Google Pixel Four XL assessment: Outstanding telephone, small battery

“Google’s latest Pixel once more has a successful digital camera, and once more falters on battery life.”

  • Glorious cameras
  • Nice efficiency
  • Vibrant, sharp, and easy 6.3-inch display screen
  • Face Unlock is quick
  • Genuinely useful, good software program
  • Battery life is not nice
  • Barely any apps help Face Unlock
  • Paltry 64GB of storage

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I’ve been reviewing Google’s Pixel telephones since they launched again in 2016, and there have been two constants: a killer digital camera and an inadequate battery. This theme continues with the corporate’s newest, the Google Pixel Four XL.

It’s unbelievable in nearly each division, from a wonderful display screen to good software program, however the battery nonetheless trails the competitors. It’s not dangerous sufficient to place me off from utilizing the telephone fully, however energy customers beware: this telephone will wrestle to final you a full day. There’s rather a lot to get pleasure from earlier than that final battery proportion level slips away, although. Let’s take a more in-depth look.

Desire a smaller telephone? Take a look at our Google Pixel Four assessment, the place we take a detailed take a look at the 5.7-inch mannequin.

A minimalist and placing design

I’m a sucker for distinction, shiny colours, and minimalist designs, which suggests the Pixel Four XL is exactly up my alley. I spoke to the designers in regards to the technique of redesigning the telephone — that is the primary main redesign of the Pixel line — and I’m pleased with the adjustments made.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Tendencies

Gone is the road on the again of the telephone that used to separate two completely different textures, which additionally means there are not two textures on the again. As a substitute, this two-tone design is achieved utilizing the perimeters of the telephone; there’s a black band across the edges, which helps masks some parts just like the USB-C port, the speaker grill, and the SIM slot, but it surely additionally helps body the rear panel, making it stand out. I additionally love the feel of this black band because it feels such as you’re touching a sturdy eggshell.

The Gorilla Glass 5 again is cleaner than ever earlier than, particularly since there’s not a fingerprint sensor, however there’s now a “Pixel sq.,” which is what the designers name the digital camera module. Not like the iPhone 11 Professional, the place the triple-camera system distinctly stands out, Google masked the lenses with a black filter, making the sq. module itself bolder and extra pronounced. Paired with the black band across the edges, it’s simple to acknowledge this telephone, and the accented shade of the facility button provides a bit extra visible aptitude.

I can’t cease staring on the Pixel 4; it’s stunning, feels unbelievable within the hand, and the design actively makes me wish to present it off.

I’ve heard others name the design bland — typically even ugly — (I disagree, clearly) however you’ll be able to’t deny it’s distinctive. I used to be taking pictures with it at a canine park in Manhattan, and three folks approached me at separate instances asking whether or not I used to be utilizing a Pixel 4.

In the event you’re going to purchase one, go for the Clearly White or the Oh So Orange colours (the latter is a restricted version), as a result of the Simply Black is simply too plain. Worse but, the black is the one one with a shiny glass texture on the rear, whereas the opposite two colours go for a matte glass. The matte texture feels easy to the contact and has the additional advantage of hiding smudges and fingerprints. The identical can’t be stated of the shiny black possibility, which, on high of this, is a mud magnet.

I can’t cease staring on the Pixel 4: it’s stunning, feels unbelievable within the hand, and the design makes me wish to present it off.

A 90Hz display screen

Google has put a much bigger emphasis on the display screen’s look with the Pixel Four XL than it did on final 12 months’s Pixel Three XL, which has a dreadful notch that seems hideous. This time, there’s a sizeable bezel on the high and a slimmer one on the underside, which isn’t terribly fashionable however acceptable; it’s simple to neglect about when you begin utilizing the telephone.

pixel 4 xl screen
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Tendencies

The opposite drawback Google solved is the display screen’s brightness. I’ve bother studying the Pixel Three XL’s display screen in sunny situations, however that’s not the case on the Pixel Four XL. Is it brighter or extra bezel-less than the Samsung’s Galaxy Word 10 Plus? No, however I haven’t had a lot bother right here regardless of this.

