Google Pixel 3 XL first impressions: Great design, but for the notch

By Sameer Mitha | Published on 10 Oct 2018
Google Pixel 3 XL first impressions: Great design, but for the notch

Google has launched the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones. We got a chance to spend some time with the Not Pink colour variant of the Pixel 3 XL and here are our first impressions. The Pixel 3 XL is priced at Rs 83,000 for the 64GB version and Rs 92,000 for the 128GB variant

Calling the Google Pixel 3 the worst kept secret in the tech industry would be an understatement. It reminded me of the time the iPhone 4 was leaked all those years ago creating havoc in the tech world. The Pixel 3 has been leaked so much that Google itself mocked the situation playfully during the opening of its keynote address. We got a Pixel 3 XL unit under wraps and spent some time checking out Google's new digs. Let’s kick things off with a look at the key specifications of the Google Pixel 3 XL.

Key Pixel 3 XL specifications at a glance

Display: 6.3-inch
Display resolution: QHD+ (2960 x 1440p)
Display protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 5 
Weight: 184 grans
Battery: 3430mAh
CPU: Snapdragon 845
Storage: 64/128GB
Rear camera: 12.2MP
Front camera: Dual 8MP
OS: Android 9 Pie
Price: Rs 83,000 for the 64GB and Rs 92,000 for the 128GB variant

Usually, in the box, you get the phone, a USB cable and the charger. That’s not the case with the Pixel 3 XL. You get a lot. Apart from the USB-C cable, charging plug and USB-C to USB-A adapter, you also get a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter to connect your old headphones and a pair of Pixel USB-C headphones in the box that are very reminiscent of the Pixel Buds.

The first thing everyone at the Digit lab was discussing was the material used for the back of the smartphone (before we found out that it is glass). For a long time, people though it was polycarbonate or some other material. It didn’t feel like glass at all and it took a while for us to believe that it is was glass (until we popped it on a wireless charger. Remember, we were unboxing the phone before it officially launched). The soft feel of glass on the back of the smartphone is unique and feels great to the touch. It has a dual tone back, same as what we saw on the previous generation Pixel phones, albeit for the new glass back. The colour we have with us for review is the Not Pink variant. It’s not 'not pink', its more like light pink. The back of the phone curves into the frame giving it a comfortable grip.

Moving to the front, the smartphone has a 6.3-inch display with an uncomfortably thick notch. Unlike the iPhone that justifies the notch with its Face ID, the notch on the Pixel 3 XL has a second wide-angle camera for clicking group selfies. This isn’t the first time we have seen a dual-camera setup on the front of a smartphone, but since this is a Google camera, we would like to give it a thorough shot before commenting. One thing we did notice up front is that the front cameras definitely smoothen skin tones in Portrait Selfies.

The front also houses the stereo speaker setup. We skimmed through some content on YouTube and Netflix, and we found that the speaker at the bottom of the phone was a tad louder than the one in the earpiece and this made the audio sound biased towards one side of the smartphone. We would like to test this further before judging it.

The rest of the connectivity remains the same. The USB-C port is at the bottom accompanied by the SIM tray (Single SIM). There is no expandable storage, but there is free, unlimited online original-quality storage for photos/videos uploaded from Pixel 3 phones to Google Photos till Jan 31, 2022. You have the power button and volume rocker on the right, exactly where they were on the Pixel 2. The Power button on the Not Pink Pixel 3 XL is orange, making it stand out clearly. The phone also sports last year's Active Edge feature that allows you to squeeze it and bring up the Google Assistant.

The 6.3-inch form factor makes the device easy to hold in one hand, but you won’t be able to reach all corners of the display. As far as the notch is concerned, it is rather big and can get annoying. When watching content, it won’t come in your way unless you zoom in on YouTube videos. How this works with gaming and other everyday apps is something we will tell you in our review. Overall the build of the phone feels good and we would like to reserve our judgements for when we finish our review of the smartphone.

The Pixel 3 XL has a dual pixel 12.2MP camera at the back and a dual 8MP camera setup at the front. We will comment on the performance of the camera in our review, but we can tell you that yes, the front camera does give you the ability to fit more people in a frame. It is targeted at selfie lovers and how well this works is another thing we will explore in our review. An interesting feature of the camera is Playgrounds which essentially places AR characters Google calls Playmojis in and around your surroundings while clicking an image. These Playmojis also interact with you by mimicing actions or making familiar sounds. You could have Iron Man, for example, be a part of your selfie posing next to you. It isn’t something new, but these are fun elements you can play around with in the camera of your smartphone.

The Pixel 3 XL runs on Android 9 Pie out of the box and this isn’t our first encounter with the UI. You can read more about Android 9 here. The Pixel 3 XL retains features from the Pixel 2 XL like always listing music identification, always on display, so on and so forth. It’s a familiar feeling in a new package.

Google has the advantage of being the brand that launches their flagship phone at the end of the year - after Samsung, LG, Apple and more have announced their high-end devices. So Google could have spared us the big Notch up front and maybe complimented its display with a bezel-less design. Is the offering enticing enough to warrant an upgrade? Stay tuned for our review to find out.

Sameer Mitha

Sameer Mitha lives for gaming and technology is his muse. When he isn’t busy playing with gadgets or video games he delves into the world of fantasy novels.

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