I picked up the Google Pixel 2 XL when it was just about still relevant. It wasn’t a launch day purchase, but companies were selling off the Pixel 2 XL with steep discounts in anticipation of the Pixel 3, and the timing just seemed right. But how does it fare against today’s mobile phone trends? This long-term review should answer that question.
9 months on and I’m still happy with the price I paid. Google had yet to entertain the thought of a screen notch, so its allure didn’t last long as the industry hopped aboard the next big thing, but the 2880 x 1440 pOLED display still stood out to me – especially as someone who was glued to mobile gaming for work at the time. The shift to an 18:9 aspect ratio made a pretty big difference in competitive mobile games, but I don’t consume enough content outside of YouTube to really fuss too much over a slightly taller display. I also can’t say I noticed the apparent blue shift in LG’s panel on the Pixel 2 XL, but whether that’s down the default
As far as core features go, the Pixel 2 XL still has them all. Its rear may not be littered with multiple camera sensors, but its single 12.2 MP shooter is still backed up by Google’s newest photo algorithms, ensuring it stays relatively on par with newer smartphones. The tech giant even brought over their popular Night Sight feature to the now last-gen device after it debuted with its successor, and the various lens attatchments available with compatible cases really opens up this phone’s options when it comes to taking solid photos and video.
Portrait mode still remains a favorite feature of mine that really solidifies Google’s powerful AI tech as a core selling point of their devices. Edge detection and just the right amount of blur helps portrait shots remain competitive against newer phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10 and Huawei’s P20 line-up.
Software-wise, I had a fairly rough time with the fast upgrade to Android P. One of the bigger selling points of core Google devices for power users is the promise of running stock Android (rather than modified or bloated skins offered by other manufacturers), and a fast-track upgrade to Google’s latest and greatest operating system updates.
Many of its quality of life improvements were a must for me, but I immediately noticed a performance slowdown on the phone’s rear fingerprint sensor. Able to unlock the phone and expand/retract the notification panel with a quick slide of my finger, both inputs felt very choppy and inconsistent the moment I upgraded to Andoird P. And I wasn’t the only one. The problem hasn’t really been remedied, either, and considering Android Q is in beta right now, I’m not expecting the problem to go away. I also had to switch my WiFi setting from “Auto” to “Unmetered”, as the phone would disconnect and reconnect from my home WiFi every minute otherwise.
Other than that, the Pixel 2 XL glides through tasks many months on thanks to the Snapdragon 835 SoC. A dark point would be having games reboot after switching to the camera for a quick pic. It goes to show how increased RAM is really something to consider when buying a phone these days, but the issue is at least somewhat minimized by the streamlined stock Android build on this particular 4GB device.
One of the biggest features I miss between the Pixel 2 XL and my other Android devices, however, is screen recording. Google limits this to its Play Games app for recording gameplay, but audio can only be captured through the microphone rather than internally, making it borderline unusable for mobile game content creators. Even external apps can’t circumvent the limitations for what I can only gather is for security purposes. It’s a still a shame to have Google bar a feature that other manufactueres tote as a major selling point.
Finishing off with I/O, there isn’t too much to talk about. The Pixel 2 XL is outfitted with a single USB-C 3.1 port, brilliant front-firing stereo speakers, a volume rocker, power button, and the ability to squeeze the phone to access the Google Assistant. I’m glad Google ensured you could tweak the squeeze sensitivity before it caused too many accidental activiations, but it’s not something I’ve used too much given it’s voice-activated, too.
The USB-C port sadly means there’s no traditional headphone jack on this device, but the included converter works well enough and even has a built-in DAC for the audiophiles out there. The choice in port also allows for “Fast-Charging”, which means it’s rarely charging for more than an hour a day and never needs to be charged over-night, saving its average-sized 3520 mAH battery from ever running completely dry outside of some ambitious Pokémon Go days.
There’s obviously good and bad points with the Pixel 2 XL. Even with a fairly low amount of memory and a screen that’s hardly trendy right now, I’m confident it will stand the test of time thanks to Google’s commitment to lengthy software upgrades and AI advancements. Its tasteful chassis is one of my personal favorites in the smartphone space, and its single rear camera can still hold its own against the multi-camera devices currently hogging the spotlight.
It’s certainly not worth the original asking price in today’s device climate, but it’s a solid recommendation under the £350-400 price bracket, and even a refurb unit will serve the vast majority of users perfectly well for years to come.
To learn more about some of the accessories I would personally recommend for a new Pixel 2 XL buyer, check out my Pixel 2 XL Accessory Buyer’s Guide here. To pick up your own Pixel 2 XL, there’s a “Like-New” refurb available through my Amazon Affiliate link here. You can view the full-res camera examples on Imgur.