Last Updated on January 1, 2022 by Daniel
When Google released its first Pixel smartphone back in 2016, it was met with a lot of anticipation. But as time went by, and the Pixel line became more popular and more well-known, it also became more of a target for price-slashing manufacturers. It wasn’t long before the Pixel line started to feel a little cheap and plasticky, but Google has now announced the Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 4 XL.
The company has done away with the plastic on the back, making the back a single piece of glass. The design of the phone itself is very similar to the Pixel 3 XL, but the Pixel 4 XL features a larger 6.4-inch display and a larger battery. The 6-inch Pixel 3 XL was a little bit too small for my liking, and the larger display of the Pixel 4 XL makes this phone even bigger and bulkier.
Google is also launching a new wireless charging feature for the phones, which will be available on the 4 XL. The 4 XL will also be available in an all-white color, along with the black and blue colors of the 4.
But what are the other features of the Google 4 XL? Let’s take a look at the full review:
Google Pixel 4 XL: Updating design
- black, white, blue, and orange.
- 160.4 mm x 75.2 mm x 8.2mm
- IP68 waterproofing
The finishes on the Pixel 4 XL are the biggest change. It is made of the same materials as the past few phones-metal and glass-but the coatings make it feel much more tactile.
Rather than being glossy and slippery, the edges have been coated for a better grip, at least on the orange and white versions. When you’re manipulating a big phone, the black of those edges makes an interesting contrast to the color of the rear of the phone.
As a result of the same texture across the entire device—no matte and gloss mix like before—Google has chosen black, white, and orange as colors. Likewise, fingerprints aren’t an issue, but as with any phone of this construction, you’re better off with one of Google’s Pixel cases.
A great thing about the orange finish of the Pixel 4 XL is that you can spot it from a mile away. You can easily identify a Pixel user by their distinctive appearance.
The finish and feel are excellent, leaving the impression of a premium handset, but the eye will be drawn to the camera array in the corner. As with the iPhone 11 Pro, Google has opted to expand its camera and the housing that it sits in, which looks to be the trend for 2022. In addition, the Pixel 4 XL has a stark difference compared to the iPhone 11 Pro: the back of Apple’s flagship phone feels solid, while the back of the Pixel 4 XL feels hollow.
Google Pixel 4 XL: Face unlocking and radar magic.
- Soli radar chip
- IR-based face unlock system
Your first observation of the Pixel 4 XL will be its forehead—the bezel across the top of the display. Certainly, it looks like a throwback to the Pixel 2 XL, and even though we’re glad to say goodbye to the Pixel 3 XL’s comedy notch, there’s a sense that Google hasn’t gone all out in trying to get a full-screen display.
However, there is a reason for that. For one, there is a front-facing camera and speaker. In addition, the Soli chip powers Google’s Motion Sense, which uses radar to detect your movements so you can interact with your phone using gestures.
It is worth noting that bezels are not necessarily a bad thing before we discuss Motion Sense. Playing Call of Duty: Mobile on the Pixel 4 XL, we found that the top bezel makes a difference: when on the left, it gives some off-screen space for some of your hands to rest, so there are fewer chances of accidental touches on the screen.
But let’s talk about gestures. With Motion Sense, you can wave away alarms, skip tracks with a swipe, and interact with a few wallpapers (waving at Pikachu is a novelty, but not much else). Motion Sense’s full potential is still yet to be seen (and Google says it’s just getting started), but as it stands, we can’t really see how it adds anything useful.
Despite its appearance, it doesn’t do anything you can’t already do with your voice or by tapping the phone. We need to see a game-changing function before we’re sold on the need for motion sense gestures outside of drivers. After using the phone for a number of months since its launch, we haven’t used those gestures at all.
However, there’s another reason why the Pixel 4 XL’s forehead is so big. The new face unlock system is also housed there with infrared sensors. With an infrared dot projection, this is the same as Apple’s Face ID, which is biometrically secure enough for banking apps.
At launch, there wasn’t any third-party support for these systems, but that’s slowly rolling out, so you’re not at a huge disadvantage.
When it comes to unlocking, it’s lightning-fast. Soli does the one good thing of waking up the phone as you reach for it, enabling the face unlock. Neither does it care about your orientation, nor does it care whether you have your eyes open or closed. Google has said that eye detection will be added as a future update, so your phone could be unlocked while you sleep.
Google Pixel 4 XL: Display and hardware specs
- 90Hz refresh rate, 6.3-inch Quad HD+ OLED display
- 6GB RAM, 64/128GB storage, Qualcomm SD855.
- 3700mAh battery
As for the Pixel 4 XL’s hardware, it has a 6.3-inch Quad HD+ display, larger than the Pixel 4’s 5.7-inch one. With this OLED display, the refresh rate is 90Hz, which is a big deal. That was something that went over well on the OnePlus 7T and should result in smoother visuals if you can see the difference. The overall experience isn’t drastically different in reality, but that might have to do with the apps we’re using.
With the exception of the refresh rate, this is an impressive display with a lot of quality and a high dynamic range (HDR), and we are very impressed with how well it displays content. Additionally, it has a good amount of brightness, so it gets a thumbs up in this department.
The Pixel 4 XL runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 platform with 6GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage. People who struggled with the 4GB of RAM in the Pixel 3 XL are likely to appreciate the bump in RAM, but in many ways, performance will be governed by software optimization. Thus, it appears that the Pixel 4 XL does not suffer from the same immediate app closing issue as the Pixel 3 XL did.
