Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

Introduction


For all the flak both Apple and Google get for “copying” one another, it's genuinely interesting to watch how their very different paths through the smartphone landscape have converged time and time again. On the hardware front, we've watched Apple grow from a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it approach to handsets to this year's lineup, with not just the greatest number of phones ever, but also a couple distinctly different designs.

Google, meanwhile, has evolved from selling hardware with a real enthusiasts-focused kick to come out with some eminently commercial handsets, with a very Apple-like level of polish and it-just-works user-friendliness.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Last year really made that transition for Google undeniably apparent, as the long-standing Nexus line gave way to the new Pixel phones. While that new direction for Google's phone hardware was largely successful, giving us, among other things, one of the best smartphone cameras we used all year, it also wasn't without a few hiccups, and Google spent some time patching a variety of early glitches.

Now the Pixel phones are back, and Google's switching things up again. We've still got one Pixel and one jumbo-sized XL model, and while these two share a lot of common hardware, we're also getting a bit of an iPhone 8/ iPhone X split, as the HTC-made Pixel 2 with its traditionally-shaped 5.0-inch display goes up against the LG-built Pixel 2 XL and its curved-cornered, super-widescreen 18:9 6.0-inch screen.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
With different manufacturers helping Google create this hardware, and fundamentally different screens on these two options, does this year's Pixel lineup lose some of its unity? How do Google-designed phones compare to the rest of 2017's very, very competitive lineup? And can we still look forward to some of that best-in-class camera performance?

We've been spending the last couple days with both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in the hopes of answering just those questions.

In the box:

  • Google Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL
  • USB Type-C to standard A adapter
  • USB Type-C cable
  • USB Type-C charger
  • USB Type-C headphone adapter
  • SIM tool
  • Get-started booklet
  • Reference guide

Design

Google's one-of-a-kind Pixel look gets a really well-done update – with a new _phone_ shape, to boot

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

The original Pixel gave us one of last year's most unusual looks for a smartphone, thanks to the presence of its two-tone back: glass up top, surrounding the main camera and rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, and metal down below, which smoothly flowed across the rest of the rear plate and over onto the phone's edges.

For round two, Google's back with another trip down the same road, but one where the scenery’s now just a bit different. While Google's once again using a combination of different materials, the top glass is far less pronounced, and now only lives in a narrowed band encompassing the phone's camera hardware.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
The phones are still built with an aluminum body, but instead of feeling the metal directly, this time it's topped by what Google's calling a “hybrid coating.” It looks a bit like plastic, and feels almost ceramic, and while it's unusual to the point it caused us to do a double-take when first going hands-on with the hardware, we quickly came around to it. The rough matte finish feels all kinds of durable, and contrasts really nicely against the glossy glass above.

The top edge of both Pixel 2 phones is mostly bare, save for a tiny microphone hole. On the left side we have the SIM tray (if you're not doing the whole Project Fi embedded-SIM deal), and down below there's another mic and the USB Type-C port. On the right we find both the power button and volume rocker, though in an unusual power-on-top configuration (which caused us more than a few errant button presses). Notably absent is an analog headphone jack, either in a tip-of-the-hat to Apple's influence or HTC's involvement.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
That's a controversial move, and one we'll talk about more in just a bit, but the port's absence does make one thing a little easier: waterproofing. Even still, the phones only score an IP67 rating, rather than the slightly more robust IP68 enjoyed by a growing segment of popular handsets.

Both Pixel 2 phones share that same basic construction, but we don't have to look far for differences to start cropping up. Understandably, the Pixel 2's got much larger top and bottom bezels than the Pixel 2 XL, as its standard 16:9 screen doesn't quite fill the phone's face. But no matter which model you choose, you get to enjoy the presence of stereo front-facing speakers; just on the Pixel 2, they're a little more offset from the handset's edge, while the 2 XL pushes them out to the periphery.

There's also noticeable difference in cross-section here. While both models are of comparable thickness, the Pixel 2 XL uses curved-edge glass on the front, and with matching curves around back, the handset's edge is much narrower than on the Pixel 2. Combined with the decreased width of the smaller phone, that makes the Pixel 2 substantially more comfortable to hold than the XL. There's also a bit of a “lip” around the XL's screen, preventing it from smoothly flowing into the edge. We imagine that's for protective purposes (or maybe for Active Edge), but it doesn't quite feel super-premium.

