Pixel 4 XL review: Despite some shortcomings, it’s fantastic

The Pixel 4 XL offers a killer camera along with the best possible Android phone experience

Pixel 4 XL review

Bottom line

Despite some shortcomings, the Pixel 4 XL is a fantastic phone that’s super enjoyable to use. That is because it prioritizes what matters most to most people – usability and camera.

Overall
4.5

Pros

  • Fun easy-to-grip design
  • Excellent 90-Hz OLED display
  • Fantastic camera
  • Great performance
  • Stock Android + frequent updates
  • Fast face unlock
  • Dual SIM

Cons

  • Fat top bezel
  • Mediocre battery life
  • Lacks ultra-wide lens
  • No fingerprint reader
  • Pricey, especially for the 64GB model

Although the Pixel 4 XL doesn’t rock a drastic design overhaul compared to its predecessor, we’re smitten with its new look. In a world of flagship phones that are all starting to look alike, the Pixel 4 XL’s design is fresh. Its combination glass and aluminum body screams retro-chic, and we’re totally digging its new orange color option. But what we especially appreciate is that you don’t have to deal with leaving behind ugly fingerprints on it, nor is it slippery to grip the way most glass flagships are nowadays.

Unfortunately, there is something that is really bugging us about the Pixel 4’s design, and that is its bulky top bezel. We are happy that Google chose to avoid using a curved edge display, but that top bezel is retro and not in a good way – it simply adds unnecessary bulk to the phone.

It’s also odd that Google decided to leave out an in-screen fingerprint reader. Fortunately, we don’t miss having a fingerprint reader much at all. Face unlock more than makes up for it since it’s super fast on the Pixel and it has been an absolute pleasure to use. The Pixel recognizes my face from multiple angles and it offers the best face unlock experience we’ve experienced to date.

As expected, the camera on the Pixel 4 XL is nothing short of spectacular. In terms of the quality of photos it produces, its camera is more or less a DSLR in your pocket. As a matter of fact, since moving to the Pixel 3, I’ve drastically reduced using my DSLR, and the Pixel 4 XL follows suit with even better photos than the Pixel 3. To that effect, while selfies taken in portrait mode were brilliant on the Pixel 3, Google has managed to take things up another notch with the Pixel 4 XL. Night photography has been vastly improved too.

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We’re disappointed however that Google omitted including an ultra-wide-angle lens. In any case, the Pixel 4 still offers the best overall photography chops that you can get on Android phone, at least for the time being.

The Pixel 3 and 3XL both struggled with performance issues. Thankfully, performance has been vastly improved with the Pixel 4 XL. Thanks to being powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor and 6GB of RAM, day to day performance on the Pixel 4 XL is full of pep. The phone earned a very healthy Antutu score of 378945. That said, it’s not the fastest phone out there, but we have no complaints about its performance anymore. The fact that it uses a 90-hz display, helps make the day to experience even smoother (at least on brighter settings).

Battery life on the 4 XL is not great, but its 3,700 mAh battery gets us nearly through a full day (8 am to 11 pm) of use, and it actually offers a longer run time than the 3 XL did for us. And thank goodness Google finally added “real” fast wireless charging support!

When it comes to U.I. and general user experience, the Pixel 4 XL reigns king over all other Android devices. To that effect, the fact that the Pixel 4 XL runs stock Android and that it receives frequent updates, really makes all the difference to us. The Pixel 4 XL ultimately offers the cleanest and most enjoyable experience you can find on an Android phone. If you’re an iPhone user looking to make the switch to Android, the Pixel 4 and 4 XL are the closest iOS-like experience you can get on an Android phone, so don’t bother looking elsewhere. That said, the Pixel’s new gesture features are neat but not at all necessary. However, the new voice transcription feature is a nice new addition.

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Bottom line

The Pixel 4 XL is somewhat of an enigma – it has some unusual shortcomings for a flagship. Yet despite its shortcomings, it still offers the best Android phone experience on the market. That is because it prioritizes and excels at what matters most to most people – usability and camera.

Pricing for the Pixel 4 and 4 XL begins at $799 for the 64GB model.

 

Being apart of the #TeamPixel community, I was given a Pixel 4 XL for testing. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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