Google Pixel 2 XL: A.I. magic on a 6-inch dis­play

If you’re a ded­i­cated An­droid user, the Pixel 2 XL is a no-brainer up­grade—un­less you al­ready own an orig­i­nal Pixel.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews Windows 10 Fall Creators Update - BY JON PHILLIPS

You’ll want the Google Pixel 2 XL ( go.pc­world.com/gpi2) if you’re look­ing for the most el­e­gant An­droid ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble in a 6-inch phone. You’ll want the Pixel 2 XL if you’re look­ing for a stun­ning dis­play with an 18:9 as­pect ra­tio, amaz­ing por­trait photography, and a ton of sur­prise­and-de­light fea­tures made pos­si­ble by Google Lens and the rest of Google’s A.I.

tool chest.

When the Pixel 2 XL was an­nounced on Oct. 4 ( go.pc­world.com/ano4), Google re­minded us that its ma­chine learn­ing en­gine is watch­ing our ev­ery move to im­prove its A.I. al­go­rithms. So, yes, the Pixel 2 XL’S ev­erGoog­ley magic tricks may keep robo­phobes up at night. But it’s an incredible phone that grafts de­vice ex­pe­ri­ences to life ex­pe­ri­ence in sim­ple, in­tu­itive, and smile-pro­vok­ing ways. And you’ll right­fully want one it if you’re due for a phone up­grade.

But if you al­ready own the orig­i­nal Pixel, your de­ci­sion is more dif­fi­cult. The Pixel 2 XL kicks ass, but much of what makes it spe­cial— the most re­fined ex­pres­sion of An­droid, the Google Pho­tos ex­pe­ri­ence, Google As­sis­tant in the home but­ton, and Google Lens—is avail­able in the first-gen­er­a­tion Pixel phones, too. To this ex­tent, the Pixel 2 XL (and the smaller Pixel 2, which I’ll re­view soon) are vic­tims of Google’s suc­cess at creating a cloud-first, ma­chine-learn­ing plat­form that spans #Made­by­google de­vices.

PIXEL 2 XL SPECS

Be­fore we drill down into fea­tures, let’s get straight to Pixel 2 XL specs.

OS: An­droid 8.0 Oreo with guar­an­teed up­dates for three years Di­men­sions/weight: 6.2 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches/6.2 ounces Dis­play: 6-inch QHD+ (2880x1440) POLED, 538 pix­els per inch

Pro­ces­sor: Qualcomm Snap­dragon 835

Mem­ory/stor­age: 4GB RAM/64GB or 128GB

Cam­eras: 12.2MP rear cam­era with f/1.8 aper­ture and op­ti­cal + elec­tronic im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, 8MP front cam­era with f/2.4 aper­ture

Battery: 3520 mah

Port: USB-C (and that’s all she wrote)

As first glance, the num­bers don’t look mind-blow­ingly ad­vanced. Other phones have sim­i­larly gen­er­ous dis­play res­o­lu­tions and run the Snap­dragon 835. The Sam­sung Galaxy Note 8 ( go.pc­world.com/sgn8) even comes with 6GB of RAM. And nei­ther the

Pixel 2’s 12-megapixel res­o­lu­tion nor f/1.8 aper­ture are best-of-class for a rear cam­era.

But don’t get bogged down in the swamp of raw num­bers. In prac­tice, I found the Pixel 2 XL to be insanely zippy, just like the first-gen Pixel XL. Apps open in a flash, and the in­ter­face is ul­tra-re­spon­sive and fluid, with nary a touch of tan­gi­ble la­tency.

And as our cam­era tests bear out, the Pixel 2’s new dual-pixel cam­era sensor (now fea­tur­ing smaller 1.4-mi­cron pix­els) makes raw res­o­lu­tion and aper­ture speed less rel­e­vant brag­ging points. The up­shot is the Pixel 2 should aut­o­fo­cus very quickly, per­form bet­ter in low light sit­u­a­tions, and de­liver im­pres­sive depth-of-field bokeh ef­fects—with just a sin­gle rear cam­era, in­stead of two like you’ll find on the Galaxy Note 8 and iphone 8 Plus.

