Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are out and officially available in India and looks like the Droid Army is divided now – On one side there are the OnePlus fans, to whom OnePlus 6T is a device that provides better value for money, and Samsung fans are there who are quite proud for not having a notch. On the other side, there are people to whom a little budget hike is no issue, and they love the pure Android experience and Google’s software tricks. I have been using the Pixel 3 XL for quite some time so that I can share my thoughts about the device. However, here, I won’t make any comparisons between the Pixel 3 and any other Android flagships, it will be a Pixel 3 XL Long Term Review that will be centred around just the phone, its features and what it provides. Let’s begin:
Google Pixel 3 XL Long Term Review
The Pixel 3 XL is the Google third generation in-house designed smartphone showcasing company own’s view on how an Android device should be, embracing the Google’s own applications and services with a seamless compatibility with literally any Application & Accessory available for Android. Pixel phones are exactly what Android was meant to represent, to provide users with Android equivalent of the premium smartphones that Apple builds. Both Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are the main ingredients and the foundation for a great smartphone. With a display so good, a battery life which never disappoints, an unbeatable camera and water resistant, Pixel 3 XL is a perfect smartphone for anyone.
Design & Build
Google wanted to make the Pixel 3 XL simple, and quite recognizable. The two-tone back is something that returns in the Pixel 3 XL as well, in a more refined way where frosted glass is being used now, and there is support for wireless charging with the full glass back, though, now the Pixel 3 XL is less slippery with the matte finish. The back is quite minimal, housing the camera and the flash, along with a fingerprint scanner.
Despite the glass build, the Pixel 3 XL feels solid, while being premium at the same time, but some of the users and even reviewers now have settled down with that notch on the front. Yes, the notch is bigger than expected, however, I got used to it after using it for a few days.
The edges are smoother now, thanks to the curved aluminium rail running across the edges. This time, the single SIM tray is placed at the bottom along with the USB Type-C port, leaving the left edge of the phone completely clean. On the right edge, there are the volume and power buttons. There is the same Active Edge feature so that squeezing the phone opens up the Google Assistant. In terms of colour options, there are three descriptive colours – Clearly White, Just Black, and Not Pink. Overall, I must admit that the Pixel 3 XL is a gorgeous device for sure, without the gimmicky triple or quad camera lenses on the back and without gradient colour shifting back.
Display & Hardware
Now let’s talk about the display of the Pixel 3 XL first, being the hot topic of all Pixel 3 related debates. The Pixel 3 XL display stretches to 6.3 inches corner to corner. There are two stereo speakers at the top and bottom of the phone, because of which the phone has a slightly bigger notch and chin. Speaking of the notch, it won’t bother you at all once you start using your phone regularly and all of the apps works fine with it. The notch doesn’t interfere with any app layout, as the app display starts below from it. After some time, you won’t even notice that it has one!
In terms of the resolution, the Pixel 3 XL has a resolution of 1440×2960 pixels with a pixel density of 523ppi, and because the Pixel 3 XL has an OLED panel, everything looks just crisp sharp with lots of vibrancy and detail. The images pop really well and the sunlight visibility is good. HDR content is supported on the device so playing HDR content from Netflix is a delightful experience. The Pixel 3 has a smaller 5.5-inch Full HD+ P-OLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and a pixel density of 443 PPI.
Now, in terms of hardware also, the Pixel 3 XL is having top notch hardware and many capabilities that are backed by the hardware to reduce the use of more components. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, coupled with 4GB of RAM. I had a thought that Google could go with 6GB of RAM, but the 4GB of RAM felt quite adequate, and about the experience, I would like to talk later.
This kind of top-notch hardware surely blends well with the software & the performance of the device was buttery smooth – be it multitasking, browsing the web or intense gaming. Throw a couple of apps to it and the phone will handle everything nice and tidy, I played a few games like PUBG and Asphalt 9, both are known to be resource hungry games, and well, within the game, I didn’t notice any lags, except the server level lags, which is common in PUBG.
Let’s talk about probably the biggest thing on Pixel 3 XL, which is its cameras. But don’t get fooled by the plural form. There is still one 12.2 MP lens on the back, doing everything and doing many things better than other flagships with dual or even quad camera setup on the back. The photos that came out of the Pixel 3 XL had an astonishing amount of detail, closer to natural colours, had ample brightness and had preserved the sharpness.
The camera app in Pixel 3 XL brought a way to take portrait shot taking capabilities & others feature with a new app layout. The app looks minimal but packed with tons of features. There is a feature called Top Shot, which captures images before and after you hit the shutter button, and lets you pick the best one of the bunch. You need to keep the “Motion” feature ON always to use Top Shot feature.
The Photobooth feature is another example of Google’s search of perfection in the software department where the camera automatically takes photos when it finds a quick movement or dramatic smile.
Google Lens is now integrated into the camera app, so that you can just activate Lens and point your camera to anything to find information, copy phone numbers, and email and do more!
On the front camera as well, there is the portrait mode and this time, Google has added two 8 MP lenses on the front making it possible to fit more people in the frame using the wide angle lens.
There is a Nightscape feature which will make it possible to click natural and good looking photos in low light conditions, without using flash.
The Pixel 3 XL also brings Super Res Zoom, which is a computational method of zooming into photos by calculating the pixel variations developed from the shake of your hand. It works quite good, and it is definitely a step ahead of traditional digital zoom, but it is not as good as pure optical zoom yet. And here are some of the photos taken using the Pixel 3 XL under different lighting conditions, and there are a few kinds of shots ranging from portraits to landscapes to low light shots.
Software and OS
The software is one of the key reasons, after the camera, why every Pixel launch is special. This time, with the Android 9 Pie Google has brought a gesture-based navigation, which is a default for Pixel 3 XL. Just like the notch, for the first one or two days, it feels a bit weird, but once I got used to it, it was pretty snappy and handy, providing bigger previews of apps and a horizontal multitasking experience. Android 9 Pie also brings the new Digital Wellbeing features in Android 9 Pie, which lets users limit their smartphone activities. There is the new ‘Flip to Shhh‘ feature letting me activate the Do Not Disturb mode in a snap! The Active Edge feature works well and is quite handy while you need Google Assistant at your fingertips and I used it most when I needed to look up for information.
The Pixel 3 XL has quite a loud audio output & the quality is definitely better than average. The dual front-firing speakers produce clear but loud output, even the bundled USB-C earphones sound good. However, if you are a music junky and very peaky about your personal choices, you may need to upgrade to a better pair of headphones. The bundled earphones produce rich sounds, and it feels quite balanced and in most of the cases like gaming, watching TV shows the phone seem to fulfil the audio needs in a nice way.
The Pixel 3 XL packs a 3,430mAh battery. The phone lasts a day easily and we consistently got a screen-on-time (SOT) of 5+ hours. If you are a heavy user who uses GPS a lot, plays a lot of games and make many phone calls each day, you may need to top it up once by the night for sure. For the moderate usage, and with the increased usage of Social Media these days, You would need to charge it by the next morning which is still great.