Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Review

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4.5 out of 5 stars
Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Review

The Google Pixel 3 starts at Rs. 71,000 (right) and the Pixel 3 XL starts at Rs. 83,000

Highlights

  • Both phones are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC
  • The intuitive software is the main highlight of the new phones
  • The Google Pixel 3 starts at Rs. 71,000 and Pixel 3 XL costs Rs. 83,000

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL were unveiled a week ago in Google's third attempt at establishing itself as a serious player in the premium smartphone segment. There really weren't many surprises to be had on the hardware front, as all the leaks and rumours we'd seen in the months leading up to the event turned out to be spot on.

It's no secret that Google has been struggling to get its Pixel brand into the hearts and minds of the masses last year's foibles with the Pixel 2 (Review) and Pixel 2 XL (Review) didn't help its cause either. Despite its struggles, the company managed to ship nearly twice as many smartphone units in 2017 as compared to the year before, according to a senior research director at IDC. While this is still a tiny drop in the ocean compared to the volumes Apple and Samsung ship every year, it's progress nonetheless.

The Pixel 3 is an important phone for Google as we finally get to see if that $1.1 billion deal with HTC was indeed a worthwhile investment. It's another step forward in having better control over the hardware and software integration in its products, something Apple has mastered over the years. Google is confident that its Pixel 3 is every bit as premium as Apple's new iPhone models, and they have the steep price to go with it. But can it instil that same confidence in the end user? It's time to put Google's claims to the test and see if the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are really better.

 

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL design

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL iterate on last year's design. Despite that, the most immediate change you'll notice is the way they look and feel is an improvement over the Pixel 2 series, which now feel bland in comparison. It's a welcome change as the design feels modern and fresh. Both phones now have a taller aspect ratios, with the 18.5:9 Pixel 3 XL being slightly more so at 18.5:9 due to the presence of a notch.

The Pixel 3 series still use an aluminium frame but rather than giving it a matte finish, Google has used a glossy coating for the side frame and the back is now glass. It's gone a step further and added a frosted look to three-fourths of the glass back, which is achieved through an etching process. This lends continuity to the design language of the Pixel line, while adding a bit of style along the way. It also feels really good when you hold the phone. The sides now blend more seamlessly with the front and back Gorilla Glass, so you don't feel any rough edges.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL back 2 ndtv pixelBoth phones have glass backs and support Qi wireless charging

Both phones have the same thickness of 7.9mm but naturally, the Pixel 3 is a lot easier to grip due to the smaller display. The Pixel 3 XL is a bit of handful, especially when you try to use it with one hand. At 184g, it's a bit heavier too, but the weight is distributed well so we got used to it pretty quickly. Unlike last year, both Pixel 3 phones are available in three colours — Just Black, Clearly White and Not Pink — off which we preferred the look of the white version over the others, though your mileage may vary. The lighter colours continue to feature a power button in a contrasting shade, which is a nice touch.

There's a single 4G Nano-SIM tray at the bottom, which supports VoLTE and both phones also support electronic or embedded SIM (eSIM), just like earlier Pixel phones. The latter feature is dependent on support from the network operator, which essentially make them dual-SIM smartphones, if both Google and the telco decide to support this feature. Unlike the new iPhone models, Google has not yet announced any plans to bring this functionality to India just yet.

Next to the SIM tray is the USB Type-C (Gen. 1) port. The volume and power buttons are on the right side. The volume button in particular is a little stiff, which requires a bit of effort to use. This can be a little inconvenient at times, like when trying to click a picture using the volume-down button with one hand. There is no headphone socket, which means you'll need to use the Type-C headphones or the included dongle.

Due to the front-firing speakers, the Pixel 3 has a thick bezel at the top and a sizeable chin at the bottom. However, this is still forgivable since the space is put to good use. The corners of the display have a large curve, due to which on-screen items like the time and battery percentage are pushed closer to the edge, compared to the Pixel 3 XL, which has more even spacing. It's a mild aesthetic inconsistency and we're probably just nit-picking at this point, but for what it's worth, we prefer the way system information is displayed on the Pixel 3 XL.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL notch 2 ndtv pixelThe Google Pixel 3 has a thick bezel on the top (below) but the Pixel 3 XL has that infamous notch

This brings us to the infamous notch on the bigger model, which clearly isn't winning any awards. The general consensus is that it's ugly and we agree that's it's one of the most poorly designed notches so far. The cut-out is a little too deep which makes it really stick out. You can hide it if you want by digging into the developer settings and finding the ‘Display cutout' menu, but then you lose that extra bit of screen real eastate. Having said that, you do get used to it after a while.