PHYS­I­CAL DE­SIGN: LESS IS MORE

Let me see a show of hands: How many of you put your phone in a case? Yeah, I thought so. Phys­i­cal aes­thet­ics don’t mean much when your phone is en­tombed in some other manufacturer’s plas­tic. Nonethe­less, I give Google props for up­ping the Pixel’s de­sign game in this sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion treat­ment.

The new phone’s di­men­sions are al­most iden­ti­cal to that of the orig­i­nal Pixel, but thanks to the new 18:9 dis­play ra­tio—and, more im­por­tantly, much slim­mer bezels, top and bot­tom—you get some­where near 5/8th of an inch of ex­tra ver­ti­cal screen real estate. It’s not life-changing, but it’s progress. The Pixel 2 XL’S front glass (Go­rilla Glass 5) also has a gen­tle curve at the bezels. This, along

with the elim­i­na­tion of vis­i­ble an­tenna lines, gives the Pixel 2 XL a more pol­ished, con­tem­po­rary feel than the Pixel XL.

Flip the phone over, and you’ll find a much smaller glass “vi­sor” rel­a­tive to the de­sign of the orig­i­nal XL. It’s a sub­jec­tive call, but I think the new de­sign looks bet­ter bal­anced, per­haps be­cause the fin­ger­print sensor sits on the alu­minum uni­body, rather than on top of the glass. I also love the slightly tooth­ier tex­ture of the coat­ing Google ap­plies to the alu­minum. It’s just a bit more con­fi­dence-in­spir­ing than the more silky fin­ish of the orig­i­nal Pixel.

If I have any gripes, it’s the new, ever-soslightly-pro­trud­ing bump around the rear cam­era. It’s just high enough to give me pause when plac­ing the phone on a cof­fee table. But when the Pixel 2 XL is en­cased in Google’s su­per-lush fab­ric case ( go. pc­world.com/fabc), all fears dis­ap­pear.

Folks who fear the for­ward march of progress will lament Google’s de­ci­sion to elim­i­nate the head­phone jack. Well, you’ll be march­ing with­out me. I haven’t used wired headphones in two years, and I’m con­vinced we’ll all look back at “You killed my head­phone jack!” protests in the same way we view Grandpa Simp­son rem­i­nisc­ing about his onion belt ( go.pc­world.com/gpso).

Bot­tom line: If you care about wired headphones, hav­ing to rely on a USB-C adapter is an in­con­ve­nience. So I hear your pain. I just don’t feel your pain.

PIXEL 2 XL DIS­PLAY UP­GRADES

The Pixel 2 XL has a spec­tac­u­lar dis­play—but so do all the other flag­ship smartphones, so it’s be­com­ing harder to de­liver a dis­play with a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. Nonethe­less, the phone’s 6-inch size and 2880x1440 res­o­lu­tion beat last year’s XL model, which mea­sures 5.5 inches and clocks in at 2560x1440. That’s nice progress con­sid­er­ing

the Pixel 2 XL is just a bit taller than the first­gen phone.

For the 2 XL version, Google is also go­ing with POLED dis­play tech, rather than AMOLED, which ap­peared in both sizes of the orig­i­nal Pixel, and re­mains in the 5-inch Pixel 2. The “p” stands for plas­tic, and al­lows Google to curve the edges of the dis­play near the phone’s bezels.

The Pixel 2 XL dis­play has also been tuned for a wider color gamut, and in­cludes a cir­cu­lar po­lar­izer to in­crease screen vis­i­bil­ity when viewed with sun­glasses. I can’t say the POLED dis­play looks demon­stra­bly bet­ter than the orig­i­nal AMOLED, and if any­thing, it just ap­pears cooler in terms of color tem­per­a­ture. Other re­view­ers have found sig­nif­i­cant color in­con­sis­ten­cies ( go.pc­world. com/inco) with the dis­play, but my re­view unit checks out fine in terms of dis­play con­sis­tency. That said, I have found the dis­play looks even cooler when viewed off-axis—a “blue shift” ef­fect, if you will.