The three,040 x 1,440 decision is sharp and blacks are superbly deep, although colours aren’t as saturated as they’re on Samsung’s telephones. The 6.3-inch display screen dimension additionally doesn’t really feel too large, although I do have massive arms.

The massive display screen is good for watching films and exhibits, particularly due to HDR10 help. Reveals like Disenchanted and Peaky Blinders look crisp with vibrant colours that pop, although ultra-dark scenes are admittedly not as simple to see as they’re on the Galaxy Word 10 or iPhone 11 Professional.

The display screen’s highlight characteristic is the 90Hz refresh price, like we’ve seen on the OnePlus 7T, and it’s unbelievable. This implies you’re seeing 90 frames per second (FPS), which is greater than the normal 60FPS on most smartphones.

Nonetheless, the Pixel doesn’t all the time refresh at 90Hz. It typically refreshes on the typical 60Hz refresh price, if display screen brightness is low. This unusual truth undercuts what ought to’ve been one of many telephone’s standout options.

As a result of the smaller bezel is slimmer than its predecessor, the front-facing speaker has been moved to the underside edge. It’s a disgrace, however fortunately audio nonetheless sounds good and may fill a small room with out sounding too distorted at excessive volumes. There’s no headphone jack, and should you’re out there for wi-fi earbuds, you might wish to look forward to Google’s Pixel Buds 2.

Face Unlock is nice when it’s supported

It took me a day or two to get used to the lack of the fingerprint sensor on the again of the Pixel Four XL. I didn’t simply use it to unlock the telephone, but in addition to swipe down on it to tug down the notification drawer. Whereas I do miss this operate, I additionally recognize Google’s addition of Face Unlock. It’s a part of the explanation why the bezel on the highest of the display screen is so large: there are a number of sensors, together with Google’s Soli know-how, which the corporate has been engaged on for a number of years.

Pixel 4 XL Face Unlock girl
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Tendencies

Soli makes use of radar to determine 3D objects, and on the Pixel Four it’s used to acknowledge when your hand is approaching the telephone, so it might prime up the Face Unlock digital camera to unlock the telephone shortly or decrease the quantity of calls and alarms when your hand nears the telephone. Useful! It’s also possible to use it for gestures to regulate some features of the telephone, however we’ll get to that quickly.

Face Unlock is snappy and correct, and I like that it goes straight to the house display screen as an alternative of requiring a swipe up. There are occasions once I have to faucet the display screen to ensure the digital camera is searching for my face, however in any other case, I haven’t had bother utilizing it to entry the telephone. The issue is there are barely any apps that help it but. Android has a brand new BiometricPrompt API so apps can goal it to help fingerprint sensors and facial recognition techniques for units operating Android 9 and Android 10, but it surely takes time for builders so as to add help. All apps will ultimately have to focus on this API, however Google doesn’t have a agency deadline, which suggests you’ll simply have to attend and hope the help is coming quickly.

It is a little irritating as a result of now it means I’ve to maintain typing in my (lengthy) password to entry my banking apps, and even once I wish to reload my Starbucks card within the Starbucks app (first-world issues, I do know). However it goes to indicate how far more handy biometric authentication providers have change into, and since there’s no fingerprint possibility in any respect, you’re caught ready for builders so as to add help for Pixel 4. Even Google Pay’s peer-to-peer transactions don’t help it but, which is ridiculous. Hopefully, Google prods builders so as to add help (together with its personal) and it gained’t be an issue for lengthy. Some apps like Dashlane, Keeper, and 1Password help it already.

The issue is there are barely any apps that help Face Unlock but.

One other drawback is Face Unlock has no choice to add an alternate face or look, which is one thing you are able to do on Apple’s iPhone with Face ID. I do know a colleague that’s utilizing the Pixel 4, and she or he’s having a tough time getting it to determine her face after placing on make-up. Even worse, Face Unlock can unlock even when your eyes are closed. That’s a safety concern as somebody can simply take your telephone and level it at your face to unlock it, even should you shut your eyes to cease it.

The iPhone has an possibility that requires your eyes to be open to unlock and Google advised Digital Tendencies it’s engaged on this very characteristic which can come to the Pixel Four by way of a safety replace “within the coming months.” In the event you’re involved about safety at present, Google does recommend toggling on Lockdown mode after you’re completed utilizing the telephone. It’s an influence menu possibility that may disable biometric authentication and require a pin, sample, or password for the following unlock.

