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Google Pixel 2 Review – Keep It Compact or Go XL?

Molly
Senior Editor, TipsHire

If you’re planning on upgrading to a new smartphone and you’re hooked on Android as an operating system, you cannot possibly ignore Pixel 2 or its big brother, Pixel 2 XL as an option. Released in October 2017, Google’s new creations have often been named the best Android smartphones.

Some prefer the Pixel 2 XL for its bezel-less and larger display. Others favor the compact design of the Pixel 2. Most go wild praising their camera. The specs are quite impressive as well, but do they justify the price? Let’s not jump to conclusions before taking a closer look at what these phones have to offer!

About Pixel and Pixel XL

According to Google, the only difference between the two smartphones lies with their size and appearance. However, many magazines found the difference significant, and gave the Pixel 2 XL the upper hand, penalizing Pixel 2 for its outdated look.

Appearance

No one seems to favor the edges around the screen Pixel 2 inherited from its predecessor. However, let’s not forget that the same bezels are present in other popular phone models, from HTC U11 to OnePlus 5 and the more pretentious iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

Leaving bezels aside, Google makes your choice easy: the small and not so futuristic-looking Pixel 2, or the stylish and larger Pixel 2 XL. The former comes with a 5-inch screen with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and AMOLED display, while the latter relies on a POLED panel.

Both models have bright colors, ensure a great view from any angle, and adjust their color scheme to ambient lighting. With the Saturation Mode update, Google already allowed users to customize the color scheme as they see fit, so any screen coloring issues have been resolved.

At the rear, both phone models display the same mix of aluminum and glass. Due to the matte finish of the aluminum coating, holding either phone will feel comfortable, and you won’t have to worry about fingerprints.

The fingerprint sensor is located near the center, below the glass. The camera juts out slightly in the left side of the phone’s top. The top glass cover houses and hides the antenna, preserving the phone’s neat appearance.

The volume and power buttons are conveniently placed on the right edge. The only port available is a USB Type-C at the bottom. For those addicted to their headphones, Google included a 3.5mm jack adapter they can plug in the USB port. There is also the option of using a set of Bluetooth 5 standard headphones.

Music lovers will be able to listen to their favorite tunes streaming out loud through the stereo speakers representing a silver lining at the top of the phone’s front. Any blockage or orientation issues noticed in the preceding Pixel models have disappeared, so you can expect quality, well-balanced sound even at high volume.

Performance

Pixel 2 follows on the steps of its predecessor, delivering excellent performance with the help of its powerful 4GB RAM processor – Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. Since both the hardware and the software are Google’s in-house creations, you can expect full integration between them, just as between Apple’s iPhone and iOS.

Don’t expect any performance issues, like apps launching slow, scrolling difficulties, and game running faults, as there won’t be any, not even with graphically-intense fight games like Transformers: Forged to Fight.

However, Pixel 2 does not yet live up to the title of the fastest device available. Other Android phones like Galaxy Note 8 and LG V30 seem to do even better, and iPhone 8 Plus remains the market leader from this point of view.

Pixel 2 seems to recover the points it lost to Pixel 2 XL in terms of appearance when it comes to performance, since its processor powers a smaller screen, of a lower resolution. Again, this does not mean you will encounter any performance issues. It is just a comparison between industry leaders.

Storage

Both Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL come with two storage options: 64GB and 128GB. The double storage capacity comes with a price increase of $100, so it is up to you to decide if it’s worth it. Don’t look for MicroSD card slots in these two smartphones, because there aren’t any.

You should be able to do just fine without them, though, considering that Google offers free unlimited storage on Google Photos, and there are many other apps you can use to send your photos and videos to a cloud storage platform like Dropbox.

Camera

Perhaps the best thing about Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is their camera. It might very well be the best camera available on a smartphone, certainly the best on an Android phone. Although Google has yet to follow the dual-camera trends, their latest phone models feature a fast 12MP camera with a 1.8 aperture.

The camera app may take one or two seconds to process the photos, but the waiting time is definitely worth it. The results are stunning. All details are there, rendered extremely realistic, and the accuracy of the colors is incredible, certainly better than with the first Pixel phone model.