This brings us to the displays, which we're pretty sure where Google has concentrated its in order to avoid another Pixel 2 Xl-like fiasco. Both phones use similar HDR-certified, flexible OLED panels, with the Pixel 3 pushing a full-HD+ resolution (1080x2160) on a 5.5-inch screen while the Pixel 3 XL has a QHD+ resolution (1440x2960) on a 6.3-inch screen. Both phones have a dense pixel count of over 400ppi too, so text and images appear sharp and crisp. However, we did notice some differences between the two panels.

First, we're happy to note that the Pixel 3 XL does not suffer from the dreaded ‘blue tint' issue that plagued its predecessor. There is a slight blue hue that's visible when viewing the phone at an angle and with a lighter background, but it's not very prominent. The Pixel 3, on the other hand, tends to shift to a warmer hue when viewed in a similar manner. Most people aren't really going to notice this behaviour with regular use, so this shouldn't be a problem.

However, we did notice that our Pixel 3 unit had slightly punchier colours and crisper whites, compared to the Pixel 3 XL. The difference is more apparent when using the ‘Adaptive' colour profile but is equally noticeable in the ‘Natural' and ‘Boosted' profiles as well, if you have the phones side by side. We also found the smaller phone to have slightly better sunlight legibility. On the other hand, the Pixel 3 XL handles colour gradients better than the Pixel 3, likely due to the higher resolution. The difference is visible in some of the stock wallpapers on the phones. While we have to give Google credit for upping their display game this time around, we still think the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 (Review) and the Apple iPhone XS are the gold standard when it comes to smartphone OLED displays.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL sim ndtv pixelThe Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have a single SIM slot but they do have eSIM support for a secondary mobile number

 

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL ship with the usual accessories like a fast charger, a Type-C to Type-C cable, manuals, stickers, SIM eject tool, a Type-C to 3.5mm dongle, quick switch adapter and new this year, is a Type-C headset called Pixel USB-C earbuds. This headset is basically a wired version of Google's Pixel Buds wireless headphones which was launched last year, with a focus on real-time translation.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL specifications and software

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL rock the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform, which, as of today, is still Qualcomm's top-of-the-line chip that we've seen in plenty Android phones so far. Google has added two of its custom processors though to try and differentiate the Pixels from the competition and help take the load off the main CPU. The Pixel Visual Core chip, which debuted with the Pixel 2 series, is present again and this time, it will be doing the heavy lifting of HDR+ processing.

Google has also added a mobile version of its Titan M security chip, which is said to help strengthen the OS integrity and keep sensitive information like lock screen data more secure. Only time will tell how effective this measure actually is, but for now those paranoid about data theft can rest at ease.

Coming back to the specifications, both phones surprisingly get just 4GB of LPDDR4X RAM. It seems like the high level of optimisation Google does with its Pixel phones doesn't require more RAM, or at least that's what the company want us to believe. Storage is non-expandable like always and just like last time, your choices are either 64GB or 128GB. There isn't a 256GB model, which is especially surprising considering how Apple and Samsung are now offering up to 512GB of storage in their respective flagships.

Connectivity features on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL include dual-dual Wi-Fi 802.11ac with 2X2 MIMO antennas, Bluetooth 5, NFC, USB OTG, and support for four satellite systems. The phones are also IP68 rated for dust and water resistance and there's Qi wireless charging support too.

Google has included two cameras in the front this time but is sticking to just one rear camera. There's no laser autofocus this time to assist the dual-pixel AF in the sensor, but instead, we get a new spectral and flicker sensor placed between the camera and the dual LED flash. The spectral (or colour temperature) sensor should allow the phones to capture more accurate colours while the flicker sensor should help avoid banding when shooting against artificial lighting, which was an issue with the previous phones.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL buttons ndtv pixelBoth devices have the same thickness and have the power and volume buttons on the right side

 

In terms of software features, Now Playing is still present, which can automatically show on the lock screen the name of the song playing around you in the real world. Both Pixel phones also have HTC-inspired Active Edge, a feature that lets you squeeze the pressure sensitive sides to trigger Google Assistant. You can also use it to silence alarms, incoming calls, etc. It's useful and the pressure sensitivity can be adjusted too.

You also get a bunch of sensors, including a barometer and new haptics engine. The latter is used judiciously on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, even for little things like pulling down the notification shade.

Google's Pixel line has always been less about hardware and more about software and here, we get to see Android 9 Pie at its best. We've already covered some of the main highlights of Pie before, so we'll just go over the most notable changes for the Pixel 3.

