Last year, after years of releasing Nexus devices that compromised on one aspect or the another, Google managed to hit a home run with the Huawei-made Nexus 6P. Sure, the handset was gargantuan with its 5.7-inch display and front-facing stereo speakers, but it had great battery life and decent camera — something which previous Nexus smartphones lacked. This year, Google is replacing the Nexus 6P with the Pixel XL. As Google puts it, the new Pixel smartphones have been completely developed and designed in-house by the company, with the OEM — HTC — having no input in it.
While the Pixel XL is a huge improvement over the Nexus 6P in some key areas, it also costs significantly more than it. So, is the Pixel XL worth the upgrade over the Nexus 6P?
The Nexus 6P comes with a 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display, while the Pixel XL comes with a 5.5-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED panel. While smaller, the AMOLED panel of the Pixel XL is better than what is found on the Nexus 6P. It’s not that the AMOLED panel of the 6P is bad; it has great viewing angles and contrast levels. However, it is not as accurate as the AMOLED panel found on the Pixel and neither can get as bright.
Not to forget, the newer generation AMOLED panel on the Pixel XL will be more power efficient than what is found on the Nexus 6P.
If there is one area where the Nexus 6P reigns supreme over the Pixel XL, it is in the speaker department. While the Nexus 6P comes with front-facing stereo speakers, the Pixel XL comes with a mono bottom firing speaker. Irrespective of how loud the speaker on the Pixel XL turns out to be, front-facing speakers will always offer a better experience on a smartphone since the sound is being fired directly on to you.
Processor and Battery Life
The Nexus 6P shipped with a fiery Snapdragon 810 chipset. While Google and Huawei somehow managed to keep the Snapdragon 810 chipset inside the Nexus 6P from overheating, the phone’s performance does take a severe hit under extensively heavy tasks. On the other hand, the Pixel XL comes with Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 821 chipset. The chipset is more power efficient than the Snapdragon 820 chipset that is found inside many flagship phones launched this year like the OnePlus 3, LG G5, and HTC 10.
The Spectra ISP inside the Pixel XL, which is a part of the Snapdragon 821 chip, is also significantly faster than the Snapdragon 810’s ISP. The faster ISP provides Google with the extra horsepower to keep HDR+ enabled by default on the Pixel XL without any performance hit. This ensures that the Pixel XL is able to take superior photos compared to the Nexus 6P despite coming with an almost similar camera setup.
The Snapdragon 821 chipset is not only faster but also more power efficient. This is why despite coming with the same battery capacity (3450mAh) as the Nexus 6P, the Pixel XL is quoted by Google to offer significantly higher battery life. The new battery saving features in Android 7.1 Nougat like an aggressive Doze mode should further help the Pixel XL to deliver better battery life.
On paper, the camera specs of the Nexus 6P and the Pixel XL are largely the same. Both comes with a 12.3MP rear shooter with a f/2.0 aperture and large 1.55u pixels. They also feature a laserAF sensor for faster autofocus times. The Pixel XL does feature an improved EIS implementation and also throws in PDAF into the mix for more reliable and quicker autofocus. It also comes with an upgraded Sony sensor (IMX378 vs 377 on the 6P) that should further help improve image quality.
Even after you combine all the improvements that the Pixel XL camera packs, it is a modest upgrade over the 12.3MP shooter of the Nexus 6P. What makes the experience better on the Pixel XL is the upgraded camera app from Google and HDR+ being enabled by default. With HDR+ enabled, the Pixel XL takes multiple photos with different exposures and joins them into one for better details and sharpness. While the Nexus 6P also offers an HDR+ mode, it is disabled by default and the phone can start crawling if you take a lot of photos with HDR+ enabled in quick succession.
Nougat and Assistant
Google has already rolled out the Nougat update for the Nexus 6P, but the company will be launching the Pixel XL with Android 7.1. To make the Pixel more attractive, Google will be keeping certain features exclusive to the handset. This includes Google Assistant, the new Camera app, and the Pixel launcher. Upgrading to the Pixel XL from a Nexus 6P just for the new software features makes little sense. While Google will not be brining the features to the Nexus 6P anytime soon, plenty of mods are already available over at XDA forums that Pixel-exclusive features like Google Assistant and the camera app to the 6P.
With the Pixel XL, the elephant in the room has to be its pricing. While the Nexus 6P was also not cheap by any means, it offered great value for money. The Pixel XL, on the other hand, has a price tag that rivals the iPhone. This automatically puts it out of reach of a majority of Nexus users who used to buy the handsets for the terrific value for money they offered. Assuming you already own a Nexus 6P, you can sell it for around $300-$350 depending on where you live. The 32GB Pixel XL has been priced at $769, which means that you will need to shell $419 at the very minimum to buy the handset. And this is for the 32GB variant of the handset. While the Pixel XL does offer an improved display and battery life, it does not offer enough upgrades over the 6P to justify the additional $400 that you will have to spend to upgrade to it.
In that same price, one can get the excellent OnePlus 3 that is more compact than the 6P, offers a stock Android-like experience, and comes with Dash Charging that will probably forever change your charging habits.
Even if one looks beyond the OnePlus 3, the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge offer far better value than the Pixel or Pixel XL. At this point, the Galaxy S7 edge is more than six months old which means that its prices have come down drastically. One can now easily pick up the S7 edge for around $550. For that much money, you are getting an excellent 12MP shooter, a curved display, excellent battery life, a beautiful design that is also dust and water-resistant. Yes, TouchWiz will likely not hold a candle against the Pixel XL in terms of software experience, but until and unless you are a pure Android lover, it’s not something that is going to bother you a lot.
Are you still sold on the Pixel XL and will be upgrading to it from your Nexus 6P? If yes, why? Drop a comment and let us know!