Pixel XL: First Impressions

7 min read

The Pixel (XL) is finally here, and a few of us have them in hand. Before we start writing about all the cool tips, tricks, and tutorials you can do with yours, I wanted to write up a brief first impressions post. I’m currently loving the Pixel XL and the upgrade from my Nexus 6P and wanted to cover my thoughts on five key areas: Build, Display, Camera, Battery, Software.

Let me say that I got this phone last Thursday, so have been only using it for a week. I recently had a Nexus 6P so my comparisons come from owning that (quite amazing) device. Also note that we all use our devices differently, and care about different things depending on our lifestyle, so take everything with a grain of salt.



Anyway, first up is the SUPER slick/slippery build on the Pixel. This phone has it’s curves in all the right place with makes it fit ever so nicely in your hands, no matter if you’re using the normal or the XL. Yet, immediately when I began to use it I knew that I was going to either have to skin this device or use a case because i knew having it totally naked was asking for a drop.

Otherwise, it definitely feels like a premium device, just like how the 6P (and other aluminum devices) due thanks to the similar materials being used. It has a nice weight to the phone, and even the buttons are tactile and textured — although I feel that the power button should be located below the volume buttons instead of above.

I’m still not in love with the overall design of the phone, more so the front rather than the back. The back has a unique look to it, being dual paned, but the front panel just looks poorly design. This also may be due to me using the ‘Very Silver’ color instead of the ‘Quite Black’ but that’s all I have to go off of.



The display is as crisp as any other QHD display out there. It’s not too dim, even with low light and doesn’t seem to be over saturated like how Samsung usually has their devices. Not terribly too much else to say here, the display is very natural in color, very sharp in density, and has great viewing angles as well. You won’t be disappointed here. The 5.5 inch is also still a good size for watching media on as well.



Now the camera is one of the biggest reasons to get this phone, it has been ranked the best and I believe it. Google has taken one of biggest stances of focusing on their camera since the jump from Nexus 4 to 5. The camera produces some of the best quality in pretty much all conditions that you can think of.

The camera shoots and produces pictures very quickly, even in low light and the images it produces aren’t overdone at all. HDR+ is really even and doesn’t over saturate the images — natural color whathaveyou. This happens when you’re in low light just as well, as you’ll be able to take note of this in my preview images. The pictures I took weren’t using any extra equipment and I didn’t even really take my time with the shots, just click and boom.

The camera app is similar to what we’ve been used to and that’s ok. It’s simple enough that any can pick it up, but still has some basic settings that you can change within the app. Adding gridlines, affecting flash, changing video resolutions, and even being able to do slow-mo and lens blur modes among others. You can even affect exposure settings with a easy slide gesture as well.

The camera may very well live up to being the best smartphone camera available right now. I’ll need to check it up against the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the LG V20 to make sure.



Next up is software, which we all know can be referred to as stock Android, even though AOSP purists will say that this is Google’s own fork of standard Android — I’m referring to it as stock. I’ll say that the performance of the Pixel is remarkable, no lag, no freezes, just speed. Either having a stock skin or great internals really speeds up this device.

Now with this stock software, you won’t get many extra features, which again helps with the performance, but there are a lot of nice things to note about the software. You should always be running the newest/latest stable version of Android (currently 7.1). You get to have unlimited storage of full resolution media in Google photos. There are also gestures to use with the fingerprint sensor and camera. Lastly, you get a tight integration with Google Assistant.

Assistant is supposed to be the evolution of Google Now, but I’ve seen that it’s not ready to fully take over the role just yet — hence why you can still find traces of Google Now here and there. Assistant is a good conversationalist, though, and can handle a lot of commands that Now could (except “What’s this song?” UGH). Plus Assistant can do subscriptions, which automatically gives you news, weather, jokes, etc. at a certain time of day every day. This is a nice touch but, I’m not a huge talker to technology person, so I’ve just been using Google search mostly.


Battery Life

Battery life is another great thing in the XL; it’s pretty great so far. It has lasted me over a day easily since I’ve gotten it and the fast charger from Google works close enough to advertised data. All of this has been tested in various conditions of good to mediocre service (shoutout BABBQ), heavy and light use, and media consumption days vs strictly browsing and messaging days. It won’t last as long as the Moto Z Play or other ridiculous phones, but you should be able not to have to rush to an outlet after a work day.

So Far, So Good

Of course, there are other small things to think about when talking about the Pixel. Such as it not being seriously waterproof, that’s not a huge deal so far. It can take spills and rain which is all I’ve tested it with so far. It has a headphone jack….yea. No front facing speakers, this is actually one of the must changes I would implement on the Pixel Gen 2. Front facing speakers are a huge hit or miss, and all companies should try to hit — or even just do the weird front facing speaker bottom facing woofer combo. Of course, also, the price.

Do I feel like the Pixel is worth the amount that Google is asking? Sure. It’s a great phone, and Google wants to be taken more seriously with their products, they want to be compared to the Samsungs and Apples. They want the Pixel to be compared to the Samsung’s Galaxy devices and iPhones, and the Pixel does a great job at that if you look into the ENTIRE package of what the phone offers. It hurt my wallet to buy this unlocked, but I don’t regret it …much.

Alas, these are only my thoughts for having the phone for just a weeks time, I’m sure it will only get better. Then the price will probably get cheaper as well. I’m glad Google is venturing down this road, it seems the quality of their products, software, and hardware, will only mature and benefit from here.

Where To Buy The Pixel