The po­lar­izer ben­e­fits, mean­while, are dif­fi­cult to dis­cern. It def­i­nitely helps the dis­play pop when wear­ing shades, but you’ll still need to in­crease dis­play bright­ness on a bright day, sun­glasses or not.

The coolest dis­play up­grades, in fact, ap­pear when the screen is off. Adding a fea­ture that was con­spic­u­ously ab­sent from the orig­i­nal Pix­els, the new Pixel 2 models in­clude an Al­ways on Dis­play mode for your lock screen. It’s an im­mensely help­ful fea­ture that lets you see the time, date, and no­ti­fi­ca­tions even when the phone is off.

Granted, this am­bi­ent mode does con­sume a nom­i­nal amount of battery life, but the con­ve­nience of see­ing full text messages on the lock screen far out­weighs the penalty.

NOW PLAY­ING: GOOGLE’S BUILT-IN SHAZAM

The other big dis­play up­grade, Now Play­ing, taps into Google’s ma­chine-learn­ing story. Think of Now Play­ing as an al­ways-on, Google-fied version of Shazam, the mu­sic-

iden­ti­fy­ing app.

When the phone is locked and Now Play­ing rec­og­nizes the dig­i­tal fin­ger­print of a song play­ing in the back­ground, the song ti­tle and artist will ap­pear on the Al­ways On Dis­play. From there, you can dou­ble-tap on the song ti­tle, and you’ll be shut­tled off to Google As­sis­tant, where you can launch the song on Youtube, Google Play Mu­sic, or Spo­tify (though you’ll need to be sub­scribed to the lat­ter two ser­vices to hear play­back and to save the song to your li­brary).

Now Play­ing is pure sur­prise-and­de­light—not a must-have, life-changing ex­pe­ri­ence, but it’s a great il­lus­tra­tion of Google’s A.I. chops, and an­other ex­am­ple of how Google uses its awareness of the world’s data, broadly speak­ing, to de­liver nu­mer­ous lit­tle per­sonal as­sists through­out the day.

Now Play­ing down­loads a data­base of dig­i­tal fin­ger­prints di­rectly to the Pixel 2, and all this data is stored lo­cally, so you don’t need a Wifi or LTE con­nec­tion to iden­tify songs. Song iden­ti­fi­ca­tion typ­i­cally takes about two to three sec­onds, but is cur­rently lim­ited to tracks that ap­pear in the Google Play Mu­sic cat­a­log.

Google says its Now Play­ing data­base cur­rently has tens of thou­sands of songs, and is up­dated weekly, but dur­ing test­ing I fre­quently stumped it with ob­scure tracks.

Here’s a par­tial list ( go.pc­world.com/ pali) of Google’s song cat­a­log, com­piled by de­vel­oper Kieron Quinn. You can read it to get a fla­vor of Now Play­ing’s strengths and lim­i­ta­tions.

GOOGLE LENS: WHAT’S LURK­ING IN­SIDE YOUR PHO­TOS?

Is Google Lens a photo fea­ture, a sur­prise­and-de­light trick, or a pro­duc­tiv­ity tool? It’s ac­tu­ally all three. It’s a fan­tas­tic demon­stra­tion of Google’s ma­chine-learn­ing chops, and is com­ing to both orig­i­nal Pixel phones as well as this year’s models.

Open up Google Pho­tos, and pick an im­age of a land­mark, paint­ing, or ba­si­cally

any­thing with words or pic­tures on it. Now tap the Google Lens icon, and prepare to be amazed. Google’s al­ways-im­prov­ing ma­chine-learn­ing en­gine will scan the im­age’s vis­ual data, determine what it’s look­ing at, and then—if it hits a match—give you in­sights into what­ever you’ve shot.

In prac­tice, I found Lens was al­most al­ways suc­cess­ful in giv­ing me Google Search re­sults for fa­mous paint­ings I shot in pub­lic gal­leries. I was also thrilled when it iden­ti­fied a spe­cific cof­fee cup, and pointed me to a shop­ping link.

