Google Pixel 2 XL – Hands On + Q&A

By 14th November 2017Phones, Reviews

Google Pixel 2 XL

You’ve heard about it and it’s true – the Google Pixel 2 XL is arriving in Singapore very soon – 15 November to be exact. And yes, I have one for review. I’ve been getting a whole bunch of questions from friends, family; even strangers on the street about this Xtra-Large wonder – so i’ve decided to consolidate all that into a little Q&A for everyone to read. Here’s my thoughts.

How’s the Pixel 2 XL’s screen?

It’s a 2560 x 1440 QHD P-OLED screen by LG. It’s got generally better colors and contrast than LCD’s used in the iPhone 6, 7 and 8 and Android phones all around. It performs very similarly to the display on the LG V30+, but does NOT look as great as the AMOLED displays on the Pixel 2, iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

 

Does the Pixel 2 XL’s screen have a blue tint and is it really that bad?

Yes, it has a blue tint. You can clearly see the blue tint once you look at the Pixel 2 XL at a slight angle. It is actually not that obvious to people not particular about displays – I showed this to my family and almost everyone couldn’t tell that it had a blue shift until i showed them the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 side by side. However, if you work as a designer or photographer, and are sensitive to color temperature – the display’s color shifting is very, very obvious.

 

Is there burn-in on the Pixel 2 XL’s display?

No. Haven’t noticed burn-in across the past few weeks.

 

How does the Pixel 2 XL feel in the hand?

It’s wide and tall, but easy to hold and surprisingly light for a phone. The Note 8 feels like a brick in comparison. It is difficult to reach the notification bar by touch, but thankfully you can pull down the notification bar by swiping down on the fingerprint sensor.

 

How’s the speed of the fingerprint sensor?

It’s the fastest one we’ve used to date. We love how it’s integrated with some secure apps – i’ve used this to log into my banking tools on phone.

 

How’s Google Lens?

Google Lens is amazing. I’ve tested it and it can identify iPads, Macbooks, Coke Cans, Scenery and Landmarks. The most handy feature for me is taking photos of name cards, product packaing or street displays with telephone numbers or contact info – Google Lens automatically extrapolates the important info such as company name, titles, emails and phone numbers and you can even save the info or call/email direct from the Google Lens screen.

 

Can Google Lens really identify anything and everything?

It can identify simple and obvious objects, but it can’t detect faces of individuals and sometimes mis-identifies objects at an angle. For example, it thought that an Apple Magic Mouse 2 was a skateboard deck, and the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact phone I was holding was a phone from the Pixel line. It will get better over time, however. #machinelearningthings

 

Is the camera awesome?

Yes. It is very good. You can open the camera super quickly with a double press on the power button. Photos are snapped extremely fast. Let’s be real, it doesn’t produce the most colorful and sharp photos out there – but it produces very, very good, true to life photos. It cannot handle highlights in very bright/dark situations very well, but it still performs decently all around. Videos are pretty good, and the camera does perform relatively well in low light. We wish the camera app had more controls like the LG V30+ though – there’s no timelapse mode or manual controls.

 

How about the front facing camera?

Yes, it’s pretty good. It shows all the ugly blemishes on my face very well (hey, gotta admit it’s good at capturing details yeah?) but it also has a ‘beauty mode’ to smoothen out any ugly features.

 

Is that portrait mode really good, or just a gimmick?

Portrait mode is incredible. The number one feature of the camera is portrait mode – and this beats the one on the iPhone X, Huawei Mate 10, and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 hands down. Google has managed to achieve very realistic and awesome-looking bokeh (background blur) with only one camera lens and software tricks. Get this – portrait mode works on multiple people and objects too. It can detect more than one person in the foreground, and blur out people in the background as well. #morewithless

 

How’s the audio on the Pixel 2 XL?

The dual front facing speakers on the Pixel 2 XL are incredibly loud. They reach the almost unbearable levels of the HTC U11 but they don’t distort at high volumes. I have to turn this down to 70% indoors so i don’t get shocked at my notifications.

 

No headphone jack? ):

Yup. No headphones in the box either. SAD. (I’m guessing the big G wants folks to buy the Pixel Buds.)

 

How’s the music over USB C and Bluetooth though?

Sounds decent and normal. Nothing outstanding or special.

 

How’s Google Assistant?