Finally, it may be the most minor of differences, but the Google “G” on the back of the XL is shiny and reflective, while the G on the smaller Pixel 2 is barely noticeable and made of the same material as the rest of the back panel.

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Front view | Side view
Google Pixel 2
Google Pixel 2
5.74 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel
Google Pixel
5.66 x 2.74 x 0.34 inches
143.84 x 69.54 x 8.58 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Google Pixel

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8
5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches
148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8

Apple iPhone 8
Apple iPhone 8
5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches
138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
5.22 oz (148 g)

Apple iPhone 8


Front view | Side view
Google Pixel 2 XL
Google Pixel 2 XL
6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches
157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm
6.17 oz (175 g)

Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel XL
Google Pixel XL
6.09 x 2.98 x 0.34 inches
154.72 x 75.74 x 8.6 mm
5.93 oz (168 g)

Google Pixel XL

Samsung Galaxy S8+
Samsung Galaxy S8+
6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches
159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
6.10 oz (173 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8+

Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Apple iPhone 8 Plus
6.24 x 3.07 x 0.3 inches
158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm
7.13 oz (202 g)

Apple iPhone 8 Plus




Display

Google gives shoppers a welcome choice between standard or super-widescreen displays – with little compromise

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

While there are a number of little differences between the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, none are more pronounced than the screens on these handsets. The Pixel 2 aims to recapture the spirit of the first-gen Pixel with the same sort of 5.0-inch, 1080 x 1920 AMOLED panel. Rather than just giving us a bigger version of the same thing, the Pixel 2 XL embraces the new look of extra-widescreen smartphones with a 6.0-inch 1440 x 2880 pOLED display. And if you had any doubts that LG was making this phone, look no further than the screen's curved corners – the display here is a near spitting image of the screen on the LG V30.

Compared to the V30, though, the Pixel 2 XL is a bigger smartphone, with not-quite-so-thin bezels. Part of the narrative of these super-wide screens has been that they attempt to fill as much of the phone's face as possible, so Google's implementation here feels a little like a half-effort. Yes, the very wide display is present, but the rest of the hardware isn't really taking full advantage of it. That same sentiment pops up again when we look at the phone's camera, which lacks 18:9 shooting modes for filming natively screen-filling content.

Going 18:9 is probably a step Google felt like it had to take, but compared to other ultra-widescreen phones we've gotten to know so far this year, the Pixel 2 XL doesn't seem as much like a fully-realized idea for how these kind of phones can improve over traditional designs.

Looking at the capabilities of these screens, both are able to produce the sort of bold, colorful content we expect from OLED screens, while thankfully also having an option to toggle “vibrant colors” off for a look that's a little more natural. In that standard mode, color accuracy is decent on both screens, and while nothing is really spot-on perfect (with reds in particular looking a little drab), it's a generally close, solid showing overall.

One really sore point, though, is screen brightness, and neither the Pixel 2 nor Pixel 2 XL have particularly bright displays. Of the two, the XL's capable of higher-intensity output, but the majority of phones we test still manage to do better than these. Sometimes a _phone_ will save its brightest output for auto mode, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the Pixel 2 phones, and auto-brightness didn't step up to save either.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Google Pixel 2 408
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6879
(Excellent)
2.18
3.71
(Good)
2.08
(Good)
Google Pixel 2 XL 460
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6863
(Excellent)
2.3
4.41
(Average)
4.49
(Average)
Apple iPhone 8 663
(Excellent)
3
(Excellent)
1:1461
(Excellent)
7026
(Good)
2.14
3.16
(Good)
4.15
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S8 570
(Excellent)
1
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6784
(Excellent)
2.11
5.79
(Average)
5.26
(Average)
LG G6 506
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2164
(Excellent)
8639
(Poor)
2.12
5.68
(Average)
7.55
(Average)
OnePlus 5 435
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
8014
(Poor)
2.13
6.63
(Average)
6.29
(Average)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

Introduction


For all the flak both Apple and Google get for “copying” one another, it's genuinely interesting to watch how their very different paths through the smartphone landscape have converged time and time again. On the hardware front, we've watched Apple grow from a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it approach to handsets to this year's lineup, with not just the greatest number of phones ever, but also a couple distinctly different designs.

