The first batch of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL reviews are out ahead of the smaller Pixel making its way into the hands of customers in the United States. While Google was in a rush to release the original Pixel on time, it had more time in hand to design and develop the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.
And it shows. Some of the trade-offs made by the company also make sense when one starts using the new Pixel on a daily basis. So, are the new Pixels the Android smartphone to buy in 2017? Let’s see what other reviewers have to say about the device in our review roundup.
The publication notes that despite being made of aluminium, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will feel like they are made out of plastic when one picks them up. For almost every aspect of the device, Google has chosen function over form with its new Pixels. The larger bezels on the Pixel 2 XL might mean the phone’s design might not be bezel-less like the Galaxy S8, LG V30 and others, but then the front facing stereo speakers offer fantastic sound output with a hint of bass. In almost every department, the Pixels are among the best — if not the best, with excellent battery life and performance in tow.
The Pixel 2 phones have the same processor as every other flagship Android phone this year: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. They have 4GB of RAM, which is plenty. Beyond preferring it aesthetically, I’ve found that Google’s version of Android just tends to run better overall than Samsung’s or LG’s. I hope that continues to be the case over time with the Pixel 2 and Oreo. So far it’s been snappy.
Battery life also seems good. It takes some serious work to drain the battery on the Pixel 2 XL in a single day; usually it lasts until bedtime just fine. For those who pay attention to such things, I’ll say that I’ve been getting around six hours of screen time with the brightness at around 75 percent. On the smaller Pixel 2, my results haven’t been that impressive, but still quite good. My colleague Vlad Savov has spent more time with the smaller one, and he tells me he’s getting through a full day without issue.
In the camera department, they are a force to reckon with. It is simply astounding what Google has managed to do with the camera performance on its new Pixels with just a single 12MP sensor at the rear.
For regular shots in full auto, the Pixel 2 is excellent. It handles challenging lighting situations without blinking: low-light, backlit subjects, and my own shaky hands are not a problem for this camera. The selfie camera is 8 megapixels, and it probably the best front-facing camera I’ve ever used. It has a “face retouching” feature, which, like most I’ve tried, is a little over-aggressive in smoothing your pores away.
Take low light, for example: Google tells me that even though it could keep the shutter open longer to bring in more light, it’s not bothering. It doesn’t need to because every photo you take on the Pixel 2 is an algorithmically combined set of up to 10 images.
Sadly, the Achilles Heel of the Pixel 2 XL — and to a certain extent on the Pixel — is their display. The LG-sourced pOLED display on the Pixel 2 XL is simply not as good as OLED displays that we have grown used to. In fact, it even seems worse than the panel used by Google on the original Pixel XL last year.
The screen, especially on the 2 XL, has been polarizing. Google opted to tune the display to sRGB (the Galaxy S8, by comparison, offers four gamut options), so it looks a little more like the iPhone’s screen. But more than that, on the 2 XL the colors look muted in a way that many Android users I’ve shown it to found distasteful (even with the “vivid colors” setting turned on). I think many Android phones, especially from Samsung, are so vivid as to be phantasmagoric, so Google’s choice was to make this more “naturalistic.”
Sadly, this trend continues in every other review as well. The screen on the Pixel 2 XL is simply not up to the mark.
The publication praises the build quality of the new Pixels and says the front of the Pixel 2 XL just feels”right” due to the way the glass meets the metal edges. However, the size of the larger Pixel is definitely going to be an issue. Despite coming with a 6-inch 18:9 aspect ratio display, the Pixel 2 XL is almost as big as the Galaxy S8+. The large size means this phone cannot be used comfortably one-handed.
There isn’t much else to say about the design of these phones, particularly when you have them both in black as I do. Like their predecessors, and even more so this time around, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL are monolithic, near-featureless and quite basic in their overall hardware. They don’t have the stunning curves, flashy polished metal or distinctive lines of many other phones out there. The best you get here are the offset colored power buttons on “kinda blue” Pixel 2 and “black & white” Pixel 2 XL.
The hardware is clean, efficient and beautiful — but not flashy.
The review notes that the Pixel 2 XL’s display is not as good as the one found on the smaller Pixel.
Funny enough, it’s the smaller, lower resolution, less-accurate and ostensibly lower-end Pixel 2 display that actually looks better to my eyes. Its brightness (both high and low) is very similar to the 2 XL, but it doesn’t exhibit the grain on white backgrounds or the color shifting at angles that are annoying on the larger phone. At the same time, its colors have a bit more punch and depth to them — mostly due to the display just being a tad warmer overall.
The camera gets a huge thumbs up, though the Portrait mode is a bit of a hit or miss.
So this is what happens when you take Google’s great photo processing and add it to even better hardware fundamentals. Shots are crisp with great detail, and some close-up shots have just unreal levels of fine detail in lines. In situations where the smartphone-sized sensor simply can’t work out a scene you get some high ISO noise that looks totally normal and expected — not over-processed and gross. Colors are just punchy enough to grab your eye without being crazy. And best of all, shot-to-shot consistency is fantastic. I don’t think I took a single photo that was “bad” — I either took “good” or “great” photos.
In the end, the new Pixels are the phone to buy.
But those few cons are washed away in just a couple of hours of actually using either phone; and that excellent experience will stay strong for months — and even years — to come. Google has outdone itself this year. It has made the phones that everyone should be considering, even if its sales will end up being tiny in comparison to the big names.
Wired notes that the Pixel 2 is the Android smartphone which gets most of the things right: a fast and reliable software, great camera, excellent battery life and performance.
My whole Pixel experience comes down to this: It has the fewest flaws of any Android phone on the market. If you want a phone that does the most stuff, you’re going to want a Samsung phone, probably the Note 8. It remains the All The Things phone to beat. But if you want a phone you don’t have to learn to use or fuss with just to make work properly, you want a Pixel 2. It doesn’t try and make you use Bixby, or provide three browsers and email apps just to confuse you. Google’s version of Android is simple, stable, and eminently understandable. Its hardware design doesn’t scream “the future!” but it feels good and won’t break in a rainstorm.
The Pixels definitely seem like the Android phones to buy this year.
Here’s what I can say for sure, right here and right now: There’s no better Android phone, anywhere, than the Pixel 2. Especially that black and white Pixel 2 XL. I mean, have you seen that thing? Come on.
So, it turns out Google has once again managed to make the best Android phones of 2017 despite the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL lagging in certain aspects when compared to offerings from Samsung and LG.
Based on these overwhelmingly positive reviews, do you plan on buying the Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL? Drop a comment and let us know!