But I was less im­pressed when I Googled Lens’ed a bunch of im­ages of San Fran­cisco’s Sutro Tower. For one shot, Lens iden­ti­fied the tower as a tree. In an­other im­age, Lens de­scribed the land­mark as a sim­ple trans­mis­sion tower. Yet in a third shot, Lens scored a di­rect hit, and pointed me to a Google card on Sutro Tower proper.

It was a telling il­lus­tra­tion of ma­chine learn­ing strug­gling with nearly ex­actly the same ref­er­ence ma­te­rial. I was also sur­prised when Google Lens failed to rec­og­nize a per­fectly clear shot of the 100-foot cross ( go. pc­world.com/100f) at the top of Mount

David­son. I would have as­sumed that Google’s lo­ca­tion ser­vices would have helped Lens score a per­fect match. But, hey, it’s ma­chine learn­ing: Maybe Lens will fig­ure it out soon.

Play with Google Lens long enough, and it be­gins to feel like in­spect­ing ran­dom ob­jects in Fall­out 4. Take a photo of a pear... and Lens will tell you you’re look­ing at a pear. Take a photo of a watch... and Lens will tell you it’s a watch. Hell, I should have taken a photo of a bot­tle cap. I was a bit cha­grined that Len iden­ti­fied my pet Whiskey as a “street dog,” but was im­pressed that it could share the Latin name of a daisy.

It’s mostly fun and games un­til you use Lens to trans­port web URLS, email ad­dresses, and phone num­bers to Chrome, mail apps and the phone di­aler. At this point, Google Lens be­comes a time-sav­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity tool, spar­ing you the trou­ble of typ­ing out of­ten-con­fus­ing jum­bles of let­ters.

Will I re­mem­ber to use Lens for this pur­pose? I hope so. As is so of­ten the case with Google As­sis­tant (and Google Now On Tap be­fore it), sim­ply re­mem­ber­ing that a new Google fea­ture ex­ists is half the bat­tle.

PIXEL 2 XL CAM­ERA: POR­TRAIT MODE FOR THE WIN

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely ex­tremely Pixel-cu­ri­ous, and if you’re

ex­tremely Pixel-cu­ri­ous, you’re prob­a­bly well aware of Google’s cam­era up­grades for the Pixel 2 fam­ily (both models have ex­actly the same cam­era).

For in­stance: Low-light per­for­mance is bet­ter than last year’s phone, thanks to op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion and a new ap­proach to HDR. And video has been im­proved by mar­ry­ing elec­tronic sta­bi­liza­tion to op­ti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion. And the Pixel 2’s dual-pixel tech­nol­ogy does Dslr-style bokeh ef­fects with just a sin­gle cam­era.

But how does it all per­form? In blunt terms, the over­all cam­era ex­pe­ri­ence is the best I’ve ever used. Cam­era per­for­mance isn’t flaw­less, mind you, but the re­sults are of­ten mind-blow­ing.

Let’s look at some Por­trait mode shots. When you shoot a por­trait, the Pixel 2 will save two im­ages—one with back­ground blur, and one un­touched. I’m pro­vid­ing crops of each version side by side to give you a bet­ter idea of Google’s ma­chine-learn­ing, al­go­rith­mic magic.

As you can see, Google’s soft­ware was able to al­most per­fectly mask Whiskey’s shape against a com­plex back­ground. And be­cause Google’s ma­chine learn­ing is de­signed to im­prove over time, we may see even bet­ter re­sults in the fu­ture.

We’re cur­rently test­ing the Pixel 2’s cam­era per­for­mance against other smartphones, pay­ing close at­ten­tion to por­trait modes. All of the phones suf­fer a bit of de­tail degra­da­tion in the tran­si­tion from blur to sharp­ness, but in my quick anec­do­tal com­par­isons, the Pixel 2 seems ex­tremely ca­pa­ble with just its sin­gle cam­era. But if you’re look­ing for “mis­takes,” check out the hair on Whiskey’s ears in the shot above. An SLR cam­era would have re­solved the hair prop­erly—blur­ring the hair, but not elim­i­nat­ing it en­tirely.

