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03 Mar, 2017 ,
Google is the best search engine on this planet without a doubt. Now, Google is becoming a hardware brand under the guidance of its parent company Alphabet Inc. The Nexus devices from Google were designed for the purest of android experience in partnership with various phone makers. Now Google has developed a bunch of customisations and are keeping all of it for themselves. The previous Nexus phones were not too expensive and not too premium but were solidly built phones. However the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are aimed at the top end of the market where Apple and Samsung are established players. With both Apple and Samsung showing their might in the supply chain muscle, will the latest hardware of the Google Pixel XL hold its ground with the pricing similar to the iPhone 7 Plus and the Galaxy S7 edge? We are eager to find out.
The overall design of the Pixel XL reminds you of the ones seen on Apple, HTC and Samsung. The form factor according to Google has been designed in house but the design language is reminiscent of various high end smart phones out there and doesn’t feel exclusive at all.
The 5.5 inch quad-HD display on the phone is layered with 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4. Then there is the capsule shaped sensor placed right in the middle of the forehead of the device. The front facing camera is placed on the top left while the ear-piece is positioned right above the sensor. The portion below the screen is plane blank due to the android navigation buttons being placed on the screen.
The single metal frame covers up the back and sides of the phone and the upper half of the back is made up of glass. The thick antenna lines are placed on the top and chamfered edges of the phone. The two tone look at the rear is distinctive but kind of feels slightly odd. The position of the fingerprint sensor is accurate because that’s where the fingers rest when you pick up the phone. The Google logo replaces the Nexus logo .
Unlike the protruding camera seen on the Nexus 6 the rear camera on the Pixel XL is well tucked in but that has made the phone thicker at the top and also made it top-heavy. The left has the single Nano-Sim tray while the right houses the power and volume buttons which are a bit difficult to press. Shockingly there is no dual-Sim slot and a micro SD card slot . The USB Type-C Port is placed at the bottom edge along with the speaker grilles. Out of the two grilles only one actually is a speaker. Then the 3.5mm audio jack is placed on the top. Sadly there’s no IP68 water-resistance rating of the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7 on this flagship device.
The Google Pixel XL houses a large 5.5-inch display with a 2,650 x 1,440 quad-HD resolution. The display is pretty impressive and uses AMOLED panel like the Galaxy S7. The colour reproduction is rich and has darker but more accurate black levels. The display quality when compared to the ones on Samsung and Apple sits right in between as the colours displayed are neither too bright nor too accurate. Viewing angles are great and sunlight visibility is good if not great like the one seen on the Note 7.
Google has given the Pixel XL a promising set of hardware with 4GB of ram and top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC with two 2.15GHz cores and two 1.6GHz cores for efficiency, along with integrated Adreno 530 graphics. Internal storage is either 32 or 128GB, while our test unit is the 32GB one out of which 29.7GB is available for usage.
With the launch of pixel phones, Google also has made available the best version of Android. The version of Android available on the Pixel XL is not an out and out stock one but a rather customized version with numerous tweaks here and there. There is a custom launcher specifically contrived for the Pixel twins and you might not see them on other android devices manufactured by various smart phone makers.
The device comes integrated with the latest Android 7.1 which is slick and new at the same time. Into the home screen, you will come across a Google Logo on the upper left which showcases the Google search bar and your recent searches. Swipe anywhere across the home screen you will see Google Now being pulled in which shows the weather, news updates, and other tid-bits of information. Google Assistant can be prompted with a long-press on the Home button. At the bottom of the screen you will notice five icons and swiping upwards will reveal the full app drawer which comes with an option of adding one extra shortcut.
The shape of all system apps and pre-loaded Google apps are round. You get a plethora of wallpapers to choose from and also the ones that use live Google Earth imagery. The live wallpaper are indeed very eye catchy. The Live earth is quite remarkable as it depicts day and night transitions with the help of user’s location. Live information like time and weather are visualised in abstract patterns. There is also an option to turn on slideshow from one of several channels like landscapes or cityscapes.
