The Google Pixel 3 XL was the search giant's flagship phone for 2018. It was, arguably, the best Android phone on the market when it launched too, mainly thanks to its awesome cameras.
Since it launched, prices have dropped, but it's now lacking performance compared to most current Android phones. Plus, that notch looks even more unsightly by the day. Still, it's far from a bad phone.
The Pixel 3 and 3 XL debuted back in October 2018, replacing the Pixel 2 and 2 XL. While the outgoing Google phones were generally well thought-of, they struggled slightly against some Android competition, especially Samsung’s S8 and S8+ (and newer S9/S9+).
However, the older Pixels excelled when it came to photography, pretty much brushing aside iOS and Android competition at launch. More impressively, the Pixel cameras maintained the gap even as the iPhone XS and Samsung S9 launched.
So, the task for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL is simple: Catch up with Android rivals for performance, design and value, while maintaining the market-leading cameras.
Has Google managed to do so with the Pixel 3 XL? Mostly. We’ll explain more below:
In this review:
The rear camera – of which there is only one, in contrast to most other flagship phones and bucking the recent camera-packing trend – is a masterpiece.
It can’t manage detail at high zoom levels the way that dual or triple camera phones do. But, really, that’s the only area the Pixel 3 XL’s camera falls down.
Apart from that, you’ll get highly-detailed, accurate images at all distances. There’s no iPhone-style oversaturation, although you can engineer this in yourself with the filtering tools if you want to. The contrast is excellent, even between similar colors at distance, while always remaining natural. It’s incredibly hard to find fault with the Pixel 3 XL’s camera.
The camera is a real showcase for Google’s AI and software prowess. It puts the snappers from other phones with more hardware to shame, simply by being so smart.
Night Sight, the mode which illuminates low-light settings, is brilliant, bringing objects into focus without appearing doctored or unnatural.
Google Lens, the object and text recognition mode, is certainly smart. However, it doesn’t always give the most helpful results, often relying on a Google Image Search to bring up similar-looking images.
Playground, the AR camera mode which lets you put pets and Marvel heroes into the camera frame, is a fun novelty. Photo Booth – which lets you take selfies simply when you smile – is uncanny, being able to detect the perfect moment to snap with ease and without error.
All told, the Pixel 3 XL takes the best photos of any phone on the market at the moment.
Playground mode on the Pixel 3 XL
|Pixel 3 XL||iPhone XS Max||Samsung Galaxy Note 9|
|Screen size (in)||6.3||6.5||6.4|
|Dimensions (HxWxD mm)||158×76.7×7.9||157.5×77.4×7.7||161.9×76.4×8.8|
|Operating system||Android 9 Pie||iOS 12||Android 8.1 Oreo|
|Front camera (Mp)||8 + 8||7||8|
|Rear camera (Mp)||12.2||12 + 12||12 + 12|
|Buy from Verizon||From $899||From $1,099||From $999|
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