Google has a methods to go to creating Face Unlock as safe as it’s on the iPhone, and it’ll take a while till the characteristic is supported in each app.

Useful gestures

I discussed the Soli know-how earlier — effectively, it’s a sleeper hit. Having it flip down the quantity as I strategy the ringing telephone, whether or not it’s throughout an alarm or telephone name, is nice, however I’m a good greater fan of Movement Sense. This new characteristic allows you to wave your hand left or proper above the telephone to snooze an alarm, silence a name, and even swap between tracks whereas listening to music.

pixel 4 xl motion sense
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Tendencies

It’s extremely restricted for the time being, however Google stated it’s exploring different varieties of gestures it might incorporate so as to add additional worth. Chatting with different reviewers, I really feel like I’m within the minority, however I discover Movement Sense works effectively for me, and I’ve been utilizing it to dismiss alarms within the morning simply by waving my hand. I additionally love utilizing it to change tracks as I work and take heed to music; I can do all of this with out having to choose up the telephone, and that’s fairly nice.

However it’s not excellent. Movement Sense does work when the display screen is off, but it surely doesn’t all the time register my waves and may typically take a couple of tries. That is on the rarer facet, because the characteristic works because it ought to more often than not.

What Movement Sense desperately wants is extra gestures and actions. It’d be nice if I can use it to pause and play music, not simply change tracks, as you’ll be able to with hand gestures on the LG G8 ThinQ. One other concept is utilizing it to cycle by way of pictures after casting them to a Chromecast-enabled TV. There are plenty of potential use instances for it, and I do hope Google follows by way of on enhancing the performance additional as an alternative of merely abandoning it like lots of its different initiatives. There’s a sport known as Headed South that helps this characteristic, and it’d be cool to see it adopted in different apps if Google opens up the API.

A story of two cameras

Google has lengthy held agency that it solely wants one digital camera to ship glorious pictures, drawing on its experience in computational pictures, as different producers proceed so as to add a number of cameras for versatility. That’s beginning to change, because the Pixel 4’s 12.2-megapixel primary lens with an f/1.7 aperture is now paired with a 16-megapixel telephoto lens (f/2.4), which gives up 2x optical zoom. Regardless of this, Google continues to indicate us that you simply don’t want 48-megapixel cameras to supply gorgeous pictures, which is what most Android producers are veering towards.

However nonetheless, Google ought to have taken Apple’s route and added a triple-camera system right here as a result of I’ve by no means felt as if the Pixel telephones’ zoom capabilities had been missing. Google debuted a characteristic on the Pixel 3 known as Tremendous Res Zoom, which makes use of synthetic intelligence to scrub up digitally-zoomed pictures, delivering high quality that’s surprisingly akin to telephoto photographs from different telephones. It will have been very nice to pair this with an ultra-wide-angle digital camera for extra diverse photographs. Ah, effectively. I’ll need to hope the Pixel 5 comes with this type of setup.

The picture sensor for the principle lens is similar because the one on final 12 months’s Pixel, besides the aperture is barely wider, so it ought to seize higher low-light pictures, and there’s improved dynamic vary. The digital camera app additionally feels far snappier than ever earlier than.

The telephoto lens does assist guarantee optimum high quality for zoomed-in photographs, however we’ve seen telephoto lenses on telephones for a lengthy time now — couldn’t Google not less than have opted for a 3x optical zoom lens, like on Huawei’s P30 Professional? Regardless, the standard seems good, and in contrast to some telephones, Google’s glorious Evening Sight mode works with the telephoto lens, which means you’ll get good high quality pictures, irrespective of the time of day.

As you’ll be able to see beneath, it edges out over the iPhone 11 Professional and Samsung’s Word 10 Plus at 5x digital zoom, with barely stronger particulars and extra depth.

