Google Pixel 3 XL

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Android Advisor - - Contents -

There’s a new leak king in town. The Google Pixel 3 XL is the worst kept smart­phone se­cret of re­cent years, but that’s no rea­son not to be ex­cited now it’s fi­nally of­fi­cial.

The larger of two new Pixel 3 phones an­nounced at events in New York and Lon­don has a re­mark­ably large notch at the top of its tall 6.3in dis­play – odd at first given that the smaller Pixel 3 has no notch and the same dual cam­eras as the XL.

It’s a lit­tle un­re­mark­able to look at, but that’s not what Google is go­ing for here. It’s all about the soft­ware and what it can do.

We went hands-on at the launch event to see why Google made such de­sign de­ci­sions and to see if its some­how im­proved the ex­cel­lent – still sin­gle – rear-fac­ing cam­era.

Avail­abil­ity

You can pre-or­der the Pixel 3 XL now and it will be avail­able in stores, along with the Pixel 3, on 1 Novem­ber.

Notch ado about noth­ing

So yes, as you can see op­po­site there’s a big notch. It’s deep and nar­row as op­posed to the shal­low nar­row notch of the Huawei P20 Pro or the shal­low and wide notch of the iPhone XS.

Whether a notch irks you is a per­sonal thing, but it’s not a big deal to us. It’s there to house the ear­piece and dual cam­eras, while keep­ing the phone as small as pos­si­ble. That’s what notches are for. The 3 XL is vir­tu­ally the same size as the 2 XL, but man­ages a larger dis­play and an ex­tra cam­era. On pa­per, this is not a re­gres­sion.

The rear of the phone is sim­i­lar to pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions, yet for the first time sup­ports wire­less charg­ing de­spite be­ing matte – it’s all glass though. It still feels hefty and pre­mium and the fin­ish is awe­some. Fewer fin­ger­prints, but it’s glass so it’s still at the peril of the ground.

The top sec­tion is smooth glass and houses a sin­gle rear cam­era and flash. The phone comes in three colours, Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink – there is no con­trast ‘panda’ edi­tion like we got last year.

White and pink mod­els have con­trast­ing green and orange power but­tons re­spec­tively, while the black stays all-black stealthy.

That notch also al­lows the phone to re­tain dual front-fac­ing speak­ers like the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion Pixel, with a wider speaker at the bot­tom of the phone. Google said they are 40 per­cent louder and richer than on Pixel 2.

There’s also a G logo and fin­ger­print sen­sor, but no head­phone jack. There’s a don­gle in the box, though.

Dis­play of af­fec­tion

This is a play­ful feel­ing phone. Google is con­tin­u­ing its de­sign lan­guage in a light way, meld­ing the hard­ware it sees fit to com­ple­ment the Ma­te­rial De­sign con­cept its soft­ware is mod­elled around. The block colours of the phones are a world away from the aus­tere de­signs pushed out by Ap­ple, Huawei and even OnePlus now.

Af­ter the prob­lems the Pixel 2 XL had with its dis­play (or at least how it was cal­i­brated for colour hun­gry eyes), the 3 XL’s dis­play hits the ground run­ning. It looks bril­liant, with good colour cal­i­bra­tion and view­ing an­gles. There’s a new adap­tive colour pro­file loaded on to en­sure this. It’s all in a phone that is run by the Qual­comm Snap­dragon 845 chip. In our short time with the 3 XL we found the phone zippy and re­spon­sive, with a no­table improve­ment to the hap­tics and vi­bra­tion mo­tor.

Cam­era trick­ery

The Pixel 2 phones are widely re­garded to have the best rear-fac­ing cam­eras of any smart­phone de­spite

only hav­ing one lens. The Pixel 3 XL will try to one-up it with Google’s mirac­u­lous post-pro­cess­ing.

While two or three lens phones try to cap­ture more de­tail dur­ing shoot­ing, the Pixel elects to cap­ture sev­eral lay­ers of im­age in­for­ma­tion with one lens and then use soft­ware to process the best pos­si­ble im­age af­ter the fact. And it works stu­pen­dously well.

A new fea­ture called Top Shot au­to­mat­i­cally helps you se­lect the best photo from a burst of pho­tos, so you don’t get a photo where peo­ple have their eyes closed and are smil­ing prop­erly.

Along with this is Su­per Res Zoom, where an al­go­rithm se­lects a zoom frame on a photo you’ve taken, and Night Sight, where ma­chine learn­ing boosts light in low light. The lat­ter is com­ing to the older Pixel phones, too.

