Google Pixel 4 XL vs. Pixel 3 XL: Which supersized Pixel is stronger?

As the architect of Android, it makes sense that you’d turn to Google for a truly transcendent Android phone. If you’re also looking for a big screen to meet your needs, then it’s the Pixel XL range you’ll need to look to. Google has refreshed its supersized Pixel with the new Pixel 4 XL, and it’s packing a bunch of upgrades, including a new design, an upgraded camera, and the latest Google Assistant innovations.

The Pixel 3 XL has been discontinued as a result of the Pixel 4 XL’s launch, but you’ll still be able to pick it up in certain places, and of course, plenty of people will still be using last year’s model. If you’re looking to upgrade, should you save a few pennies with the Pixel 3 XL, or go big on the Pixel 4 XL? If you’re already using the Pixel 3 XL, is it worth updating to this year’s big Pixel? We put the two phones head-to-head to answer these important questions.

Specs

Google Pixel 4 XL Google Pixel 3 XL
Size 160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2mm (6.3 x 2.9 x 0.3 inches) 158 × 76.7 × 7.9mm (6.2 × 3 × 0.3 inches)
Weight 193 grams (6.81 ounces) 184 grams (6.49 ounces)
Screen size 6.3-inch OLED 6.3-inch P-OLED
Screen resolution 3,040 x 1,440 pixels (537 pixels per inch) 2,960 x 1,440 pixels (523 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 10 Android 10
Storage space 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM 6GB 4GB
Camera Dual lens 12MP “Dual-Pixel” lens and 16MP telephoto lens rear, 8MP front Single lens 12MP rear, dual 8MP lenses front
Video 2160p at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps 2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 120 fps, 720p at at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor No, facial recognition instead Yes, rear capacitive
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Battery 3,700mAh

USB Power Delivery 2.0

Qi wireless charging

3,430mAh

USB Power Delivery 2.0

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Just Black, Clearly White, Oh So Orange Just Black, Clearly White, Not Pink
Price $899 $550
Buy from Google Google,
Review score Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

Google Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Performance has always been a high point of the Pixel range, thanks in large part to Google tying the software experience to top flagship hardware. While the Pixel 3 XL’s Snapdragon 845 is clearly inferior to the Pixel 4 XL’s Snapdragon 855, it’s not far off, and you’ll find both phones are fast and capable. Neither phone will have issues with the latest 3D games or intensive apps. That said, thanks to the 90Hz refresh rate, the Pixel 4 XL will undoubtedly feel the smoother of the two in real use. You’ll find the same storage options on both phones, but the Pixel 4 XL has more RAM, which may provide a small performance boost when jumping in and out of apps and games.

Unlike the Pixel 4, the Pixel 4 XL has a larger battery than its predecessor — which is extremely encouraging, given the Pixel 3 XL’s rather poor battery life. We’ll have to test it to see how much difference the additional 270mAh makes — though we suspect it’ll need some serious optimizations to really boost battery life. Charging is likely to be equally great on both phones, and both come with Qi wireless charging.

While performance on both phones is likely to feel snappy, despite the disparity in processing speed, the 90Hz display will make the Pixel 4 XL’s performance feel much smoother. Add to that the larger battery capacity and we have a clear winner here.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Design and durability

It’s very good news for notch-haters — the Pixel 3 XL’s deep notch has been dumped from the Pixel 4 XL. Instead, you’ll find a notch-less design with slim bezels along the sides and the bottom of the phone. The top of the phone has a larger bezel, but that’s easily forgiven, as it houses the earpiece, selfie camera, and the new Motion Sense technology. It’s cleaner than the Pixel 3 XL’s deep notch, and we prefer it. Flip the Pixel 4 XL over and you’ll find even more differences. The Pixel 4 XL’s extensive redesign means the two-tone design is gone, replaced by the “Pixel square” module housing the camera. Even the fingerprint sensor is gone, replaced by Face ID-like Face Unlock powered by the Motion Sense tech.

While the design may have changed, the durability hasn’t. Both phones sport an IP68-rating for dust and water-resistance, while both have glass bodies that are similarly susceptible to shatters and cracks. Do yourself a favor and buy a protective case.

