The Pixel 3 XL is the best Pixel phone you can buy. It’s as good as the iPhone and the Note 9 in many areas and better in a few other areas. If you are looking for a phone to get you through 2019, the Pixel 3 XL needs to be at the top of your list.
Google packs this phone with an epic Night Sight camera mode that turns pitch black into shareable moments, screens your calls for you and the design is excellent.
You will give up access to a micro SD card slot, headphone jack and you will need to deal with a notch. Adapting to the notch and headphone jack are easy, but you may need to work around storage.
The Pixel 3 XL is a phone worth upgrading to, it’s a phone that is worth switching for and it is definitely worth buying. If you’re torn between the smaller and larger model, here’s what you need to know about how the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL stack up. There are a few reasons to wait, but for the most part it’s a good time to buy.
You can buy the Pixel 3 XL on Verizon, which loaned us this unit, or buy direct from Google to use on a range of carriers.
Pixel 3 XL Display & Notch
The Pixel 3 XL features a 6.3-inch display, a little smaller than the iPhone XS Max, and like the iPhone it features a notch.
While the notch is narrower than on the iPhone it is deeper, so it’s something that users will notice — at least for a week or two.
In my experience the notch is something I wish wasn’t there, but also something that I start to ignore on a phone in a week or two. It’s frustrating at times while watching videos full screen, but it’s ultimately a new feature we are stuck with outside of Samsung and LG.
My main gripe with the notch is that it’s not adding enough to justify its existence. While the iPhone packs in Face ID, Google is only opting for a wide-angle lens.
The Pixel 3 XL display looks great with sharp images and bright colors. While it isn’t as bright as the competition it was bright enough for me and I enjoyed using it for videos, taking photos and browsing Reddit.
Pixel 3 XL Design
Google nails the Pixel 3 XL design outside of the notch.We get wireless charging that makes topping off the phone as simple as setting it down. While most phones use a fingerprint collecting glass back, the Pixel 3 XL uses a matte finish that looks great and doesn’t show any fingerprints.
It feels lighter but also more resilient than the iPhone XS Max. The power and volume buttons are both on the right side, and are separated enough to easily find the right button.
Google doesn’t use Face ID, instead opting for a well placed fingerprint reader on the back of the phone.
Pixel 3 Camera
The Pixel 3 camera is the star of the show with useful modes like Night Sight that turn a previously uncapturable moment into something you can easily share on social media. This isn’t a one trick camera. You get great looking photos with a lag free shutter and a really stellar portrait mode.
If selfies are your thing the new wide-angle front facing camera lets you take in more of the scene or take a group shot nicely. Portrait mode works on the front facing camera as well.
The Pixel 3 XL portrait mode does a better job of capturing great bokeh and accurately detecting the edges of the subject than any other phone we’ve tested.
With Top Shot the Pixel 3 captures multiple frames so that you can go back and find the perfect photo, even if it happened before or after you took the shot. You’ll get a recommendation after the photo and the best one is saved at full resolution while the others are kept at a lower quality.
With Super Res Zoom you can digitally zoom in to take photos. This is in place of an optical zoom. It’s usable for sharing on social media, but it’s not as good as the optical zoom on the iPhone or many other Android phones. Overall the image quality is good, but some users will find photos too saturated.
Speakers & Headphones
The Pixel 3 XL features two front facing speakers that sound really good. They are 40% louder than the Pixel 2 XL and they do a good job of filling a small to medium size room with rich, vibrant sound. This setup is much better than the downfacing speaker on the iPhone XS bottom edge.
Like the iPhone XS and XS Max, there is no headphone jack on the Google Pixel 3 XL. You get USB C earbuds with the device, but no adapter to use your own headphones. You’ll need to buy a USB C to headphone jack adapter for your own headphones or to connect to line in while in a car, or you’ll need to invest in wireless headphones.
Pixel 3 Software & Performance
The Pixel 3 XL runs Android 9.0, aka Android Pie. This is the latest version of Android and it’s quite useful and packed full of smart features on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Google’s Pixel 3 XL is packing a Snapdragon 845 processor inside. This is a speedy phone that can handle everything you throw at it without blinking.
Google uses AI features to enhance the experience and pairs this with small touches like a new flip to shh mode that puts the phone into a do not disturb mode when you flip it over and then undoes this when you pick it up.
The Screen Call feature is insanely useful and something I wish every phone had. When I get a call and want to know more before answering I can tap screen call and the caller gets a prompt to say more about the call. From here, you will see what they are saying in near real-time, and can pickup, tap to prompt for more info, answer the call or hang up with a message.
The Pixel 3 Xl uses the new Android Pie gesture based navigation which takes some getting used to, but is easy to use once you make the switch.
Pixel 3 Battery Life
While the Pixel 3 XL has a bigger battery than the Pixel 3, it still isn’t going to get you through the day every day without charging some. This is similar to the battery life on my iPhone XS Max.
After a busy day of streaming music, making calls, playing a few casual games, using email and the browser I am around 30% by the end of the work day. Most days I can squeeze out a full charge without plugging in, but I prefer to top off with a wireless charger or USB fast charging to be safe.
Wireless charging is handy, and it is finally available on the Pixel. You get normal speed charging on most chargers and 10W fast wireless charging with the Pixel Stand.
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