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Google Pixel Phone and Pixel XL review: Is Google killing off its smartphone standard-bearer?

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £599
inc VAT (SIM-free, 32GB model)

A fantastic camera inside the blandest phone around – Google's Pixel phone was great, but Google might be killing it off


  • Fantastic camera
  • Has the latest version of Android
  • Fast performance


  • Dull design
  • No dust- or water-resistance

Google Pixel and Pixel XL review: Display

Provided you’re not too heavy-handed with either Pixel Phone, you’ll find a lot to like outside Google’s divisive design choices. The Pixel XL’s 5.5in, 1,440 x 2,560 AMOLED display, for instance, is a real beauty. It covers a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut and, as with all AMOLED displays, its contrast ratio is effectively perfect. It’s an outstanding screen that’s both rich and vivid, without being overly saturated.

The only real sticking point is its peak brightness, which comes in at 411cd/m2. This isn’t bad for an AMOLED display, but it’s low compared to the best IPS-based screens, such as the super-bright iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and it can’t match Samsung’s S7 and S7 Edge, which peak at around 500cd/m2 in auto-brightness mode. This makes Samsung’s handsets more practical, readable screens outdoors than the Pixel XL.

The regular Pixel, meanwhile, has a 5in, 1,920 x 1,080 AMOLED display, but it’s an equally good-looking panel. Just like its big brother, the Pixel covers a full 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, and blacks hit a perfect 0.00cd/m2. It’s just as bright, too, peaking at an identical 411cd/m2, so you’re certainly not losing out by picking the smaller phone. 

Google Pixel and Pixel XL review: Performance

Powered by Qualcomm’s latest quad-core 2.15GHz Snapdragon 821 chip and 4GB of RAM, the Pixel phones are two of the fastest Android handsets you can buy today. Android 7.0 Nougat feels silky-smooth in daily use, and the Pixel XL’s Geekbench 4 scores of 1,546 in the single-core test and 4,142 in the multicore test put it very near the top of our speed leaderboard.

The Samsung S7 and S7 Edge and the iPhone 7 are still a way out in front, mind, with all three handsets reaching over 5,000 in Geekbench 4’s multicore test. However, apps are still exceedingly quick to open on the Pixel Phone, and you’d be hard-pushed to notice the difference in typical use.

Elsewhere, the Pixel makes for a fine gaming companion. It achieved an impressive 2,989 frames (48fps) in GFX Bench GL’s off-screen Manhattan 3.0 test, and 1,895 frames (31fps) in the on-screen version, which runs at native resolution. This nudges the Pixel in front of the S7 and S7 Edge, but it still has some way to go before it overhauls the perfect 60fps achieved by the iPhone 7.

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ProcessorQuad-core 2.15GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Screen size5.5in
Screen resolution2,560 x 1,440
Screen typeAMOLED
Front camera8 megapixels
Rear camera12 megapixels
Storage (free)32GB (24GB) / 128GB
Memory card slot (supplied)None
BluetoothBluetooth 4.2
Wireless data3G, 4G
Dimensions155 x 76 x 8.5mm
Operating systemAndroid 7.1
Battery size3,450mAh

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