In Review

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL reviews: can the new handsets rival iPhone XS?

Third-generation models are most expensive Google smartphones to date

The wraps have come off Google’s new Pixel 3 and larger Pixel 3 XL smartphones - and the first verdicts are in.

Announced during the tech giant’s product keynote in New York yesterday afternoon, the new smartphones are the most powerful additions to the company’s Pixel range to date, and the most expensive. 

Both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL feature new edge-to-edge displays that resign the thick bezels on the old models to history. Google has also revamped the camera systems, using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve image quality. 

With pre-orders now open, here’s what the critics have to say about how the new handsets stack up against their main rivals. 

Pricing and release date

The most expensive additions to the Pixel range yet, the Pixel 3 costs £739, while the Pixel 3 XL is £869 - £110 and £70 more expensive than their Pixel 2  predecessors respectively. 

That puts the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL on a pricing par with their chief rivals in the Android sphere, the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus

Google’s new devices are still notably cheaper than their iPhone competitors, however. The Pixel 3 undercuts the iPhone XS by £260, and the Pixel 3 XL costs £180 less than the iPhone XS Max. 

Orders for the new Pixel phones are open now, with deliveries kicking off by the end of the month.

Displays
  • Pixel 3: 5.5in OLED, 2220x1080 resolution, 18:9 aspect ratio
  • Pixel 3 XL: 6.3in OLED, 1440x2960, 18:9

Many reviewers criticised the display on last year’s Pixel 2 for having large bezels, at a time when Apple and Samsung’s devices had moved to near-borderless screens. So the Pixel 3’s edge-to-edge OLED panel is a welcome addition that “fits into modern times”, says TechRadar.

The new display “looks richer” than that on the Pixel 2, and packs “a few more pixels per inch”, although this may be a result of the slightly taller 18:9 panel, the tech site says. 

The Pixel 3 XL’s higher resolution and larger panel makes the display “bright enough to see with direct sunlight shining through windows”, adds Digital Trends. “Colours are vibrant and paired with deep black levels in dark scenes”, and the phone doesn’t feel unwieldy despite its larger proportions, the tech site continues. 

Critics are less enthusiastic about the notch design on the new handsets, a feature that first appeared on the iPhone X last year. The notch houses the phone’s front-facing cameras, but it’s noticeably larger than the designs used by rivals and may be “distracting” for some users, says Digital Trends. 

Cameras

Much like the Pixel 2 series, Google has stuck with a single-lens set-up for its Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

That bucks the trend of smartphone makers moving to dual-lens systems, but as Pocket-lint explains, Google is instead trying to improve image quality using artificial intelligence (AI) tricks. 

New features include a new Top Shot mode, where the camera takes a burst of images and the device’s AI then selects the best one, the tech news site says. There are also new “adjustable aperture effects”, which allow the user to adjust the depth of field after an image has been taken. 

At the front, the new Pixels employ a dual-lens set-up, with one lens acting as a regular eight megapixel selfie shooter and the other as a wide-angle lens, says Trusted Reviews. “Having a wider-angle camera lets you cram more faces into the shot and it works well here,” the site adds.

Verdict 

Based upon initial impressions, the Pixel 3 range “looks like good value for what you’re getting”, especially compared to the pricier iPhone XS and XS Max, says TechRadar. 

The 12.2 megapixel AI-powered camera appears “promising”, as does Google’s pledge to provide users directly with the latest version of the smartphone’s Android operating system, the site continues. 

If the camera lives up to expectations in real-world use then the Pixel 3 “will be one of the best phones you can buy”, concludes Trusted Reviews. 

“There’s also the addition of a bigger screen and wireless charging; two more things that should make this an enticing buy.”

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