Good, very useful. You can ask it anything and it either returns you a specific answer or searches your question on the web if it doesn’t know. It can tell you where the nearest ATM is, how to get to work by car, how to get to school by public transport – even how to get to Mustafa! Best thing – you can squeeze the phone to activate Pixel, or just say “Okay Google” to activate it (Support for the new “Hey Google!” hotword is not available in Singapore English – EN-SG at the moment). Most useful feature for me? Telling it to wake me up five minutes later when i really don’t want to go to work in the morning. Handy!

 

Can it really speak and understand Singlish?

Well..yes and no. It can understand Singapore English contexts better – like Mustafa, CTE, PIE and some local names, but it cannot tell you what Kopi C Siew Dai or Bak Chor Mee is. It can tell you who Lee Hsien Loong and Halimah Yaacob are though. At the end of the day it’s more of an easter egg than anything else, but like Google Lens, it will get better over time. #machinelearningthings

 

You can identify music automatically with the Pixel series right?

Yes. It works like auto-shazam – it automatically detects music around you when you’re out and about shopping, or in your office. You can also ask Google Assistant “What’s Playing?” and it will answer. You can also ask Google Assistant to play some tunes. These two features are still not finalized in Singapore and don’t work fully, but they’ll be up 100% on launch day!

 

How’s Android 8.0?

Very, very smooth. Easy to use. The stock launcher is incredibly useful. I miss using the super customizable Nova launcher, but Google has done a very good job in pulling me over to their side. The User Experience (UX) on Stock Android 8.0 is very, very good. I do wish it had a theme engine, or a manually selectable dark mode for UI so it can save battery (OLED screens use less power when displaying black or dark colors).

 

How’s the battery life?

I get 4-5 hours of screen on time with 16 hours of use. This will last you one full day. There is a built in battery saver that works relatively well. It’s got fast charging over the USB power delivery standard, but charges slower than most phones with Qualcomm quick charge.

 

Any downsides to the Pixel 2 XL?

So far, the screen is the biggest disappointment for me. It just doesn’t perform as well as the displays on the iPhone X, Pixel 2 and Note 8. I’ve also been getting random restarts from time to time, and charging over the USB C adapter is slightly slower. There is also no headphone jack. The music features don’t work as they should, but they will be getting fixed. These problems are really just minor imperfections though – even the serious ones like the screen issues don’t BREAK the phone experience. It’s awesome to use.

 

Pixel 2 XL vs Pixel 2 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8 vs LG V30+ vs iPhone X – Who da best? What should I pick?

Pixel 2 XL – get this if you like a good performing all-rounder phone, and if you are a fan of Google stuff, the latest Android updates, big phones with an awesome camera. If you can overlook the lack of a headphone jack and screen color tint, this phone is for you.

Pixel 2 – smaller brother of the Pixel 2 XL with a better screen (AMOLED, better color and no blue tint) but horribly thick bezels and no headphone jack. Performs the same as the Pixel 2 XL so if you want a smaller phone, this is for you!

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 – performs slower than the Pixel series, but offers a much better screen experience. Camera is on par but produces very colorful and sharp photos. Very feature packed. Heavier than the Pixel 2 XL. If you Samsung fan, or you want the biggest, bestest screen or most features – Samsung is the way to go.

LG V30+ – very similar the the Pixel 2 XL, and with the screen issues too. It’s on an older version of android with serious bloatware (LG has loaded this thing with a massive amount of features), but the camera is super versatile and offers the best manual controls we’ve seen.

iPhone X – get if you like iOS and are stuck on Apple and have money to throw away. It’s got a AMOLED screen better than the Pixel 2 XL and LG V30+, but performs on par with the Pixel 2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

 

I’m SOLD. Where can i get one?

Only at Singtel. On contract. Here. Yes, I’m a little sad on the availability too. I want to buy this off contract but there are no other options. Price is a little on the high side and will cost you around S$1200+ if you calculate the phone’s standalone cost apart from the contract.

 

Got more questions? These guys do too.

 


 

Hungry for more details on the Pixel? Not sold on the Google Pixel 2 XL yet? Ask away on the comments section below or reach out to me on Facebook!

Stay tuned for the full hands on review coming very, very soon!

Billy Zheng

Author Billy Zheng

Billy is a writer and photographer based in Singapore who aims to bring readers an insightful local angle on the hottest consumer electronics. He has a huge passion for gadgets and mainly covers smartphones, laptops, PC’s, wearables, cameras, and audio equipment. Outside of work, he plays the guitar, experiments with web + graphic design and plays lots and lots of computer games.

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