Google Pixel XL review: Upsampled

Upsampled

GSMArena team, 28 October 2016.

Display

Google was very careful when picking the display of the Pixel XL - yes, a 5.5" diagonal is an industry standard, but the resolution and type of display were chosen to benefit its VR effort Daydream.

QHD resolution makes for a sharp 534ppi pixel density. VR is unforgiving when it comes to pixel density, even though outside this viewing case we find 1080p to be enough.

There is a "Display size" setting that changes the scale of the UI, something we're normally used to seeing in heavily customized ROMs. You can adjust it to your eyesight - if it's good, the high pixel density allows for small, dense text. Or you can take it easy and bump up the scale to make things readable (there's a separate setting for font size).

Google Pixel XL review

The Pixel XL uses an AMOLED display, specifically a low-persistence display. There is an option called "low motion blur" in the settings and it is specifically for Daydream. You can turn it off entirely, but not enable it for normal operation - it achieves the high frame rate required for VR (and removes ghosting) but is too demanding for regular phone use.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Google Pixel XL 0 432
Samsung Galaxy S7 max auto 0.00 563
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge 0.00 392
Apple iPhone 7 Plus 0.41 573 1398
Apple iPhone 7 Plus (max auto) 0.50 681 1362
LG V20 0.43 475 1097
LG V20 Max auto 0.59 628 1064
ZTE Axon 7 0.00 352
OnePlus 3 0.00 433
Huawei P9 Plus 0.00 400

The 5.5" screen is reasonably bright - 430nits at maximum - but lacks the boost some AMOLEDs do in Auto mode and very bright conditions.

This could have affected its best-case sunlight legibility, but the truth is that the Pixel XL screen is one of the best we have tested under a bright light.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
    4.439
  • OnePlus 3
    4.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    4.376
  • HTC One A9
    4.274
  • Samsung Galaxy Note7
    4.247
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Google Pixel XL
    4.164
  • ZTE Axon 7
    4.154
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    4.09
  • Huawei Nexus 6P
    4.019
  • OnePlus X
    3.983
  • Vivo Xplay5 Elite
    3.983
  • Oppo R7s
    3.964
  • Apple iPhone 7
    3.964
  • Huawei P9 Plus
    3.956
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
    3.918
  • Samsung Galaxy C5
    3.911
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.896
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 outdoor
    3.879
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 outdoor
    3.873
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
    3.859
  • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
    3.817
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.802
  • Xiaomi Redmi Pro
    3.798
  • LG V20 Max auto
    3.798
  • Sony Xperia XZ
    3.795
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    3.789
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    3.783
  • Meizu Pro 5
    3.781
  • Microsoft Lumia 650
    3.772
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.756
  • Oppo F1 Plus
    3.709
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Sony Xperia X Compact
    3.694
  • Apple iPhone SE
    3.681
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Meizu PRO 6
    3.659
  • BlackBerry Priv
    3.645
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3.588
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    3.523
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.523
  • Acer Jade Primo
    3.521
  • Microsoft Lumia 950
    3.512
  • Oppo R7 Plus
    3.499
  • nubia Z11
    3.466
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • LG V20
    3.402
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s
    3.276
  • Samsung Galaxy J2
    3.235
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
    3.234
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Huawei P9
    3.195
  • Lenovo Vibe Shot
    3.113
  • Motorola Moto X Force
    3.105
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Sony Xperia X
    2.989
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Huawei Mate 8
    2.949
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3S
    2.913
  • Sony Xperia XA Ultra
    2.906
  • LG G5
    2.905
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    2.884
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Microsoft Lumia 550
    2.851
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro
    2.803
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3
    2.735
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Huawei P9 Lite
    2.679
  • Vivo V3Max
    2.659
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Sony Xperia XA
    2.609
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • LeEco Le Max 2
    2.567
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Lenovo Moto G4
    2.544
  • Oppo F1
    2.528
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
    2.525
  • Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c
    2.506
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • Oppo F1s
    2.481
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus
    2.473
  • Huawei G8
    2.471
  • Huawei nova
    2.467
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Lenovo Vibe K5
    2.459
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2.406
  • Sony Xperia E5
    2.386
  • ZUK Z1 by Lenovo
    2.382
  • HTC 10
    2.378
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
    2.378
  • Huawei nova plus
    2.329
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
    2.254
  • Sony Xperia C5 Ultra
    2.253
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek)
    2.249
  • Sony Xperia C4 Dual
    2.235
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4
    2.145
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Mi 4S
    2.095
  • Acer Liquid X2
    2.084
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • Moto G 3rd gen max manual
    2.026
  • Xiaomi Mi Max
    1.996
  • Sony Xperia E4g
    1.972
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Meizu m3 note
    1.923
  • BlackBerry Leap
    1.892
  • Meizu m2 note
    1.892
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • ZTE Nubia Z9 mini
    1.759
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Asus Zenfone Selfie
    1.68
  • Motorola Moto E (2nd Gen)
    1.675
  • ZTE Nubia Z9
    1.659
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Xiaomi Redmi 2
    1.311
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215

