Google Pixel 4 XL review: an emotional roller coaster
Half a year before the actual launch leaked Google is proud of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. But can that be the company too? I took a closer look at that.
Yes, it actually happened that a company gave information about new ones even before an actual presentation Proproducts has announced. In particular, the features that are new compared to the predecessor have been advertised big and proud in advance. But how do these features fare in everyday life, and is the pride justified?
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Unboxing and initial setup
I already have that Pixel 3 XL tested and the packaging has largely not changed since then. On the packaging you can see the smartphone again, a logo and the Proproduct designation. A nice detail is that the sides of the packaging also show the sides of the smartphone. If you now lift the lid, the first thing you see is the pixel. Including a USB-C power adapter, a USB-C cable, a USB-A to C adapter, a SIM tool and several guides. A jack adapter, in-ear headphones and stickers are no longer available. Although, I personally don't mourn the loss of the headphones, because I didn't find them that good anyway.
The facility is as straightforward as ever. You switch on the device and first select the language and the region. This is followed by points such as entering the Google account and setting a lock method. This is also the first time you meet Face Unlock, the competitor to Face ID. In my opinion, the setup of this was even faster than the one I tested iPhone 11 take place. In between there is another possibility to import an existing backup. Then you have to agree to the usage guidelines and you can start using it. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes.
Design and workmanship
The Pixel 4 XL is available in three color combinations. The version that Google made available to me for the test has a black back made of glass, a black frame made of plastic and a white power button (Just Black). Another combination has a matt, orange back, also a black plastic frame and an orange power button ("Oh So Orange"). The last variant has a white, matt back, here too the frame is black and the power button is orange (Clearly White). I think it's actually very good that the frame is made of plastic. This ensures that it doesn't slip out of your hand so easily. The choice of material for the back enables wireless charging.
I can't understand why Google didn't give all models a matt back. It would generally look better, with no visible fingerprints, and fewer scratches. Speaking of the back, you can still find a subtle Google logo in the lower half. The glass window known from its predecessors has been removed, but there is now a dual camera that protrudes a little more inconspicuously than on the comparable iPhone 11.
The USB-C connector and a first speaker of the stereo setup are installed on the underside. The second sits in the earpiece, as is so often the case. The sound that comes out of these is qualitatively on a similar level to that of the iPhone. There is no headphone jack - but honestly, who needs that in the age of Bluetooth headphones? The left side and the top are completely blank.
On the right we have a volume control and the power button.
As with the predecessor, I really liked the workmanship of the smartphone. The pixel is even protected against the ingress of water and dust (IP68).
The Pixel 4 XL's P-OLED touchscreen measures 6,3 inches diagonally and covers around 81 Procenter of the front, the aspect ratio is 19:9. The resolution is 1.440 x 3.040 pixels, the refresh rate is 90 Hertz. HDR is also supported.
Thanks to the P-OLED technology and HDR, the colors are very strong and the black is very deep. In addition, the panel can get very bright, which can be very useful, especially now that summer is approaching. A slight bluish tint is only noticeable when the smartphone is tilted a little. To be fair, one has to say that with this Proproblem not only Google has to fight.
Now many are probably wondering why the top edge of the display is so wide and the bottom edge so thin. This is because the components for Face Unlock are installed there. Face Unlock is there to unlock the Pixel and basically works like Apple's Face ID. To set it up, you hold your face in front of the sensors and turn your head in circles a few times, allowing the software to create a detailed "map" of your face. Once set up, Face Unlock will always be used for unlocking. And that's really fast! You hold the smartphone in front of your face, the motion sensors activate the display and before you know it, you're on the home screen. Maybe I'm leaning a bit far out of the window here, but I think that the Prozess here faster than at Apple. However, I would have liked an option where I have to swipe up again after a successful scan so that I can read my notifications without immediately ending up on the home screen. On the other hand, I think it's good that unlocking also works when you hold the smartphone in landscape format.
The sensors in the “notch” activate the display when the device is on the table and the user approaches. They also allow a kind of gesture control, where you can control the music by hand movements in the air, for example. Google calls this "Motion Sense". But I quickly refrained from doing that because it doesn't really work well and looks a little ridiculous.
