The hounding influx of new smartphones, slipping into the market every other day, can be tiring but there are select smartphones that cut through this noise and still manage to keep you raring and interested. While iPhones, OnePluses, Galaxy S’es, and the likes have always been interesting, Google’s Pixel has caught up pretty quickly too since the first announcement in 2016. And it wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I say that Google managed to keep us hooked to the Pixel 3 until the last moment.
While there was no aha moment which we had anticipated, the Google Pixel 3 XL has still kept me hooked to it a week since its launch. I have spent a decent time with the smartphone and will be funneling my experience of the last one week, trying to lend my opinions to answer whether you must spend upwards of Rs 83,000 on a smartphone especially when comparable specifications come for almost one-fourth of the price.
So, is the Pixel 3 XL experience worth the premium tariff? I’m not waiting for a countdown to cut straight to the chase and you’re most welcome to join in.
Pixel 3 XL Specifications
Here are all the ingredients that Google has baked the Pixel 3 XL with, and while the choice of processor might not be intriguing – noting the price, it’s really surprising for Google to not be vigil about things such as dual rear cameras, 6 or 8GB of RAM, 256GB storage in an era when flagships even come in 512GB sizes. Take a look at the specifications:
|Dimensions and Weight||76.7 x 158.0 x 7.9 mm
|Display||6.3-inch Flexible P-OLED
2960 x 1440p, 18.5:9 ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
|Processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
|Rear Cameras||12.2MP f/1.8
Dual LED flash, OIS+EIS
[email protected], [email protected]
|Front Camwera||8MP f/1.8 auto-focus + 8MP f/2.2 wide angle
18W fast charging and wireless charging
|Software||Android 9 Pie|
|Sensors||Active Edge, Fingerprint, flicker sensor, accelerometer, proximity, magnetometer, barometer|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual band 2X2,
Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, USB-C
|Price||Starts at Rs 83,000|
So, by defying the precepts established by giants like Apple and Samsung, does the Pixel 3 XL lose its ground or has lesser chance to be an actual flagship? You shall find the exact description in the upcoming sections but the entire point behind them is that it does not (pardon me for the sweet spoiler).
Pixel 3 XL Box Contents
The retail packaging of the Pixel 3 XL had leaked almost two months before the official release and despite Google’s attempts to dissuade the phenomenon of those massive leaks which took over the popularity of the device – so much so that Google was helpless and forced to play along, there’s no change in the actual box. However, there’s a lot of objects to be highlighted in the interesting packaging.
Here’s what all you get in the box of the Pixel 3 XL:
- Pixel 3 XL
- Pixel USB-C earbuds
- 18W Fast charging brick with USB-C port
- USB-C to USB-C charging cable
- USB-C OTG
- USB-C to 3.5mm dongle
- SIM ejector
- User manuals and other booklets
- Multi-color “G” and “#teampixel” stickers
I really like that the box has all the solutions to remedy the lack of certain elements including the headphone jack on the smartphone. And, I’m actually really excited about the USB-C earbuds and will be talking about their musicality below. But first, let me start with the device itself and about all the finesse that it is built with.
Design & Build
Besides compelling internals, an appealing, unparalleled appearance is also a hallmark of a flagship smartphone and the Pixel 3 XL is well-equipped in this area. The level of minimalism in the Pixel 3’s design is disquieting. Ironic, isn’t it? The minimalism is perfected to the level that there’s that you can talk at lengths about it.
Let’s starting with the back of the Pixel 3 XL, which reminds us of the iconic dual-tone design that Google has opted for since the primal Pixel device. The Pixel 3 comes in zippy colors with quirky names – Just Black, Clearly White, and Not Pink. While I was really curious to delve in its non-pinkness of the Not Pink, we received a black one from Google India. Unlike the Pixel 2, there are no contrasting combinations this time around and this is possibly some vanguard design guru instructing Google to do so, because these only-slightly contrasted colors look not only striking but also more premium than the previous generation.