When you pull down the notification slider you will notice that there six shortcuts visible in a sleek bar. Swipe it downwards for the second time and it shows the brightness slider and nine icons of your choice. For camera and notifications there are gesture shortcuts. Night light can be assigned to turn on automatically or as per your choice of time. The setting app has received major tweaks and changes which are more of a menu based system that lets you jump between sections. It now features a list of suggestions that pops up first on the top until you chuck it away. Fingerprint recognition was not setup initially, so a suggestion came up on the top as a reminder. There is also a Pixel support in the settings app in case you require voice assistance from 9am to 6pm. Google has provided a way for apps to create custom quick toggle tiles. This makes the system much more flexible and easier to personalize. Quick reply is another thing that makes notifications more powerful - they enable in-line reply for chat apps, straight from the notification. Other actions like share, archive, delete and so on are available too.
There are the usual preloaded apps from Google. Google Assistant is Google’s latest attempt to take on the likes of Apple’s Siri. You can now ask personal questions like (“Are you feeling okay?”). It can play music, set alarms and reminders and answer questions. It basically sets off with the usual “okay Google” command and now it is aware about details such as your profile, location, and calendar. It can also send send messages, launch apps, translate phrases, and control phone functions. There is also an Indian English voice which for your liking and heck it even finds a restaurant for you at any given point of time.
Gaming experience was flawless with the faster Snapdragon 821 under the hood. The phone never heated up while playing heavy games, HD video streaming or 4K video recording. In our benchmark tests the Pixel XL performed brilliantly in both CPU and GPU specific tasks. The device scored 133,650 in AnTuTu and 4,154 in Geekbench’s multi-threaded test. 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited posted a massive 27,515 points, and GFXBench gave us 55fps.
Battery life on the device was fruitful. In our day to day usage comprising of playing games, recording 4K videos, listening to music and regular calls we managed to get a good back up for a day and couple of hours. Continuous video play back of 13 hours and 50 minutes is what we got ona full charge. Quick charging is also present and the device can be charged to the optimum within 2 hours.
The Pixel XL comes with a single Nano SIM with 4G VoLTE enabled. Call quality was exceptional and audio quality from the ear piece was crystal clear. As far as connectivity goes there’s Cat 12 LTE providing you downloads of up to 600Mbps and uploads of up to 75Mbps depending upon the service provider. There’s also Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, and NFC. USB 3.0 speed is supported over the Type-C connection. Wifi reception was exceptional and streaming live videos or movies was blazingly fast.
Camera is another strong point for the Pixel XL and Google has given their heart and soul in to it. Tap the camera app and you will notice how quick it is to launch. The camera has options like photosphere mode, burst, and slow motion. Then there is the lens blur mode which works beautifully. Max resolution is rated at 12.3 megapixels. Auto focusing is damn quick however lit the situation.
Image quality is at par with the likes of Apple’s iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S7. Focusing is crisp and details in macro shots are spectacular. Low light performance is also impressive with good color reproduction and noise control. Front camera also worked well and we were really happy with its performance.
4k videos can be recorded at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, or 720p at 240fps for slow-mo effects. Video quality is crystal clear with sharp details at various resolutions and frame rates.
You can now upload full resolution photos and videos for free with the Free up space feature that moves photos and videos to the cloud. This is best recommended for people who opted for the 32GB variant.
Google Photos is the smartest gallery that we have today. You can search for photos with words like ‘selfies’, ‘home’ or even a person’s name. The Assistant as mentioned before will automatically take photos or videos and create collages, panoramas, filter-heavy images, short animations.
Video player is a pretty basic one on the device and the Google Photos as a video player doesn’t provide subtitles, chapter view, nothing that makes watching movies/episodes easier. Watching movies and videos on the AMOLED screen is a delightful experience.
Music player is also customizable. A 5-band equalizer is available with presets and one user-define setting. When you plug in headphones, Bass boost and Surround sound sliders become available. Audio quality from the down firing speakers is decent and volume output through head phone is great.
The Google Pixel XL is evidently geared up against iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus with the same storage configurations at almost similar prices. Apple patriots can be almost convinced to buy this iPhone-like Android phone with the best Android experience. There is also a camera which is one of the best that is available in the market presently. The Assistant also outsmarts Siri on most of parameters. However we do feel the phone is a bit overpriced, but for what you pay you will get the best Android experience. Period.
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