Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL Review and Specifications

Updated on December 25, 2018
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Varsha is a research enthusiast and a tech geek. She loves to do extensive research on topics of interest.

Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL
Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL

For the last few years, Google’s Pixel handsets have offered the closest thing to an iPhone-like experience you’ll get for Android—and this third generation makes them more appealing than ever. These aren’t iPhone clones, however, and there are no direct attempts to ape iOS, as you’ll often see on Chinese Android handsets.

What the Pixels deliver is plain but sturdy hardware with the latest version of the Android OS—9.0, aka Pie—creating an elegant and consistent smartphone experience and one which, generally speaking, “just works.” This is Android exactly the way Google intends, which means there are no dodgy customisations and you’ll get OS updates as soon as Google releases them.

Pixel 3's Display
Pixel 3's Display

Specifications

Hardware and Storage

As before, both handsets are high-end end devices that share very similar core hardware—this year, that’s specifically a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU with 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage—with the main difference between the two being the size of the display. And while this year’s updates aren’t remarkably different from their immediate forebears, they implement a variety of small improvements in numerous areas that add up to devices that are more competitive with 2018’s other flagships and, overall, make them more attractive to both enthusiasts and the less-fussy everyday user.

Size

Size-wise, both the Pixel 3 and 3XL are almost identical to last year’s models, but Google has squeezed bigger OLED displays into those frames, up from 5.0 to 5.5-inches on the standard model and 6.0 to 6.3-inches on the XL – about 10% and 5%, respectively.

These screens now also support HDR video and images too and have gained some additional lines of vertical resolution, which is particularly noticeable on the smaller phone due to its switch from a 16:9 to a taller 18:9 aspect ratio. That change also means the screen fils a lot more of the phone’s front face, and finally brings it in line with both the iPhone and Android competition.

Display

Visually, while these plastic-OLED displays don’t quite pop with the neon brightness that you’ll get from Samsung’s flagship Galaxy handsets, the colours they produce are remarkably neutral and very close to the Adobe RGB standard. The screen’s low reflectivity and high brightness also make them easy to read in direct sunlight too.

Other Additions

There's a litany other small improvements and additions, such as QI wireless charging (which was strangely absent on last year’s models) a bump from IP67 to IP68 dust- and water-resistance, meaning they’re able to withstand a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes, instead of just 1 metre. Also increased is their fast-charging speed, which can now draw up to 18W instead of the limited 10.5W version of last year – and, more practically, that lets you recharge in around an hour instead of 90 minutes. Like last year’s Pixels, there’s no 3.5mm audio jack on the 3s either.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Specifications

(click column header to sort results)
Specifications  
Google Pixel 3  
Google Pixel 3 XL  
Operating System
Android 9.0 Pie
Android 9.0 Pie
Display
5.5” , FHD+ flexible OLED at 443 ppi, 18:9, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5, Water/Dust Resistant
6.3” , QHD+ OLED at 523ppi, 18.5:9, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5, Water/Dust Resistant
Camera
• 12.2Mp rear-facing camera: f/1.8, 28mm (wide), 1/2.55in, 1.4μm, OIS, dual pixel PDAF • Dual front-facing cameras: 8Mp, f/1.8, 28mm (wide), PDAF; 8Mp, f/2.2, 19mm (ultra wide), no AF
• 12.2Mp rear-facing camera: f/1.8, 28mm (wide), 1/2.55in, 1.4μm, OIS, dual pixel PDAF • Dual front-facing cameras: 8Mp, f/1.8, 28mm (wide), PDAF; 8Mp, f/2.2, 19mm (ultra wide), no AF
Processor
Qualcomm SDM845 Snapdragon 845 (10nm) processor • Octa-core (4x 2.5GHz Kryo 385 Gold, 4x 1.6GHz Kryo 385 Silver) Adreno 630 GPU
• Qualcomm SDM845 Snapdragon 845 (10nm) processorOcta-core (4x 2.5GHz Kryo 385 Gold, 4x 1.6GHz Kryo 385 Silver) • Adreno 630 GPU
Memory and Storage
4GB RAM • 64/128GB storage
• 4GB RAM • 64/128GB storage
Battery
Non-removable 2,915mAh lithium-ion battery, Qi wireless charging, fast charging
• Non-removable 3,430mAh lithium-ion battery, Qi wireless charging, fast charging
Connectivity and Location
• 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 5.0 • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO • NFC
• 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 5.0 • A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS, GALILEO • NFC
Ports
• USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
USB 3.1, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
Dimensions and Weight
• 145.6x68.2x7.9mm • 148g
• 158x76.7x7.9mm • 184g
 
Finger print sensor
finger print sensor
Google Pixel 3 XL's camera is the best smartphone camera out there.
Google Pixel 3 XL's camera is the best smartphone camera out there.