Gesture navigation is the only way to get around the OS in the new phones. Unlike the Pixel 2 where you could use gestures as an alternative to the traditional three-button system, there's no going back in Pixel 3. It takes some getting used to, especially opening the app drawer, which requires a longer swipe-up gesture. However, after using the Pixel 3 duo for a few days as our primary devices, we got the hang of it eventually. Switching between apps is actually easier now but again, it takes a couple days to get used to the new gesture.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL get new ‘Come Alive' and ‘Living Universe' range of wallpapers that look really cool and some of them even merge with the always-on display, giving you a nice transition when you lock or unlock the phone. We especially liked the ‘Groove' wallpaper, which subtly changes colours and patterns based on ambient music. Android Pie also introduces dark mode for the Messages app and with the ‘Messages for Web' feature, you can receive incoming messages directly within the browser on your computer, which is super convenient.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL Anroid Pie ndtv pixelsThe new AI and machine learning features in Pie offer a very intuitive experience

 

However the big new change in Android Pie is on-device machine learning and AI integration and after using it for a few days, you start to see its benefits. For instance, if you have the habit of simply dismissing certain notifications, without opening it, the OS recognises that pattern and will eventually suggest to stop showing those notifications altogether. If you perform certain m actions within apps very often, they might show up as suggestions in the app drawer. For example, we started to get a shortcut for a WhatsApp contact we were recently chatting with and even a shortcut for a game as well as one to open a new Chrome tab. This is dynamic and keeps changing depending on your usage.

Another cool feature which we could totally get used to is the ability to interact with the content in the recent app carousel, without ever having to actually switch to the app. For example, you can hop to the browser with a quick swipe up, highlight a phone number with a long press in the webpage and the OS automatically gives you the option to place a call. This saves you multiple steps.

Digital Wellbeing is still in beta but it's a pretty neat feature which gives you a break up of how much time you spend on different apps in a day, thereby allowing you to make lifestyle changes, as necessary. It's easy to get addicted to certain apps - especially games - and lose track of the time you spend on it. This is where features like App Timer - which lets you set a time limit for each app - come in.

Wind Down offers options to automatically trigger Do-not-Disturb (DnD), tone down the colour of your display and make it greyscale. There's a new ‘Flip to Shhh' feature in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, which automatically enables DnD when you flip the phone over and disable it when you switch it around. You get a subtle haptic feedback when you do this, to let you know its switched sound profiles. It works really well and we found it quite useful. The new Pixels are also the first phones to get Gmail's Smart Compose feature, which should roll out to other phones too in the coming months.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL digital well being ndtv ixeDigital Wellbeing lets you keep a track on your app usage and provides an easy-to-read graph of your daily activity 
 

Those in the US will be able to take advantage of Call Screen for incoming calls, where Google Assistant will answer the call for you, with the help of Google's Duplex technology. According to Google, you'll be able to see a live transcription of the call as it's happening so you can take over at any time and speak to the caller yourself if feel it's actually important.

Last but not least, both Pixel 3 devices come with unlimited cloud storage until 31 January 2022 for storing photos and video in their original resolution.

Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL performance, cameras, and battery life

So far so good. The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have impressed us with their build, upgraded display, and the highly intuitive software, but what are they like to live with? We have been using both phones, interchangeably, as a primary device for a week, which isn't a very long time but it's given us a fair idea of what you can expect.

Despite the glass back and glossy sides, we didn't find them too slippery either. The display does pick up smudges easily but the soft-touch back is largely immune to fingerprints. Call quality is very good as the earpiece on both phones get sufficiently loud.

Android Pie runs smoothly even with just 4GB of RAM and we rarely encountered any hiccups. We say rarely because there were a couple of instances where the system would behave a little odd. For instance, the Gmail app minimised itself right in the middle of reading an email a few times and on both devices, we were simply unable to train Assistant to match our voice, as it would get stuck at the loading screen. Also, both our devices were still on the September 5 security patch when our Pixel 2 XL is already running the October 5 patch. Now, in all fairness, these devices were given to us before the launch and since we still have time before the phones go on sale on November 1, there's plenty of time to fix all this through a software update.

The fingerprint sensor is easy to reach on both models and it is quick at authenticating you. It can also be used to get to the notification shade, which is a gesture we wound up using a lot on the XL model. Weirdly, none of our review units had an option for face unlock, even in Android Pie's Smart Lock menu. Google later confirmed that face unlock is indeed not present on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. The texture on the fingerprint sensor is a bit different too, so it's easy to distinguish it from the soft-touch glass even if you are reaching for it blind.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL back 2 2 ndtv pixelsThe Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL pack enough power to handle even demanding games

 

The Pixel 3 duo performed well in benchmarks too. We couldn't install any of them through the Play Store since Google has blocked it for these devices to prevent specifications from leaking before the launch, but we were able to side-load the latest versions of all the benchmarks. Other than AnTuTu, which failed to complete, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL posted strong numbers across the chart.

