Google Pixel 4XL Smartphone Review

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3XL impressed us with its clever technology and excellent photo-taking capabilities so we're expecting big things from the Google Pixel 4XL. Come with us as we put the latest Android smartphone to the test.


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Google Pixel 4 XL
 

Quick Verdict

The Google Pixel 4XL is a brilliant smartphone for those who put 'excellent photo quality' at the top of their 'must-have' list. Images have always been great from Pixel smartphones and this is still the case with the Pixel 4XL with only the odd clipping issue spoiling portraits. Other than that, colours are excellent and the effects the Pixel can create without too much effort on the photographer's part are really excellent. Battery life is very disappointing and there aren't quite as many features built into the Pixel 4XL as you find in other smartphone camera apps but what it does offer, it does well.  

If you want a smart-looking camera phone that's well built and can capture great images with not much effort, the Pixel 4XL should go on your list. But, if you're not too fussed about having the 'latest and greatest' devices, you might want to take a look at the Pixel 3/3XL as they're slightly cheaper and still capture great images. 

+ Pros

  • Excellent image quality 
  • Easy to take great photos 
  • Impressive Night Sight mode 
  • Great screen
  • Solid build 

- Cons

  • The battery is terrible 
  • No MicroSD slot to expand the memory
  • No headphone socket
  • Clipping issues on some portraits 
  • No fingerprint scanner 
 

 

The Google Pixel 4XL is the latest flagship/premium smartphone to arrive from Google and as the name suggests, it's the fourth generation Google smartphone (not including the Pixel 3a/3a XL introduced earlier this year) and with it, a few upgrades have been introduced which include an extra camera, slight design tweaks, an Astrophotography function and more cool camera features.  

As with previous smartphone releases from Google, the Google Pixel 4XL has a companion which loses the 'XL' and is simply known as the Pixel 4. Other than size/weight, display, battery and price, there's not much difference between the two and as the cameras are the same, you can look at this review if you're considering purchasing the Pixel 4 over the Pixel 4XL, too. Both are also available in 64GB or 128GB versions and you have Black, White, or Orange colour options. 

Just to highlight the differences before we move on to looking at the Pixel 4 series features, here's a rundown of the screen size, dimensions and price.

  • Display: Pixel 4 - 5.7'' FHD+ flexible OLED, Pixel 4XL - 6.3" QHD+ flexible OLED
  • Size: Pixel 4 - 68.8 x 147.1 x 8.2mm, Pixel 4XL - 75.1 x 160.4 x 8.2mm
  • Weight: Pixel 4 - 162g, Pixel 4XL - 193g
  • Battery: Pixel 4 - 2800mAh, Pixel 4XL - 3700mAh
  • Price: Pixel 4 - £669, Pixel 4XL - £829 (64GB versions), Pixel 4 - £829, Pixel 4XL - £929 (128GB versions)

 

Google Pixel 4XL Features

Google Pixel 4 XL
 

The Google Pixel 4XL smartphone's biggest change, in comparison to the Google Pixel 3/3XL, is the introduction of a second rear camera. We've not seen this on any of the previous Pixel smartphones and it brings the 4th version of the Pixel more in-line with other smartphone manufacturers who opt for dual, triple or even quad-camera set-ups nowadays. 

In the rear camera unit, you find a 45mm* 16MP f/2.4 lens with a 52-degree field-of-view and a 28mm* 12.2MP f/1.7 lens with a 77-degree field of view. Both lenses have optical as well as electronic image stabilisation and autofocus with phase detection. There's no ultra-wide-angle lens which is another step away from the norm as most other smartphones released in 2019 do have one. 

On the front is a 22mm* 8MP f/2.0 fixed focus lens with a 90-degree field of view, NIR flood emitter, NIR dot projector and 2 NIR cameras. It also features Auto-HDR to give your selfies/group shots better overall dynamic range. You'll also notice that the dual front-camera has gone and a slightly larger bezel sits across the top of the Pixel 4 XL. *equivalent in 35mm equivalent terms.

