Google Pixel 4 XL review

Phones

The Good The Pixel 4 XL has a big screen that refreshes 90 times a second, so everything looks real smooth. It also takes outstanding photos, and its face unlock is the fastest we’ve seen.

The Bad The phone is expensive, doesn’t come with earbuds and has no expandable storage option.

The Bottom Line There’s no denying the Pixel 4 XL has one of the best cameras around, but its shortcomings don’t justify its high price. Instead, consider the Note 10 or the OnePlus 7T. The Pixel 3 XL is another great candidate and is discounted at $600 now.

8.6 Overall
  • Design8

     

     

  • Features8

     

     

  • Performance9

     

     

  • Camera9

     

     

  • Battery9

     

     

As the most leaked phone in phoneland, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL held few surprises when Google finally unveiled them on Oct. 15. We knew it would have a new facial recognition feature (here’s how the Pixel 4’s face unlock compared to the iPhone 11’s Face ID when we tested both in four typical scenarios), a 90Hz screen and an exceptional camera. We also expected both phones to be nearly identical, save for their sizes and a few other things that are outlined below. Unlike Apple and Samsung, Google doesn’t add any extra features, like another rear camera for example, to its bigger models. So if you want the complete rundown of the Pixel 4 XL, head to my review of the Pixel 4, where you can read more analysis and check out more photos.

The Pixel 4 and 4 XL have fantastic cameras. But so do many other phones now. A couple of them even have their own capable low-light camera mode that can compete with the Pixel 4, like the iPhone 11 ($699 at Amazon) and OnePlus 7T ($597 at Amazon). The Pixel 4 XL doesn’t offer expandable storage, earbuds bundled in the box or free unlimited photo storage at original quality, which Pixel users got for the last few years. Though the Pixel 4 XL is a great phone in and of itself and it has a superlative camera, it’s pricey at $900 (£829, AU$1,279) for 64GB and $1,000 (£929, AU$1,429) for 128GB. In a field filled with players, most of them with more affordable price tags and similar specs, Google’s new flagship simply doesn’t offer enough at the right price compared to its rivals.

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The Pixel 4 XL (left) and the Pixel 4.Sarah Tew/CNET

Originally published Oct. 21.
Update, Nov. 1: Adds battery test results and final scoring.

Pixel 4 vs. Pixel 4 XL: What’s different

  • Price: The Pixel 4 XL is going to set you back $100 more than the Pixel 4. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL start at $799 (£669, AU$1,049) and $899 (£829, AU$1,279), respectively, for the 64GB base model. Then it’s $899 for the Pixel 4 or $999 for the Pixel 4 XL if you upgrade to the 128GB version.
  • Dimensions: The Pixel 4 XL is slightly bigger and heavier than the Pixel 4, measuring 6.3 by 2.9 inches to the Pixel 4’s 5.7 by 2.7-inch body. The two phones have the same 0.3-inch (8.2mm) depth.
  • Weight: The Pixel 4 XL’s larger size makes it a bit heavier at 6.81 ounces (193 grams), while the Pixel 4 weighs only 5.71 ounces (162 grams).
  • Display: The Pixel 4 features an FHD display with 444 pixels-per-inch density, and the Pixel 4 XL is higher definition, with a QHD display and a pixel density of 537 ppi. But both phones feature a 90Hz OLED Smooth Display.
  • Battery: The last big difference between the two phones is the battery. The Pixel 4 uses a 2,800-mAh battery (which is an even lower capacity than its predecessor, the Pixel 3 ($290 at Amazon)), while the Pixel 4 XL has a 3,700-mAh battery.
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Aside from screen size and battery, the phones are nearly the same.Angela Lang/CNET

Pixel 4 XL camera

Once again, the Pixel 4 XL impressed us all with its camera. Overall, pictures are sharp, colorfully rich and had great contrast. The camera’s digital zoom is excellent, and I was able to take steady shots of objects that were super far away. With the second telephoto lens, the camera takes better portrait shots and it does a better job at smoothing out tricky areas like hair and fur than before. The camera’s handling white balance is also on the nose. Photos I took under yellow, warm lighting would come out as if they were taken in white light. In addition, the two sliders to adjust shadows and highlights give me a useful extra layer of control. In short, the Pixel 4 XL is one of my favorite phones when it comes to using the camera.

Pixel’s lowlight mode (known as Night Sight) is still impressive, brightening up and sharpening dark scenes. I didn’t get a chance to test the astrophotography mode because I was in New York and couldn’t get to an area dark enough to take star shots, but my colleague, Juan Garzon was able to capture some. Stay tuned though, because we’ll do a lot more camera testing with the Pixel 4 XL in the coming days and weeks.

Pixel 4 XL design

Featuring a prominent camera bump and a new orange color called Oh So Orange, the Pixel 4 XL has an expansive 6.3-inch screen that lets you comfortably watch videos or play games. Unlike the Pixel 3 XL ($1,473 at Walmart), the Pixel 4 XL doesn’t have a notch. While this means its top bezel is now thicker, it also means you can enjoy watching content on a seamless, uninterrupted screen.

The big display also makes use of the faster refresh rate. The Pixel 4 and 4 XL’s displays refresh at a rate of 90 times a second, while most phones refresh 60 times a second. This isn’t totally new — the OnePlus 7T and the Razer Phone 2 ($397 at Amazon) have respective 90Hz and 120Hz displays. But refreshing more often means playing games and scrolling through webpages and apps feels more fluid. Seeing this on a bigger screen makes the upgrade that much more noticeable.

