Rarely has an Android device in recent times invited as much curiosity as Google’s new Pixel range of phones. This was after all the phone that was not only taking over the mantle of the respected Nexus but was also the first to come with the “Phone by Google” nomenclature and no mention of any other manufacturer (although it is pretty well known that HTC had a hand in the manufacture of the Pixel). The Pixel, in other words, is perhaps the first phone to be “all Google” in the classic sense of the word, and is being seen by many as the Big G’s venture into hardware as well as premium handsets (which is another story, of course and about which you can read our opinion here).
So, let’s face it, the Pixel has got it all to do – fill the rather ample boots of the Nexus and also mark the start of a new chapter. It’s specs and hardware have been talked to high heaven already and we have got the ‘greater’ of the two Pixel phones launched, the Pixel XL, which comes with a 5.5-inch quad HD display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4 GB RAM and 32/ 128 GB of non-expandable storage (we got the 32 GB version, which had about 22.5 GB storage free), a 12.3 megapixel camera on the rear with f/2.0 aperture (and a very high DxOMark Mobile score), a 8.0-megapixel front facing camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, 4G, USB Type-C connectivity, and a 3450 mAh battery. And of course, all this with the latest Android 7.1 on top, complete with Google Assistant.
So yes, it is well-stacked in the hardware and software department (especially if you are the pure Android type), but what of the frame into which all this is packed in? Well, we got the Very Silver model of the Pixel XL and it does seem impressively compact (at 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.5 mm, it is smaller than the iPhone 7 Plus which has a similar display size and dimensions of 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm) and at 168 grammes is hardly overweight (the iPhone 7 Plus is 188 grammes in comparison). That said, it does not exactly scream “premium” either.
No, from the front, the Pixel XL evokes memories that are routine rather than exceptional. We have shown it to people, who have tried to identify as an HTC or a Samsung device. So no, it does not have the “typically Nexus” looks that defined previous phones from Google from the front – it is typical “all display front” with an earpiece, camera, and sensors above it, and curiously no buttons below – all the navigation buttons are onscreen. The sides are metallic, with the volume rocker and the power/display buttons being on the right, and the SIM card slot on the left. The top has the 3.5 mm audio jack and on the base is the type C USB port, flanked by two speaker grilles (the speaker system is a single one, and not dual, though).
Where the Pixel XL DOES look different is from the back, where it cannot be confused with any other device, thanks to the dual-substance back, with white glass on the upper portion and aluminum below. On the white glass portion are the camera, the flash and laser focus modules and the round fingerprint sensor, and right towards the lower part is the ‘G’ which defines the device as being from Google. Put this face down on a table and there is no way in which this can be mistaken for any other phone.
The hardware is good, the software is expected to be exceptional (yes, Google Assistant works right out of the box without any problems), and the device is compact enough. No, we are not going to call this a traffic stopper – we suspect the Quite Black edition will do better in that department – but that G on the back and the glass back will make people stop and stare. But we suspect the real strength of the Pixel XL – the one that will really strive to justify that Rs 67,000 price tag for which it has received so much flak – will be its performance. As of now, we can just say that our initial impressions of the Pixel have been of a phone that is smart enough on the surface. But as we know, ‘smart’ ain’t gonna cut it in the bigger picture. It has to be super in performance terms. Stay tuned for our detailed review, and yes, a look at that much-hyped camera too!