Google Pixel and Pixel XL -- what reviewers think

pixel xl google assistant how can i help
Credit: Adam Patrick Murray

We know the specs. We know what the expect from Google's Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.

A 5- or 5.5-in screen for the Pixel and Pixel XL, respectively, an improved camera, Google Assistant baked in and prices starting at $649. But that doesn't tell us everything we need to know about the first Google-made smartphone. What really matters is what the Pixel is like to use. And as of yesterday, with reviews coming from every corner of the internet, we finally know. So, what's the verdict?

In IT Blogwatch, we ask the Assistant for answers.

So what is the general consensus? Well, it's good overall, although there are some outliers. First up, Alex Dobie shares his opinion:

OK Google, make me a phone.
...
The Google Pixel and Pixel XL deliver what we've always wanted from a Google Android experience: an attractive design, lightning-fast performance and unique Google features you won't find on any other phone...the Pixel nails the essentials, with good "all-day" battery life, cameras...and update support unrivaled in the Android space.

Off to a good start! Who's next? Julian Chokkattu is likewise positive, but includes some important caveats:

Google’s new hardware push is a unified effort under its relatively-new hardware chief Rick Osterloh...but...the company is alienating a lot of people who opt for more affordable devices.
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Still, we recommend the Pixel...because timely software updates and security patches are very important. The Pixel’s strong customer service is also a big plus...One fault people may bring up is the lack of waterproofing...At this price range, it should compete with devices in its category, and the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7 are waterproof, while the Pixel is not.

The price and the lack of waterproofing are definitely factors to keep in mind. So what do others think? Ron Amadeo thinks the software makes the phone worthwhile, but likewise includes some points to keep in mind regarding the hardware:

The switch from "Nexus" to "Pixel" hasn't meant much for the hardware, but Google is...do[ing] something special for the software. Google's phones are switching from a showcase for "Pure Android" to a showcase for a distinctly proprietary "Google Android."
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The software on a smartphone is almost always more important than the hardware...and here, the software is excellent...Still, Google is just getting started...Android 1.0 was not an incredible piece of software, and Google Phone 1.0 is not an incredible piece of hardware. What made Android great was continual iteration and improvement...Hopefully, Google's hardware team keeps at it and one day justifies the decision to become a hardware OEM.

These are all good, solid reviews. But are there any full-out glowing reviews? Jon Phillips delivers:

In the Pixel XL we...have an Android phone that...competes with the iPhone in terms of holistic design. For this we can thank Google Assistant...there’s no underestimating the value of having Assistant baked directly into the home button. It really ties the room together.
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The Pixel XL...interface feels much less busy than competing Android skins...The phone is easy to use, but does a lot. And the Pixel XL...does feel almost iPhone-like in its marriage of hardware to software. It’s free of carrier and OEM bloatware, and Google’s own rockstar service (Assistant) is pushed to the fore.

So are there any dissenting voices? Dan Rosenbaum hasn't jumped on the Pixel bandwagon just yet:

The Pixel phones are an important jump up in class for Google, especially for users of Project Fi. But if you're not a Fi user, it's hard to recommend the Pixel...the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are great phones -- water resistant with fine cameras, excellent displays and wireless charging. Similarly, the HTC 10 is near the top of its class.
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The prices are more or less equivalent, and in my opinion, the Pixels don't quite measure up -- unless you feel that Nougat and the improved Google Assistant are deal-breakers...So from here, it doesn't look like the Pixels quite make it to the top of the heap.

We have some positive, we have some negative. So what is the most important takeaway from all this? Casey Newton boils it all down to one very big point:

Well the reviews are in, and the Google Pixel did not explode during the trial period.
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