Hands-on with Google’s Pixel 2 XL

Google’s new Pixel 2 XL phone is a major upgrade in a number of ways. It’s a super sleek device, with a stunning front face design and a remarkably bright and vibrant display that renders colors in a trulls stunning way. The phone feels light and yet durable, and has a camera that even in very limited testing, feels like it’ll easily be a category leader.

The Pixel 2 XL’s display occupies most of its front face, allowing for a generous 6-inch diagonal with plenty of screen real estate. The QHD resolution renders both texts and images with crisp detail – which is great news because the camera captures images with a sharpness that displays well on this new phone screen, which used pOLED tech for deep blacks, but also has a wide color gamut for better rendering.

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It’s worth mentioning again how light the phone feels in the hand – it’s surprising compared to the current generation Pixel XL, which feels like a thick, heavy brick by comparison. But it’s also still aluminum, so the all-metal body (minus the glass panel at the top) feels premium despite its lightness.

Reviewers often joke about ‘hand feel,’ but it really does feel like a great device to hold. This actually has a functional impact, too, since the other new trick here is the Pixel 2 XL’s squeezability. It allows a user to trigger Assistant by pushing in on the sides of the phone while gripping it, and it works really well. You can adjust how sensitive the phone is to this, with multiple levels selectable, and it becomes second nature really quickly. Plus, it’s a great way to trigger Assistant without having to say “Okay Google” out loud in a crowded environment.

The phone also has a terrific camera, as mentioned. I shot a number of pictures with it, and it nailed the focus on each one. Color was also great, as was detail reproduction, despite challenging lighting in the demo area.

The portrait mode in particular worked great – it triggered instantly, with no waiting or recomposition required, and it managed to deliver great background blur and a sense of true depth of field without going overboard, and while preserving tricky details like individual strands of hair on the subject. This is Google’s machine learning magic at work, and it’s very impressive when compared to the competition out there, including from Apple on the new iPhone 8.

Overall, the phone also felt super fast and responsive, and actions that used to have some small amount of delay are near instant here. We’ll have to test other elements like battery life in longer reviews, but based on first impressions, this is a truly impressive device from Google, especially for its second ever premium in-house smartphone effort.