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Pixel vs. Pixel XL: How do Google’s first self-branded phones compare?

google pixel vs xl phone
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Google has finally unveiled the long-awaited and heavily rumored Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL smartphones, boasting some of the best specs in the business, as well as heavy Android integration, a top-notch camera, and more. In fact, these phones have the specs to match up against any flagship device out there. But how do the two new phones compare to each other? Are there any advantages to one over the other? We put the two new Google phones head to head to find out.

Related: Pixel phones, Daydream, Home — oh my! Everything Google revealed at its October 4 event

Performance

Google Pixel

pixel-thumb-small

Google Pixel XL

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Size 5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3-inches (143.8 x 69.5 x 7.3-8.5mm) 6.0 x 2.9 x 0.2-0.34-inches (154.7 x 75.7 x 7.3-8.5mm)
Weight 143g (5.0 oz) 168g (5.93oz)
Screen 5.0-inch AMOLED 5.5-inch AMOLED
Resolution 1,080 x 1,920 pixels (441ppi) 1,440 x 2,560 pixels (534ppi)
OS Android 7.1 Nougat Android 7.1 Nougat
Storage 32/128GB 32/128GB
MicroSD card slot No No
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM 4GB 4GB
Connectivity GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE GSM / CDMA / HSPA / LTE
Camera 12MP rear, 8MP front 12MP rear, 8MP front
Video 2,160p at 30fps 2,160p at 30fps
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer Accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer
Water resistant No No
Battery 2,770mAh 3,450mAh
Ports USB-C, headphone jack USB-C, headphone jack
Marketplace Google Play Google Play
Color offerings Very Silver, Quite Black, Really Blue Very Silver, Quite Black, Really Blue
Availability Google Play, Verizon Google Play, Verizon
Price Starts at $650 Starts at $770
DT review Coming soon Coming soon

As it turns out, there’s really very little comparison to make.

Both the Pixel and Pixel XL feature Qualcomm’s latest and great mobile processor, the Snapdragon 821, as well as 4GB of RAM and options for either 32GB or 128GB of storage. Those certainly aren’t bad specs at all. The Snapdragon 821 is around 10 percent faster than the already-fast Snapdragon 820, ensuring that all those apps you install over the next few years continue to run smoothly and without a hitch.

When it comes to RAM, it’s potentially another story. There are indeed phones out there with a hefty 6GB of RAM, like the OnePlus 3, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean faster or better performance — just look at the iPhone. While it has traditionally had less RAM, because of how deeply software and hardware are integrated, the iPhone outperforms almost all others on the market.

Both Google Pixel phones are shaping up to be very high performers, but they’re about as powerful as each other — there’s no winner here.

Winner: Tie

Design

Google Pixel phone

There’s also no winner in the design department. The phones feature an identical look, except the Pixel XL is a little larger.

The overall look of the phone certainly isn’t bad at all. It features a relatively premium look, that’s slightly off compared to other flagship devices. That’s largely because of the fact that half of the back is made from a metal body, while the top half of the back is made from glass — that’s the half with the fingerprint sensor and the camera.

The glass does make the phone look unique, but it also looks a little like plastic, slightly detracting from the perceived quality of the device.

Related: Hands on: Google Pixel and Pixel XL

On the bottom of the phone, you’ll find a USB-C port and two slots. Don’t mistake those for stereo speakers — it seems like one of them is a speaker and the other a microphone slot. It’s nice that they look the same though, as it contributes to the phone’s symmetry. On the left edge, you’ll find the SIM tray, and on the right, you’ll find both the power buttons and the volume rocker. On the back, as is expected, you’ll find the fingerprint sensor, as well as the camera, which is relatively small and located in the top left-hand corner of the back.

In general, the phone looks nice, if not slightly odd. Still, there’s obviously no winner, since they’re identical. You can get both in silver, black, and blue.

Winner: Tie

Battery

Google Pixel phone

Finally, something we can actually compare. The battery capacity on the Pixel is 2,770mAh, while that of the Pixel XL sits at 3,450mAh. Still, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that the extra battery merely powers the larger display for the same amount of time. Google, however, rates the Pixel XL as having a much longer battery life — it says the device can last as long as 32 hours of talk time, compared to the standard Pixel’s 26 hours. That’s an extra 6 hours, which is no small figure.