Google, meanwhile, has evolved from selling hardware with a real enthusiasts-focused kick to come out with some eminently commercial handsets, with a very Apple-like level of polish and it-just-works user-friendliness.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Last year really made that transition for Google undeniably apparent, as the long-standing Nexus line gave way to the new Pixel phones. While that new direction for Google's phone hardware was largely successful, giving us, among other things, one of the best smartphone cameras we used all year, it also wasn't without a few hiccups, and Google spent some time patching a variety of early glitches.

Now the Pixel phones are back, and Google's switching things up again. We've still got one Pixel and one jumbo-sized XL model, and while these two share a lot of common hardware, we're also getting a bit of an iPhone 8/ iPhone X split, as the HTC-made Pixel 2 with its traditionally-shaped 5.0-inch display goes up against the LG-built Pixel 2 XL and its curved-cornered, super-widescreen 18:9 6.0-inch screen.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
With different manufacturers helping Google create this hardware, and fundamentally different screens on these two options, does this year's Pixel lineup lose some of its unity? How do Google-designed phones compare to the rest of 2017's very, very competitive lineup? And can we still look forward to some of that best-in-class camera performance?

We've been spending the last couple days with both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL in the hopes of answering just those questions.

In the box:

  • Google Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL
  • USB Type-C to standard A adapter
  • USB Type-C cable
  • USB Type-C charger
  • USB Type-C headphone adapter
  • SIM tool
  • Get-started booklet
  • Reference guide

Design

Google's one-of-a-kind Pixel look gets a really well-done update – with a new phone shape, to boot

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

The original Pixel gave us one of last year's most unusual looks for a smartphone, thanks to the presence of its two-tone back: glass up top, surrounding the main camera and rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, and metal down below, which smoothly flowed across the rest of the rear plate and over onto the phone's edges.

For round two, Google's back with another trip down the same road, but one where the scenery’s now just a bit different. While Google's once again using a combination of different materials, the top glass is far less pronounced, and now only lives in a narrowed band encompassing the phone's camera hardware.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
The phones are still built with an aluminum body, but instead of feeling the metal directly, this time it's topped by what Google's calling a “hybrid coating.” It looks a bit like plastic, and feels almost ceramic, and while it's unusual to the point it caused us to do a double-take when first going hands-on with the hardware, we quickly came around to it. The rough matte finish feels all kinds of durable, and contrasts really nicely against the glossy glass above.

The top edge of both Pixel 2 phones is mostly bare, save for a tiny microphone hole. On the left side we have the SIM tray (if you're not doing the whole Project Fi embedded-SIM deal), and down below there's another mic and the USB Type-C port. On the right we find both the power button and volume rocker, though in an unusual power-on-top configuration (which caused us more than a few errant button presses). Notably absent is an analog headphone jack, either in a tip-of-the-hat to Apple's influence or HTC's involvement.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
That's a controversial move, and one we'll talk about more in just a bit, but the port's absence does make one thing a little easier: waterproofing. Even still, the phones only score an IP67 rating, rather than the slightly more robust IP68 enjoyed by a growing segment of popular handsets.

Both Pixel 2 phones share that same basic construction, but we don't have to look far for differences to start cropping up. Understandably, the Pixel 2's got much larger top and bottom bezels than the Pixel 2 XL, as its standard 16:9 screen doesn't quite fill the phone's face. But no matter which model you choose, you get to enjoy the presence of stereo front-facing speakers; just on the Pixel 2, they're a little more offset from the handset's edge, while the 2 XL pushes them out to the periphery.

There's also noticeable difference in cross-section here. While both models are of comparable thickness, the Pixel 2 XL uses curved-edge glass on the front, and with matching curves around back, the handset's edge is much narrower than on the Pixel 2. Combined with the decreased width of the smaller phone, that makes the Pixel 2 substantially more comfortable to hold than the XL. There's also a bit of a “lip” around the XL's screen, preventing it from smoothly flowing into the edge. We imagine that's for protective purposes (or maybe for Active Edge), but it doesn't quite feel super-premium.

Finally, it may be the most minor of differences, but the Google “G” on the back of the XL is shiny and reflective, while the G on the smaller Pixel 2 is barely noticeable and made of the same material as the rest of the back panel.