The back of the Pixel 3 and the XL is made of glass this time around, and this change has been made in favor of wireless charging which just been included. A pleasant surprise hit me upon holding the Pixel 3 XL in my hand because despite being made of glass, the back feels like rubber or a hybrid suede-like material. This is something similar to what OnePlus is doing with it Midnight Black and the Pearl White variants of the OnePlus 6 but with much more attention to detail. This material occupies almost 80 percent of the back panel while the remaining portion is occupied by a more natural finish of glass and the transition between the two surfaces is unimaginably seamless.
Google might have not taken much time to broach the processing capabilities of the Pixel 3 at the lackluster launch event the past week, but it did talk about the new design and a new etching process which was specially designed and put into practice to create this seamless blend of two varying surfaces.
But being glass, both the matte and the shiny parts of the back easily attract fingerprints and the lower has an affinity for the sweat smudges. However, the matte region excels when it comes to veiling scratches, potentially because of the fuzzy lighting effect that it creates. While Google has chosen rounder edges and corners, the back is still flat which might make holding the Pixel 3 XL somewhat difficult for certain users, especially the ones migrating from devices like the OnePlus 6.
Along the perimeter of the Pixel 3 XL is an aluminum frame, which is curved to give you more grip. It appears to be crafted from ceramic because of the shiny treatment. I have managed to drench this frame with my fingerprints but scratches are yet to creep in, which is appreciable.
The frame also houses the Power as well as the Volume buttons which are in the same position as the last year’s device. This positioning takes a little exercising of the muscles steering the thumb (or fingers, depending on which hand you use the phone with). Besides the buttons, the frame also has the USB-C port and the single SIM tray at the bottom. Just like the last generation, you also get squeezable edges can be used to wake the Google Assistant.
Google clearly has different priorities and unlike other OEMs, which shove bottom firing speakers in their smartphones to give you more display size, it has added stereo speakers on the front. This is not a combination of primary and secondary speakers relaying the same sound but an actual stereo config with identifiably separate left and right channels. Between these speakers is the massive and totally handsome 6.3-inch P-OLED display which has been significantly improved and mastered. Yes, there’s the “bathtub” notch that is bigger than on most phones and almost distressing to look at, I’ve not found myself being actually vexed by it. The notch houses dual cameras along with the earpiece.
Google also does not seem convinced on the idea of facial authentication and has not included any form of Face unlocking mechanism. I think it’s a bit dissatisfying as Google could have used AI to make the feature securer compared to other OEMs. Moreover, the notch would be justified better if the Pixel 3 XL was rocking an IR-based facial recognition technology such as what is used on the Poco F1.
Overall, the design of the Pixel 3 XL is undeniably premium and beguiling to me. Sure, it lacks the luster Apple has and you might not be able to flaunt the big logo at the back to earn a higher social status, but the design is surely appreciable and attractive in its own way. More interesting to me is the fact that Pixel 3 XL feels much more attractive and elegant than the blockish Pixel 2 XL, and the matte glass on the back is just an addition to the premium experience.
Just in case this needs a revision, the Pixel 3 XL gets a 6.3-inch flexible P-OLED display with a QHD+ resolution. It boasts of a 2960 x 1440p resolution, leading to a Pixel density north of 520ppi which puts the iPhone XS Max‘s 458ppi to shame – at least on paper. But more exciting for me than the pixel density is the accuracy of colors that the display offers, much more so because it is observably better than the Pixel 2 XL. While the earlier XL Pixel had the same resolution, it featured very disappointing viewing angles and a bluish tinge all over the display.
The display occupies much of the space on the front and has extremely thin edges. The only disappointment – or rather, a trade-off because of the front-facing dual stereo speakers – is the thick chin at the bottom. This is the only peeving element in the design of the Pixel 3 XL and severs the premium impression of the smartphone. The chin also takes away from the equation of symmetry as the bezels on the top are very lean. But to complement the awkwardness of the chin is the tall notch, which is taller than any other smartphone we’ve seen so far although the length is pretty admissible. You can hide the notch, however, you do not get a straightforward option to disable the notch. You can head over to Developer Settings to disable it, only to make your Pixel 3 XL appear like a Pixel 2 XL with a better display. If you’re still interested in trying, you can go ahead and use this guide.
