Google Pixel XL review: Upsampled

Upsampled

GSMArena team, 28 October 2016.

Performance

The Google Pixel XL is in the first wave of devices with Snapdragon 821, which suggests it's one step better than all S820-based devices. Not so fast - there are really two versions of the 821 chipset and the Pixels use the AB model.

What's the difference? Well, the processor in the AB is clocked at at 2.15GHz/1.59GHz (big/little cluster respectively) and the GPU is at 624MHz. Those are the exact same clock speeds as the Snapdragon 820. For comparison, the non-AB chipset is at 2.34GHz/2.19GHz for the processor and 653MHz for the GPU. So we don't expect any real boost in performance despite the "821" number suggests.

Google Pixel XL review

We have a Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus, which does use the non-AB Snapdragon 821. It has a sizable 20% advantage in single-core performance. In that respect, the Pixel XL is not very impressive and is on par with most S820 phones, including the LG V20 (which is the only other Android Nougat device in this test). But many others post better scores - OnePlus 3, Galaxy S7 edge, Moto Z Droid too.

GeekBench 4 (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    5664
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    4333
  • Google Pixel XL
    4152
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    4130
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    4128
  • OnePlus 3
    4045
  • LG V20
    3890

Qualcomm's tweaking allowed for higher maximum clock speeds, but when all cores are active, the boost isn't nearly as high. Here the Pixel performs much better, matching the Moto Z and Galaxy S7 edge it lost to earlier and is only about 5% behind the Xiaomi.

In both tests, Apple's in-house chipset used in the iPhone 7 Plus wins by a wide margin.

GeekBench 4 (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3473
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    1815
  • OnePlus 3
    1719
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    1696
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    1694
  • LG V20
    1590
  • Google Pixel XL
    1507

The Pixel XL comes with 4GB of RAM - the standard for a 2016 flagship and nothing crazy like OnePlus 3's 6GB. But the amount of RAM doesn't have a big impact on the AnTuTu 6 score - the iPhone 7 Plus has the least (3GB) but scores the highest and the OnePlus scored only as much as the Google phone.

Basemark OS 2.0 doesn't think much of the Pixel XL either - pure Android, the latest version in fact, without any bloatware or custom skins running on a new high-end chipset and the results are nothing to write home about.

AnTuTu 6

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    173110
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    151619
  • OnePlus 3
    141764
  • Google Pixel XL
    141186
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    132849
  • LG V20
    101167

Basemark OS 2.0

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3796
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    2690
  • OnePlus 3
    2365
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    2352
  • Google Pixel XL
    2281

The GPU, having been denied a bump in clock speed, posts the expected Snapdragon 820 scores. It's enough to push a very demanding game at 1080p resolution, at native QHD the game will have to par back its graphics fidelity.

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    60
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    49
  • Google Pixel XL
    47
  • OnePlus 3
    46

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    56
  • OnePlus 3
    45
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    31
  • Google Pixel XL
    30

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    36322
  • OnePlus 3
    32715
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    32160
  • Google Pixel XL
    30861

Starting with Nougat, support for Vulkan is mandatory (some Marshmallow phones had it too). Vulkan is the future of OpenGL and requires at minimum OpenGL ES 3.1 support. Vulkan benchmarks aren't mature yet, but we do have a roster of OpenGL ES 3.1 tests. No surprises here either, though.

To be fair, even the higher clocked version of Snapdragon 821 didn't make much of a dent in the more demanding benchmark.

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    39
  • Google Pixel XL
    32
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    32
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    32
  • OnePlus 3
    31

GFX 3.1 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    42
  • OnePlus 3
    30
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    18
  • Google Pixel XL
    17
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    16

GFX 3.1 Car scene (offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    20
  • Google Pixel XL
    19
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    19
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    18
  • OnePlus 3
    18

GFX 3.1 Car scene (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    20
  • OnePlus 3
    18
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    12
  • Google Pixel XL
    11
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    10

Basemark ES 3.1 / Metal

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    1517
  • Lenovo Moto Z Droid
    648
  • Google Pixel XL
    626
  • OnePlus 3
    625
  • Galaxy S7 edge (Snapdragon)
    624

Don't believe the Snapdragon 821 hype - unless the "big" CPU cluster is clocked a 2.34GHz, you're still getting the same Snapdragon 820 performance that we've had for most of this year. Yes, even the 821 AB is about 5% more power efficient than its older sibling, but that's a small consolation.

We were especially excited for the 821 chipset as Google made a big deal about Daydream and the GPU is the bottleneck in VR (instead of rendering to one screen, it has to render to two - one for each eye). In short, the Google Pixel XL is as fast as you may expect a top Android phone to be, but there really is no real advantage over the early-2016 devices.

We have to give it to Google and HTC, though, the UFS 2.0 storage is highly impressive when it comes to read speeds (writes are okay, but nothing spectacular).

Reader comments

Loyal and fanatic Pixel and iphone user here. I am currently going through the entire line of pixels. Typing this on a Pixel XL. I found one new in the box on ebay. Ok. It runs hot. Other than the speed and panel it can't hold a candle to the ip...

  • Anonymous
  • 25 Feb 2021
  • X$r

Right absolutely

  • Sockman
  • 20 Feb 2021
  • YcT

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...