Front view | Side view
Google Pixel 2
Google Pixel 2
5.74 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches
145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel
Google Pixel
5.66 x 2.74 x 0.34 inches
143.84 x 69.54 x 8.58 mm
5.04 oz (143 g)

Google Pixel

Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung Galaxy S8
5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31 inches
148.9 x 68.1 x 8.0 mm
5.36 oz (152 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8

Apple iPhone 8
Apple iPhone 8
5.45 x 2.65 x 0.29 inches
138.4 x 67.3 x 7.3 mm
5.22 oz (148 g)

Apple iPhone 8


Front view | Side view
Google Pixel 2 XL
Google Pixel 2 XL
6.22 x 3.02 x 0.31 inches
157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm
6.17 oz (175 g)

Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel XL
Google Pixel XL
6.09 x 2.98 x 0.34 inches
154.72 x 75.74 x 8.6 mm
5.93 oz (168 g)

Google Pixel XL

Samsung Galaxy S8+
Samsung Galaxy S8+
6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches
159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm
6.10 oz (173 g)

Samsung Galaxy S8+

Apple iPhone 8 Plus
Apple iPhone 8 Plus
6.24 x 3.07 x 0.3 inches
158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 mm
7.13 oz (202 g)

Apple iPhone 8 Plus




Display

Google gives shoppers a welcome choice between standard or super-widescreen displays – with little compromise

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

While there are a number of little differences between the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, none are more pronounced than the screens on these handsets. The Pixel 2 aims to recapture the spirit of the first-gen Pixel with the same sort of 5.0-inch, 1080 x 1920 AMOLED panel. Rather than just giving us a bigger version of the same thing, the Pixel 2 XL embraces the new look of extra-widescreen smartphones with a 6.0-inch 1440 x 2880 pOLED display. And if you had any doubts that LG was making this phone, look no further than the screen's curved corners – the display here is a near spitting image of the screen on the LG V30.

Compared to the V30, though, the Pixel 2 XL is a bigger smartphone, with not-quite-so-thin bezels. Part of the narrative of these super-wide screens has been that they attempt to fill as much of the phone's face as possible, so Google's implementation here feels a little like a half-effort. Yes, the very wide display is present, but the rest of the hardware isn't really taking full advantage of it. That same sentiment pops up again when we look at the phone's camera, which lacks 18:9 shooting modes for filming natively screen-filling content.

Going 18:9 is probably a step Google felt like it had to take, but compared to other ultra-widescreen phones we've gotten to know so far this year, the Pixel 2 XL doesn't seem as much like a fully-realized idea for how these kind of phones can improve over traditional designs.

Looking at the capabilities of these screens, both are able to produce the sort of bold, colorful content we expect from OLED screens, while thankfully also having an option to toggle “vibrant colors” off for a look that's a little more natural. In that standard mode, color accuracy is decent on both screens, and while nothing is really spot-on perfect (with reds in particular looking a little drab), it's a generally close, solid showing overall.

One really sore point, though, is screen brightness, and neither the Pixel 2 nor Pixel 2 XL have particularly bright displays. Of the two, the XL's capable of higher-intensity output, but the majority of phones we test still manage to do better than these. Sometimes a phone will save its brightest output for auto mode, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the Pixel 2 phones, and auto-brightness didn't step up to save either.

Display measurements and quality

Maximum brightness (nits)Higher is better Minimum brightness (nits)Lower is better Contrast Higher is better Color temperature (Kelvins) Gamma Delta E rgbcmy Lower is better Delta E grayscale Lower is better
Google Pixel 2 408
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6879
(Excellent)
2.18
3.71
(Good)
2.08
(Good)
Google Pixel 2 XL 460
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6863
(Excellent)
2.3
4.41
(Average)
4.49
(Average)
Apple iPhone 8 663
(Excellent)
3
(Excellent)
1:1461
(Excellent)
7026
(Good)
2.14
3.16
(Good)
4.15
(Average)
Samsung Galaxy S8 570
(Excellent)
1
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
6784
(Excellent)
2.11
5.79
(Average)
5.26
(Average)
LG G6 506
(Excellent)
4
(Excellent)
1:2164
(Excellent)
8639
(Poor)
2.12
5.68
(Average)
7.55
(Average)
OnePlus 5 435
(Good)
2
(Excellent)
unmeasurable
(Excellent)
8014
(Poor)
2.13
6.63
(Average)
6.29
(Average)
View all