I’m es­pe­cially happy with the photo of the Bud­dha head left—if only be­cause I shot it with al­most reck­less dis­re­gard for my fi­nal re­sults. And check out the lint re­moval on the ear. It’s prob­a­bly a lucky ac­ci­dent, but it does make the photo looks bet­ter. Nice clean-up work, Google.

LOW LIGHT PHO­TOS AND VIDEO STA­BI­LIZA­TION

Once you get into elite flag­ship phone ter­ri­tory—i’m talk­ing Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 and iphone 8 Plus—you’re mostly as­sured of cap­tur­ing great pho­tos in good light­ing con­di­tions. Low light per­for­mance is what sep­a­rates the elite from the also-rans, and the Pixel 2 de­liv­ers low-light in spades. First, check out how the Pixel 2 com­pares to last year’s model.

The shot above il­lus­trates ex­treme crops of a much larger scene. I locked down each phone on a tri­pod to elim­i­nate cam­era shake, so im­age sta­bi­liza­tion shouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be in play. Over­all, across var­i­ous shots, I found that the Pixel 2 XL de­liv­ers the ap­pear­ance of longer ex­po­sures com­pared to the orig­i­nal Pixel, but not at the ex­pense of de­tail. Look at the clar­ity of the whiskey bot­tle la­bel.

Now check out how low-light per­for­mance com­pares to the iphone 8 Plus.

If you took the time to click and en­large the sec­ond im­age, you’ll see how well Google’s cam­era re­tains clar­ity un­der chal­leng­ing light­ing con­di­tions. Granted, the iphone 8 Plus looks beau­ti­ful when viewed full-frame—which is fine when you’re view­ing pho­tos on a phone—but once you zoom in closely on both shots, you see just how far Google has come in terms of raw

im­age qual­ity.

The Pixel 2 cam­era also de­liv­ers re­mark­able im­age sta­bi­liza­tion in video. I took a num­ber of videos on my week­end hike up Mount David­son, and what I recorded some­times looked like it was shot on a gim­bal—mostly free of dis­cernible shake, and with none of the jelly ef­fect that we see in so many smart­phone videos. You can watch the video at the top of this ar­ti­cle to see Google’s fused op­ti­cal and elec­tronic im­age sta­bi­liza­tion in ac­tion.

GOOGLE PHO­TOS: FOR PIXEL, PIXEL 2, AND EV­ERY­ONE

When you buy a Pixel 2, you get free, un­lim­ited stor­age for all your pho­tos and video at orig­i­nal qual­ity through the end of 2020. Af­ter that, you get un­lim­ited stor­age for what Google calls “high-qual­ity” pho­tos taken with your Pixel phone. For reg­u­lar-old con­sumers, these free­bies are rea­son enough to switch.

But I have to call spe­cial at­ten­tion to the Google Pho­tos app—specif­i­cally its As­sis­tant fea­tures. The app is ac­tu­ally avail­able to all

An­droid and IOS users, but the Pixel phones are the app’s main en­try point. And Google Pho­tos rocks.

Ex­hibit A: The panorama shot of the San Fran­cisco Bay Bridge I’ve in­serted above. I ac­tu­ally had no in­ten­tion of shoot­ing a panorama. I merely shot a bunch of pho­tos of the bridge, and walked away. A few hours later, the Pho­tos As­sis­tant app sent me the stitched­to­gether im­age, all by its own vo­li­tion. Ba­si­cally: Thought you might like to see this. En­joy.

And that’s what Pho­tos As­sis­tant does. It finds sim­i­lar im­ages that were shot in close suc­ces­sion and turns them into trippy an­i­ma­tions. It cre­ates a chrono­log­i­cal photo es­say of your trip to wine coun­try. It find pho­tos of your beloved dog, and sends you a movie— with a sound­track!—that chron­i­cles your pup over a num­ber of years. And it takes in­ter­est­ing pho­tos, and tweaks them for dra­matic ef­fect. All of these gems pop up as no­ti­fi­ca­tions for you to save or dis­card as you please.

Artificial in­tel­li­gence. Ma­chine learn­ing. Some­times it’s freaky and scary. But when those Googlers get it right, they re­ally nail it.