Video is captured at 1080p @ 30 FPS, 60 FPS, 120 FPS, 720p @ 240 FPS and 4K @ 30 FPS. The front camera also records at 1080p @ 30 FPS. 

Improvements have been made to the Night Sight function found in the Pixel 4 camera app and this includes adding an Astrophotography function which uses long exposures and some clever software to capture images of the night sky. As well as Night Sight, you get access to Dual Exposure controls, Live HDR+, Social Share for direct sharing to social media and Frequent Faces which learns/remembers the faces you photograph the most.

The Google Pixel 4 smartphone uses a combination of optical zoom (2x) from the second rear camera with Super Res Zoom software (originally launched in the Pixel 3).

Away from the camera, there's no longer a fingerprint sensor built-in as the Google Pixel 4XL uses face detection and the smartphone's overall dimensions have grown, as has the weight when compared with the Google Pixel 3XL. 

Key Features

  • 16MP f/2.4 telephoto lens (45mm) & 12.2MP f/1.7 wide-angle lens (28mm)
  • Optical & electronic image stabilisation 
  • Front/selfie camera(s) - 22mm 8MP, f/2.0 fixed focus lens
  • 8x Hybrid digital zoom and 2x optical zoom
  • 6.3" QHD+ flexible OLED, 90Hz refresh
  • Video: >1080p at 30, 60, 120fps, 720p at 240fps and 4K at 30fps
  • Video: Front camera - 1080p at 30fps
  • 3700mAh battery 
  • 6GB RAM, 64/128GB Capacity>options
  • Splash, Water and Dust Resistance
  • Digital bokeh
  • Night Sight mode

 

Google Pixel 4XL Handling

Google Pixel 4 XL
 

The Google Pixel 4XL doesn't look that different to the Pixel 3XL with just a few subtle changes in design (apart from the rear camera unit, of course). 

In comparison to other flagship smartphones, the Google Pixel 4XL is quite compact and the choice of materials it's constructed from, along with the orange colour option, certainly make it stand out from the crowd. We're not saying it's small, as it's not, but the overall size and grippy sides (something we'll discuss next) make it a flagship smartphone that's easier to hold. 

An aluminium frame runs around the curved edge of the Pixel 4XL and it is protected by a rubber coating which doesn't look as sleek as the high-shine of other flagship smartphones with their metal/glass edging but what it does do is increase grip. Yes, it might not be as appealing look-wise (to some) but it does mean you shouldn't be dropping the smartphone as easily. It also feels more comfortable to hold, too, and can be used one-handed but we'd always recommend taking photos with the device in both hands. You can, of course, add a case for extra protection but you'll have to purchase one as Google don't provide a case in the box. 

 

Google Pixel 4 XL
 

The back of the Pixel 4XL is constructed from glass but this isn't as noticeable on the orange version we have on test as it has a ceramic finish which, like the sides, you'll either like straightaway or find it a bit strange. I like it as it's different and doesn't mark with fingerprints. There is a black version with the more traditional fingerprint magnet, glass-like feel and a white option which has the same ceramic finish as the orange version. 

Also on the back is the new square featuring the dual cameras which contrast against the orange matte back with its shiny finish. it protrudes slightly from the back but not enough to cause stability issues when you put the smartphone on a surface. It's also similar to the iPhone 11's new design which, again, you'll either be a fan of or think it's ugly but on a practical note, it's made more room for the dual-camera, flash and sensors to sit together. 

The 6.3" QHD+ flexible OLED takes up the majority of the front of the phone but unlike other premium smartphones, there's a noticeable bezel at the top and a chin at the bottom. Side bezels are thin, but, with notchless designs becoming the norm, the top bezel design might be something that puts people off. The QHD+ flexible OLED display is sharp, bright and colourful, though, which is a big plus. 

