Google is a software company that rarely dabbles in hardware. Perhaps that is why it's apprehensive about using cutting-edge hardware - why use a dual camera when you have dozens of PhDs who can write amazing software like HDR+?
The Pixel 2 XL has the more modern design of the two. Bezels have been the enemy for a while, but it wasn't until wider-than-16:9 screens came around that the current flagship look was perfected - the screen expands vertically, eating up bezels as it goes and ending with rounded corners.
A two-tone design is not new (HTC was doing it in 2015 as a special finish for the One M9), but we have to say we like the stormtrooper look of the black and white 2 XL. The glass window on the back is smaller now, but just as useless. Glass back = wireless charging isn't a rule, but we think it should be.
We do love the finish on the aluminum. It's matte with a sort of rough texture that's very grippy and pleasant to touch. While they weigh the same as their predecessors, the new thinner bodies make the 2017 Pixels feel more svelte.
But let's keep our focus on the front, it's the side of this Pixel that has changed the most. Despite the wider screen, the engineers found room to fit front-facing stereo speakers - always a boon for heavy media consumers (music and video alike).
The screen is new as well - still an AMOLED, but 6" now and with QHD+ resolution. That's 1,440 x 2,880px, extra 280 pixels vertically over last year's model. In fact, the new 6" screen is exactly as wide as the old 5.5" screen. The extra height gives you around 11% more screen surface area.
Google also enabled Always On Display, a feature related to the Active display of the Moto X but more refined. Also, the screen has 100% coverage over DCI-P3. We're impressed with the image quality, but there's a slight color shift at an angle (same as the V30).
You could say that the front of the Pixel 2 XL looks like the LG V30, but that's only half right. For one, the bezels are thicker, for another, they house speakers. Obviously the back is wildly different.
The major omission here is the lack of a second camera of any kind. This limits the extra effects that the camera can pull off. A pricey second-generation device shouldn't be missing features the majority of its competitors have.
The camera has a brighter aperture - f/1.8 - but also a smaller sensor - 1.2/6". For comparison, pixel size went down from 1.55µm to 1.4µm. Optical Image Stabilization and Dual Pixel AF are great additions for low-light shooting, however. This in addition to the Laser AF and EIS that were present in the the original Pixels.
Google says the photo and video quality is better than iPhone 8's. Speaking of video, Google could not match Apple in frame rate - you're still getting 4K / 30fps and 1080 / 120fps tops, same as the first-gen Pixel camera. To be fair, neither can the new Galaxy Note8 or LG V30.
The Pixels have HDR+ built in and by default it is set to auto with no way to turn it off. You can enable a toggle on the viewfinder from the settings menu, but it's clear that Google has complete faith in HDR+ to take the better photo.
You can see some camera samples on the next page. We shot them with both phones, but since they have perfectly identical cameras, it doesn't make a huge difference.
The updated camera app offers Motion photos, which capture a 3 second clip. Google's AI smarts analyze the clip to make it loop smoother and to avoid blurry action.
The Pixel 2 XL is not an affordable device, especially in Europe. But it lacks a few things that similarly-priced phones have: wireless charging and a headphone jack. And we get no upsides for those omissions - it's not cheaper, it's not lighter, there's no extra room for a larger battery.
PS. a dongle to convert USB-C to 3.5mm jack is included in the retail box.