We’d talked much about, and dreaded, the notch even before the launch especially because it resembles the emoji representing awkwardness or embarrassment. However, over time, I’ve come to accept the way it is and not finding a lot of trouble dealing with it – except while viewing videos on YouTube when the notch overshadows some part of the visible content. We expect Google to wrap this up in a future update.
Coming back to the quality of this display, DisplayMate – the conglomerate for maintaining industry standards, has christened the Pixel 3 XL’s display as among the most beautiful and capable displays on smartphones available to buyers. The display excels in all categories of DisplayMate’s tests, and the only smartphones to achieve this are Galaxy S9 and the Note 9. You can read more about the DisplayMate’s comments about the Pixel 3 XL’s display in this dedicated article.
Besides the impeccable color accuracy, the Pixel 3 XL tenders crisp text and a high degree of readability. The display is fairly readable under bright sunlight and in spite of strong rays beaming on it directly, you wouldn’t miss any detail or color. Lastly, while we cannot confirm it, there seem to be a coating over the display that makes it less reflective and thus performs better under sunlight. When using it under a very low light, it is very easy to find a sweet spot and I have come to adore it.
Moreover, the always-on display allows riddance from the notification LED on the Pixel 3 XL. To prevent scratching, there’s Gorilla Glass 5. Lastly, being a YouTube signature device, the Pixel 3 XL supports HDR video playback on YouTube which further enhances colors and viewability beyond the already-super-rich display.
Overall, I’m totally blown away by the quality of this display. Irrespective of which lighting condition you subject the Pixel 3 XL’s display to, it yields strikingly accurate colors and clear text. While the thick chin and the unnerving notch can cut out some of its premium features, for me that gap is already filled by the quality. Your opinions may vary on this, depending on your requirements with the display.
Standing true to their naming, the Pixel devices have always qualified to be the true leaders of photography in the smartphone industry and the Pixel 3 XL is no exception. This is because of Google’s exceptional abilities when it comes to software-based processing and improvements in the cameras as well as the dedicated Pixel Visual Core chip. The Pixel 3 XL, too, features one of the most promising cameras on a smartphone ever.
Google, as I pointed earlier, is defying industry trends by still sticking to a single sensor on the back. The 12.2MP sensor is the same as last year – or at least appears to be, based on the specifications. To ensure that the Pixel 3 XL clicks unbeatable pictures, Google is using HDR+ technology which stitches shots at different exposure levels to produce real-like color contrast. Besides this, the dedicated Visual Core chip provides for a high level of post-shot editing.
There is a major change compared to the Pixel 2 when it comes to the front camera. The Pixel 3 XL, as well as the smaller sibling, uses a dual setup on the front. The 8MP primary sensor comes with autofocus and captures most of the selfies while the secondary 8MP sensor is useful for wide-angle selfies. I can go on trying to describe the quality of these shots but I believe I must let the pictures do the talking, so here are some of the samples vouching for the superiority of the Pixel 3 XL’s camera.
In any given condition, the Pixel 3 clicks highly detailed shots and naturally daylight shots come out to be very crisp. The colors that it captures are very close to natural with the HDR-ish imagery adding a cinematic touch to almost every picture and this is more than clear under daylight.
Indoors & Nightlight
Pixel 3 XL does a stunning job when clicking pictures inside and while these shots do not have the propensity of being on par with daylight shots, I see that there is no reason for me to complain. The colors, even in this case, are pretty close to the natural hues and the amount of light captured in these shots is appreciable. Another notable virtue of the Pixel 3 XL’s camera is that it captures more light than received by the naked eye.
Pixel is a master of portrait shots irrespective of the available amount of lighting. The edge detection is simply stunning and so refined that you will often find it hard to believe that these shots are clicked using a smartphone. When the ambient lighting falls beneath a usable level, there is some visible bleeding along the edges, but overall these shots are really impressive.