PIXEL 2 LAUNCHER TWEAKS AND AC­TIVE EDGE

Like the first-gen Pix­els, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL of­fer An­droid—now version 8.0, aka Oreo—in its most el­e­gant, bloat-free form. Call me crazy, but I want An­droid ex­pressed just how Google in­tends it to be ex­pressed, free of un­nec­es­sary apps and cus­tomiza­tions. “Pure” An­droid Oreo—the version seeded to de­vel­op­ers— doesn’t have Now Play­ing. Nor does it come with the Pixel launcher. But other than these tweaks, the An­droid ex­pe­ri­ence on Pixel 2 is about as pure as it gets.

In terms of pure UX de­sign, I find Google’s version of An­droid more in­tu­itive to nav­i­gate than Sam­sung’s Touch­wiz in­ter­face on the lat­est Galaxy phones. And in terms of raw vis­ual de­sign aes­thet­ics, the Pixel 2 ex­pe­ri­ence looks cleaner and classier than the de­signs we see from the rest of the An­droid pack. It’s a fun, bright aes­thetic that el­e­vates play­ful­ness over tech­i­ness

For the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, Google has made some sub­tle tweaks to the Pixel launcher, and the changes are pleas­ant, but not rev­o­lu­tion­ary.

The most ob­vi­ous tweak is a redesigned Google search field: Where the orig­i­nal Pix­els had a search “pill” in the top-left cor­ner, the Pixel 2s have a full-width search field at the bot­tom of the home screen. The new search bar is much more in your face, and may com­pel me to ac­tu­ally use tra­di­tional Google search, rather than re­sort­ing to Google As­sis­tant or open­ing a Chrome tab, which of­fer dif­fer­ent be­hav­iors and less com­pre­hen­sive search re­sults.

The col­lapsed weather wid­get at the top of the home screen also has a new de­sign. It now spans nearly the full width of the dis­play, and is ren­dered in a slightly tweaked version of Google’s Prod­uct Sans font. Be­fore, if you tapped anywhere on the weather wid­get, you opened up the full Weather app. Now, if you tap on the (much larger) date you’ll launch Cal­en­dar, and if you tap on your lo­cal tem­per­a­ture you’ll launch Weather.

Google didn’t stop with flat in­ter­face de­sign, as there are some phys­i­cal U.I. tweaks as well. The most showy is Ac­tive Edge. Bor­row­ing a trick straight from HTC play­book, you can squeeze the bot­tom of the phone’s uni­body to launch Google As­sis­tant—adding yet an­other way to launch As­sis­tant (you can still voice “OK Google” or long-press the home but­ton). Ac­tive Edge re­ally feels like a “we did it be­cause we can” fea­ture, its fun fac­tor not­with­stand­ing. I just wish it could trig­ger other ac­tions, like launch­ing user-de­fined apps, per HTC’S Edge Sense.

Fi­nally, the Pixel 2 models have a new fin­ger­print sensor—the fastest in the world, Google says. Yes, it’s fast. Damn fast. Like, it ba­si­cally un­locks if you even think about touch­ing it.

I kid. But, yeah. it’s fast.

PIXEL 2 XL: SHOULD YOU BUY IT?

I clearly love what Google has done with its Pixel phones. And to ev­ery­thing I men­tion above, you can add:

• The Pix­els’ Quick Switch Adapter, which makes mi­grat­ing from your cur­rent phone to the Pixel 2 re­mark­ably easy.

• The cam­era app’s film­strip, which drops you

straight into Google Pho­tos.

• Eas­ier Blue­tooth head­phone pair­ing thanks

to a new Fast Pair fea­ture. • The per­son­al­ized Google app feed that lives to the left of your home screen (it’s my first stop for news ev­ery morn­ing). • IP67 dust and wa­ter

re­sis­tance (hal­lelu­jah!).

• And of course Google As­sis­tant, the most aware, con­stantly evolv­ing A.I. as­sis­tant work­ing to­day.

Yes, I have my quib­bles. As stated above, I don’t care about the lack of a head­phone jack, but

I’m not im­pressed with the au­dio qual­ity of Google new front­fac­ing speak­ers. In fact, I’ve been hear­ing weird dis­tor­tion in some of my no­ti­fi­ca­tion sounds.

