By Krishna SinhaChaudhury
As Google joined race in the premium smartphone segment by launching Pixel last year, Apple and Samsung, the two segment leaders, took immediate note of it.
The fight was no more between the two traditional arch rivals as Google entered the arena after bidding adieu to its Nexus line-up in favour of Pixel smartphones that it designed, developed and marketed on its own.
The first Pixel devices created a ripple in the market. Now, the tech giant has launched the second edition of the Pixel line-up and we got the bigger sibling -- the Pixel 2 XL -- for review.
At the starting price of Rs 73,000 (64GB variant), the device is set to give some tough competition to iPhone 8 Plus. Let's see how.
Pixel 2 XL's build and appearance will impress you the moment you hold it. Google has served up a metal unibody smartphone with a soft matte finish that makes the device extremely ergonomic. This is something all-glass and metal body phones lack these days.
The matte finish also ensures the device remains free of fingerprint smudges. This feature is, however, subjective and some might find it a bit "plasticky".
Pixel 2 XL joins the bandwagon of bezel-less display smartphones and hence has a taller-than-wider frame to accommodate a 6-inch 18:9 screen in a smaller frame and has almost 76.5 per cent screen-to-body ratio.
However, this is not a flagship with the slimmest bezel as LG has fitted Pixel 2 XL with front-firing stereo speakers which is a refreshing change from usual bottom firing ones.
A major high point as well as the best feature is Pixel 2 XL's camera. It doesn't house a dual-sensor like Apple iPhone 8 Plus, but the single camera lens outperforms many flagship devices out there in the market.
There is a 12MP primary sensor and an 8MP fixed-focus selfie camera.
The rear shooter has been upgraded with a brighter f/1.8 aperture and optical stabilisation (OIS), as well as electronic stabilisation, resulting in detailed images with crisp colour reproduction and accurate tones.
Focusing on a subject happened in a snap and there was literally no shutter lag for us.
Low-light photography was pretty impressive albeit with a slight decrease in the focus speed.
It's also interesting to see how the primary camera's portrait mode churns out great images with blurred background sans dual sensors.
The front shooter too is capable of producing quality selfies and portrait shots.
We especially liked the hefty 3520mAh battery that enabled us to get a day-and-a-half usage on a single charge. It really took power-intensive tasks for us to drain the battery on this device.
Apart from unlocking the device in a snap, the fingerprint sensor on Pixel 2 XL can also be used to access the notification panel with a swipe down.
"Google Lens" uses machine learning (ML) capabilities to recognise places, objects and streets, etc, from the clicked images to give more information about them.
What does not work?
On the most-talked about "blue tint" issue, we did notice it the moment we tilted the phone at different angles. Also, the colours look a little washed out when compared to flagships like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.
However, Google has promised to fix the issue via an update in the coming weeks.
We did not find the screen "burn-in" issue that some early users had reported during a week-long use.
The pressure sensors on the lower edges of the device activate Google Assistant which is similar to what we saw on HTC U11.
It is a bit disappointing to see it fire up only Google Assistant and silence incoming phone calls. However, the user can change the intensity of pressure to avoid activating it while pulling it out of pocket.
Conclusion: A great camera, timely updates and security patches (which other OEMs tend to miss), a plain understated design language, stock Android Oreo Operating System (OS) and top-notch Snapdragon 835 chipset make the device a promising, power-packed flagship over iPhone 8 Plus.
(Krishna SinhaChaudhury can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)