You have optical image stabilization, so the level of light doesn’t really matter. The HDR+ mode remains on all the time, helping you take photos even of dark objects on bright backgrounds of bright objects on dark backgrounds.

While exposure is at its best, you may find the autofocus a little frustrating, since it rarely focuses on the subject you tap on. If you move the phone a little, the exposure of the photo will change significantly, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, it just takes some getting used to.

Pixel 2 and 2XL traded their predecessors’ “Lens Blur” for Portrait Mode. With this feature, you can blur the background behind your subjects and create DSLR-like photos. If with the previous models you had to tap the shutter icon and raise your phone a little over the subject, to enable it to gather depth data, everything now takes place automatically, via software.

Once you have the subject in front of you, all you have to do is tap to focus and press the shutter icon. Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL identify the edges around your subject, even hair, and add the blur around them. Some think the Pixel 2 generation still cannot match the results of iPhone 8 Plus, but even so, the results are amazing.

The Portrait Mode works even better on the selfie camera.  You can place Augmented Reality Stickers in the photos you take for the social media and even make them interact with your subjects, other stickers, or the viewer.

Another feature you’ll love is Google Lens. It works with Google Assistant to help you identify and books, landmarks, artwork, album and video game covers, and movie posters. If you use it on a business card, it will identify the contact details and ask you is you want to call the owner, send them an email, add the data to an existing contact, or save it as a new contact.

Battery Life

Unfortunately, not all about Pixel 2 and its bigger brother is “wow”. Battery life is one of the aspects that could use some improvement. You shouldn’t expect the 2,700mAh battery to last more than a day if you use your smartphone moderately.

In fact, you should consider keeping a battery pack or charger around. Luckily, the charger Google provides does a great job and really fast. You can charge your battery by 50% in less than one hour. To avoid having to use the charger too often, make sure you have the standby mode active and leave your phone in it whenever possible.

User Experience

As you may already know, the operating system is Android 8.0 Oreo. If you’re familiar with the delicious Oreo cookies, the OS offers a comparable experience, plus security and version updates immediately after release, faster than on any other Android phones.

Although as clean and simple as the preceding Oreo versions, 8.0 introduces a few convenient features like Picture-in-Picture, Notification Dots, and unread notification badges on app icons. The notification drawer was redesigned as well.

To access it, you have to swipe down. For apps, you have to swipe up. A swipe to the right will let access the Google feed. Pressing and holding the home screen will let you add widgets, double tapping the screen will get the device out of standby mode, and sliding your finger up and down the fingerprint sensor is a simple way to open/close the notification drawer.

If you’ve owned a fairly good Android phone before, you are already familiar with these commands. You are definitely not familiar with the At a Glance widget. You’ll find it at the top of the screen, displaying the date, weather info, and upcoming calendar events.

If you are used to having the Google search bar placed at the top, you’ll be surprised to find it moved to the bottom. It should be easier to tap, though, so it’s not something to complain about. When pressed and held, the power button will let you see a redesigned Power Off and Restart interface, similar to the App Shortcuts layout. The Settings menu is simpler and denser.

All in all, Google’s Pixel 2 phones offer excellent performance and incredible user experience. They may not be the best on the market, but they are surely an option worth taking into account, especially since they come with some exciting features.

Google Assistant

This is probably the biggest strength of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, even though it hasn’t seen many changes from the preceding models. You can use it to activate search queries, send text messages, set reminders, and more, using only voice commands.

Pressing and holding the home button will activate the artificially intelligent assistant. A new option to summon it is using the Active Edge function, namely squeezing the phone’s sides. It comes in handy when you can’t unlock the device, press and hold the home button, or say “OK Google”.

Now Playing

It is a new feature, one you don’t even have to activate every time. It runs in the background, recognizes the songs playing wherever you go, and displays the artist and song name. According to Google, the feature works online, drawing its info from a database that receives weekly updates.

As a result, it may not always manage to detect the song, especially if it’s an unofficial mix or a less known song. When it fails and you want to know more about the song or the singer, you can ask Google Assistant to identify it.

