So I’m sort of posting these backward, but whatever. Google sent me a Pixel 4 XL to review and so I already did my real-world test video to check out the camera and battery on it (and you can view that here). Now, I usually do the real-world test after my complete walkthrough but because of travel whatnot, we’re reversing that today.
Regardless, welcome to the complete walkthrough on the Pixel 4 XL. In this, I’m going to go through every spec, feature, camera mode, etc. so you can see everything this phone can do to help you better decide if you want to go buy one.
With that said, there’s a lot to go through so let’s get started with the styling.
We have the Pixel 4, the smaller variety, and the Pixel 4 XL, the obviously extra-large one. The two devices are basically identical though, the only differences are the screen size (5.7″ on the 4 and 6.3″ on the XL) and the battery (3700mah on the XL, and a concerningly small 2700mah on the 4).
That screen on either device is a 90hz P-OLED display with a 19:9 aspect ratio and, thankfully, no more notch. We do have a slight bezel at the top compared to a lot of other flagships out right now but it doesn’t bother me as much as that notch did and I still like the clean look it gives.
Speaking of that clean look, Google took that pretty seriously on this model. We have a matte glass back on either model that comes in white, black, and orange that frankly, I love. It reminds me of the matte back on the new iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max and frankly just has a great feel in the hand that is hard to explain.
They even took this minimalistic design on the back and removed the fingerprint sensor as well which I have mixed feelings about. Google did add some neat hardware near the front-facing camera that makes their face unlock feature way better than its ever been (performance and security-wise) app developers haven’t added this biometric unlocking method to their apps so where I would have normally been able to hold my finger on the sensor for a sec to log in to an app or site, I now have to go back to entering in my password manually. I’m sure this will eventually be updated, but I imagine not anytime soon.
Speaking of that front-facing camera, we have an 8MP f2.0 single camera at the top of the screen that has a 22mm equivalent focal length. This is compared to the 28mm and 19mm equivalent cameras on the Pixel 3 XL. It’s not as wide as the 19mm one we all loved but least it’s close, I guess.
Moving around the phone, we have the SIM card slot and an eSIM you can use Google Fi with, for example, on the left.
Our volume rocker and power button on the right.
Nothing at the top.
On both sides, we have pressure-sensitive areas that you can squeeze to invoke the Google Assistant.
And, at the bottom, we have our USB-C port capable of supporting 18W fast charging.
The device also supports Qi charging for wirelessly charging the phone, as well.
One interesting addition in terms of hardware is the fact that they included Project Soli in this device up at the top of the screen. Project Soli is basically a miniaturized radar setup that can be used to detect your hand in front of the screen. We’ve seen this before from people like LG using infrared and visual cameras and the only real difference here apparently is that the system can tell the difference between a cup going over vs your hand thanks to the radar signatures of each. Right now though the only things it lets you do is wave to dismiss a call/notification/etc, go to the next or previous song, and also see notifications when you put your hand close to the screen.
For audio, we have dual speakers, that sound like this.
Powering the device we have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor paired with 6GBs of RAM and the choice of either 64 or 128GBs of storage.
We have WiFi to the tune of 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0 with AptX HD for connectivity.
Which brings us to the big thing everyone wants to see on any Pixel device: the camera.
We have dual cameras on the back of the device. A 12.2MP f1.7 aperture dual-pixel phase detection autofocus 28m equivalent optically stabilized main camera and a 16MP 2x telephoto f2.4 optically stabilized secondary camera.
To switch between them you have to either tap on the screen then use the slider or pinch to zoom–there is no tap to change cameras like most manufacturers opt for which is odd. I imagine Google did this because they believe that their pinch to zoom (even past the 2x optical zoom) is superior to other cameras thanks to the computational photography they use to sharpen the image. Here are some samples for you to be the judge of.
You will undoubtedly notice the absence of a wide-angle lens which, personally, I use more than a telephoto myself so I wish it was here but considering I use the main camera 90% of the time compared to either a telephoto or wide, it’s not a total deal-breaker to me.
Something that stood out to me as an impressive use of machine learning in the camera is the ability to now adjust not just brightness but also the shadows separately in the viewfinder live. Using this you can adjust what the phone gives you for the final image and almost edit the photo before you take it–super clever to me.
Now, let’s go through all the other camera modes really fast.
- Night Sight: More computational photography goodness, we have night sight. This essentially takes multiple photos of various exposures and combines them to create a better lit photo and, even though plenty of other manufacturers have this ability as well now, the Pixel 4 XL Night Sight still impresses the hell out of me.
- Portrait: Portrait mode is here as well of course and it mimics the shallow depth of field look some DSLR/mirrorless cameras are known to produce. Again, computational photography on the Pixel does a great job of these, as we expect.
- Video: The phone can shoot in up to 4K at 30fps and with optical and electronic stabilization built-in.
- Panorama: The normal stitching of multiple photos together to create a panoramic shot.
- Photo Sphere: This lets you create 360 photos by moving the camera around you and mimics the look of Google Street View basically.
- Slow Motion: You can shoot in 1080P at either 1/4 or 1/8 speed.
- Time Lapse: You can shoot time-lapses in 1080P at either 5, 10, 30, or 120x normal speed for a sped-up video.
- Playground: This is their AR camera that lets you place digital objects in the real world and interact with them.
- Lens: This is a shortcut to Google Lens which allows you to use the camera to visually identify and search for things.
The Pixel 4 and 4 XL run on a basically stock version of Android 10 with the Google Launcher running on top.
Essentially, you have your home screen that can swipe to the left to get your Google feed with news customized to your search history and interests. Then you can swipe the other way to get to any additional homescreens/widgets you’ve added.
You can then swipe down anywhere on the screen to get your notifications and swipe further to get your quick actions (which you can customize, as well).
Gesture navigation is enabled by default and works like this:
- Swipe up from off the bottom of the screen to get your app drawer.
- Swipe up and hold for a sec to get to multitasking.
- Swipe in from off the left or right of the screen to go back.
- Swipe from a bottom corner to bring up the Google Assistant.
- Or swipe along the bottom to go forward and back within the recent apps you’ve used.
You can also select the OG Android navigation keys from Settings > System > Gestures > System Navigation if you prefer, as well.
Finally for anyone curious, here are some common benchmark results on the device, as well.
The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL are available now for purchase starting at $899 and $999 respectively. You can find more info on them at this link here.
Let me know what you think in the comments below and go check out the real-world test to see how the camera compared to other competitors as well as how the battery lasted over the course of a day. Thanks for watching!