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Google Pixel 3 XL review: the smart smartphone

Picture: TechnikNews
(Post picture: © 2019 TechnikNews)

The Pixel 3 XL belongs to the third generation of Google's own smartphones. Presented in last October, it should stand out from the crowd with smart software and an "outstanding" single camera. I was able to test the smartphone.

Unboxing and initial setup

The Pixel 3 XL comes in a simple packaging on which there is a picture of the smartphone, various lettering and a Google logo. If you lift the lid, the smartphone lies at the top in a plastic case. Underneath, Google refined a case containing, among other things, a SIM tool and two stickers, and a pair of in-ear headphones that look very similar to the Pixel Buds. They are made of white plastic and are connected to the Pixel via the USB-C connector. I personally didn't like the sound of the in-ears at all, because it has almost no volume and is very muffled. For short listening to music, however, they are completely sufficient. In addition to the headphones, there is a small box with the power supply unit and the charging cable, which has USB-C on both sides. A small clip was also attached to the charger to hold the cable together. A USB-C to jack adapter and a USB-C to USB-A adapter were included at the bottom of the packaging.

Setting up the third generation pixel for the first time is very easy. Select the language, add a Google account, possibly restore a backup and grant some permissions, if desired. There is nothing more to do here. A matter of 20 minutes in total, if not less.

Interesting design and good workmanship

The Pixel 3 XL is available in three colors: Just Black (black), Clearly White (white) and Not Pink (of course, it's pink, of course). I had the second color option here for testing. The choice of material fell largely on glass, with the mint green power button made of plastic. I think that wasn't a good decision as this one feels pretty cheap. On the other hand, I like the mint green color accent, and the volume control feels all the better.

The mint green plastic power button feels a little cheap (picture: TechnikNews)

The SIM slot is located on the underside of the device, which is interesting because it only has space for one nano SIM. The memory cannot be expanded, so there is no integrated microSD card reader. Right next to the SIM slot there is the USB-C connection, which is based on USB 3.1.

A few words about the back of the glass. Yes, glass back. Because even if it doesn't seem so, it is made entirely of glass. The larger lower detail just has its own texture that feels a bit like silicone. Many of you probably noticed the fingerprint sensor in the photos. This works very reliably, even if it is not the fastest on the market. The Pixel 3 XL also offers quick wireless charging. The full loading speed can only be enjoyed with the Pixel Stand, an extra accessory from Google.

One thing that bothered me a lot: The vibration motor is quite weak, which means that I did not notice a call a few times.

Oversized notch

If you turn the device over, you will be greeted by the Super AMOLED display. This is 6,3 inches tall and has a resolution of 2960 × 1440 pixels. The picture is very sharp and looks like a sticker on me. And even if the colors are not as bright as on the Note 9, they convinced me with normal use. Only when tilting the smartphone did I notice a slight bluish cast on white surfaces. Because AMOLED is used here, Google was able to easily implement an always-on mode. In standby mode, only those pixels are activated that are required to display the time and other information, such as notifications. To prevent the content from being burned in, the position of the time changes regularly. But you hardly notice that.

Now we come to one thing that probably keeps most people interested in the Pixel 3 XL from buying: The notch. There is probably no smartphone where this is even more noticeable than with the Pixel 3 XL. In my opinion, it could have been less. But that would be nothing Problem if you could at least hide them properly. But that is not possible. If you try to disable the notch in the developer settings, the entire content of the notification bar is moved down. So you lose space. Google could definitely have solved the whole thing better.

On the positive side, I have to say that the notch houses the second speaker of the stereo speaker (the first is under the display) and the two front cameras, which I will get to in more detail later. Regarding the stereo speakers, I can say that I liked them very much. I had a lot of fun enjoying series and listening to music with it.

Top specs and slim Android

In the Pixel 3 XL, the topProprocessor from Qualcomm from last year, that would be the Snapdragon 845. We will probably see the newer Snapdragon 855 in the Pixel 4 and in the Pixel 4 XL see. The Snapdragon 845 has four gigabytes of RAM and, depending on your choice, 64 or 128 gigabytes of memory. This overall package achieves a total of 236.105 points in the AnTuTu benchmark. Geekbench achieved 2260 points in the single-core test and 7623 points in the multi-core test. In my experience, no task is too big for the Pixel 3 XL. Everyday tasks are mastered with the left hand anyway and Asphalt 9 also runs smoothly on the smartphone. Only with the size of the RAM do I have some concerns about future security.