Technical Specs of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL

  • Android OS, v.8.0.0 (Oreo) as operating system
  • Cinematic FHD AMOLED always-on display of 5-inch / 127mm, 441ppi 16:9 with 2.5D Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5 on Pixel 2
  • Fullscreen QHD pOLED 6-inch / 152mm always-on display, 538ppi 18:9 with 3D Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5 on Pixel 2XL
  • Two internal storage options: 64GB and 128GB
  • Pixel 2 weighs 143g and measures 5.7 x 2.7 x 0.3 inches (145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm)
  • Pixel 2XL weighs 175g and measures 6.2 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches (157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm)
  • 2MP, 1.4 μm rear camera with laser and dual pixel phase detection autofocus, electronic and optical image stabilization and f/​1.8 aperture
  • 8MP, 1.4μm front camera with fixed focus and f/​2.4 aperture
  • Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 processor (2.35Ghz + 1.9Ghz,Adreno 540, 64Bit Octa-Core) with security module
  • Front-firing stereo speakers
  • 3 mics with noise suppression
  • 2700 mAh battery for Pixel 2 and 3520 mAh battery for Pixel 2 XL
  • GPS and GLONASS location in the U.S., plus BeiDou and Galileo in the rest of the world
  • 4G + 5GHz 802.11 a/​b/​g/​n/​ac 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi connection
  • Bluetooth 5.0 + LE
  • eSIM
  • NFC
  • Google Cast
  • Sensors: Pixel imprint, ambient/proximity light sensor, gyrometer/accelerometer, magnetometer, Active Edge, barometer, Android sensor hub, hall effect sensor, Advanced x-axis haptics for well-defined, sharp response
  • USB Type-C™, 3.1 Gen 1 and Single Nano SIM ports
  • Aluminum Unibody

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Price and Warranty Details

Pixel 2 prices start at $899 in the Google Store. The price went up from $649 within just days. Pixel 2XL costs from $1398 upwards. The good news is that there is a store financing program that lets you cover the price in 24 no-interest monthly payments.

Although the two smartphones are available with Verizon, Best Buy, and other retailers as well, Google remains the best source for it, as the phones they sell are not locked on a specific carrier network. Both phone models come with free delivery.

Google currently warrants their products for two years. Those who want peace of mind beyond this period should consider a paid program like Preferred Care. Available for both Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, it costs $169 per device and brings about the following benefits.

  • 30 months of coverage for accidental damage, effective from acquisition
  • 6 months of coverage for mechanical breakdown, effective after the manufacturer warranty period
  • Access to 24/7 specialized support
  • Unlimited number of priority sessions to help you make the most of your device.

Judging by the feedback it has received so far and by Google’s interest to mitigate any issues with their products (they promise free updates for three years), Pixel 2 and its bigger brother should work fine for at least a few years, unless you have a habit of dropping it on hard surfaces or in water.

The Bottom Line about Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL

As shown above, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are not perfect. One has bezels but a better display, the other one has a bigger display and more stylish and futuristic design. None of them has impressive battery life, but they compensate for it by fast charges.

Their prices are quite high, but not exaggerated for the above-described specifications and features. These are not the best smartphones available on the market, but they are among the leaders, especially if you narrow down your options to Android smartphones and you care about the quality of the photos you take.
With Google Assistant, Play Now, Lens, and other attractive features, Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL could make a worthwhile acquisition for anyone. Now that you know what they have to offer, you have to consider how they answer your own needs and whether you can afford any of them.

If you decide to invest in either of these smartphones, don’t forget to share your choice with us and provide feedback in a comment or in a detailed review. We would love to find out what your experience with Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL was and whether you would advise others to buy them.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Google Pixel 2

I am a simple, optimistic, and straightforward wife and mother, lucky enough to be making a living doing what I love – reading and writing.

I have a MS degree in Sociology, and extensive training in Marketing, Human Resources Management, Work Health and Safety, Finances, and Quality Management. I am also a member of the International Association of Professional Writers & Editors.

I have extensive experience in sales, marketing, project management, event planning, and financial counseling. Writing has been my lifelong passion and a profession for the past decade. I wrote thousands of articles for agencies like 101Content, WriterBay, and Express Writers LLC, several eBooks, and hundreds of product reviews.

My education, thirst for knowledge, and professional and life experience make me a self-taught expert on health, weight loss, relationships, pregnancy, motherhood, and lifestyle.

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