 

Google Pixel 4 XL
 

On the right side are the power/volume buttons and the power button is a contrasting shade which is a nice though and is something that certainly stands out. 

There's nothing on the left side or top of the smartphone but turn your attention to the bottom and you find stereo speakers but no headphone socket. Instead, there's a USB-C port. 

As with the Google Pixel 3/3XL, the Pixel 4XL has an IP68 water-resistant rating but there's no fingerprint sensor which might only seem like a small thing but if you use your fingerprint to access certain apps or to pay for things with your smartphone, you won't be able to do this any more. 

Let's turn our attention to the cameras on the Pixel 4XL, of which, includes a second rear camera - something that's new for Google but other brands have already doubled this figure with quad-rear cameras. 

There's a 12MP f/2.4 main camera and the new addition is a 16MP f/1.7 telephoto lens which the Pixel switches to when capturing portraits and it also means zoom should be improved along with low light performance. On the front is a 22mm 8MP f/2.0 fixed focus lens but the wide-angle front-facing camera that was introduced on the Pixel 3 has gone. 

 

Google Pixel 4 XL
 

As with other Pixel smartphones, it's the machine learning and clever AI Google packs into the Pixel 4XL smartphone that make the cameras impressive and they've worked hard to improve this even further on the Pixel 4XL for better photo manipulation. There's also a live HDR+ option so you can see, in real-time, how your final image will look rather than having to wait until you've captured your image to see the result. Dual Exposure is also available so you can adjust the brightness of the background and shadows of the foreground independently. It's a nice feature that might not be ground-breaking but we did find it useful on rare sunny days. 

Night Sight is still a good mode that works well but it's not such a big selling point anymore with Huawei and other brands now offering similarly well-performing night modes in the camera app. However, you do get access to an astrophotography mode which Google says will help you capture images of the moon and stars. Google gives guidelines on how best to use this mode but as of yet, skies have been too cloudy for us to test it but we'll update this review when we do. 

In comparison to other smartphone camera apps, such as those found in Honor or Huawei smartphones, the Google Pixel 4XL's camera app does look very basic but what it does have to offer it does very well. 

Other features of the Pixel 4XL include the Snapdragon 855 chipset and 6GB RAM.

The benchmarking stats for the Google Pixel 4Xl with Geekbench are 647 single-core, 2586 multi-core and with Antutu the Google Pixel 4Xl scored 421294. 

Battery life - The 3700mAh battery on the Pixel 4XL is one of the big negatives as it drains quickly; you only have to glance at the battery icon to see the gauge emptying. As a result, we do recommend you take your charging cable out with you just in case you need to boost the battery. Fast-charging is available when using the supplied USB-C charger as is wireless charging. The Pixel 4 has a 2800mAh battery.


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Comments


Paul E 17 23
30 Oct 2019 3:36PM
Not sure you are actually really reviewing with a phone as this has a bigger battery than my 3XL and the battery on that lasts all day easily, and I use mine. You say "it drains quickly; you only have to glance at the battery icon to see the gauge emptying" has to be absolute rubbish. Google with Android have done a great deal to make the battery power last longer they would not compromise their flagship phone in this way. Lets see some proper data rather than an opinion based on the specs. Then I look at your iPhone reviews and I can clearly see what's going on here....if Apple say it's okay it must be so. Not impressed.

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joshwa Plus
9 905 United Kingdom
31 Oct 2019 8:40AM
Hi Paul,

We're not the only site finding the battery life of the 4 XL lacklustre:

https://www.zdnet.com/product/google-pixel-4-xl/

https://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/google-pixel-4xl-great-camera-bad-battery-life-1.4065991

https://www.trustedreviews.com/reviews/google-pixel-4-xl

https://www.pocket-lint.com/phones/reviews/google/149771-google-pixel-4xl-review

Yes, the 4XL has more mAh than the 3XL, but that does not mean that battery life is going to be better, particularly if the screen (or other components) use more power. (The Pixel 4 has less mAh than the 3).

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