The dual front-fac­ing cam­eras are an in­ter­est­ing choice, al­low­ing for wide-an­gle selfies and mul­ti­face de­tec­tion to keep ev­ery­one in fo­cus. Aside from this there is no im­me­di­ate ad­van­tage to hav­ing two lenses – and you get them both on the reg­u­lar Pixel 3 with­out the notch, if the notch both­ers you.

You’ll also find aut­o­fo­cus, the abil­ity to change fo­cal point of por­trait mode pho­tos and un­lim­ited Google Pho­tos stor­age.

An­other slice of Pie

Older Pix­els and the Sony Xpe­ria XZ3 al­ready have An­droid 9 Pie but, of course, the Pixel 3 XL ships with it in­stalled. Google makes you use the new ges­ture­based nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem as de­fault and it does take a bit of get­ting used to af­ter years with An­droid’s three nav­i­ga­tion but­tons.

And you can’t change back to the old way. It’s ges­tures or noth­ing on the Pixel 3 XL.

A fea­ture that is built in that un­til now has only been avail­able as beta ver­sions on older Pix­els is Dig­i­tal Well­be­ing. This is the abil­ity to set app lim­its to help you use cer­tain ser­vices less, and to ac­tu­ally spend time away from your phone rather than use it more.

Google made a big deal at launch about how the soft­ware ecosys­tem con­tin­ues to im­prove over time. This is in the cloud-based ser­vices such as Google Trans­late but, of course, other phones can run Google apps and ser­vices. It’s true that on the 3 XL though, it’s most closely in­ter­twined in the op­er­at­ing sys­tem given it’s a Google phone. Google also said that Pix­els would be the first to get the Du­plex fea­ture it teased ear­lier in the year that can call busi­nesses for you to book res­tau­rants and the like.

How does it XL?

Aside from the larger bat­tery and dis­play, there is not a lot dif­fer­ent in the XL. Nor does it have a fea­ture that the smaller Pixel 3 lacks to force you to pay more; it has the same soft­ware and cam­eras. It’s even avail­able in the same three colours.

Also an­nounced was a Pixel Stand that docks and charges the Pixel 3 and 3 XL while turn­ing the phone into a more con­ve­nient Google As­sis­tant style de­vice.

Ver­dict

It’s early days, of course, but we are ex­cited by the Pixel 3 XL de­spite the big old notch. It’s a much more

pre­mium feel­ing phone in per­son than in im­ages, and some of the cam­era im­prove­ments should ce­ment its place as the best smart­phone snap­per ever.

The de­sign isn’t for ev­ery­one, but you have the smaller Pixel 3 if you ob­ject. What Google is do­ing with the 3 XL, its new­est most ex­pen­sive phone, is show you its ex­act pref­er­ence of how An­droid soft­ware and hard­ware should work to­gether. You might get more fea­tures on other phones like head­phone jacks and ex­pand­able stor­age but if you want the purest An­droid phone go­ing, this is it. Henry Bur­rell

Spec­i­fi­ca­tions

• 6.3in (2,960x1,440; 523ppi) P-OLED ca­pac­i­tive touch­screen

• An­droid 9.0 Pie

• Qual­comm SDM845 Snap­dragon 845 (10nm) pro­ces­sor

• Octa-core (4x 2.5GHz Kryo 385 Gold, 4x 1.6GHz Kryo 385 Sil­ver) CPU

• Adreno 630 GPU

• 4GB RAM

• 64/128GB stor­age

• 12.2Mp rear-fac­ing cam­era: f/1.8, 28mm (wide), 1/2.55in, 1.4μm, OIS, dual pixel PDAF

• Dual front-fac­ing cam­eras: 8Mp, f/1.8, 28mm (wide), PDAF; 8Mp, f/2.2, 19mm (ul­tra wide), no AF

• 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi

• Blue­tooth 5.0

• A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO

• NFC

• Fin­ger­print sen­sor (rear mounted)

• USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 re­versible con­nec­tor

• Non-re­mov­able 3,430mAh lithium-ion bat­tery

• 158x76.7x7.9mm

• 184g

The Pixel 3 XL cap­tures sev­eral lay­ers of im­age in­for­ma­tion with one lens and then use soft­ware to process the im­age

The Pixel 3 XL runs An­droid Pie

A fin­ger­print sen­sor is lo­cated on the rear of the phone

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