The Google Pixel 2 XL will officially retail in Singapore from 15 Nov 2017. It is a much-awaited moment for Android fans because the Pixel is the first Android smartphone that is designed entirely by Google, unlike the Nexus series where Google outsources the development and manufacture to smartphone partners like HTC, LG, Huawei.
Google Pixel 2 receives much hype thanks to the excellent review of the original Pixel smartphone’s camera. Another big reason to love the Pixel 2 is its pure Android 8.0, showcasing the best of Android OS capability. I am not a fan of pure Android OS, but I do seem to enjoy reviewing Pixel 2 XL a little more than other phones based on pure Android because the UI is extremely responsive.
Here are some key points of owning the Pixel 2 XL:
- Pure Android OS means getting software updates earlier than any other Android phones. This is probably the biggest reason to get it over other Android phones.
- Latest Snapdragon 835 processor that makes the phone run smooth with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.
- Critically-acclaimed camera with dual pixel with portrait mode for both front (8MP f/1.8) and rear (12.2MP f/2.4) camera that achieves blur background.
It not only removes background. It also blurs the foreground to achieve narrow depth of field.
In general, the images have the DSLR quality and right amount of sharpness without too over-processed on the HDR and the exposure level.
The camera has the ability to capture a larger dynamic range than most average cameras, which helps in post-processing.
Low light photos are still grainy, but that’s because Pixel 2 does not over-process and remove the details.
- Front-facing stereo speakers that sound pleasing and warm without the harshness at the treble
- Unlimited Google Photo cloud storage at original resolution until 2021. Having said that, you will still incur data usages when backing up.
- Music Now shows the current song that is played near the phone. Google claims it detects based on an off-line database pre-downloaded, so it does not consume data when listening.
- Date-Calendar Widget. Most of the Android widgets show the time, which is kind of redundant since the time is always at the top right corner of the phone. The Pixel 2’s widget is a lot more useful as it shows the date, and any upcoming calendar events. If you are interested, you can install a similar widget from Google Play Store called “Another Widget“.
- Supports LDAC audio codec, a Sony proprietary format.
- Supports Pixel Buds instantaneous translation feature, although this can already be achieved using the Google Translate app over the smartphone speaker.
- Long Battery Life. The phone lasts a full day with a little less than half remaining. It gives me the confidence to use the phone aggressively without fear.
- USB Type-C 5V/3A or 9V/2A fast charging, achieving full charge in just an hour.
- IP67. Its water resistance rating means I feel safe with casual water contacts.
But there are just as many drawbacks with the Pixel 2 XL:
- Display Quality. Pixel 2 XL offers rather good display, but when put side by side to Pixel 2, exhibits blue tint when viewed at an angle. This is a known characteristics of OLED displays. The latest software updated added more display mode options, which reduces the blue tint slightly.
- No blur adjustment for Portrait Mode, unlike Huawei or Nokia 8 or Samsung Galaxy Note8.
- Messy camera folder. Pixel 2 XL stores the portrait mode images in a separate folder for each photo, and it gets really cluttered over time. The file naming convention is also incomprehensible.
- No headphone jack. There is an included USB Type C adapter, but it is just inconvenient. The wireless audio codec makes up to this, though.
- Google Play Music app does not support 24-bit 192 kHz, or 5.1 surround FLAC files. This is worse off than many flagship smartphones I tested.
- No wireless charging. I don’t use it, but given it is an official Google device, it sends a signal that Google does not endorse smartphones supporting wireless charging.
- Active Edge Squeeze (HTC U11 feature) only supports activating Google Assistant. Google did not learn from the Samsung Bixby button fiasco.
- Lack of software features compared to other smartphones. Being a clean Android OS, it lacks many features that Google deems unofficial. For instance, Display Colour Temperature adjustment, customising the Glance display.
- No micro SD card expansion. I usually do not use it because it generally slows down the phone, but it’s good to have at times when you really need that storage expansion for good reasons.
I love the experience of using the Pixel 2 XL and the unique matt body texture. It does feel a little broad on the hand, despite having the same 6-inch 18:9 display spec as LG V30, but just stick a Popsocket behind and you should be able to handle this phablet comfortably.
The camera is indeed one of the better ones in the market, and as described by most other reviewers, the images have the DSLR quality without the excessively processed feel. It also means they might not go well with consumers who desire a more punchy look. Google also revealed that there is a dedicated image processing chip in the phone, which explains how it can achieve blurred backgrounds with just a single lens.
The Pixel 2 XL caters to the Android purists who would pay any price to enjoy early Android OS features, like Pixel Buds translate, Music Now, Google Lens, Portrait mode. It is the best pure-Android smartphone, but not the best-featured Android phone. Available exclusively to SingTel Mobile subscribers with contract from 15 Nov 2017.