Both devices also feature quick charging, which gives them as much as 7 hours of use through only 15 minutes of charging. Unfortunately, neither offer wireless charging.

With the much longer battery capacity, the Pixel XL is the clear winner.

Winner: Google Pixel XL

Display

Google Pixel phone

The battery isn’t the only thing that’s different between the two phones — the display also offers a point of difference. Both displays are AMOLED, however the display on the Pixel XL is a little larger — and boasts a higher resolution.

While the display on the Google Pixel is 5-inches and has a resolution of 1,080 x 1,920 pixels, the Pixel XL takes things a step further by offering a 5.5-inch display with a resolution of 1,440 x 2,560 pixels. Even with the larger size, the Pixel XL’s display is sharper, boasting 534 pixels-per-inch compared to the Pixel’s 441ppi.

There’s a clear winner here, and that’s the Google Pixel XL.

Winner: Google Pixel XL

Camera

Google Pixel phone

The camera is identical on the two phones, and according to Google, it’s a good one. The rear-facing camera is 12 megapixels with an aperture of f/2.0, and while that may not technically offer as great low-light photos as other cameras, Google says the camera is the best smartphone camera ever built. Obviously, that remains to be seen once reviews start coming out, but its a good sign nonetheless. Of course, those low-light shots are also aided by the relatively large 1.55µm pixel size, which is able to draw in more light than other cameras with smaller pixel sizes, so the camera’s performance in low-light situations remains to be seen.

Related: Google Pixel vs. Samsung Galaxy S7: Which 5-inch flagship is right for you?

On the front of the device, you’ll find an 8-megapixel shooter, which is a far higher resolution than most front-facing cameras. That’s nice for the selfie-lovers out there, although it’s nice to have even for those that aren’t that into selfies.

Even better — all those photos you take can be backed up for free to Google Photos in original quality.

Winner: Tie

Software

Google Pixel phone

Both of the phones will ship with Android 7.1 Nougat, which is Google’s latest version of Android. The operating system has all the great new features found in Android 7.1, as well as a few more. The most notable? Google Assistant integration. Google Assistant is Google’s latest and greatest digital assistant, aimed at creating a “conversation” between users and Google. Assistant isn’t just a great way to interact with Google services — it’s also a great way to integrate with third-party apps, as Google is allowing third-party integration through “Actions on Google.”

Apart from Assistant, the new version of Android also brings features like Night Light, which changes the colors shown on the screen to show less blue light.

Perhaps the coolest feature on the Pixel, however, is Daydream compatibility. Daydream turns your phone into a virtual reality device, and really takes things to the next level compared to systems like Google Cardboard. Thankfully, if you pre-order the Pixel, you’ll also get a Daydream View headset for free so you can try out Daydream without having to pay anything extra.

Related: Where to buy everything Google announced at its October 4 event

You’ll also get automatic software updates, which is awesome. No other Android phone will get new versions of Android or security patches faster than the Pixel phones.

Winner: Tie

Price and availability

While the Pixel XL offers a better display and a higher battery life, those things obviously come at a price — the Pixel XL costs $120 more than the standard Google Pixel.

Apart from pricing, there’s an availability issue — the Pixel and Pixel XL are currently only available at Verizon, or you can get them unlocked. We recommend you buy them unlocked from Google, no matter your carrier. That way, you won’t have to be stuck with a carrier for two years. The Pixel and Pixel XL can both be pre-ordered now, with shipping expected in 2-3 weeks. Here’s a quick rundown of pricing.

Pixel 32GB Pixel 128GB Pixel XL 32GB Pixel XL 128GB
Verizon $650, $27.08 per month for 24 months $750, $31.24 per month for 24 months $770, 32.08 per month for 24 months $870, $36.24 per month for 24 months
Google Store $650, $27.04 per month for 24 months $750, $31.21 per month for 24 months $770, $32.04 per month for 24 months $870, $36.21 per month for 24 months

Winner: Pixel

Winner: Pixel XL

Obviously, the Google Pixel XL is the “better” phone, but the better battery and display resolution don’t come free. If you’re really into the larger screen or want a longer battery life, then you’re going to have to shell out the extra cash — but if not, there’s good news: you can get a phone with nearly equally good specs at a cheaper price.

Both the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are shaping up to be great phones. Stay tuned for full reviews, but in the meantime, you can check out our hands-ons with them.