Pixel 3 XL vs. Pixel 2 XL vs. Pixel XL: Which XL is best for you?

Google Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If you’re looking for the best possible Android experience on a big screen then you won’t get much better than Google’s Pixel XL phones. But it’s not that simple; the recent reveal of the Pixel 3 XL has increased the number of available XL models to three, giving you a range of choices.

So with three Pixel XLs available, which one is best for you? While the Pixel 3 XL is the latest iteration of Google’s phone, the other two still offer great performance, at a lower price. Don’t stress yourself out with the agony of choice — we’ve compared the three so you have a better idea of which one to pick.

Specs

Pixel 3 XL Pixel 2 XL Pixel XL
Size 158 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.2 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches) 157.9 x 76.7 x 7.9 mm (6.2 x 3.0 x 0.3 inches) 154.7 × 75.7 × 8.5 mm (6 × 2.9 × 0.3 inches)
Weight 184 grams (6.49 ounces) 175 grams (6.2 ounces) 168 grams (5.93 ounces)
Screen size 6.3-inch P-OLED 6.0-inch P-OLED 5.5-inch AMOLED
Screen resolution 2,960 x 1,440 pixels (523 pixels per inch) 2,880 x 1,440 pixels (538 pixels per inch) 2,560 x 1,440 pixels (534 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie Android 9.0 Pie
Storage space 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 128GB 32GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot No No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay Google Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM 4GB 4GB 4GB
Camera 12MP rear, dual 8MP lenses front 12MP rear, 8MP front 12MP rear, 8MP front
Video 2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 120 fps, 720p at at 240 fps 2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 120 fps, 720p at at 240 fps 2,160p at 30 fps, 1,080p at 120 fps, 720p at at 240 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 4.2
Ports USB-C USB-C USB-C, headphone jack
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes Yes
Water resistance IPX8 IP67 Splash resistant
Battery 3,430mAh

Fast charging

Qi wireless charging

3,520mAh

Fast charging

3,450mAh

Fast charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Just Black, Clearly White, Not Pink Just Black, Black and White Very Silver, Quite Black, Really Blue
Price $899 $699 Around $400
Buy from Google Google Amazon
Review score Hands-on review 4.5 out of 5 stars 4.5 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

google pixel 3 slate home hub photo galleries stand hands on 5120

Looking for a powerful phone? You’re in the right place. The Pixel 3 XL is equipped with the super-powerful Snapdragon 845, giving top-level, smooth performance. While the Snapdragon 835 and Snapdragon 821 chips in the Pixel XL 2 and Pixel XL are still powerful chips, they pale when compared to the modern chip in the Pixel 3 XL. All three offer silky smooth performance in day-to-day tasks, but the Pixel 3 XL is more future-proof, and capable of handling more advanced games.

The Pixel phones have rarely exceeded a day’s battery life, and it seems that tradition is set to continue with the Pixel 3 XL. In fact, the newer phone actually has a slightly smaller battery than the older models. We’ll have to see how it holds up in our tests. Super-fast charging is included on each phone, but the Pixel 3 XL is the first Pixel XL phone to come with wireless charging.

Despite possible issues with battery life, the Pixel 3 XL completely runs away with it, thanks to the additional power from the new processor.

Winner: Pixel 3 XL

Design and durability

Google Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Beauty is undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder, but we’re still going to take the original Pixel XL’s chunky bezels out the running, leaving just the Pixel 2 XL and Pixel 3 XL. The Pixel 3 XL is arguably the more modern of these two, with a notched display and further slimmed bezels. However, if you’re not a notch fan then the notch-less design of the Pixel 2 XL may appeal.

You’ll find a similar level of physical durability on each phone, thanks to glass bodies on each. Like before, the lack of water resistance on the Pixel XL disqualifies it — the Pixel 2 XL comes with IP67 water resistance, while the Pixel 3 XL rocks IPX8, giving the newer phone no protection against protrusions, but solid protection from immersion in water.

It’s a tough one to judge for many reasons — the notch being high among them — but the improved water resistance on the Pixel 3 XL clinches it.

Winner: Pixel 3 XL

Display

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Each Pixel phone has an excellent OLED display with deep, inky blacks, and vibrant colors. While they haven’t quite reached some competitors in sheer screen quality, they’re still amazing displays. However, they’ve not been without their issues, including blue tinting and burn-in on the Pixel 2 XL’s 6-inch P-OLED display. While Google claims to have fixed the issues now, it was a black mark against the phone for some. We imagine that Google won’t be making the same mistake again with the Pixel 3 XL.

