Google’s attempt to distil the essence of its Android platform is mostly on point. Despite its larger, 5.5-inch display, the Google Pixel 2 XL feels extremely comfortable in the hand; it’s light, it’s slim, and ergonomically it’s perfect. A rather modest design, the slim, brushed metal body is augmented by a gloss black panel which houses its single camera.
Although it does not have a second lens, it does have an added feature like all dual camera phones; in this case, portrait mode. However, Google’s method is digital, and the effect is quite good – until it doesn’t work. Sometimes objects and people that are slightly behind the focus will be blurred out unnaturally. For the timing being, make sure that you choose your subject and background wisely, but we’re quite confident that the algorithms will improve with time. The likes of the iPhone and Note8 can breathe easy, for the moment.
On the whole, the camera is excellent and is certainly on par with the iPhone 8 and Note8. It’s Hobson’s choice when it comes to these three, and more often than not, comes down to which treatment you prefer. the Pixel 2 camera is a strong all-rounder that’s good at rendering detail.
The Pixel 2 is more than just the camera, of course. Squeezing to bring out Google Assistant feels completely natural and the voice recognition is snappy and quite accurate.
Now Playing is a unique feature that seems more like a testing bed. It holds a database of over 10,000 songs on the phone and it will pick up on songs playing in the background and match it automatically with the database to give you the name and album art. The battery drain is fairly minimal, but you can turn it off anyway. Apps and features like the upcoming Google Lens, Augmented Reality stickers and integration of translation with Pixel Buds bodes well for the platform and it’s apparent that the Pixel is essentially the gateway to Google’s extensive range of services.
The omission of the headphone jack is raises the usual questions, but not as much as the display, which looks slightly washed out despite being of the OLED variety. Personally, I endorse the look and feel of it, but some of us might prefer Samsung-like saturation and richness. It looks perfectly fine when watching videos, which is made better by the excellent front-facing stereo speakers. Meanwhile, the 2,700mAh battery seems rather small, but is capable of lasting all day and is evidence of efficient power management.
Some may also feel that the Pixel 2 is limited in features and options: no wireless charging, no dual SIM and no expandable storage. They are fair points, especially when you consider the flagship-level price. But as we mentioned, it’s the integrated software experience that makes the phone. For example, you get free, unlimited storage for photos and videos until 2020, and you can search with keywords or even emoji. The streamlined and intuitive experience is almost Apple-esque, when you think about it.
Apart from the stunningly good camera, the Google Pixel 2 XL has no real standout hardware – its minimalist approach seems almost deliberate. But it’s the manner of how Google’s features are integrated that makes this phone one of the best, albeit simple, Android phones you can buy right now.
$TBC (Singtel exclusive)