The CIE 1931 xy color gamut chart represents the set (area) of colors that a display can reproduce, with the sRGB colorspace (the highlighted triangle) serving as reference. The chart also provides a visual representation of a display's color accuracy. The small squares across the boundaries of the triangle are the reference points for the various colors, while the small dots are the actual measurements. Ideally, each dot should be positioned on top of its respective square. The 'x: CIE31' and 'y: CIE31' values in the table below the chart indicate the position of each measurement on the chart. 'Y' shows the luminance (in nits) of each measured color, while 'Target Y' is the desired luminance level for that color. Finally, 'ΔE 2000' is the Delta E value of the measured color. Delta E values of below 2 are ideal.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Color accuracy chart gives an idea of how close a display's measured colors are to their referential values. The first line holds the measured (actual) colors, while the second line holds the reference (target) colors. The closer the actual colors are to the target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

The Grayscale accuracy chart shows whether a display has a correct white balance (balance between red, green and blue) across different levels of grey (from dark to bright). The closer the Actual colors are to the Target ones, the better.

These measurements are made using SpectraCal's CalMAN calibration software.

View all


Interface and Functionality

Oreo looks great and feels right at home on Google hardware, but Active Edge fails to wow

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

As Google phones, both Pixel 2 models arriving running the company's hot-off-the-presses latest version of Android: 8.0 Oreo. If you've been following Oreo, you already have an idea of what to expect, and while the overall feel is very familiar, it doesn't take long before you'll start noticing all the little changes, like dots popping up on app icons to indicate unread notifications.

One of the nicer things about the Android implementation on these two handsets is how it's not afraid to take full advantage of these dense, sharp, pixel-rich screens; a lot of the time, we power on a new phone only to face huge icons and unnecessarily large text. By contrast, the Pixel 2 phones are very comfortable cramming a lot of information on their screens, right out of the box. Everything's still beautifully legible, and you can always scale down things in system settings if you prefer a different look.

Taking a cue from HTC and its U11 flagship, both Pixel 2 phones feature what Google calls the Active Edge – but make no mistake, this is Edge Sense. Just like on the U11, you squeeze the phone's body to trigger an effect, and the intensity of the squeeze needed to set off that action is customizable.

Unlike the U11, though, and its ability to quick-launch the app of your choice, this time Active Edge is laser-focused on its mission: connecting you with the Google Assistant. That works fine, don't get us wrong, but between long-pressing the home button, saying “OK Google,” and now this, Google's feeling more than little bit thirsty. We get it: you want people using the Assistant. And while that's alright, it's a shame that Active Edge isn't customizable like we know it could be.

Processor and Memory

Respectable flagship-class performance can't quite distract from the lack of storage expansion

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

Google takes a pretty standard approach to outfitting the Pixel 2 with its processing hardware, giving both the smaller phone and the XL the tried-and-true combination of a Snapdragon 835 and 4GB of RAM. While some Androids this year have continued to experiment with loftier memory ceilings, 4GB is more than sufficient for the vast majority of users, and we didn't run into any problems with this setup here.

Performance is unsurprisingly comparable to other similarly equipped Androids, with some benchmarks coming in a little lower, and some a little higher – but still a very representative showing across the board.

That's also true as we look at performance between the two Pixel 2 phones, and the only real discrepancy that stands out is some higher frame rates with the smaller handset – and considering how the Pixel 2 XL has to drive literally twice as many pixels as its little brother, that makes plenty of sense.

So while the Pixel 2 isn't head-and-shoulders above the rest of 2017's Android heavyweights, nor does it let us down, either – these phones are very much right up there with some of the most powerful handsets around.

We only wish the same could be said about storage, and particularly, microSD expansion. Instead, both Pixel 2 phones are available in your choice of 64GB or 128GB – but that's all she wrote. Yes, Google leans heavily on its cloud-storage offerings, but that's a poor alternative to instantly being able to add an extra 256GB local storage capacity.

Google's been actively rejecting microSD expansion for some time now, and that's exactly the case with the new Pixels, as well.

