Since its launch in 2016, the Google Pixel phone lineup has put an emphasis on the camera. And with the Pixel 4 & Pixel 4 XL in 2019, that still holds true apart from some minor flaws.
Note: Even though I tested out the Pixel 4 XL, it’s virtually identical to the Pixel 4 other than screen size, battery and price.
Update – April 19th, 2020: Since this review was published, Google has enabled the new Google Assistant to work when a G Suite is signed in. This review has been updated to reflect that change.
Design & Hardware
Just like the Pixel 3 XL, the Pixel 4 XL does feel like a premium device. That is thanks to the use of an aluminum frame and glass front and back. It may not be the same quality as Samsung’s flagship phones but it still feels great in the hand.
The device comes with a 6.3-inch P-OLED display with a resolution of 1440 x 3040 pixels and a 19:9 aspect ratio and a 90Hz refresh rate. Thankfully, Google didn’t add a huge notch like on the Pixel 3 XL and instead opted for a more “forehead” design.
The forehead of the Pixel 4 XL is where the Face Unlock internals and Motion Sense, which is powered by Google’s Soli technology. Motion Sense allows you to use gesture controls on the device.
Some Quick Gestures include skip songs or silencing alarms by swiping left to right. The gesture controls do work most of the time, but there were a few occasions when they didn’t work.
The face unlock on the device is super quick, maybe too quick but I miss having the fingerprint reader on the back of the device. It would have been great if Google included both face unlock and a fingerprint reader (maybe in-display).
Face unlock is great and all but unlike Touch ID/Face ID on iOS, app developers on Android can take a long time to implement new features such as fingerprint support for logging into an account.
Powering the Pixel 4 XL is the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with 6GB RAM. The boost in RAM really helps make the device seem faster, especially compared to performance issues of the Pixel 3 XL.
The right side of the device is where you’ll find the power and volume buttons. The bottom of the device has a USB-C port but no headphone jack. There are stereo speakers on the Pixel 4 XL which sound great.
Because of the glass back, the Pixel 4 XL supports up to 11W fast wireless charging without the need of a special charger to get full speeds.
In terms of battery life, the Pixel 4 XL has a 3,700 mAh which easily can last all-day compared to the smaller Pixel 4. I found myself taking the device off my charger at like 8 AM and it would be at around 40% battery life by 10pm.
But if you do need to charge your Pixel 4 XL fast, the device support USB Power Delivery 2.0 which can usually get your device to 80-100% in 20-30 minutes.
For some recommendations on which USB-C charger to buy or some Pixel 4 XL case suggestions, check out our accessories guide.
For storage, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL only comes in 64GB and 128GB options. And now that Google no longer provides unlimited photo storage at original quality to Pixel 4/Pixel 4 XL owners, 64GB seems like too little.
Other flagship devices like the Galaxy Note10+, Galaxy S20 series or even OnePlus 7T come with at least 128GB of internal storage. Samsung’s devices also come with a microSD card slot which is a feature Google is highly unlikely to include in future devices.
Google should at least consider offering 128GB of storage as the base option and then offer 256GB and maybe 512GB if they don’t want to add microSD support.
Pricing for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL is as follows:
- Pixel 4 – 64GB – $999 CAD
- Pixel 4 – 128GB – $1,129 CAD
- Pixel 4 XL – 64GB – $1,129 CAD
- Pixel 4 XL – 128GB – $1,259 CAD
The devices come in three colours, Just Black, Clearly White and a limited edition Oh So Orange (which is most likely sold out by now). The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are available now from the Google Store.
The Pixel 4 XL is Android 10 without any sort-of skin on top and more of Google’s implementation of what Android should look like.
Android 10 brings a number of features but one of the biggest is the system-wide dark theme.
Another feature is Smart Reply, it now works with a number of messaging apps beyond the default texting app in Android. Smart Reply will also show you integration with other apps on your phone, for example, if someone sends you an address, you’ll get an option to open it in Maps.
Gesture Navigation in Android 10 has also been implemented, where one swipe to the right acts as the back button, swiping from the bottom takes you home and swiping left to right switches between apps.
The update also gives you great control of your notifications, Digital Wellbeing and Privacy settings.
In addition to Android 10, the Pixel 4 & Pixel 4 XL comes with the next-gen version of the Google Assistant. It’s up to 10 times faster and it allows you to keep talking to the Google Assistant without saying “Hey, Google” or “Ok, Google” every time.
Here’s a demo of how the new Google Assistant works.
Cameras are most likely the top reason you’d go for a Pixel phone and the Pixel 4 XL is no exception. The device now comes with a pair of cameras with one 12MP standard lens and a 16MP telephoto lens.
The 16MP telephoto lens offers up to 8X hybrid zoom or about 2X optical zoom. This pales in comparison to other devices such as the Huawei P30 Pro which has an 8MP zoom lens that goes up to 5X optical zoom and 10X hybrid zoom. I wish the telephoto lens’ optical zoom in the Pixel 4 XL was a bit longer than just 2X.
The telephoto lens can be fun to use but I would rather have an ultra-wide-angle lens instead.
The phone also comes with an 8MP front-facing camera that works great for selfies. The device comes with both OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization).
Photos taken on the Pixel 4 XL look great, they’re a lot of vibrancy and details that come through. The low-light performance on the Pixel 4 XL is also great thanks to Google’s improvements to their Night Sight mode.
Portrait mode on the Pixel 4 XL has also been slightly improved. In terms of videos, the Pixel 4 XL can shoot up to 4K video at 30fps, 1080p at 30/60/120 fps and also does slow-motion video at 720p at 240fps.
Videos taken on the device look good but I wish Google would offer the option for 4K video capture at 60fps. Even cheaper devices such as the OnePlus 7T and 7 Pro both offer it and have similar specs.
The camera app on the Pixel 4 XL has been slightly updated to include easier access to Night Sight. One thing I’m not a fan of in the camera app is that you can’t have the different options showing all the time. The settings I’m referring to are flash on/off, motion on/off/auto, timer and frame rate when shooting video.
I would have liked it better if Google had made it easier to change these options when just a single tap instead of needing to go to another tap.
Overall, the Pixel 4 XL is a great device that adds some cool features along with a great camera but does have some hardware and software issues.
- Great camera, especially in low-light situations
- Face Unlock is quick
- Good performance thanks to 6GB of RAM
- 90 Hz Smooth Display helps makes everything on the screen feel faster
- Good battery life that lasts most of the day
- Storage options limited to 64GB and 128GB (with no free unlimited full-size photos and video storage to Google photos)
- A small number of apps support Face Unlock
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