Selfies in Daylight
Pixel 3 XL’s ingenuity carries on even when you switch to the front cameras. In daylight, there are absolutely no complaints about the quality of these shots or the details captured in the images. Selfies in daylight turn out to be bright, vivid, and well-contrasted and there’s no smoothening or beauty effect to give you unrealistic skin tones. Google has done a great job optimizing the selfies for all skin tones.
Selfies in Low/Indoor Light
Selfies clicked indoors or under low light are rife with details too and unless you’re in a totally dark room, with no significant lighting, you will not be crying over bad selfies. Take a look at these shots.
The second sensor on the front is dedicated to wide-angle selfies which stretch across a span of 97°. This camera has a fixed focus so the details might take a hit but thanks to Google’s computational photography, the colors are pretty much preserved.
However, in certain cases there is a warping effect, giving rise to a fisheye perspective, although Google has minimized it to a great extent using software improvements.
Pixel 3 XL’s selfie portraits are capable of evoking the narcissist in you, inspiring you to take many more selfie portraits and putting you at the center of attention. The camera renders highly-detailed and perfect shots of daylight, but it can also trace edges very well in nightlight, and while this is not on par with daylight portraits, we can observe similar effect on other devices including iPhones and the Pixel 3 XL is in fact doing a great job.
Super Res Zoom
The Pixel 3 XL can digitally zoom in up to 8X but it uses optical image stabilization to keep the quivering or shaky hands from shaking the pictures. While you won’t get the same amount of detail in the images at 1X and 8X, the graininess is minimized to a significant degree due to the OIS backing the feature.
The same applies for the night and while you can see some processing happening in the foreground after the image is taken, the quality of these shots has left me feeling amazed if not stunned.
The camera on the Pixel 3 XL comes with smart augmented reality features built into the camera app and Playground is one of them. It allows you to summon your favorite characters from Star Wars and a select few from the Avengers and lets you click almost life-like shots.
You can also download a slew of additional characters and even capture short videos. The quality of these AR effects is best in pictures as too much movement might hinder the camera’s ability to track people and differentiate them from digital characters. It also suggests keeping a maximum of two people in the frame for optimal results.
The Pixel 3 XL comes with automatic detection for motion in the frame so that instead of capturing an image as you press the shutter button, it takes a series of shots allowing you to choose the best one. This effectively ensures that you always get the best picture possible and this is valid for both – the front and the back cameras. I’ve pointed our first impressions video to the exact time to show you how the feature works.
The feature is pretty useful but it flunks the test at times, especially when taking portrait shots. I hope that Google irons out any issues in recognizing motion while the AI should also improve over time. Meanwhile, if you want to ensure that it works when needed, you may switch the feature on by choice instead of putting it on automatic.
This feature isn’t here yet but Google spoke about it at the launch event. Basically, the Night Sight feature will help you capture night shots with a fair amount of detail without any external source of artificial light such as a flash.
The comparison between iPhone XS and the Pixel 3’s capabilities in night light shown at the stage put Google Pixel 3 in a better light, quite literally. We’re really excited to test this feature out when it comes to Pixel 3 and 3 XL later this year.
The Pixel 3 XL gets 4K video recording at a maximum of 30fps. This is one disappointing aspect of its camera seeing that the likes of iPhone XS and Galaxy Note 9 are capable of capturing 4K videos at 60fps. However, if that’s not much of a problem for you, the Pixel 3 gets pretty solid image stabilization, thanks to Fused Video Stabilization. In cases where the lighting is sufficient for the human eye, the Pixel 3 XL’s video capturing skills score really well.
Take a look at some of the samples at 4K.
Comparison with iPhone XS, Galaxy Note 9, and Huawei P20 Pro
As you can see in the samples above, the Pixel 3 XL has much more details and edges out competitors when it comes to retention of detail as well as original colors. We’ll be bringing you a detailed camera comparison over the next few days.
The Pixel 3 XL is a champ at photography in almost all lighting conditions. The picture quality is noticeably better than most competitors in this range and even above it and I think the only camera that might bring the Pixel 3 XL down to its knees is the RED Hydrogen One. But since I haven’t been able to use it yet, I won’t make any solid claim.