Performance benchmarks

AnTuTu
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 167168
Google Pixel 2 XL 169541
Apple iPhone 8 215075
Samsung Galaxy S8 166646.66
LG G6 157208
OnePlus 5 178968
JetStream
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 63.433
Google Pixel 2 XL 63.163
Apple iPhone 8 225.79
Samsung Galaxy S8 55.503
LG G6 57.368
OnePlus 5 69.780
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 60
Google Pixel 2 XL 60
Apple iPhone 8 60
Samsung Galaxy S8 60
LG G6 50
OnePlus 5 60
GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 on-screen
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 42
Google Pixel 2 XL 21
Apple iPhone 8 60
Samsung Galaxy S8 41
LG G6 14
OnePlus 5 40
Basemark OS II
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 3345
Google Pixel 2 XL 3340
Apple iPhone 8 4226
Samsung Galaxy S8 3201.66
LG G6 2122
OnePlus 5 3500
Geekbench 4 single-core
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 1913
Google Pixel 2 XL 1917
Apple iPhone 8 4239
Samsung Galaxy S8 2008.33
LG G6 1797
OnePlus 5 1941
Geekbench 4 multi-core
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 6333
Google Pixel 2 XL 6315
Apple iPhone 8 10405
Samsung Galaxy S8 6575
LG G6 4285
OnePlus 5 6678
View all

Connectivity

Google's love affair with USB Type-C shows no signs of cooling down

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

USB Type-C is nothing new for most smartphone users, but we have to give Google props for so thoroughly embracing the connector on last year's Pixel – a situation that very much continues (and expands) with the Pixel 2. We'll talk about battery life just a bit later on, but it's worth mentioning here that the Pixel 2 has that rare charger with its own USB Type-C port – letting you use a double-ended Type-C cable (facing either way you choose) to charge the phone.

Last year, we got both C-to-C and the more familiar C-to-A (the standard old non-reversible rectangle USB) cables in the Pixel box, but now the Pixel 2 simplifies with just C-to-C. There's still a C-to-A adapter in the box to ease the transfer of files and media off your old phone, but you're going to have to supply your own cable to use with it – no problem there.

Camera

Without dual-camera gimmicks to distract us, Google once again gives us one of the most effortlessly high-quality camera solutions around

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

The original Pixel felt like the antithesis to a growing emphasis on smartphone camera hardware: dual cameras, zoom lenses, monochrome cameras, and the like. Instead, Google gave us a straightforward shooter that excelled thanks to its exceptional image-processing prowess, including a stellar auto-HDR+ mode.

With both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, we're looking at a very similar story. Both phones offer a single 12.2MP main camera, featuring a relatively wide f/1.8 aperture, optical stabilization, and a combined dual-pixel/laser-assisted autofocus. Around front, both phones have 8MP selfie cams, with the same 1.4um pixel size as the main camera.

That primary camera setup sounds a lot like what we got last year, only with slightly smaller pixels, a wider aperture, and the arrival of optical stabilization. How do those pluses and minuses add up to recreating the exceptional camera performance of the first Pixel? Let's take a look.

Image quality


To our great relief, Google manages to largely recapture last year's magic with the Pixel 2 phones, and both models are capable of capturing some beautiful pictures with only a minimal expenditure of effort. The updated camera software is intuitive and easy to use, and better still: fast and responsive. Just tap on your subject to set exposure and focus, tap the shutter, and you're done.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

Across lightning conditions and scene stagings, the Pixel 2 manages to produce some pretty consistently high-quality shots. While there's certainly noise in low-light pics, that tends to hide away in the very darkest regions of the frame, while illuminated subjects stand out with commendable quality. Even the front-facer does a decent job at night, but it is a tad harder to hold the phone steady enough for a clean exposure.

The output of the Pixel 2's camera reminds us the most of Apple's, and we find these shots sharing the same kind of somewhat underplayed, but still very true-to-life-looking color as iPhone pics. Contrast and saturation aren't as over-the-top as some HDR pics can get, and the images we took really feel representative of what we saw with our own eyes.

Perhaps because we had such high expectations come off of last year's Pixel, the Pixel 2 and 2 XL's camera performance doesn't feel quite as revolutionary, but that absolutely does not change that this is a supremely capable, flexible camera that any photography fan should be well happy with.


Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 1.16
1.24
1109
1016
Google Pixel 2 XL 0.951
0.918
700
843
Apple iPhone 8 1.16
1.91
No data
No data
Samsung Galaxy S8 1.2
1.3
281
261
LG G6 1.7
2.7
522
530
OnePlus 5 1.1
1.5
682
682
View all

New to the Pixel camera experience this year is a blurred-background portrait mode, just like you see on all the dual-camera smartphones out there. Of course, the Pixel 2 only has a single main camera – so how does it pull off that depth-sensing magic? Instead of relying on the parallax of dual cameras, Google taps into the dual-pixel autofocus system here, re-purposing that focus hardware to detect depth. The effect works better sometimes than others, and we did notice a fair amount of both over- and under-blur, either where the edge's of a subject's hairline were inappropriately blurred, or background areas were left in sharp focus. The latter condition seems especially prevalent in the zone between a subject's ear and shoulder.

Impressively, Google also pulls off this trick with the front-facer, even though that camera lacks dual-pixel autofocus. Instead Google goes in a different direction, using face-recognition to spot subjects and identify their bodies. As a result, this one is really for people only, and won't be successful with non-human subjects. But in a bit of irony, the edge-detection seems to work a little better here, avoiding confusion over ambiguous depth data and really zeroing-in on your subject.

Both portrait modes could use further tweaking, and we look forward to seeing what Google can deliver as the software matures.

Video recording


At first glance, the Pixel 2's video-recording modes are positively spartan: you've got your choice of 4K, 1080p, 720p, and … that's it. While other phones would toss in some 2K options, MMS, or even 1:1 square video, Google keeps things simple.

But those three resolution choices are just a start, and after selecting one you can also choose to engage the phone's electronic stabilization, and (in all but 4K) choose between a couple frame rates.

No matter which you go with, video quality is really solid. Imagery is sharp even with stabilization engaged, and that mode manages to reduce the shakes without giving the video that overly-floaty look that's typical of correction.

Audio quality leaves us without any complaints, and we were really impressed by the speed at which the camera manages to grab new subjects and adjust focus – faster than you can keep up.

Maybe the one thing that's really missing is that with the Pixel 2 XL, there's no option for recording 18:9 video that would fill the phone's screen upon playback. While such resolutions aren't nearly as popular as the supported 16:9 modes, we're so used to seeing them on other super-widescreen phones that the utter absence here stands out. Perhaps Google has a good reason for this decision, but it feels like it contributes to the XL's screen being more an afterthought than a critical component of the phone's design.



Multimedia

Stereo speakers are a nice win

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

This year, Google steps up its multimedia game for the Pixel 2 with the presence of dual front-facing stereo speakers. While some companies manage to get by with relative success pairing a rear-edge speaker with an earpiece speaker, there really is no beating an intentional layout like this, putting a real priority on immersive sound.

And just as we'd expect, that's exactly what we get from both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Of the two, we'd say the speakers on the smaller phone have the slight edge, being both louder and sounding a little cleaner than on the XL. Maybe that's due to having more room to work with thanks to the larger bezels, but neither phone should steer you too wrong.

But for all the goodwill Google scores from those speakers, the company also joined the slowly growing list of phone-makers doing away with the legacy analog headphone jack.

Google doesn't even include a pair of wired USB headphones, like HTC or Apple does – all you get is the USB adapter for use with your existing earbuds. Google's already faced some criticism over not just this move to do away with the headphone jack but also to ask a steep $20 for a replacement adapter – and thankfully, it's come down from that price.

We already don't love the lack of flexibility inherent with a phone that scraps its headphone jack, to say nothing of the annoyance of having to carry around and keep track of that adapter. But it's made all the worse here by the adapter simply not working very well. We found ours heating up noticeably during use, but the real problem was when the phone refused to recognize the plugged-in headphones and adapter at all, instead ignoring them and routing sound through the Pixel 2's speakers. What followed was an extended sequence of inserting and removing the adapter, restarting apps, and eventually rebooting the phone.

There can be real benefits to going the USB route for sound output, but right now the experience on the Pixel 2 and 2 XL is just too frustrating to make any of those worth it.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 0.943
Google Pixel 2 XL 0.397
Apple iPhone 8 0.995
Samsung Galaxy S8 0.75
LG G6 0.78
OnePlus 5 0.96
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 79.7
Google Pixel 2 XL 76.3
Apple iPhone 8 77.9
Samsung Galaxy S8 78
LG G6 74
OnePlus 5 77
View all


Call Quality

A distracting Pixel 2 voice-call glitch is a sore spot on an otherwise nicely-assembled phone

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

Ninety-nine percent of the time, we don't have much to say when it comes to sound quality; phones are packed with so much advanced tech, how could they possibly mess up something as simple as voice calls. Well, right now there seems to be some kind of cloud of bad luck descending upon the industry: just weeks after our bad experience with a clicking noise infiltrating our iPhone 8 voice calls, we've hit a similar snag with the Pixel 2.

