Review: Google Pixel XL
The Google Pixel XL is a compelling smartphone. It's not without faults, but the pros far outweigh any cons.
To me, the biggest con is the hardware. The Pixel XL is simply a boring phone to behold. Nothing about the design stands out in a meaningful way, other than the weird glass panel on the back — at least in the black and white versions. The blue color is certainly unique, but it's less appealing due to the limited storage. The metal-and-glass materials are assembled well enough, and thankfully the screen kicks some butt. The XL is an LTE data monster, but more of a mouse when it comes to call quality. Battery life is on par with competing devices, and the phone's secondary radios all do their job well. The fingerprint sensor, with its notification shade trick and app-level security, gives other fingerprint sensors the middle finger.
The software — and Google Assistant in particular — are what should draw most people to the Pixel XL. Android 7.1 Nougat is the most usable version of Android I've ever encountered. It makes just the right set of tweaks to simplify and empower the user interface. Google Assistant is genuinely helpful. I've used Google Now and Siri for years, but Google Assistant has convinced me to talk to my phone a whole lot more (it's not weird, I promise.)
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Last, but not least, the camera. It's simply one of the best I've tested this year and is easily on par with that of the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7. Toss in free, unlimited, full-resolution backups and you have a winning combination.
If only it didn't cost so much. The Pixel XL costs a whopping $770 for the 32 GB model and a soul-crushing $870 for the 128 GB model. That's as much as the 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus. The one ray of light here is that both Google and Verizon will let you finance the phone through monthly payments.
The Pixel XL is Google at the top of its game.
OtterBox's Commuter case for the Pixel XL is a rugged, rubber-and-plastic shell that provides plenty of protection for your pricey smartphone slab. The Commuter delivers more safeguarding against drops than many other options for the Pixel XL.
Google's own Clear Case for the Pixel XL lets users focus on the phone rather than a busy design, but it falls short in covering some basics. It's an inexpensive option, to be sure, and yet you can probably find better ways to spend your money.
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