It’s an exceptionally hard category to call, since all three displays are utterly stunning. However, the Pixel XL’s 5.5-inch screen is somewhat small by today’s standards, and the Pixel 2 XL’s screen had some real issues — making the Pixel 3 XL’s display the winner by default.

Winner: Pixel 3 XL

Camera

Google Pixel 3
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

While some manufacturers are just adding more lenses onto their phones, Google is content with perfecting the single 12-megapixel lens on the rear of each Pixel. The Pixel XL and Pixel 2 XL were both among the best smartphone cameras on launch, and we’re expecting much the same from the Pixel 3 XL. Does that mean the Pixel 3 XL will be the best camera of the bunch? Absolutely — the improvements to the Pixel 3 XL’s Visual Core chip have supposedly pushed the camera’s performance beyond even that of the Pixel 2 XL.

It’s a similar story with the front-facing camera too. While you will find an 8-megapixel selfie lens on each Pixel XL, the Pixel 3 XL has doubled the fun by adding an extra 8-megapixel wide-angle lens for “super selfies”. Video capabilities will be similar between each phone, with the ability to take 240 frames-per-second slow motion video at 720p, as well as 4K video at 30 frames-per-second.

While each Pixel XL has come with a stunning camera, Google has continued to refine and improve its formula with each year. The Pixel 3 XL’s improved camera takes this.

Winner: Pixel 3 XL

Software and updates

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Pixel range is one of the best ways to experience Android, and outside of a few Pixel-specific additions, you’ll find an experience extremely close to stock Android. Google’s close integration of software and hardware means that Android is at its smoothest and fastest on a Pixel — so regardless of which you pick you’ll find a buttery smooth Android 9.0 Pie.

Updates will be lightning fast, coming straight from Google. It’s fair to expect the Pixel XL to stop getting major updates soon though, and the Pixel 2 XL to not be too much further behind that. Android Q is possible, but expect to see the older handsets start to filter out of updates eventually. The Pixel 3 XL will keep getting updates for a lot longer — at least three years — so it wins this by default.

Winner: Pixel 3 XL

Special features

Google Pixel XL
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The original Pixel XL was content with leading the way with the best possible experience with Google Assistant (at the time), but the Pixel 2 XL went further, adding the Active Edge squeezable sides that trigger Google’s A.I., as well as a bunch of other fun features like Now Playing, which identifies music playing near you.

The Pixel 3 XL will bring back the squeezable sides, but it also adds some additional fun features. Along with wirelessly charging your Pixel 3 XL, the Pixel Stand also turns your phone into a smart speaker, complete with one-touch shortcuts and more voice commands. The Pixel 3 XL will also be getting access to Call Screen — an A.I.-powered ability that allows Google Assistant to answer and transcribe your calls to help you filter out spam.

We expect the best of Android from the Pixel range, and it seems that Google’s pushing that with additional smart functionality. The Pixel 3 XL takes everything the other phones had, and adds even more.

Winner: Pixel 3 XL

Price

While the Pixel XL began life at around $670, it has since been discontinued by Google. As such, you can only find it on sites like Amazon now, but it’s seen a considerable price drop, to the point where you can pick one up for under $400. Prices for the Pixel 2 XL start from $699, and you can buy it unlocked from Google. Pricing for the Pixel 3 XL starts at $899, and you can buy it now. Check out our Pixel 3 XL buying guide for the latest deals. All Pixel phones are compatible with all major U.S. carriers.

Overall winner: Pixel 3 XL

Surprise surprise — Google’s latest Pixel XL comes out the strongest, with the most powerful specs, the best camera, and a modern look that’s worthy of a 2018 flagship. If price is no object and you simply want the best phone, then the Pixel 3 XL is the way to go.

However, that’s not to say the other two phones are bad. On the contrary, they’re exceptional phones that will provide smoother performance and excellent usability if you’re looking to save some money. The excellent Pixel 2 XL has seen a significant price cut to $699, while the Pixel XL can be picked up for the price of a current midrange phone, which makes them both solid options if you’re watching your bank balance. But in a pure head-to-head battle, the Pixel 3 XL is stronger.

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