The color accuracy is fairly average - nothing like the accurate Nexus 5X screen or even the HTC 10, which scored pretty well in sRGB mode. The Pixel XL lacks any color screen modes besides the night-time blue light filter, so you are essentially stuck in the Vivid mode of the HTC 10.

For reference, the Pixel XL screen posted an average deltaE of 5.4 and a maximum of 13, compared to HTC 10's avg 2.9/max 5.8 and iPhone 7 Plus' avg 1.3/max 4.

After some digging, we found an sRGB option hidden in the Developer settings. Enabling it dropped the average deltaE to a very good 2.6 and the maximum to 4.7. That makes it better than the HTC 10, though still far from iPhone's accuracy.

Color accuracy is only part of the equation - the color gamut (the number of possible colors) is another. Apple already dove into that market with Wide color gamut displays on the iPad Pro and now iPhone 7 Plus. Samsung has been sticking closely to sRGB and even introduced HDR on the Galaxy Note7 (while that model failed, it's almost certain that the Galaxy S8 will have an HDR screen too).

Connectivity

The Google Pixel XL uses the latest commercially available modem, the Snapdragon X12, and it supports LTE Cat. 11 - that's 600/75Mbps (limited to Cat. 9 450/50Mbps on some carriers).

For supreme audio quality there's Ultra HD Voice, which works either over VoLTE or Wi-Fi (side note: if you use Google's Project Fi carrier, Wi-Fi calling will be a common occurrence). You need carrier support for this, of course, but Qualcomm says it is more resilient towards spotty connectivity than regular HD Voice.

Also, the Qualcomm Fluence Pro technology is used for the noise cancellation. Interestingly, it uses two microphones for the handset and three mics when you use the loudspeaker (as you can imagine, the Pixel XL has three mics).

The rest of the wireless connectivity holds no surprises - fast Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac (2x2 MIMO), Bluetooth 4.2 (with A2DP and LE), A-GPS with GLONASS and NFC. The latter is used for the Android Pay service, secured by the fingerprint reader, the Pixel Imprint.

Wired connectivity has USB Type-C running at USB 3.0 speeds, but no TV out functionality. Oh, and let's not forget the headphone jack on top! With USB Type-C supporting analog audio, it wasn't a given that Google will keep the old-school port.

Battery

The Google Pixel XL packs a 3,450mAh battery - not bad for a 5.5" phone. The Nexus devices never had a reputation for great battery life, perhaps the Pixels can turn things around.

The USB Type-C port supports fast charging - Google says that in just 15 minutes of charging, the phone will have 7 hours of "mixed use". In our measurement, the supplied charger charged the battery from 0 to 46% in just 30 minutes.

The charger uses the USB Power Delivery standard (instead of QuickCharge and the like), which is rated at 18W. If you try using a Quick Charge 2.0 or 3.0 charger with the Pixel XL, it would default to 5V/2A charging current, which is not bad either.

Google has fit a fairly large battery and with the latest iteration of the battery-saving Doze feature, it managed to squeeze a 78 hour Endurance rating out of it. This beats the iPhone 7 Plus (which, to be fair, has a smaller battery), but isn't as good as Galaxy S7 edge's 98 hours (well, 67 hours if you want to use the Always on screen).

The Pixel XL lived up to its promised 32 hours of talk time and even over-delivered slightly. It didn't last the promised 14 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, though - we only measured about 9 and a half hours. That's hours behind both the iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy S7 edge. The video playback got closer to the official 14 hour mark, but not that close. For comparison, the S7 edge lasted 20 hours of playing video.

Google Pixel XL review

The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you're interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we've tested will compare under your own typical use.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

Right absolutely

  • Sockman

I'm a Tech Dummie but as Retiree with plenty of time to sample a number of Devices I have found the Google XL to be an excellent product. Of course it's not on par with the latest smartphones but compared to other older phones it is top-not...

  • Joyjoyz

I am doing retention .