Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Hands-On Roundup: Solid Build With a Potentially Superb Camera

Earlier today, Google officially announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL, the successors to last year’s flagship smartphones.

As is customary after a big reveal, Google also let those on hand to pick up the devices and check them out. These aren’t reviews by any means, and while they have a lot to work with as far as what Google has announced about the devices, it’s still too early to put together any thoughts on how the devices might actually fare with real world usage. Still, early hands-on of both devices are pretty positive across the board, with the obvious questions about whether or not Google can keep stock up for the people who do want to buy the handsets.

Unsurprisingly, one of the standout features is the 12-megapixel camera that’s on the back of both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which, as has already been noted, is already seeing impressive review numbers from sources that review that sort of thing. Early hands-on indicates this is one aspect of the phone that many people are expecting great things from, so reviews in the near future will focus quite a bit on that.

Here’s a quick roundup of some of the publications that were on hand to get some early looks at Google’s newest flagship smartphones:

The Verge

“The big question, I think, is whether Google has constructed phones that can become more than the sum of their parts. There’s no question that Apple and Samsung have advantages that Google doesn’t: more advanced silicon, better access to high-end components, and economies of scale.

The other big question is whether Google can keep these phones in stock, a very common problem with last year’s Pixel. Nobody at the company will guarantee that, but I get the sense that they’re confident it’ll be better than last year. (This is not a high bar.) At the very least, the Google Store is getting revamped so that you’ll be able to preorder and hold your place in line whether or not the phone is currently in stock.

What Google has is that it’s Google, so it can find clever ways to apply machine learning and AI to problems that other companies can just force with nicer hardware. The main battlefield there will be the camera, but it will play out in all the other usual arenas, too: battery life, performance, and, of course, in personal assistants.”

Engadget

“While both phones share a very powerful platform, the differences between the phone are notable. There’s no way you can look at the Pixel 2 and the 2 XL and not feel some sort of visceral pull toward the latter. That’s all because of its long 6.0-inch pOLED display — it’s not quite as punchy or bezel-free as other smartphones we’ve recently tested, but it’s still far more exciting than the Pixel 2’s more traditional 5-inch screen. It would’ve been nice of Google to bring those sweet, 18:9 screens to its smaller phone, but there’s probably no way the economics would’ve worked out.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure coming into this event that Google would be able to surprise. I was wrong. The Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL don’t feel like phones to me so much as they are Android itself given physical form. I fully understand how cheesy that sounds. Still, no matter how good other flagships phones have been this year, it’s only now that we’ve gotten a clear sense of what Android could and should be.”

TechCrunch

“The phone also has a terrific camera, as mentioned. I shot a number of pictures with it, and it nailed the focus on each one. Color was also great, as was detail reproduction, despite challenging lighting in the demo area.

The portrait mode in particular worked great – it triggered instantly, with no waiting or recomposition required, and it managed to deliver great background blur and a sense of true depth of field without going overboard, and while preserving tricky details like individual strands of hair on the subject. This is Google’s machine learning magic at work, and it’s very impressive when compared to the competition out there, including from Apple on the new iPhone 8.

Overall, the phone also felt super fast and responsive, and actions that used to have some small amount of delay are near instant here. We’ll have to test other elements like battery life in longer reviews, but based on first impressions, this is a truly impressive device from Google, especially for its second ever premium in-house smartphone effort.”

CNET

“The Pixel 2 and 2 XL are pivotal for Google. As the second generation of the Pixel family, their success will cement Google’s place in the playing field, and Google’s $1.1 billion deal to basically buy Pixel talent from struggling phone maker HTC. On the other hand, if Pixel 2 sales sag, it could mean more Android fans are switching to other phones in the extremely important holiday season — and away from Google’s “pure” vision of Android.

As always, it’s impossible to say how good the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are after only seeing them for a brief time. We do like what we’ve seen of the camera improvements like better portrait shots and OIS (optical image stabilization), and sides you can squeeze to launch Google Assistant. But the competition is crazy-fierce, from the iPhone 8 and iPhone X to the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 and even the midprice champ, the OnePlus 5, all of which also have great cameras and impressive, high-end specs.”

SlashGear

“The Google Pixel 2 (non-XL) looks relatively similar to its predecessor, and feels like an incremental update. We’ll wait for our full review for final judgement, but for those of you that stick to the smaller device, you might just want to wait for the next generation, as this one’s not super extremely different. Especially since the first Pixel is still an extraordinary device.

What’s interesting about the two devices together is their extreme similarities despite being manufactured by two entirely different brands. They both share the same design language and, indeed, were both designed by Google – but for LG and HTC to execute these devices so precisely well as to not be able to tell who did which on the surface – that’s good stuff. I liked the build of the HTC-made Pixel XL last year so much that I was worried about LG’s involvement this time around – they’ve exceeded my expectations.”

The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are set to launch soon. Do you plan on picking one up?