In my opinion, the software contributes to the good performance. It runs stock Android Pie (version 9) with the Pixel Launcher. There is also the latest security patch for January 2019. And the latest version of Android should still run on the 3 XL for at least two years - Google made a three-year update promise.

I'm a big fan of the operating system myself. Everything looks very modern and minimalist. I also really liked all the smart features that were implemented. I once looked for my dentist's number on Google and the name of the practice is now displayed in the call flow instead of the number. I also found it very helpful that when trying to turn the smartphone in landscape orientation, a small icon appears in the navigation bar, which has to be pressed so that the screen content rotates. Nothing else happens before that. I also celebrated Now Playing a lot. If you have activated this function, the pixel automatically recognizes which song is currently playing in the background. The title and artist are shown on the always-on display and in the notification center. This feature even worked once when I had the phone in my pocket.

I was a little less convinced of the new gestures that Google introduced with Android 9 Pie. What bothered me here was that you have to drag your finger from the bottom to almost the top to get to the app drawer. If you skip too early, you only start the multitasking menu. What I liked better, however, is that you just have to drag to the right on the navigation pill to switch to the last app you used.

Intelligent battery thanks to software

Now a few words about the battery. This has a capacity of 3430mAh and can be fully recharged in just under two hours thanks to Quick-Charge. I couldn't test the charging speeds with wireless charging because I didn't have such a charger at hand. The screen-on time in my test was often between four and six hours. So I always came proflawlessly throughout the day. My Honor 8X still often manages an hour more screen-on time.

I found the "Intelligent battery" function interesting. This limits the backgroundprocess of apps that are rarely used. As a result, I got more usage time on the second day of my test phase than on the first. Pretty impressive. But there is a catch: the restricted apps can no longer send notifications.

Good shots despite the single camera

Last but not least: the camera. Unlike other manufacturers of top smartphones, Google still relies on a single sensor here. This has a resolution of 12,2 megapixels at f / 1.8. The photos that this smartphone can take are absolutely amazing in my eyes. Photos in good light have very good colors and lots of detail. Even when you zoom in on the image, it is hardly blurred. And even in poor lighting conditions, the Pixel still takes pretty good photos. To artificially brighten the images, you can access your own mode here, called “night vision”. Personally, however, I liked pictures in the dark without “night vision” better. I also really liked the portrait mode. Here software is used to calculate which pixels have to be blurred and which not. Works amazingly well, even if the mode went wrong with my cat's photo.

And then there is the front camera. Sorry, front cameras! There are two on the front, both of which have a resolution of eight megapixels and can also produce decent photos. I particularly noticed that you can also create portraits with the front cameras and that you activate the wide-angle mode by zooming out. This can be helpful, especially with group selfies.

Prices and availability

The Google Pixel 3 XL is available in the above-mentioned configurations in Google Store (only for those interested in Germany) and on Amazon. The MSRP for the entry-level version is 770 euros. For the more expensive variant, 990 euros can be charged.

Summary

I had a lot of fun with the Pixel 3 XL and it's also a good companion in everyday life. The simple and easy-to-use software, the good performance and the outstanding camera clearly contribute to this. And even if the battery life could be a little better, in the end you should always get through the day. If Google gets rid of my two biggest points of criticism, which would be the notch and the gesture control, in my opinion the Pixel 3 XL is a smartphone that anyone looking for a flagship smartphone can use without hesitation.

Thank you for providing the Google Pixel 3 XL.

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David Haydl

David lives in Graz and has been there for around half a decade TechnikNews, also editor-in-chief for some time. He regularly provides the site with news, test reports and the like TechnikNews Weekly, which was his idea to launch. He likes to spend his free time outdoors, listening to a lot of music (and clearly too loud) and some podcasts on all kinds of topics, and also likes to go running. He enjoys the time that remains with his charming girlfriend or in front of the TV.

David has already written 1144 articles and left 108 comments.

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