Specifications: Proprocessor, memory, battery life
The Google Pixel 4 XL is powered by a Snapdragon 855 from Qualcomm. There is also the Adreno 640 for graphic tasks. Six gigabytes of RAM are available for open apps, and you can choose between 64 gigabytes and 128 gigabytes of memory. In my opinion, the small number of options is a bit poor for 2020, especially when you factor in that there is no microSD card slot either.
The performance, on the other hand, is at a very high level, as I expected. Apps run like clockwork and don't say goodbye so quickly in the background - thanks to the six gigabytes of RAM. Another factor contributing to the smooth user experience are the simple animations of Stock Android, but I'll come back to that in detail.
Certainly a disadvantage for some: There is no WiFi6 and no 5G either. Personally, however, that didn't limit my use.
Let's talk about the battery life first. The battery has a capacity of 3.700 mAh, which by today's standards is not that much anyway. Even with the Pixel 3 XL, the runtime (usually five hours screen-on-time) wasn't that great, but you are progot through at least one day without a hitch. With the Pixel 4 XL, the whole story looks different again – negatively different. More than 4,5 hours of screen-on-time was never possible here, just as little as a whole day without charging. I don't think I have to explain to anyone that this is unacceptable for smartphones in the upper price range. I don't think so either ProThe problem will be fixed with an update in the future since the phone has now been on the market for half a year.
The battery is charged again after almost two hours if you choose the variant with the cable.
The latest Android 4 runs on the Pixel 10 XL from Google. You also get the latest security patch. Because this is a Google smartphone, one can expect that there will be updates for many more years to come, which is very positive and not so secure with other Android devices.
As mentioned briefly before, I find that the software clearly contributes to good performance. The animations are very simple and there is no unnecessary bloatware. So it is stock Android, without any adjustments. In addition, the material design of the software with the Google Sans font looks very plain, simple and modern. Here you can clearly see where Google's strengths lie.
For the navigation through the OS, Google has relied on a system similar to Apple. There is a small bar in the lower center that serves as a starting point for various gestures. If you swipe upwards, for example, you get back to the homescreen. I find the back gesture somewhat incomprehensible by swiping from the left or right edge of the screen to the center. If you start from the left, it can happen that you open the pull-down menu in some apps. But you can row back to the three-point navigation in the settings.
In the Pixel 4 (XL), Google has integrated a dual camera for the first time. The first sensor (wide angle) has a resolution of 12,2 megapixels with OIS and an aperture of f / 1.7. The second camera has a 16-megapixel resolution (telephoto), also with OIS. In addition, this sensor has a double optical zoom. In addition, Google's camera software is quite a bit ahead of other manufacturers' software.
And wow, the photos have once again completely convinced me. In normal lighting conditions, the results could be mistaken for looking out of the window. The colors are already dangerously close to the point. This camera is clearly one of my favorites in a smartphone. Only the camera angle is a little too small for my taste. With other smartphones, I can get a lot more on one shot.
The bokeh effect for portraits is better than last year in my opinion. I think that's mainly due to the use of the second camera.
However, I hope that the successor can build on the success with the camera. In March, namely, the developer of the AI for the camera Leave google. And so far there is no information about a successor.
Prices and availability
The Pixel 4 XL is among others in the Google Store and at The Amazon available. The price has already decreased a bit since the market launch, it is now at an MSRP of around 650 euros.
Pixel 4 XL: conclusion
The Pixel 4 XL is a peculiar smartphone. There are things that I really liked and that I would like to see in all androids. This includes, for example, the software and the camera. Stock Android is a very compact, yet powerful operating system that is very well adapted to the smartphone. In addition, you can assume that you will get updates for a few years, since the Pixel and Android come directly from Google. You are usually only used to something like that from Apple. The camera also convinced me again for the reasons mentioned above. The device itself and the display are also almost excellent.
However, I have a hard time making a recommendation given the battery life and possible storage options. If a smartphone only achieves a screen-on-time of 2020 hours in 4,5, I personally think twice about reaching for a more reliable competitor. And even if I don't have any with the available memory ProI have had problems, I do think that this small size could become critical for some. I think that especially when I see that some smartphones nowadays already have up to 512 gigabytes of memory.
What are my final words now? I think you should only buy the Pixel 4 XL if you really want a Google smartphone with the listed advantages. Otherwise, in my opinion, you are better off using a different smartphone.
Thank you for providing the Pixel 4 XL.