 

Pixel 4 XL performance and battery

The Pixel 4 XL features the Snapdragon 855 chipset. Like the Pixel 4, the phone had no trouble with day-to-day tasks like launching the camera, opening apps and captioning audio. Benchmark scores of the Pixel 4 show that it’s comparable to other Android phones of the same class, but the iPhone 11 beat out all the others with its proprietary A13 processor. (Note: The S10 Plus ($768 at Amazon) and S10E have the same processor. We were also unable to run 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited on the OnePlus 7T.)

3DMark Slingshot Unlimited

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

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Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 single-core

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.5.0 multicore

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

As for the battery, anecdotally the Pixel 4 XL had no problem lasting a workday without a charge. During our tests for continuous video playback, the Pixel 4 XL averaged 15 hours and 15 minutes. While that’s much better than the Pixel 4, which only lasted 10 hours, last year’s Pixel 3 XL clocked in 16 hours and 49 minutes, the iPhone 11 lasted roughly 15 hours and 30 minutes, and the Note 10 lasted a whopping 18 hours.

Pixel 4 XL vs. the competition

pixel-4-galaxy-s10 
The Pixel 4 (left) and Galaxy S10.

César Salza

 

Pixel 4 XL vs. Pixel 3 XL: On sale for $600, the Pixel 3 XL has a lot of the same advantages as the Pixel 4 XL at a cheaper price. That includes prompt software updates (including to Android 10), water resistance and a camera that still holds its weight in 2019. Pixel 3 XL users will also get unlimited photo storage at original quality until Jan. 31, 2022.

Pixel 4 XL vs. Galaxy S10 Plus ($768 at Amazon) or Note 10: With their stylish design, great cameras and monster battery life, the Galaxy S10 Plus and Note 10 are two solid alternatives to the Pixel 4 XL. At $1,00 and $949, respectively, they start out more expensive than the Pixel 4 XL. But they have more storage, bilateral charging and the Note 10 has an embedded S Pen stylus.

Pixel 4 XL vs. OnePlus 7T: With a bigger screen than the Pixel 4 XL, the 6.55-inch OnePlus 7T runs Android 10 out of the box and has a 90Hz display too. Its three cameras can take great night shots and the phone has an excellent battery life — all at just $599.

Pixel 4 XL vs. iPhone or iPhone 11 Pro: If you are OS agnostic, the iPhone 11 Pro is $100 more expensive than the Pixel 4 XL. But it offers a third wide-angle camera, as well as wireless charging and face unlocking. If you want to save even more money consider the iPhone 11, which also has dual rear cameras like the Pixel 4 XL, but it’s $100 cheaper.

Pixel 4 XL spec comparison

Google Pixel 4 XL Samsung Galaxy Note 10 OnePlus 7T Google Pixel 3 XL iPhone 11 Pro
Display size, resolution 6.3-inch OLED 6.3-inch AMOLED; 2,280×1,080 pixels 6.55-inch AMOLED; 2,400×1,080-pixels 6.3-inch OLED; 2,960×1,440 pixels 5.8-inch OLED Super Retina XDR; 2,436×1,125 pixels
Pixel density 537ppi 401ppi 402ppi 522ppi 458ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.9 x 6.3 x 0.3 in 5.94×2.83×0.31 in 6.34×2.93×0.32 in 6.2x3x0.03 in 5.67×2.81×0.32 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 75.1×160.4×8.2 mm 151×71.8×7.9 mm 160.94×74.44×8.13 mm 158×76.7×7.9 mm 144×71.4×8.1 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.8 oz; 193g 5.93 oz; 168g 6.70 oz; 190g 6.5 oz; 184g 6.63 oz; 188g
Mobile software Android 10 Android 9 Pie Android 10 with OxygenOS Android 9 Pie iOS 13
Camera 12.2-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 16-megapixel (ultra-wide angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto) 48-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (telephoto), 16-megapixel (ultra wide-angle) 12.2-megapixel 12-megapixel (wide), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel 10-megapixel 16-megapixel 8-megapixel (standard), 8-megapixel (wide) 12-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
Processor 2.84GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, or Samsung Exynos 9825 2.96GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (2.5GHz octa-core) Apple A13 Bionic
Storage 64GB, 128GB 256GB 128GB 64GB, 128GB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB
RAM 6GB 8GB 8GB 4GB Not disclosed
Expandable storage No No No No No
Battery 3,700-mAh 3,500-mAh 3,800-mAh 3,430-mAh Not disclosed, but Apple claims it will last 4 hours longer than iPhone XS
Fingerprint sensor No In-screen In-screen Back cover No
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning
Headphone jack No No No No No
Special features Soli motion sensing and touchless gestures; 90Hz display; water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging S Pen stylus; Wireless PowerShare; hole punch screen notch; water resistant (IP68) 90Hz display; dual-SIM; Warp Charge 30T Water resistant (IPX8); wireless charging support; Pixel Buds USB-C headphones in the box Water resistant (IP68); dual-SIM capabilities (nano-SIM and e-SIM); wireless charging
Price off-contract (USD) $899 (64GB), $999 (128GB) $949 $599 $899 (64GB), $999 (128GB) $999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB), $1,349 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £829 (64GB), £929 (128GB) £899 Converted: About £485 £869 (64GB), £969 (128GB) £1,049 (64GB), £1,199 (256GB), £1,399 (512GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,279 (64GB), AU$1,429 (128GB) AU$1,499 Converted: About AU$890 AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,499 (128GB) AU$1,749 (64GB), AU$1,999 (256GB), AU$2,349 (512GB)