There’s a specific sort of look Google’s Pixel telephones seize — a lot of distinction in addition to cooler and darker tones. It’s a method I’ve all the time loved, but it surely’s not for everybody. You may want the brighter and hotter pictures from the iPhone 11 Professional, for instance. Nonetheless, I feel the most recent iPhone usually does edge out the Pixel Four in picture high quality and flexibility (the additional ultra-wide-angle lens helps), although that’s not all the time the case. There are occasions when the Pixel Four snaps a way more pleasing photograph with higher element, so it’s fairly a detailed competitors.

There are a number of enhancements that make the digital camera expertise higher, although. First is Reside HDR+, which helps you to see what the photograph will appear to be after it’s been processed — earlier than you even faucet the shutter button. It’s helpful, as a result of I don’t want to attend a couple of seconds to see what the consequence can be, and I can re-frame the photograph if wanted.

The brand new dual-exposure mode additionally gives extra artistic management, permitting you to regulate shadows and brightness earlier than snapping a photograph. There’s additionally learning-based white stability, which makes an attempt to determine the scene you’re in and apply true-to-life colours in all photograph modes, although leads to darker scenes nonetheless are usually greatest in Evening Sight mode.

Talking of which, this mode has among the most notable enhancements. Evening Sight takes a number of photos at completely different exposures and stacks them for a extra detailed and brighter low-light photograph. Colours are nonetheless just a little over-saturated, but it surely continues to impress, delivering gorgeous pictures from the darkest of scenes. Even crazier, in case you have a tripod, level the telephone on the sky and Evening Sight mode will set off “Astrophotography mode,” which can set an publicity time that may go on for so long as 4 and a half minutes.

You’ll be able to take some breathtaking pictures just like the one beneath, shot by my colleague in Scotland. You’ll be able to see my try within the gallery above, which I shot in New York Metropolis with its heavy light-pollution, but it surely’s nonetheless a tremendous photograph contemplating the conventional digital camera delivers a blotchy mess with no particulars.

Pixel_4_astrophotography_1
Simon Hill / Digital Tendencies

Portrait Mode is now barely higher, too, and whereas there are enhancements within the blur software round a topic over the Pixel 3’s efficiency, there’s nonetheless a lot of room to develop. You’ll be able to discover some areas of hair round my canine and different folks can look just a little tousled in some pictures, so that you’ll wish to take heed to the background while you’re capturing portraits. The much less occurring within the background, the higher.

These outcomes are nonetheless among the greatest you’ll be capable to get from a smartphone, rivaling these captured on Apple’s iPhone and Huawei telephones.

Google’s Pixel Four XL has an 8-megapixel entrance digital camera with an f/2.Zero aperture, and it snaps some glorious selfies, particularly in Portrait mode and Evening Sight mode. Not like the Pixel 3, which had two cameras on the entrance so you may swap between a large and a standard lens, the one lens on the Pixel Four XL is a large lens, so you’ll be able to nonetheless seize rather a lot within the scene behind you, or snap group selfies with out struggling to suit everybody.

The Pixel 4’s digital camera has improved, maybe not considerably over its predecessor, however in the proper areas that assist make it the most effective digital camera telephones to purchase proper now. One factor to notice, Google not gives free, limitless storage of full-resolution photos to Google Photographs. You’ll be able to nonetheless add your pictures without spending a dime at a excessive decision, simply not on the authentic decision.

The newest software program and one of the best of Google Assistant

The subsequent greatest a part of proudly owning a Pixel telephone is the software program. Naturally, the telephone is operating the most recent model of Android 10, with up-to-date safety as effectively. It’s an enormous perk as a result of, as Google develops Android, Pixel telephones are among the many first to get updates, which suggests new options and improved safety. Google’s promising this type of help on the telephone for 3 years, which is greater than nearly all Android telephones.

Android 10 itself brings nice new options like a system-wide darkish theme, an improved gesture navigation system, in addition to extra transparency about what apps are accessing your location information and different sensors on the telephone. You’ll be able to examine all the brand new options Android 10 gives in my assessment should you’re searching for extra particulars.

pixel 4 xl recorder app
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Tendencies

What retains me coming again to Pixel telephones, outdoors of the digital camera, are a number of of the useful options which can be powered by machine studying. Now Taking part in continues to be current, so the telephone can let you know the title of songs taking part in in your environment (even with out an web connection); then there’s Name Display screen, which screens potential robocalls so that you don’t have to speak to a telemarketer. The Movement Sense gestures additionally fall into this class of useful options that make a small affect on my day-to-day use of the telephone.

