It’s been about 2 years since Googe began their Made by Google hardware journey and so far they’ve had great success in providing what they believe is their vision for a smartphone.

I’ve been using the Pixel 3 XL for a few weeks now and it’s a great and possibly one of the best phones of the year, with an amazing camera.

Note: Even though I tested out the Pixel 3 XL, it’s virtually identical to the Pixel 3 other than screen size, battery and price.

Design & Hardware

Unlike the Pixel 2 XL from 2017, the Pixel 3 XL does feel like a premium device with its glass back (used for wireless charging) and aluminum body.

The Pixel 3 XL has a 6.3-inch OLED display with a notch where the two front-facing cameras live. With some other phones with a notched display (such as the Huawei P20 Pro) have justified it by also adding facial unlock. Meanwhile, Google failed to justify adding a notch, other than just adding two front-facing cameras. They could have easily added some sort-of Face ID equivalent the Pixel 3 XL since the notch on the phone is fairly large.

Other than the notch, the screen looks great and much better than the one on the Pixel 2 XL.

The phone is being powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 4GB of RAM. And while the phone is pretty quick, it would have been nice if Google had added a bit more RAM in the device. There are times where 4GB of RAM doesn’t seem like enough.

The right side of the device is where the power button is and the left has the volume buttons. The bottom of the phone is where the USB-C port is and no headphone jack.

The Pixel 3 XL also has front-facing stereo speakers which sound pretty good. In terms of battery, the Pixel 3 XL has a 3,430 mAh battery which does last all day. The phone is IP68 water and dust resistant.

The Pixel Imprint on the Pixel 3 XL has been improved and the Active Edge is just as useful as it was on Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel 3 XL comes with an 18W fast charger, USB-C earbuds, and USB-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box.

As mentioned, the Pixel 3 XL (and the smaller Pixel 3) support wireless charging up to 10W. If you want to get the full 10W wireless charging, you’ll need to get Google’s Pixel Stand (for an extra $109 CAD) or a certified Made for Google Wireless Charger. All other third-party wireless chargers are capped at 5W.

In the box, the Pixel 3 XL comes with the phone, USB-C to USB-C cable, USB-C wall charger, USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter and wired USB-C Pixel Buds.

The earbuds that come with phone look a lot like the Pixel Buds from last year. They have the same loop adjustment design and earbud shape. Since the earbuds connect via USB-C, you can use them with other phones that don’t have a headphone jack.

The earbuds also come with an inline remote and mic that includes volume up and down buttons and center button used to play/pause media. If you have the earbuds plugged into the Pixel 3 XL and you get a notification, the Google Assistant will speak them to you when you hold the volume up button

I wish Google would have included a matching colour pair of earbuds which each Pixel 3 XL (i.e. one of Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink) but instead Google includes a white pair in the box, which can get dirty easily.

The Pixel 3 XL comes in three colours, Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink.

Canadian pricing is as follows:

  • Pixel 3 – 64GB – $999 CAD
  • Pixel 3 – 128GB – $1,129 CAD
  • Pixel 3 XL – 64GB – $1,129 CAD
  • Pixel 3 XL – 128GB – $1,259 CAD

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are available now from the Google Store.

Software

The Pixel 3 XL is running Android 9 Pie and just past Pixel phones, it’s Android has Google intended it to be without any sort-of skin on top.

Android 9 Pie comes with a number of new features and also improvements overall. One feature is Adaptive Battery which will use deep learning to help understand your phone usage patterns and prioritize power to the apps and services you use the most.

Adaptive Brightness in Android 9 Pie will automatically set the brightness slider based on your current surroundings. App Actions are shortcuts that will basically predict what you’re about to do next so you can do more quickly.

The Android Pie update also brings system navigation based on gestures, where you swipe up to get to the multitasking menu (which is now horizontal) or a long swipe to get to all your apps.

The gestures do take some getting used to but the swipe up gesture needs to be improved because if you swipe up too far then you get to the all apps screen when you just wanted to get to the multitasking screen.

The quick settings in Android 9 Pie have also been redesigned as well as small changes to better screenshots, simplified volume controls and more.

Another feature in Android 9 Pie is called Digital Wellbeing, which will allow you to control how much time you’re spending in each app, how many times you unlock your phone and how many notifications you get.

App Timer will let you set time limits on apps, so you’ll get a nudge that will tell you when you’re close to your limit and grey out the app icon when your time is done.

Do Not Disturb will now block visual interruptions that appear on your screen. Wind Down Mode will enable Night Light when it gets dark outside and turn on Do Not Disturb and then fade the screen to grayscale when it gets close to your set bedtime.

Camera

The Pixel 3 XL has a 12.2-megapixel camera and dual 8.1-megapixel camera with one standard lens and one wide-angle lens for better Group Selfies. I didn’t find myself using the wide-angle front camera all that often and doesn’t really warrant Google adding a notch to the Pixel 3 XL.

The camera comes with both OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization).

Photos take on the Pixel 3 XL look amazing, there is just so much detail and colour in each shot. Low-light camera performance is great on the Pixel 3 XL and that’s partially thanks to the new Night Sight mode.

Night Sight will help you capture vibrant and detail low-light photos without needing flash or a tripod and works on both the front and rear cameras of the Pixel 3 XL. It should be noted that Night Sight isn’t exclusive to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, it’s also rolling out to all generations of Pixel phones.

You can learn more about Night Sight and how it works in Google’s blog post. When using the camera on the Pixel 3 XL and if it seems to be dark, it’ll automatically suggest using Night Sight instead.

Portrait Mode on the Pixel 3 XL has been improved slightly, since being introduced on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

The Pixel 3 XL’s camera can record video up to 4K at 30fps or 1080p at 30/60/120fps and slow-motion video at 720p at 240fps. The front-facing camera can record 1080p.

Oddly, choose not to allow video recording at 4K at 60 fps on the Pixel 3 XL, while other phones running similar processors or camera sensors do offer the setting. Videos taken on the phone do look great but not as good as say the Galaxy Note9.

Another frustrating thing about the Pixel 3 XL’s camera app is that when shooting video, you only have the option to record 30 fps or auto fps. There’s no proper option for 60 fps, Google will supposedly choose the 60fps is well-light environments but that didn’t seem to be the case all the time.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Pixel 3 XL is a great device with one of the best cameras out there and is a really solid phone and has the benefit of running stock Android.

Pros

  • Solid build
  • Amazing camera with great low-light performance (thanks to Night Sight)
  • Great screen
  • All-day battery life
  • Wireless Charging
  • Fast updates

Cons

  • More expensive than previous models
  • Memory issues (especially when using the camera and simultaneously listening to music)
  • Unjustified notched display

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