A Look at the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

In 2016, after years of hardware partnerships with smartphone makers such as HTC, LG, and Samsung, Google was finally ready to take what they had learned the next level. Last fall, Google left the Nexus behind and officially jumped into the smartphone fray with the Pixel and Pixel XL, the first ever Google branded family of smartphones.

Adored by Android purists and featuring one of the best cameras ever on a smartphone, Google succeeded in establishing themselves as a contender for the top flagship phone of 2016. After show-stopping entries into the 2017 smartphone market from LG, Samsung, and Apple, all eyes were on Google for their October 4th press event, where Google finally pulled back the curtain and unveiled the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

So what do the new Pixels have to offer and how do they compare to the original Pixel phones or other flagships available to purchase this fall? We're here to answer that and more with our Look at the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.



Design Changes

Design Changes

The first thing you’ll notice when looking at the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL is that Google has kept their signature two-tone backing that gives the Pixel series of phones its own personality, and makes the phone unmistakable when placed next to any other smart phone. As we said in our "A Look at Google Pixel and Pixel XL" article, love it or hate it, the 2-tone finish is as striking as it is unique. It seems to set the tone this year of how Google is content to march to the beat of their own drum when it comes to the Pixel 2 and 2XL.

Returning is the all-aluminum and glass unibody design found in the first Pixels, although reimagined to be nearly seamless, not even broken up by any obvious antenna bands. Google has added an extra bit of fun and flavor to the phones by choosing a starkly contrasting and colorful power button for each available color. Speaking of available colors, Google is back with their fun, unconventional color names and choices. The Pixel 2 is available in Just Black, Clearly White, and Kinda Blue, while the XL 2 is available in only Just Black or Black & White.

Along the top and bottom edges of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL face are stereo speakers housed within a bezel that is comparatively large compared to other 2017 flagships. Between those speakers, the always-on display gives you access to time, weather, and notifications without fully waking up the phone. The Pixel 2 and 2 XL automatically listen for music and show you the artist name and song title right on the lock screen without ever connecting to internet services.

Hidden within that colorful unibody design is another curious design element of the new Pixels, one that allows you to actually squeeze the phone along the edges to launch the Google assistant, which can also be launched with voice or by holding the home button. Not groundbreaking by any means, in fact HTC did something similar in the U11, but the inclusion of such a feature adds to the overall whimsical personality that new Pixel phones seem to want to embody.

Sadly, Google has opted to remove the fan favorite headphone jack, but does offer headphone owners a parting gift by way of a USB C to 3.5mm headphone dongle included in the box.



Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Compared

Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Compared

Aside from the obvious difference in size there is only one major difference between the Pixel 2 and the Pixel 2 XL. While on stage at their Pixel 2 unveiling, a Google rep jabbed at the competition by declaring that Google does not reserve the best features for their biggest phones, an obvious pair of missiles fired in the direction of Apple and Samsung.

What the rep failed to mention however, is that Google does, in fact, reserve one of the best features for their largest phone, as only the 6.2-in. x 3.0-in. x 0.3-in. Pixel 2 XL features a 534ppi 2880 x 1440 QuadHD+ pOLED screen. The screen found on the 5.7-in. x 2.7-in. x 0.3-in. Pixel 2 appears to be the same screen found in the original Pixel, a 441ppi 1080p “FullHD” AMOLED screen. The easy explanation for the difference would be that the Pixel XL 2 features a 6-inch screen, which more easily lends itself to QHD+ than the 5-inch screen found in the Pixel 2, if not for the fact that most of the flagships with a 5-inch class screen have featured QHD for the past two generations. Oops!

Screen and dimensions aside, there are no other notable differences between the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.



Camera

Camera

Camera performance is one of the most widely compared features of new flagship phones. This year, nearly every major smartphone manufacturer including LG, Samsung, and Apple have included both a telephoto and a wide-angle camera on the rear of the phone. According to these smartphone makers, using both cameras in tandem gives on-the-go photographers unparalleled picture quality and separation between subject and background.

Google has drawn a line in the sand and proclaimed that they don’t need two cameras on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL to deliver the same picture quality, thanks to their inclusion of a dual-pixel sensor on their singular camera, a feature also included in the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Having a dual-pixel sensor, in essence, means each pixel of the CMOS examines the subject of the photo separately on the left and right hand side of each individual pixel, and through software, Google claims their portrait mode and background blur effects are every bit as good as phones with two cameras doing the same job.

The results do appear to match, or at least come very close to the competition, and Google is quick to boast that the 12.2MP f/1.8 rear camera found on both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL scored a smartphone record 98 on mobile DxOMark, a site dedicated to reviewing and rating image quality for cameras and related equipment.

On the video front, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL land right about where other flagships do this year, featuring 4K video recording at 30fps, along with 1080p video at up to 120fps, and 720p video at up to 240fps for super slow motion video.

The front facing camera is standard fare, with an 8MP, f/2.4 fixed focus camera capable of recording 1080p, 720p, and 480p video at up to 30fps.



Under the Hood

Under the Hood

At their presser, Google began talking about the pixel by proclaiming that it was a waste of time to compare hardware specs between phones because notions like Moore’s law no longer apply. While the claim may be somewhat dubious and self-serving, they are correct in many ways when comparing current gen phones, but upgrading from the Pixel to the Pixel 2 does come with a significant performance boost, as the Snapdragon 835 found in the Pixel 2 offers a 27% increase in performance while requiring 40% less power.

Speaking of the Snapdragon 835, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, along with every other 2017 flagship features the famed Qualcomm chip, complete with the Audrino 540 graphics processor, 4GB of RAM, and are available in 64GB and 128GB varieties. Google does have the edge on some of the competition here in battery capacity with the Pixel 2 XL, which slightly outclasses the Note 8 and V30 with a 3520mAh Li-On battery.

Rounding out the features that everyone comes to expect on a flagship is Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11ac wireless, NFC, and USB C connectivity with Quickcharge 4.0 for quickly juicing up your battery. On the subject of charging, Pixel fans hoping to join in on the wireless charging craze will have to look forward to the Pixel 3, as the only way to charge the Pixel 2 or 2 XL is with a USB-C cable.



Pricing and Final Thoughts

Pricing and Final Thoughts

With the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, Google has perhaps won another important victory over the likes of the iPhone X and the Note 8: the price! While not a budget phone by any means, the phones do cost significantly less than the aforementioned flagships, with the Pixel 2 XL starting at $849 for a 64GB model and $649 for the Pixel 2 (add $100 to either for the 128GB variety).

The Google Pixel 2 and 2 XL hit store shelves October 19th, 2017 and are available to preorder unlocked directly from Google. Sadly, if you are looking to use your carrier’s upgrade option to get your hands on the new Pixels, unless you are a Verizon customer, you are out of luck since Google has chosen to keep their Verizon carrier exclusivity for retail sales.

Other carriers are not taking this exclusivity lying down, however, and we are proud to let our readers know that T-Mobile has already fired the first shot in the impending battle for your Pixel bucks, by way of a press release just moments after the Pixel 2 event ended. T-Mobile is offering anyone who brings in their unlocked Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL a $325 via prepaid master card if you sign up for T-mobile service or add a new line or switch an existing line to a qualifying plan.

With the Note 8 and iPhone 8 already on store shelves and the release of the Pixel 2 and iPhone X happening within weeks of each other, this holiday season is shaping up to be one of the most fiercely fought retail battles in smartphone history. Keep your browsers pointed at BFAds where we will bring all the best in smartphone deals throughout the holiday season.

October 5, 2017
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