A brand new app known as Private Security gives up peace of thoughts, permitting the telephone to alert your preset emergency contacts within the occasion of an emergency, and the Pixel Four may even detect automobile crashes by way of sensors on the telephone. It may possibly then place calls to emergency providers and ship your location, in case you’re incapacitated. Useful certainly, although I can’t precisely check it to see how effectively this all works.

My favourite new addition is the Recorder app, which may transcribe interviews in real-time. It makes use of on-device machine studying, so no information is distributed to Google and also you don’t want an web connection for it to work. The transcribing isn’t excellent, but it surely’s fairly good and glorious for folks like me that do plenty of interviews and hate the handbook transcribing course of afterward. This app will make its approach to Pixel 3, Pixel 3a and Pixel 2 within the “coming months.”

Reside Caption is one more one among these additions that I by no means thought I’d want to make use of. It robotically generates captions for any video with audio, and all of this occurs on the gadget. I’ve used it once I’m on the subway and don’t wish to placed on my earbuds, however wish to perceive what’s occurring in a video — Reside Caption’s largely correct captions saved the day.

What’s additionally spectacular is the new Google Assistant, which used to run on algorithms that required greater than 100GB of storage, now shrunken to beneath 500MB. Which means it’s quicker, it might work on-device extra usually as an alternative of solely counting on the cloud, and it doesn’t want an web connection for some duties, like opening an app or setting a timer.

Not solely does the UI look considerably nicer, taking on much less area on the display screen, however one of the best addition is Continued Dialog. It’s a characteristic accessible on Google Nest units, and it allows you to maintain speaking to Assistant with out having to maintain triggering it. You’ll see the underside of the telephone glow with Assistant’s colours after you carry out a question, indicating that it’s nonetheless listening, in case you wish to ask one thing else. It’s glorious and really makes me use Assistant much more, particularly with the Energetic Edge, the “squeeze the telephone to set off Assistant” characteristic that’s nonetheless accessible on the Pixel 4.

pixel 4 xl next-gen assistant
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Tendencies

Assistant has improved in lots of different methods. For instance, now should you’re in an app like Google Maps, you’ll be able to merely squeeze the telephone and ask Assistant to, “Seek for close by eating places,” and it’ll robotically run the question by way of Maps as an alternative of Assistant. a photograph you want? You’ll be able to ask Assistant to ship it to somebody in your contacts, and you’ll even reply to texts as they arrive in simply by triggering Assistant and saying, “Reply to John,” earlier than dictating your response.

I’m utilizing Google Assistant much more now, which I’m certain makes Google completely happy because it will get extra information on me, although there are extra sturdy choices to regulate how a lot of your information is saved. However in the long run, I’m utilizing Assistant as a result of it’s genuinely useful, and that’s greater than I can say about most different voice assistants.

Snappy efficiency

The Pixel Four XL has 6GB of RAM and is powered by the identical chip inside most Android flagship telephones in 2019: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855. There’s a barely higher chip accessible — the Snapdragon 855 Plus, present in telephones just like the OnePlus 7T or the Asus ROG Cellphone 2 — however finally, you’re not going to note a lot of a distinction. The telephone had no bother dealing with any of the apps I sometimes use, opening them up shortly. Switching between apps and even multitasking is a quick affair.

Listed below are a couple of benchmark scores:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 362,158
  • Geekbench 5 CPU: 606 single-core; 2,056 multi-core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Excessive: 4,007 (Vulkan); 4,564 (OpenGL)

The Pixel Four XL’s scores aren’t too completely different from different telephones utilizing the identical processor, just like the Samsung Galaxy Word 10 Plus, and it stays within the higher echelon of highly effective smartphones, although the iPhone 11 Professional nonetheless maintains a large lead.

Video games like PUBG: Cell, Alto’s Odyssey, Pako: Eternally all carried out and not using a hitch. You gained’t have any bother with efficiency on this telephone.

I’m not a fan of the quantity of storage you get for the bottom Pixel Four XL: 64GB. That’s far too little for a $900 telephone, particularly when $350 telephones just like the Nokia 7.2 provide the identical quantity. Google, you must bump up storage choices and make 128GB the usual.

