Review: Google Pixel 2 XL smart phone
4.5Overall Score

Price (RRP): $1399
Manufacturer: Google

When Google launched its Pixel phones at the tail end of 2016, they were very well received. But time moves on, and I’ve lately been spending a little quality time with the Google Pixel 2 XL. How does it stack up?

Overview

Answer? Very well. But very well in ways that tend not to be all that obvious.

First, it features a large – 6 inch, 152mm – display using pOLED technology. This is in the nifty new aspect ratio 18:9 (also known as – but please don’t tell anyone – 2:1) with 1440 by 2880 pixels. Despite that, it’s not very much bigger than my Samsung Galaxy S7 with its 5.1 inch display. Dimensions are 76.7mm wide, 157.9mm tall and 7.9mm thick.

The phone has an “Active Edge”. Squeeze the bottom half and you can have it invoke Google Assistant, or stop the ringing, or both depending on context. That’s a seriously useful feature, but not an obvious one. The body features aluminium unibody construction, and the screen is covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 5. It’s IP67 rated, which means dust proof and should survive immersion of up to a metre for up to half an hour.

The glass curves neatly at the edges into the body, although no “edge” style display is provided. The corners of the display area are curved, hiding the pixels right in the extremities. At the back, the top one sixth or so is textured differently to the rest of the body, providing a distinctive and interesting appearance … if the phone isn’t in a case.

Underneath is the hottest processor around at the moment, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. The phone has 4GB of processing RAM. In terms of raw performance, the only phone I’ve tested which barely pips it on the Basemark OS II benchmark is the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, which managed 3540 compared to the Pixel 2 XL’s 3426. The Google phone is twenty per cent faster on this bench test than the Samsung Galaxy S7, which is no-one’s idea of a slow performer.

On the Basemark OS X games benchmark, the Pixel 2 XL was again slightly behind the Sony, and also the Huawei Mate 9, and around 7.5% faster than the S7.

Of course it runs the latest Android: Oreo 8.0. The review phone was fitted with 64GB of RAM for storage. It can be optioned up to 128GB for an additional $150. Disappointingly for those who like carrying plenty of media around with them, there is no provision for expanding storage.

This is not the slightest problem I imagine for most users. Especially as your purchase includes “Free, unlimited online storage for photos and videos taken with Pixel in Google Photos”. The footnote says that is for original quality for photos taken over the next three years, and “high quality” for subsequent photos and videos. You could imagine that amounting to many gigabytes for keen photographers and videographers.

But as a codger, I like to have lots of local storage for carrying my own music files, and somewhat resent having to rely on data transfers off site using bandwidth I have to pay for. Each to their own.

The outside world

The phone supports, of course, all the fastest LTE and WiFi standards, including 2×2 MIMO for the 802.11ac WiFi. Bluetooth is 5.0 with low energy support. There’s NFC and eSIM – electronic SIM – built in*.

It connects physically via USB Type-C. Rather disappointingly, it does not appear to support external displays, something you may have noticed I’ve become quite keen on.

By “does not appear to support” I mean that I tried it out with both the Apple USB Type-C multiport adaptor and the new Belkin USB Type-C dock. Neither does it support Ethernet, but it does make use of USB storage, mouse and keyboard connections, and audio DACs.