The only lagging area for the Pixel 3’s camera is because of its limitation to 4K videography at 30fps and since Google has not spoken much about it, we cannot say for sure if the handset would get 60fps shooting capabilities in the future.
The Pixel 3 is undeniably at the top of the pyramid when it comes to its cameras as well as build quality. But being the supposedly best (or more justifiably the most-preferred one for Google) Android device out there, it is also required to excel in terms of performance and the Pixel 3 does not disappoint at any front.
Starting with the benchmark scores, Pixel 3 has impressive scores but that kind of delivery can be expected from Snapdragon 845 which sits at the heart of the Pixel 3 XL. The 4GB RAM, on the other hand, is almost a matter of concern considering that even smartphones in the sub-15k segment now have 6GB RAM options.
Keeping that in mind, the effect of this smaller RAM is not easily observable in daily usage and launching apps but you might face unwanted delays in case of relaunching apps, even if there are barely ten apps opened at once. This is somewhat disappointing and might leave Pixel 3 XL users deserted in a race after smartphones like OnePlus 6 (or the upcoming 6T) and the Poco F1 have paced past the starting point.
Don’t be disheartened, for the Snapdragon 845 suffices for running most games without any lag. Obviously, my first instinct was to play PUBG on the smartphone and it runs at maximum graphics without any hassles. Asphalt 9 is not available to download from the store so far but Asphalt 8 works pretty decently.
Fortnite for Android, too, dropped just in time before our review and I’ve been trying to not be killed in the game since then. The gameplay is usually interactive but there are some occasional frame drops, even when the graphics are set to auto. We’ll continue to explore this issue and try to find out if this is because of the insufficient RAM or a compatibility issue, and update you soon.
The speakers on the Pixel 3 XL are just delightfully loud and have a noticeable stereo effect, unlike the gimmicky dual speakers in which the primary speaker delivers the most of the loudness while the second one just adds some supporting tones. Further, the front-facing speakers on the Pixel 3 XL provide an engaging and gripping experience while covering a variety of frequencies.
Don’t expect to hear a rumbling bass, but you will still hear basslines. Besides this, the dual speakers offer a rich and diverse sound experience whether you’re listening to music, playing a game, or watching a movie or a show.
With the Pixel 3 XL, you also get wired USB-C earbuds within the box. These earbuds are specially designed to work the best with devices running Android Pie. While these would work with any device that supports music playback via USB-C, the Pixel earbuds allow you to trigger and command the Google Assistant even without taking the smartphone out of your pocket.
You can simply press the button on the in-line mic and speak a command to which the Assistant will respond and some of these commands also work without the internet. You can read about the attractive features that these earbuds have in this detailed article.
Next, we talk about the 3,430mAh battery which powers the Pixel 3 XL. Despite the same dimensions as the Pixel 2 XL, the successor’s battery is smaller by 90mAh. Putting it to test, we found that the smartphone can last well over 24 hours with a usual screen-on-time (SOT) of around four and a half to five hours when you’re using it moderately. In cases when I took a lot of pictures, shot 4K videos, or played games extensively, the battery lasted around 16 hours with over 6 hours of SOT.
The box comes with an 18W charger and while recharging, the Pixel 3 XL takes around 100 minutes to go from 5% to 100% while it takes anywhere between 35-40 minutes to go from 5% to 50%.
Along with the Pixel 3 devices, Google announced a wireless charging solution to almost take a jab on Apple’s AirPower which has been in limbo for a long time. The Pixel Stand is a Qi-certified fast wireless charger which charges at 10W and can also beef up other Qi-compliant devices such as iPhone XS and Galaxy S9 or Note 9.
Not only this, but the Pixel Stand also transforms the Pixel 3 into a smart display with a new interface with easy controls popping up automatically when the phone is docked. The Pixel Stand will sell separately for $79.