A missing battery

All of the superb options on this telephone are overshadowed by the battery Google determined to pack inside. At a time when most Android producers are tossing in batteries greater than 4,000mAh, Google’s use of a 3,700mAh cell looks like a joke. It may possibly get you thru a workday with medium to excessive use, however I incessantly would hit 30% round 5:30 p.m., typically even much less. It’s not dangerous for mild to medium customers, however not so nice for energy customers.

pixel 4 xl usb-c port
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Tendencies

If I needed to increase my evening out and hit a restaurant or bar, my telephone would die round 9:30 or 10 p.m. if I didn’t have a conveyable battery on me. I’m unsure why Google can’t determine the battery life on its Pixel telephones, as a result of it’s been an issue for me with each single Pixel telephone I’ve ever reviewed. Toss in a much bigger battery, Google! Do what Apple did this 12 months and make your telephone thicker. It’s not arduous. I’ve hit 20% round midnight on the iPhone 11 Professional Max due to its superb battery life, and I want Google’s telephone may do the identical.

Fortunately the issue may be mitigated by utilizing a Qi wi-fi charger by your desk as you’re employed or by way of a moveable battery pack, but it surely’s not nice that you need to go to those lengths.

In our customary video playback check, the place we play a 1080p YouTube video on max brightness over Wi-Fi, the Pixel Four XL lasted 9 hours and 31 minutes. That’s respectable, however falls behind opponents just like the iPhone 11 Professional, which scored 12 hours and 30 minutes, and the OnePlus 7T Professional, which lasted 12 hours and 19 minutes.

I’ve hit 20% round midnight on the iPhone 11 Professional Max due to its superb battery life, and I want Google’s telephone may do the identical.

It’s a disgrace Google didn’t decide to improve its fast-charging tech, both. It nonetheless makes use of the Energy Supply 2.Zero customary as an alternative of the newer PD 3.0; you’ll be able to totally cost the Pixel Four XL from zero to 100% in round an hour and a half, however you don’t get the burst of juice while you initially plug it in as you’ll be able to with the Galaxy Word 10 Plus, which is useful in a pinch.

Worth, availability, and guarantee info

The Pixel Four XL is $899, however if you would like the smaller Pixel 4, it prices much less at $799. Each telephones can be found from all main U.S. carriers and several other retailers beginning October 24.

Google gives a normal restricted guarantee that protects the telephone from manufacturing defects one 12 months from the date of buy.

Our take

There’s possible no Android telephone I’d relatively use than the Pixel Four XL, and that’s due to its useful, good software program and killer digital camera. The 90Hz display screen helps, too. However that does imply I’ll have to sacrifice all-day battery life which may be discovered on opponents, and I’ll be tethered to a conveyable battery pack.

I’d advocate ready to purchase the telephone for a couple of months, as Google usually drops the value, and it’s significantly better worth at $799 relatively than its listed worth.

Is there a greater various?

Sure. The iPhone 11 Professional Max prices extra however has important deserves, resembling even higher efficiency, a flexible digital camera, and gorgeous battery life. In the event you don’t care a lot for the digital camera on a telephone, Samsung’s Galaxy Word 10 and Word 10 Plus will fulfill in each method, and may nonetheless ship stable, diverse photographs.

It is best to most undoubtedly take into account the OnePlus 7T, although. It additionally has a 90Hz display screen, it’s speedy, will get updates quick, and has extra customizable software program. And it prices much less, beginning at $600.  Take a look at our information to the greatest smartphones for extra.

How lengthy will it final?

The Pixel Four XL will final you two to a few years, if not just a little extra earlier than the battery begins to depreciate. It has an IP68 water-resistance ranking, so that you don’t have to fret about dips within the pool, but it surely’s wrapped in glass so that you’ll nonetheless wish to nab a case.

Do you have to purchase it?

Sure. The Pixel Four XL won’t be one of the best Android telephone of 2019 due to its sub-par battery life, but it surely comes tremendous shut. Wait a couple of weeks or months, and also you’ll undoubtedly begin seeing reductions. Decide it up then.

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