Of the phones we tried, our Pixel 2 XL connected voice calls without a hitch. But on the smaller Pixel 2, all our calls, from the moment we finished dialing until hanging up, were plagued by a clicking sound of their own – one much louder and more annoying than we experienced on the iPhone.

Hopefully, like with Apple, this is a matter of a software glitch that will be quickly patched, but it's nevertheless a disappointing way to get started with such a high-profile phone.

Battery Life

While nothing exceptional, both Pixel 2 phones can look forward to decently day-long battery life

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

Google gives the Pixel 2 a 2,700mAh battery, while the larger Pixel 2 XL arrives with a more phablet-sized 3,520mAh unit. And though these phones share some very similar hardware otherwise, we went into this expecting that the larger, much more pixel-rich screen on the XL would end up consuming a fair amount of that difference.

Indeed, in our custom endurance tests we found the Pixel 2 to get about eight-and-a-half hours of screen-on time, while the Pixel 2 XL pushed that slightly higher to just under nine hours. Both are some pretty respectable scores, and while you're still going to want to recharge every day, neither phone is hurting for available power.

Alas, wireless charging isn't available with either phone. Its presence would definitely be nice, but we're not quite ready to hold its absence against the Pixel 2.

Recharge times are decent, with the Pixel 2 going from dead to fully charged in a little under two hours, while the larger battery on the Pixel 2 XL took more like two-and-a-half. It's worth noting, though, that the XL hit a ninety-percent charge in under an hour, and it's just that last ten percent that really drags.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life (hours)
Higher is better
Google Pixel 2 8h 40 min (Excellent)
Google Pixel 2 XL 8h 57 min (Excellent)
Apple iPhone 8 8h 37 min (Excellent)
Samsung Galaxy S8 8h 22 min (Excellent)
LG G6 6h 9 min (Average)
OnePlus 5 9h 18 min (Excellent)
Charging time (minutes)
Lower is better
Google Pixel 2 111
Google Pixel 2 XL 152
Apple iPhone 8 148
Samsung Galaxy S8 100
LG G6 97
OnePlus 5 99
View all

Conclusion


Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review
Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Review

This year's Pixel phones are a bit like a mirror, which we can hold up to see a reflection of the smartphone industry as a whole: they take the solid foundation we got with the original Pixel phones while updating the formula with very 2017 changes like the 2 XL's 18:9 display or the disappearing headphone jack on both phones.

Performance is right in line with the rest of the flagship crop, and Google largely manages to recreate the easy-to-recommend camera experience that made last year's Pixel so special.

Some changes are really smart: the design of the original Pixel was a bit odd, and while the Pixel 2 doesn't abandon that look, it does tweak it enough to make the phone feel a little more palatable. Others, like the introduction of Active Edge (squeeze) to call Google Assistant, are less successful, but also don't take much away from the overall package. And really, the only outright miss is the death of the headphone jack.

Of the two handsets, we've got to say that we prefer the smaller Pixel 2 a little more. It's more comfortable to use, its speakers sound a tad better, and it feels like a phone that's more comfortable being what it is. The Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile, seems like it's trying a little too hard to offer users something new and different, without really taking full advantage of its big, super-wide display. But it's also by no stretch a failure – just a phone that doesn't feel as fully realized as its smaller sibling.

In the end, both phones are very solid choices. We wish they had some welcome extras like microSD expansion or wireless charging, but these features aren't going to carry equal weight with every shopper, and we imagine that for a lot of smartphone users, both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will easily give them everything they need.

Pricing starts at about $650 for the Pixel 2, or $850 for the Pixel 2 XL; doubling storage to 128GB adds an extra $100 to either model. Considering everything we've said, that makes the Pixel 2 feel like the better value, and $200 might be a little much to ask for a screen upgrade. Ultimately, we're just happy we have the choice, and whether you like your phones big or small, classic or forward-thinking, the Pixel 2 line has you covered.