THE BLOG
11/21/2016 10:26 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Google Pixel XL: Android Users Finally Have Their 'iPhone'

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[Photo by Daryl Deino]

Google has done something that Samsung, HTC, Sony, and others could never do - they made an Android phone that runs just as smoothly as the iPhone. Google has shocked many in the industry with both the Pixel and its larger brother, the Pixel XL. Let's take a look at the Pixel XL.

Build & Design

The Pixel XL looks and feels like the iPhone 7 Plus. The glass and metal design helps the Pixel XL feel expensive, but not special. The phone looks and feels very basic -- but that hardly matters in the scheme of things.

Unlike the iPhone 7 Plus, it does have a headphone jack. Unfortunately, there are no stereo speakers (but the one monaural speaker is top-notch), and Google didn't make their phone waterproof. In other words, don't drop your Pixel XL into the toilet.

Screen

Now, we're getting into what really makes the Pixel XL stand out. The Super AMOLED screen is the best one that has ever existed on a smartphone - it's even better than the screen on the recalled Galaxy Note 7 (Google's device has yet to blow up in someone's face) or the iPhone 7 Plus. The quad HD screen is a technological masterpiece. It's as if the colors are looking at you rather than the other way around.

The Pixel XL can also get blindingly bright - so much that you can practically use it as a flashlight given that you have it on a white screen. Setting the XL to 60 percent brightness provides a completely satisfying viewing experience while also saving battery life.

Performance

The Pixel XL runs the latest version of Google's operating system, Android 7.1 Nougat. This operating system makes it easier to switch between apps, helps improve battery life, offers better notification options, and has better toggle options. Android still isn't on the same level as Apple's iOS, but on the Pixel XL, it comes very close. Everything runs buttery smooth and internet browsing on Chrome is just as good as it is with Safari on the iPhone.

There have been "reports" that the iPhone 7 "crushes'' the regular Pixel in performance tests. However, on the Pixel XL, which has many of the same specs as the regular Pixel, one can barely notice. In the real world, the Pixel XL runs just as fast (or maybe slightly faster) than the iPhone 7 Plus.

The fact that the Pixel XL runs the latest Snapdragon 821 processor along with 4GB of RAM helps take the performance of this phone to the highest level. Even though the Pixel XL is a brand new phone, there haven't been any significant bugs.

Multimedia

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The Pixel XL rear camera may look basic, but it takes outstanding pictures.
[Photo by Daryl Deino]

The only thing missing from the Pixel XL camera is a 2X optical zoom lens, which the iPhone 7 Plus has. Otherwise, the pictures taken with the 12.3MP rear camera lens are almost DSLR quality. It's shocking how good the Pixel XL takes pictures in low-lit situations.

The Pixel XL also takes fantastic 4K videos at 30fps. They look less compressed than the 4K videos taken with the iPhone 7 Plus. Unfortunately, you can't shoot videos with stereo sound out of the box, but one has a choice to purchase one of several small stereo mics to do this. Playing videos back on the gorgeous screen is a great experience, even with the XL's monaural speaker.

Phone Quality

Using the Pixel XL and the iPhone 7 Plus at a Los Angeles hotel with the same caller in Chicago, Illinois reveals that the Pixel XL has a slightly clearer sound, although the listener claimed my voice had more "oomph" to it on the iPhone. He did say that although the call on the Pixel XL sounded great, it sounded slightly tinny when my voice wasn't within centimeters of the microphone. Android phones have always been a mixed bag when it comes to call quality, but the Pixel XL is, overall, a winner in this category.

Battery Life

The Pixel XL offers better battery life than any smartphone present or past. It is just remarkable how such a powerful phone can easily last power users all day, and it will last non-power users two days. This isn't the type of smartphone that requires you to carry a charger with you at all times. If you charge it to 100 percent (or even 90 percent) while you sleep, you are guaranteed to get at least a full day's use from the Pixel XL.

Conclusion

Google is now a major player in the smartphone game. They always were a major player in terms of software, but have proven to be able to make a smartphone that checks all the major hardware boxes. Apple certainly thought they dodged a bullet when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was recalled. But there's a new kid on the block, and -- for many -- the Pixel XL will be the best smartphone they can buy, regardless of the expensive price tag.