The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL represent Google’s vision for Android: do the basics better than everyone else. They are also clearly the best marriage of hardware and software you’ll find anywhere on the Android platform and their cameras will prove the biggest selling point. They promise the best smartphone cameras on the market, super fast performance, stock Android, and instant updates. But the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were not created equal, so what’s the difference between them other than size and price?
These are two phones of different screen sizes, screen-to-body ratios and aspect ratios, but otherwise nearly identical internal components. Without knowing beforehand, you wouldn’t be able to tell that the Pixel 2 was made by HTC and the Pixel 2 XL by LG — they’re that similar.
But when you dig a little deeper, the lineages are clear: the Pixel 2’s AMOLED display (which is actually made by Samsung) is clearly better than the washed-out, problematic LG-made pOLED display on the Pixel 2 XL.
Both phones have Snapdragon 835s, 4GB of RAM and between 64GB and 128GB storage standard, along with single rear 12MP cameras — this year with OIS. They’re waterproof but don’t have headphone jacks. There’s no wireless charging, but the sides can be squeezed to activate Google Assistant. And though it ships with Android 8.0, not 8.1, there’s a lot new here — including an embedded eSIM to connect to Project Fi even without a SIM card.
The compensation for the bezels that do remain on both is the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL feature front firing stereo speakers, a real differentiator from the competition and a welcome return for a feature missed from the original Pixels after proving popular on the Nexus 6 and Nexus 6P.
The new Pixels also stand out by retaining their distinctive split aluminium and glass backs. With Apple’s new iPhone’s and Samsung’s new Galaxies featuring fully glass backs, there’s more durability here and the Pixels’ aluminium is textured so they are less slippery in hand.
Google hinted at better battery life ahead of the launch, but in reality the new Pixels only see minor alterations with the Pixel 2 actually having a slightly smaller battery than its predecessor:
The flip side is the extra efficiency of the Snapdragon 835 chipset combined with the notable battery life improvements in Android Oreo should see gains compared to the original Pixels, which were already long lasting phones. There’s also fast wired charging up to 18W out the box using USB-C. Expect the Pixel 2 XL to come out on top like last year.
Elsewhere both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL support HDR which is fast being adopted by Netflix, Amazon Video and Google Video, while they also add support for an always-on display – an option to always see the time and notifications in monochrome when the phones are in standby.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available in three color options and two color options, respectively. The Kinda Blue model is only on the smaller Pixel 2, but the Pixel 2 XL has the “chocolate-dipped” Black and White version, which we’re excited about.
Google is giving the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL three years of guaranteed software updates, which means that when it launches with Android Oreo, it will get Android P in 2018, Android Q in 2019 and, miraculously, Android R in 2020.
The Pixel 2 is the cheaper of the two new Google phones. You can get it unlocked from the Google Store or Verizon for $649 for the 64 GB model, while the 128 GB model is priced at $749. The Pixel 2 XL is more expensive, priced at $849 for the 64 GB model, and $949 for the 128 GB variant. The Pixel 2 is now available to order at the Google Store in all launch markets — that’s Australia, Canada, Germany, India, UK, and the U.S.
It’s worth pointing out that the Pixel 2 XL has a few display issues. The quality of the panel itself is fairly low compared to equivalent Samsung models, featuring discoloration when viewed off-center; graininess and muddiness, especially at low brightness; poor backlight uniformity (similar to the LG V30); and in some cases, burn-in.
Burn-in consists of a permanent marking on the screen after an unmoving image has been there for some time. It’s a hallmark of OLED displays, and can be found on panels of both high and low quality. Generally, the higher the quality the longer burn-in takes to show.
In a post on its community forums, Google addressed the issue, saying that it found the burn-in, or “differential aging,” characteristics of the OLED panel on the Pixel 2 XL to be no worse than other flagships using screens of the same technology.
An update issued in early November added a “Saturated” mode to the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL’s screens, and dramatically improved the color quality of the 2 XL. While blue shift is still a problem, washed-out colors are not, and Google now fades the navigation bar after a few seconds to mitigate burn-in. The official Android 8.1 update improved the Pixel 2 XL’s colors even more, so we’d now venture to say most people won’t notice an issue with the phone’s screen.
The company has also extended the warranty for the phone to two years in case something goes wrong. Now that Google has resolved most of the Pixel 2 XL’s display issues, we have no problem recommending the bigger Google phone.
Which One Should You Buy?
Until we learn more about the issues impacting the Pixel 2 XL display, it’s a lot easier to recommend the smaller Pixel 2 as “the phone” you should consider buying right now. It goes without saying that if you like smaller phones, the Pixel 2 is for you. It’s compact enough to use with one hand, and it fits in your pocket much easier. And if the Pixel 2 XL’s display has you turned off, you’ll be happy to hear that the Pixel 2’s screen doesn’t have any issues.
This doesn’t mean the Pixel 2 XL is a “bad” phone, and in fact if you need that larger display or bigger battery there’s still a ton of things to love about the larger phone. The Pixel 2 XL is clearly the superior phone and that’s reflected in its price. But for those who can look past the Pixel 2’s big bezels, you’ll get the same lightning quick performance, class leading camera, stock Android experience and ‘unlimited’ storage as the Pixel 2 XL for $200 less, I’d say the Pixel 2 is the best bet right now.