Google Pixel 2 XL: How it stacks up to my lofty expectations

Android Central

Android Central
Android Central
The good, bad, and ugly of using the Pixel 2 XL as my daily driver for five days.

Earlier this month, I wrote an article here on Android Central titled "Why Google's Pixel 2 XL will be my next phone." I laid out my reasons for preordering the Pixel 2 XL the day of its announcement and why I was excited for it to be my daily driver going into 2018. I've now been using the phone for five days, and this is what I've learned during that time.

These are the best cameras you can get on a phone right now

I'm not the most avid photographer when it comes to smartphones, but the Pixel 2 XL has started to change that. Smartphone cameras have been really, really good for a while now, but Google has raised the bar to an entirely new level this year.

This is one of those cameras that you can whip out of your pocket, press the shutter button, and get an image that will consistently look awesome. Last year's Pixel also did this, but the Pixel 2 XL also introduces excellent low-light performance, handles varying degrees of exposure while keeping all of your subjects in clear detail, and can pull off impressive portrait mode shots without the need for a second lens.

This praise applies to both the front and rear-facing cameras, and it's praise that's more than deserved here. The Pixel 2 XL has made me want to actively seek out things to take pictures of, and as it stands, it easily offers the best photo/video experience available in a smartphone right now.

Dat battery life

The camera package is the same between the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, and as such, some of you might be wondering why in the world you'd want to go for the XL and it's myriad of display qualms (more on that later). Easy – the battery life.

Battery performance on most flagships over the past year or two has been good, but nothing amazing. The Pixel 2 XL changes that.

You can check out Andrew's full review to get exact details on the battery (and everything else), but in short, this is a phone that can easily last through two full days of regular use. That's not something that can be said for most flagships, and for someone that relies so heavily on their phone for work and personal use, having so much stamina is outstanding.

All of the other bits

The battery life and camera are what I've noticed most about the Pixel 2 XL during my time with the phone, but that's not all that it gets right.

Although not everyone is thrilled with Google's decision to use a special coating over the aluminum body, it's a move I've come to really appreciate. The phone feels grippy no matter how you hold it, and while it may not be quite as "premium" as naked metal, it's nowhere near as slippery as last year's phone.

Great design, blazing performnace, and fun software goodies make the Pixel 2 XL a complete package.

Performance is just as fast and responsive as you'd expect from the Snapdragon 835 and Google's ability to meld hardware and software together for an unrivaled user experience. Apps open in the blink of an eye, multitasking is buttery smooth, and not once have I come across any sort of lag or stutter.

Squeezing the sides of the phone to bring up Google Assistant with Active Edge is surprisingly useful at times, and Now Playing is wickedly cool. Being able to look down at my phone and see what song is playing around me without having to manually do anything is pure magic, and while it's a fun party-trick, it's also crazy practical.

Oh, front-facing speakers are also wonderful and amazing and every single phone should have them.

My issue with the display

You've undoubtedly heard a thing or two about the Pixel 2 XL's display, and before I go too much further about my personal opinion, this is what we know so far.

Google is "actively investigating" the issues surrounding the phone's screen, but at this point, we aren't entirely sure what that means. Google will more than likely release an update at some point to add an option for more vivid colors, but not everything can be fixed with software.

Our own Alex Dobie recently conducted a pretty thorough test of the Pixel 2 XL's screen, and while this has yet to be confirmed by Google, it does appear that permanent burn-in is happening on the screen after just days of use. Burn-in is to be expected with all OLED and AMOLED panels at some point, but only after months or years, not days.

Not everyone will be as sensitive to the display as I am, but for me personally, it's a deal-breaker.

I've noticed a similar effect on my own device, and while it's not visible in most use cases, just the fact that the shadow of the navigation bar is either showing image retention or screen burn-in after just a few days has me incredibly worried for how the panel will fare after months of use as a daily driver.

Current status of Pixel 2 XL display

— Joe Spooky Maring (@JoeMaring1) October 22, 2017

Possible burn-in aside, the display is serviceable and isn't the worst I've ever seen. With that said, for a phone that costs at least $849 USD before tax, its quality does not match its asking price. The display is subpar, and while you can get used to it, I don't want to have to "get used" to a display on a phone that costs this much. I should be wowed by the display each time I turn on the Pixel 2 XL, but that simply doesn't happen.

Some of you might not care about these complaints, and if that's the case, more power to you. Unfortunately, it's something I cannot get past and likely never will.

A learning experience

Because of the circumstances I just outlined, I ended up returning my Pixel 2 XL and replaced it with the Galaxy S8. I considered swapping out the 2 XL with the regular Pixel 2, but I've sailed too far away on the minimal bezel train to go back to something with a forehead and chin that big.

Is the Galaxy S8 perfect? Nope. Does it have all of the software features that I loved so much on the Pixel 2 XL. Not at all. However, each time I power on its display, I smile and feel like I'm holding a piece of the future – a feeling I never once had with the Pixel 2 XL.

It's a true shame that the Pixel 2 XL ended up the way it is, but here's to hoping Google can fix as many of its problems as it can and use this as a learning experience for next year with the Pixel 3.

As for me personally, I'll be using this as an example of why I usually don't preorder devices sight-unseen.

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