• Fast charging, but no wireless charging

Rating
Design / 8.5
Camera / 9.5
Sound / 9
Performance / 9
Battery Life / 8
Software / 9.5
Price / 7
Editor's Choice / 9.5
Hardware / 8.5
Display / 7
8.6
You have rated this