The Best Camera Ever

The star feature on the Pixels remains their photography capabilities. While the underlying camera hardware might sound lacklustre—a 12MP rear and 8MP+8MP front camera—Google’s enhanced both with image processing that uses machine-learning AI– and the results still speak for themselves.

Switch to portrait mode, and you’ll get beautifully lit and wonderfully bokehed shots that look like they could have come from a DSLR. The Pixels don’t produce throwaway smartphone snaps—with minimal effort; you can take photos that you’ll want to keep.

Also coming next year via an update is a potentially game-changing ‘Night Sight’ mode, which I had a tinker with thanks to a beta version being unlocked by the developer community. The results are frankly astounding, transforming dim shots into ones that look like they could have been taken in full daylight, with just a tiny bit of graininess being the only hint that they weren’t.

Of course, all these features are also coming to the older Pixel and Pixel 2 handsets—that’s the beauty of improvements being driven by software improvements rather than hardware.

Pixel 3 runs on Android Pie
Pixel 3 runs on Android Pie

Android Pie

Google typically times its now-yearly phone releases to coincide with a brand new version of Android, and while Android 9.0 Pie arrived a little earlier than usual in 2018 (it was made available on the Pixels and Pixel 2s back in August) the Pixel 3s, with their newer and faster hardware, are obviously the best way to experience it.

Perhaps the most significant change in Pie is that gestures are the new normal when it comes to getting around. The Pixel line has never had physical face buttons, but post-Pie, the only consistent navigation button is Home, with Back only appearing contextually and fast app switching now accessed by swiping left or right across the bottom menu bar to quickly flip between your most recently-used apps.

Swiping up from the bottom of the screen opens a more traditional card-based app-multitasking menu, along with the app drawer and a Google search box. If you’ve got rotation lock enabled, a contextual rotation-switch button also appears on that main menu bar if you turn the screen from vertical to horizontal or vice versa.

Google’s Pie-exclusive ‘Digital Wellbeing’ feature is aimed at giving users a breakdown of how (and how much) you’re using your phone each day, with the idea that you can curb your usage if you think you’re overdoing it. The section also includes several optional ‘quality time’ features, such as ‘Wind Down,’ which will give your display a red tint after dark and switch everything to black and white to make it less enticing to use after your bedtime. The ‘Flip to Shhh’ option enables placing the phone face down to activate Do Not Disturb mode—a neat way to quickly silence notifications if you’re in a meeting or otherwise briefly occupied although this is something we’ve seen in several other-brands’ Android phones over the years.

Google Pixel 3 XL
Google Pixel 3 XL

Size

A year after the iPhone X made it mainstream, having a notch cut-out at the top of the screen remains a controversial design element—and one which is perhaps the biggest flaw in the Pixel 3 XL. It’s not just that the XL has a notch—most people have accepted the inevitability of them at this point—but rather its depth.

It’s been widely ridiculed for having the longest notch yet of any flagship. While it’s not overly wide, it does jut into the display to a depth that’s a little obtrusive.

But is it a deal-breaker? Not quite. Much like on other notched phones, after a short period of acclimatisation I found I didn’t really notice it—it’s only in apps that use the entire screen (like games) that it’s particularly visible, whereas the rest of the time it’s neatly squared of to contain the split notification bar.

On the other hand, the standard model feels mostly modern and is, to us, the slightly more attractive option of the two. It conforms better to the 18.5:9 aspect ratio and is markedly more comfortable to hold thanks to its slimmer width. It’s an easier phone to use one-handed – the 3 XL decidedly needs two. The XL frankly feels a bit physically bloated next to other plus-sized Android flagships, most of which have managed to reduce their width while still maintaining huge screen sizes—the Galaxy S9+ and Huawei Mate 20 Pro are keen examples.

What you do get with the XL is a lot more screen real estate, and switching back and forth between the two this was noticeable in many areas, from news apps to browsing social media, you just get more on the screen, so there’s less scrolling. Games are larger and more impactful, and often easier to control due to bigger buttons too.

Best of the Androids

While the new Pixels are undeniably Google’s best phones to date, they are ones that don’t substantially change the formula established by their predecessors. They are not flashy or stylish like Samsung and Huawei’s latest Android flagships—with these you’ll find that the hardware is the very definition of nondescript.

That's not to imply they’re ugly, however, and if you want the purest and sleekest possible Android experience combined with highly-competent hardware and design, the changes that Google’s made this year finally make the Pixels real players—and ones more worthy of consideration than ever before.


Pros

  • Incredibly fast and responsive.
  • Al calling features are simply mind-blowing.
  • The camera takes incredible pics even with lacklustre hardware.

Cons

  • The notch on Pixel 3 XL is distracting, and the design is bland.
  • The camera could be even better with a dual lens.

Verdict

  • It has a stellar user experience you can't get in any other Android phone.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Varsha

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