Google Pixel 3 XL Review
A few weeks ago, our good friends at Google Canada sent over the Google Pixel 3 for us to review, and we’ve been doing so over the last number of weeks. The biggest changes to the device come within the camera options, which we dive into deeper here. Ultimately, we found the Google Pixel 3 XL to be a brilliant phone with a few potentially problematic issues, so let’s dive in and see if this phone will be right for you!
We’ve discussed the build quality of the Google Pixel 3 XL at length already, but it’s worth noting again here how outstanding this phone looks and feels in your hands. The gorilla glass front and back panels are held together nicely by an aluminium frame. The two-toned backplate – a signature for Google devices – is fantastic as well, and does a good job at hiding those messy and dirty finger prints. Unfortunately, the biggest issue with glass is how they can fill up with scratches. For light use and the occassional display down placement on tables, the glass holds up pretty well. However, users without a case for their phone will quickly notice scratches accumulate on the backside of their phone.
Thankfully, Google was nice enough to send over the official Google Pixel 3 XL case to us, and it looks fantastic on the phone!
On the front side of the device you get a beautiful OLED screen on both the standard Google Pixel 3 and the XL model, both of which are a major improvement over the somewhat disappointing screens on the Google Pixel 2. The 6.3 inch XL and the slightly smaller regular version have very small bezels, which again is an improvement over last years device. The notch on the Google Pixel 3 XL is quite large – and has been a major discussion point since Google unveiled the device – but is this way to accommodate the two front facing ‘selfie’ cameras, and of course the front facing stereo speakers. Like the device before it, both the standard and XL version of the Pixel 3 do have that dual speaker system, which is fantastic for watching movies and playing games.
The large notch is more of a cosmetic issue, rather than one that causes any serious issue viewing the display, although I’ve noticed that less notifications show in my top toolbar on account of the notch, as opposed to the standard Pixel 3 which removes the notch in favour of a large bezel. If having notifications in the upper bar is important to you, the standard version of the Google Pixel 3 might be a better option.
Camera That Rivals All
The camera on the Google Pixel 3 XL is fantastic, and although it might rely on some gimmicky features to maximize the potential, I’ve still found many of the added features helpful, including the new Group Selfie option – which utilizes both cameras on the front of the phone to allow users to zoom out and capture a larger group photo.
The best new camera feature, however, has to be the Top Shot feature. Top Shot is what Google is calling this little feature, and although they aren’t the first to leverage this type of technology in their smart phones, they are doing it better than the rest, in my opinion. Top Shot will shoot many frames in succession, and then grab a few that the phone things are optimal, and highlight those for you. The bursts of shots will quickly add 15-20 pictures to your library, but a quick scroll after the shot allows you to chose your favorite (or favorites) of the bunch, discarding the rest.
Why is this so handy? I’ve learned that when taking pictures of my kids, getting a good shot is almost impossible. One kids is picking his nose, the other has turned his head. It’s generally a disaster. With Top Shot, I can now look through a burst of photos and hopefully find one where both kids are presentable. It might not always work – as you are still relying on your subjects to smile and look at the same time – but it does give you a better chance of capturing the right moment. And who knows, you might catch something else that is creates a lasting, positive memory, without intending too!
The way Top Shot works is that the phone will be looking for a number of key components to recommend the right picture. Is the subject even looking at the camera when the picture is shot? Can we see the subjects eyes, or are they blinking in certain frames? Using these, along with other general criteria, allows the operating system to highlight the most optimal photos. This is a time saver for sure, and a feature I won’t want to live without regardless of what phone I am using.
Under the Hood
Under the hood is where the Google Pixel 3 XL begins to pale in comparison to it’s counterparts in the marketplace today, although had I not dove into the deeper features of the phone for this review, it’s likely something I wouldn’t have noticed. While other devices are loading in 6 to 8 GB of RAM into their phones, the Pixel 3 XL is limited to 4 GB of RAM; on top of this, there is no expandable storage options on this device, which makes it far inferior to other Android devices which to offer the option.
And this is a big disappointment for myself, especially with the new and improved camera. With all the pictures I plan to be taking on family vacations – and trust me, my wife and I take a ton! – I feel like I may need to offload those photos each night as my review unit doesn’t have a large enough storage capacity to handle the photos. Sure, a bigger phone can be purchased, but a hefty price increase follows.
The phone runs the latest Android operating system, utilizing all the great Google features, and so when compared to other Androids on the market, it’s right up to par, if not slightly ahead thanks to more the useful and versatile Google Assistant (as opposed to the Assistants on other phones).
Where’s That Headphone Jack
Just because so many other cell phone companies are opting to remove the headphone jack from their phones, doesn’t mean it’s right. One of the biggest issues I have with some of the latest technology coming out of the major companies is the internal desire to push people towards BT connectivity. As someone who owns numerous high quality headsets and earbuds, I want to use them on my device, without an adaptor.
The headphone jack adaptor is nice, but know one wants to carry around yet another item for their cell phones; it’s great that Google has at least included a pair of USB-C earbuds, which were not present in the Pixel 2 release.
Ultimately, You Want the Pixel 3 over the XL
Since we only had the privilege of using the Pixel 3 XL, the next part of this review comes from word of mouth, from other reviewers in Canada using the regular device over the XL. I’m fine with the XL, as I have larger hands, and the large notch doesn’t seem to hinder my ability to use my phone to its full potential. That being said, I’m not everyone else, and word on the street is that if you are going to pick up the Google Pixel 3 – and you definitely should – opt for the standard version rather than the XL.
The great thing about this launch is that Google did not shave off features and experiences when going from the XL to the standard. Outside of the screen size, the phones are largely the same, having the same new camera features, the same great Google Assistant, and more. The size difference, however favours the regular edition. It’s easier to handle – it is a fairly slippery phone with all glass front and back – displays all your notifications because of the lack of a notch, and just feels better in your pocket. Save the extra bucks, and get that standard sized model.
We plan to have a ton more on the Google Pixel 3 as we uncover more and more of what it can do. We touched on the main pros and cons, but still have yet to scratch the surface on the features available in this phone (which can easily be seen on the Google website)! Things such as flipping the phone on its face to instantly enable “Do Not Disturb” mode is great, and playing games on the device is as good, if not better – thanks to the awesome forward facing speakers which are louder than the Pixel 2 – than it is on other Android devices.
There is so much to love about the Google Pixel 3, whether in the standard of XL format. It’s definitely not a phone you’ll want to pass by, especially if you enjoy a mix of photo shooting, game playing, and Netflix watching.