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Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL hands-on – The Pixel line, refined

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Last year marked a big shift for Google’s mobile efforts. In a bid to compete against Apple, Samsung, LG, and other top-tier smartphone manufacturers, Google launched its very own consumer-friendly smartphone lineup to compete with the best devices on the market. Fast forward one year, and Google’s next attempt at winning over consumers comes hot on the heels of its 2,000-employee acquisition from HTC. This year, the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL bring a refined design, top-of-the-line specs, and what’s being touted as the best smartphone camera ever.

Without any further delay, let’s take a closer look at Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

Pixel 2 XL: The Google smartphone… redefined

The Pixel 2 XL is considerably different than the Pixel 2, with the latter more of an iterative upgrade that serves a different purpose. It’s very reminiscent of the LG V30, which makes sense, since it was manufactured by LG.

Like its smaller sibling, the Google Pixel 2 XL is made up of a mostly-aluminum chassis with a curved glass panel towards the top of the device that houses the camera. The fingerprint sensor is a little larger than last year, making it easier to find. The glass panel on the back side is smaller and stops short of covering the fingerprint sensor.

The key difference with the Pixel 2 XL this year is its display. Google chose a 6-inch pOLED 18:9 display at a QHD+ (2,880 x 1,440) resolution. Although the top and bottom bezels are not as small as on LG’s flagship, the display takes up a large part of the overall handset and is flanked by two front facing stereo speakers.

The whole package is powered by a very respectable 3,520 mAh battery that should offer all-day battery life

The Pixel 2 XL is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB or 128 GB of internal storage. It also sports an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, which offers protection against dust and liquid and brings Google’s flagship in line with other flagships of 2017.

As had been rumored, Google has removed the headphone jack on both devices this year, instead opting to rely on USB Type-C to power wired headphones. The whole package is powered by a very respectable 3,520 mAh battery that should offer all-day battery life. In fact, Google says a 15 minute charge can deliver up to 7 hours of battery life.

These new cameras are apparently in a league of their own

Around back, the Pixel 2 XL sports a single rear camera. While last year’s devices offered up a stellar camera experience, these new cameras are apparently in a league of their own. According to DxOMark’s ranking – which should be taken with a grain of salt – the Google Pixel 2 scores a whopping 98, making it the best smartphone camera ever tested by DxO. The camera itself is a 1/2.6-inch 12.2 MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. Despite only having one camera, the Pixel 2 is capable of the same depth effect bokeh that dual camera devices offer. Is it any good? It’s difficult to say from our brief time with the device, but we can’t wait to put it to the test!

Running the latest Android 8.0 Oreo, the Google Pixel 2 XL also comes with a couple of new software additions, the most notable of which being the Always-On Display. This isn’t your normal Always-On Display, however. Google built a useful new feature into the device that will make it much easier to identify that song you’re hearing in a restaurant. The Pixel devices will constantly listen to the music around you and identify the song at the bottom of the Always-On Display without the user doing anything.

The Pixel Launcher has also been updated. Google has done away with the “pill” and weather widgets that took up a lot of the real estate on the Pixel. There’s now an “at a glance” section at the top of the launcher that gives you easy access to upcoming events and weather.

Google recently acquired 2,000 engineers and some important Intellectual Property from HTC for $1.1 billion and the fruits of this are already apparent. Rather than a button to launch an Assistant like on the Galaxy S8, the Pixel 2 XL comes with an Active Edge feature (think HTC Edge Sense) that lets you squeeze the sides of the phone to launch the Assistant. It’s not as powerful as Edge Sense, though it’s still plenty fun to use.

The Pixel 2 XL comes in Just Black and (our personal favorite) Black & White color options. Call it a panda, Stormtrooper, zebra, or whatever, this color combination is rather unique and definitely stands out. However, the all-black Pixel 2 XL comes with a textured metallic back, while the Black & White version has a glossy finish that offers less grip and attracts more fingerprints.

At a cost of $849 – or up to $1200 in Europe once converted – the Pixel 2 XL is definitely not a cheap phone, though it’s cheaper than its two main rivals. The Galaxy Note 8 starts around $930 while the iPhone X will cost $999 when it launches at the end of the month. Pre-orders for the Pixel 2 XL begin today and will ship in 6-8 weeks, although there’s no exact shipping date given by Google at this time.

Pixel 2 – an upgrade to the Pixel

The Pixel 2 shares just about everything – specs, features, and design – as the Pixel 2 XL, aside from a few outliers

The Google Pixel 2 shares just about everything – specs, features, and design – as the Pixel 2 XL, aside from a few outliers. For starters, this device comes with a 5.0-inch Full HD OLED display with a more traditional aspect ratio of 16:9. The decision to go with a 16:9 display is certainly questionable, however. While the Google Pixel 2 XL sports an aesthetic that’s more in-line with other 2017 flagships, the Pixel 2 stands out because it looks more like a 2016 flagship, thanks to its big bezels on the top and bottom.

One other difference between the two models — battery size. The Pixel 2 comes with a 2,700 mAh battery, which is a tad small compared to other devices on the market. However, Google remains confident that the Pixel 2 will be able to achieve all-day battery life on a single charge.

Last but not least, you don’t need to pay as much for the Google Pixel 2. The Pixel 2 is available starting at $649 for the 64 GB model and $749 for the 128 GB variant. It’s available in Kinda Blue, Just Black, and Clearly White color options.

What do you think?

After much aplomb, Google’s new flagships are finally here and bring a ton of great features to the table. They’re not perfect, though. They are priced higher than most people would like, and the lack of headphone jack will certainly turn some people away.

But what do you think? Are you planning on buying either one, or are you going to pass?



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