The Pixel 3 XL runs the purest version of Android Pie 9.0 and can easily be classified as the most advanced phone to do so. Besides the benefit of a bloat-free and vanilla Android experience, the Pixel 3 XL also gets certain features before any other Android device, and this includes features such as real-time and automatic Google Lens usage from the camera app. Supposedly, the smartphone should also be updated to at least Android R (or the third iteration from Pie) before any other device.
With the advantage of being backed by Google, you get timely security updates, making the Pixel 3 a desirable device for enterprise users, top executives, or personalities. Additionally, you get unlimited storage for Pictures which will allow you to up free some space from the smartphone. However, one disadvantage that the Pixel 3 XL faces is the lack of freedom to choose the navigation bar of your choice and Google has locked users out with the new gesture navigation system.
In terms of connectivity, Pixel 3 gets Bluetooth 5 as well as 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi which means you get support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi networks. There’s USB-C for charging and data syncing as well as for listening to music. While there’s no headphone jack, Google includes a USB-C dongle within the box so you can easily enjoy your preferred headset.
When it comes to cellular connectivity, the Pixel 3 XL comes with a single SIM slot along with eSIM. But since Google did not speak of the feature at the launch event, we cannot say for sure if it will work in India. When it comes to the call quality, the Pixel 3 XL fares well on VoLTE without any call drops. The signal is occasionally choppy when you’re moving but overall, the quality is great.
The device is also capable of automatically choosing between 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands of Wi-Fi if your router supports both. Furthermore, the smartphone comes with NFC to support Google Pay.
Google Pixel 3 XL: Pros and Cons
From the very first Pixel device, Google’s intent to create a direct rival for Apple and dent its popularity in the ultra-premium segment has been clear. However, Google has still been thoughtful and kept the price below the $1000 mark. The Pixel 3 XL is still a great performer with its cameras taking most of the attention. But it’s not suited for all users, especially those who are looking to reap maximum performance possible from an Android smartphone.
Here’s a list of pros and cons associated with buying the Pixel 3 XL:
- Scratch-resistant glass design
- IP68 rating
- Striking display rated among best by DisplayMate
- Mind-blowing and unbeatable camera
- Wide-angle selfies
- AR characters and Google Lens built into the camera app
- Front-facing stereo speakers
- Wireless charging and Pixel Stand support
- MIMO Wi-Fi
- Lacking RAM
- 4K video capped to 30fps
- Poor notch optimization in YouTube
- Disabling the Notch is unnecessarily complicated
- Inability to disable navigation gestures
Google Pixel 3 XL: Shaking iPhone’s Domination
The Google Pixel 3 XL is undeniably among the most interesting smartphones available as options to Android users and as you already know most of the credit for this goes to its amazing cameras. Besides its stunning computational photography, the Pixel 3 XL performs very well in terms of daily usage and gaming.
When it comes to entertainment, the highly-rated display makes for a very compelling case, especially with its signature YouTube experience. That is complemented by great audio setup, thanks to the stereo speakers, and the goodness of Google Assistant pouring directly into your ears through the bundled earbuds. Besides, if you just want a great phone that looks equally great, the Pixel 3 XL is the device that you can opt for. Having said that, if you dislike the notch, you can always go for the Pixel 3 with the same features and specs and no notch.
Price-wise, the Pixel 3 XL starts at $899 internationally and at Rs 83,000 in India for the 64GB variant. The higher variant is available for Rs 93,000 and you can pre-order your unit from Flipkart. You will also be able to buy these devices offline and through your operator for monthly tariffs.
The Pixel 3 XL takes on the iPhone 8 Plus 256GB directly but the more obvious competitor is the new iPhone XS and XS Max. We’ll soon be taking an in-depth look between which device is superior but from my limited exposure to both, I can say that Pixel 3 XL has proved to have better cameras so far.
So, that was our in-depth review of the Pixel 3 XL. Do you think we missed something? Tell us below. Also, throw your questions at us about anything you may want to know about the smartphone. Lastly, we’ll be coming up with our full review and a host of comparison videos on YouTube soon, so make sure you’ve subscribed to our channel.
Pre-order Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL on Flipkart (starts at Rs 71,000)