The Pixel 4 XL is far and away the more attractive of the two phones.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Display

Both phones have a 6.3-inch AMOLED display with a QHD+ resolution, but that’s where the similarities end. The Pixel 3 XL’s display gives solid performance with vibrant colors and deep, inky black, but it’s trumped by the Pixel 4 XL’s display in one important way — Google has added a 90Hz refresh rate to the Pixel 4 XL, so scrolling feels smoother and actions feel more immediate. It seems like a comparatively small change — until you actually use it, and you see just how great it feels. There’s also no notch to break up the screen on the newer device. The Pixel 4 XL takes this.

Winner: Pixel 4 XL

Camera

Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL Hands on
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Despite being a year old, the Pixel 3 XL is still one of the best camera phones around. The single 12-megapixel lens may lack the versatility of multi-lens cameras like those on the Huawei Mate 30 Pro, but thanks to Google’s software, it’s an incredibly strong performer regardless. Google’s always improving the software too, so expect to see the camera continue to improve as Google adds new modes and software tweaks.

The Pixel 4 XL keeps that great 12-megapixel main lens and all the accompanying software tricks, but it also adds a 16-megapixel telephoto lens to boost an already formidable camera. We haven’t had much chance to play with the Pixel 4 XL’s camera yet, but the combination of Google’s software with a new lens looks set to impress. There are also new brightness and shadow sliders as part of the Dual Exposure feature, Live HDR+ to give you an accurate preview of your shot, and improvements to the existing portrait and night modes.

The latest Pixel phone almost always take the top spot on our best camera phones article, but it is up against some strong competition in the new iPhone 11 Pro. Regardless, we’re expecting the Pixel 4 XL to at least match the new iPhones — and it’s set to beat the Pixel 3 XL hands down.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Software and updates

Google Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Of all the categories, this has to be the one with the least competition. As expected, both phones run the latest version of Android 10 and can be expected to get updates extremely close to release. While the Pixel 4 XL will continue to get updates for longer than the Pixel 3 XL, it’s really not enough to break the tie in this case. You’ll get the same Pixel version of Android on both of these phones, and both will be among the first phones to get the newest version of Android.

Winner: Tie

Special Features

google assistant 2.0 pixel 4
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Pixel 3 XL and 4 XL share a lot of special features, including a close relationship with the Google Assistant, Active Edge, and Google’s other Pixel-exclusive features, like Now Playing. But the Pixel 4 XL has some new hardware features the older Pixel won’t be getting, like Motion Sense. Powered by the Project Soli chip, Motion Sense uses radar to sense movements, allowing you to control your phone with simple hand movements. Motion Sense also boosts the speed of the Pixel 4 XL’s facial recognition system by detecting your hand approaching the device, priming the camera and starting the unlock procedure before you’ve even picked up the phone. As a hardware addition, it’s not something the Pixel 3 XL can match.

Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

Price and availability

The Google Pixel 4 XL is currently available for pre-order and will start shipping on October 24. The rumored price rises thankfully haven’t materialized, and the 64GB model will set you back just $899. The Pixel 4 XL will work on every major U.S. network. The Pixel 3 XL has been discontinued by Google, but you’ll still be able to pick it up from Amazon and Best Buy, and the 64GB model starts at just $550. It will also work on every major U.S. carrier.

Overall Winner: Google Pixel 4 XL

It’s a tale as old as time itself — the new almost always replaces the old, and the Pixel 4 XL is no exception to that rule. While the Pixel 3 XL continues to be an extremely strong Android phone with a lot to recommend it, the aging hardware and single camera lens just can’t match the Pixel 4 XL’s Snapdragon 855, dual rear camera suite, and shiny new design. If you’re able to spare the extra cash (or are willing to wait for the inevitable Black Friday deals), then the Pixel 4 XL is the clear choice.

But the Pixel 3 XL is still an excellent phone, and at $400 less it’s hard to pass up. While the notch can be distracting, the processor is still excellent, and the single 12-megapixel camera is an outstanding snapper. Equally, if you’re happy with your Pixel 3 XL, you shouldn’t feel pressured to update to Google’s latest and greatest. But otherwise, go visit a store to check out the Pixel 4 XL. Though it has strong competition from the smaller Pixel 4, the Pixel 4 XL is probably the best big Android phone you can buy right now.

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