I would also like man­ual, Dslr-style cam­era con­trols, like those avail­able in LG and Sam­sung flag­ships. And I do see im­mense value in all of S Pen fea­tures avail­able in the Sam­sung Galaxy Note 8 ( go.pc­world.com/ sam8). A Pixel with an in­tel­li­gent sty­lus would be epic, but the Pixel 2 XL is “just” a phone.

But my big­gest gripe of all? It’s that the Pixel 2 XL doesn’t feel like a mon­u­men­tal, stop-the-presses, this-is-a-game-changer up­grade over the Pixel XL. The phys­i­cal de­sign is bet­ter. The dis­play is bet­ter. The cam­era is a lot bet­ter. But none of these ad­vances are amaze­balls bet­ter, and the Pixel 2 doesn’t feel a grand rev­e­la­tion like the orig­i­nal from 2016.

Once you con­sider that Google Lens is com­ing to the orig­i­nal Pix­els, and that Google As­sis­tant and Google Pho­tos are phone- and plat­form-ag­nos­tic, you find your­self faced with a tough de­ci­sion. If you’ve haven’t bought a new phone in two years, and don’t care about Sam­sung’s S Pen, then the Pixel 2 XL is the phone you want to buy.

But if you al­ready own an orig­i­nal Pixel, look closely at your bank bal­ance, and think about your pri­or­i­ties in life. To wit: The Pixel XL has been my daily driver for the last year, and I don’t think I’d splurge $849 ( go. pc­world.com/sp84) on the lat­est model.

It’s OK to wait. Oc­to­ber 4, 2018 is now less than a year away.

The Pixel 2 XL’S fin­ger­print sensor al­most seems to un­lock be­fore you touch the sensor. It’s just that fast.

Your Google search bar is now full-width and ob­vi­ous—so maybe you’ll use it more of­ten.

This panorama shot of the Bay Bridge was stitched to­gether by Pho­tos As­sis­tant. All on its own.

Check out the de­tail on the white Porsche

The iphone 8 Plus im­age may look brighter and more vi­brant when viewed close to full frame, but once you zoom in and in­spect pix­els, you find the Pixel 2 de­liv­ers bet­ter clar­ity.

The iphone 8 Plus im­age may look brighter and more vi­brant when viewed close to full frame, but once you zoom in and in­spect pix­els, you find the Pixel 2 de­liv­ers bet­ter clar­ity (see op­po­site).

An­other beau­ti­ful Por­trait mode shot. You don’t even have to try to shoot a nice shot. But no­tice how the piece of lint on the right side of the statue doesn’t ap­pear on the blurred im­age.

No­tice how the blurred im­age fails to re­solve some of the hair on the top of Whiskey’s ears. It’s sub­tle, and you have to look for these flaws to find them.

Us­ing just a sin­gle cam­era lens, Google’s ma­chine-learn­ing al­go­rithms can cre­ate stun­ning bokeh ef­fects on the Pixel 2.

Google Lens strug­gled with three nearly iden­ti­cal im­ages of Sutro Tower, the tallest structure in San Fran­cisco.

In case you couldn’t iden­tify a pear on sight, Google Lens is here to help. Though call­ing Whiskey a “street dog” is a bit judgey.

Google Lens knows fine art. And kitschy cups. And of­ten­times flow­ers, too.

The Pixel 2 XL has a wide, gen­er­ous, 18:9 as­pect ra­tio for video.

Google re­duced the size of the glass panel on the Pixel 2 XL, but now there’s a slight cam­era bump.

The Pixel 2 XL (left) is just about the same size as the orig­i­nal Pixel XL, but of­fers more ver­ti­cal screen real estate.

The 5-inch Pixel 2 doesn’t have the screen real-estate or dis­play qual­ity of the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL. But aside from the dis­play and phys­i­cal de­sign, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL of­fer all the same fea­tures and func­tion­al­ity.

Google Lens can tell you ev­ery­thing you need to know about a mys­te­ri­ous paint­ing (as long as it’s fa­mous).

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