Google has, however, launched a new flagship-grade device on hardware that is not quite at the top of the pile. With the new Snapdragon 855 Plus making its way into devices like the OnePlus 7T, and with the Snapdragon 865 announced in December 2019 and appearing in devices from February 2020, this isn’t exactly cutting edge.
Performance-wise, that doesn’t matter as much as it seems from the specs sheet because the Pixel 4 XL runs fast and smooth, and we’ve found it to be a great phone for consuming media and playing games like PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty.
The battery life falls slightly short, however. You’ll be able to get through the day with just a 3700 mAh battery. When it comes to intensive use, you’ll need a charger, and it comes with a fast charger that charges it at 18W, so while it doesn’t take long to top it up, it isn’t the best on the market. That was the case with the Pixel 3 XL, and it seems to be a trend: Google just doesn’t seem to be as capable of battery optimization as companies like Huawei or OnePlus.
Say hello to a new camera.
- 12-megapixel main camera with f/1.7 aperture
- 16-megapixel f/2.42 2x telephoto camera
- Night vision enhancements
Fortunately, the story is more positive when it comes to the camera. In the past few years, the Pixel has excelled at using a single camera, using software, artificial intelligence, and optimization to achieve results that other devices couldn’t match – even with more lenses.
In addition, the second lens has a zoom—a 16-megapixel telephoto designed to enhance the quality of shots of farther-away subjects. Its implementation is particularly intriguing. With Google, you are not given the option to switch lenses. Instead, you have to pinch-zoom or use the slider to zoom in and out, and it’s seamless.
With the new telephoto lens, you can zoom in at 2x and then digitally zoom out to 8x with a hybrid system. Despite its low effectiveness at night and in low light, in daylight, you can get passable results up to 8x, and even better results if you don’t need to zoom so much. In terms of zoom, this is a significant improvement for the Pixel.
Additionally, Night Sight has been improved. The first aspect is that it performs better in low light without Night Sight turned on: it takes passable low-light photos even without Night Sight, so it’s much more like the Huawei P30 Pro in this sense. Night Sight will still be recommended, and it’s still a solid system – but now it’s being challenged by other devices, such as the Apple iPhone 11.
In addition, Google has added an astrophotography mode. At first glance, it might seem like nothing more than novelty value, but it’s actually Google showing what’s possible. The mode requires your phone to be steady–on a tripod, for instance–and then it takes a series of long exposures with some cleaning as it goes. Taking a picture takes about four minutes, but the results are amazing, and it’s easy. Even if you’ve never used it, there’s a lot of power here-and much of that comes from Google’s computational photography.
The Google Camera app offers us the same stellar performance we’ve come to expect: it will give us great photos under pretty much any conditions. The display’s saturation makes them pop—more in line with Samsung’s devices—and it is still a great phone for portrait shots, both on the front and rear cameras. The main advantage Google has over its rivals is that it uses the main camera for portraits, whereas some rivals use telephoto lenses, resulting in lower quality images.
There is one new feature, though, that is really interesting and something we haven’t seen on other phones. Dual exposure of a digital camera is not the same as dual exposure of a manual film camera. HDR is taken and ramped up, allowing you to independently adjust the foreground and background levels. This means that you can lighten a foreground against a bright sky, change levels to make a silhouette, or even just tweak the image in-camera, rather than afterward in software. In all honesty, since review testing, we haven’t used it much. It’s a powerful tool, but you have to use it in the right situation.
Despite all the goodness (and there’s a lot here that’s fantastic), that’s what photo fans will miss with a third wide-angle camera becoming the norm. It is offered by a number of competitors. If you want to take those pictures, you can use Google’s existing Photo Sphere feature. However, it isn’t as swift, fast, or natural as a dedicated lens.
Android 10’s best software features
In addition to running a pure version of Android 10, the Pixel 4 XL adds a few features that set it apart from other leading Android smartphones.
You can use a voice recorder app that will live transcribe your notes into text. Students and journalists can also search that text, which makes it a great resource. Though it works well, it does make a few mistakes in transcription, but you can fix them by listening to the recording. All processing takes place on the Pixel, so it’s not data-hungry and it’s exclusive to the Pixel. We’ll have to see how long this lasts, but it’s another good example of Google’s focus on smarter devices.
Positioning Pixels with Android has long been a favorite of ours. For those eager to have the latest Google features, being at the front of the update queue is still an advantage, but it isn’t as useful as it used to be. In addition to updating, other manufacturers are improving the software experience. In general, OnePlus’ phones run smoother than Google’s and are quick to update to Android 10.
Nonetheless, we like the software and the overall experience of uncluttered Android, and this may be a significant reason to buy this phone. In the absence of a pure Android flagship smartphone, the Pixel has almost become the default choice.
Advantages and disadvantages:
|Exclusive smart features||Motion Sense gestures add little to nothing. Wonderful|
|display||No wide-angle camera|
|The camera’s performance is high.||Battery life is average.|
|Pure Android software.|
The Pixel 4 XL’s camera shines once again. A great display and ease of use make this a compelling choice for capturing photos and videos on your phone. It does not have a wide-angle lens, but its performance in normal, portrait, zoom, and low-light photography makes it an excellent choice for photo enthusiasts.
Although the Pixel 4 XL has a neat design and plenty of power, it falls short in a couple of areas. It doesn’t have a class-leading battery life – although some might be fine with that – and Soli and Motion Sense gestures aren’t really that useful. The Soli functions may change over time, but we’re used to holding a phone in our hands as that’s what it’s designed for.
I think the Google Pixel 4 XL is an interesting and good pure Android phone. However, rivals now offer better camera performance, more power, a more compact design, and longer battery life. Although the phone is attractive now, it is likely to become outdated within four months.