The phone does get warm when playing games but we never found it getting unbearably hot. As expected, even heavy games run just fine on both phones. We got smooth framerates in games like PUBG, which looks really good especially on the larger and higher resolution display of the Pixel 3 XL. Battery drain isn't too bad either, as after an entire match of about 30 minutes, we noticed anywhere between a 7 to 10 percent drop in battery level. The display can get really bright and vivid too when playing back HDR content. At the time of writing this review, Netflix wasn't able to detect the HDR panels but Amazon Prime Video and YouTube had no problem. Netflix should fix that in due course.

The stereo speakers on both the phones are very impressive and get very loud. Both of them sound louder than the Galaxy Note 9 and are on par in terms of volume with the iPhone XS. The Pixel 3 XL offers slightly better audio separation and depth compared to the Pixel 3 due to the larger body. The backs of both phones vibrate a bit to give some semblance of bass but not at the crazy levels we saw in the Sony Xperia XZ3 and LG G7+ ThinQ (Review). Since the bottom speaker is also facing you, positional audio is much better represented, and in songs and movies, you can actually tell from which direction the instruments or sound effects are coming from.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL pixel buds 2 ndtv pixelsThe Pixel USB-C earbuds look nice but don't sound all that great

 

The bundled Pixel USB-C earbuds support Google Assistant, which means you can get spoken notifications and have your message read out to you with a long press of the volume-up button on the headset. The earbuds themselves are light and feature adjustable wingtips. They tend to rest just outside your ear canal, so there's no form of passive noise isolation.

Sadly, audio quality is strictly average as even at full volume, the earbuds don't sound loud enough and bass is pretty much non-existent. There's not much detail in the mid-range either and highs aren't very distinct.

Transferring music to your phone from your PC will require an additional cable too, as you only get a Type-C to Type-C cable in the box. Unless you happen to have a Type-C port on your computer, you'll need another cable or adapter as Google doesn't bundle one in the box.

The cameras on the original Pixel and Pixel 2 were easily the stars of the show and we know many people who bought them just for their cameras. The Pixel 2 already set a pretty high bar for smartphone photography and Google is hoping to raise it once again this year. The rear camera hardware in the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL aren't very different from their predecessors. It's still a 12.2-megapixel sensor with 1.4 micron pixel size, dual-pixel autofocus, optical stabilisation, and a f/1.8 aperture lens. However, Google is once again banking on its machine learning and AI prowess to deliver a better camera experience, with a brand new camera app and new shooting modes. On the front though, Google has added a second 8-megapixel wide-angle camera for group selfies.

All the shooting modes are now just a swipe away rather than having to get to them through a hamburger menu, which is pretty convenient. Some of the new features exclusive to the Pixel 3 include a more intuitive Google Lens, which gives you contextual suggestions in real time if you point your camera to things like URLs, phone numbers, QR codes, and addresses. This now works from within the main camera app, without having to switch to the Lens app. This is something Google first showed off at last year's Google I/O and it's finally being implemented in its phones. You can turn off these suggestions if you find them annoying.

Tap for full-sized Google Pixel 3 camera samples

 

Another new feature is Top Shot. Basically, it puts the Motion photo feature - which was present even on the earlier Pixels - to better use. With Motion set to Auto or On, the camera captures a short video clip before and after you hit the shutter button, so you can go back in the Photos app, scrub through the clip and pick the better candid moment. This is pretty similar to Live Photos on the iPhone

When set to Auto, the camera will only capture the video clip if it detects motion or if some elements change in the frame. Another thing worth noting is that the stills you save from the video clip are of a lower resolution compared to the original shot.

Photobooth is a very cool shooting mode, which we found worked as advertised. This only works with the front cameras, where it automatically snaps a picture as soon as it detects a smile or a funny expression. It works with multiple people in the frame too, and will start capturing photos as soon as it detects a smile from any face.

Google has renamed its AR Stickers to Playground with some new AR characters too, which it now calls Playmoji. The new ones include a Marvel's Avengers pack, pets, and weather characters. You can now use them with the front camera too, where some of them react to your expressions. We can see people having fun with this, but keep in mind that both phones heat up quite a bit after a couple of minutes of using Playground.

Some of the new Playmoji characters are quite life-like

 

Image quality continues to be excellent in daylight, with landscapes shots having very good detail, dynamic range, and colours. The camera is quick to focus and there isn't much lag when saving the final result too. You can now lock focus on you subject by simply tapping on it in the viewfinder and the app will track your subject as it moves around in the frame, for both stills and videos. It's similar to what Samsung has been doing all along with its subject tracking feature in its flagship Galaxy smartphones, but we found it to be better implemented on the Pixel 3 duo.

HDR+ is on by default, which does a very good job of balancing the exposures. You can enable a manual toggle for HDR+, which lets you turn it off or switch to HDR+ Enhanced. The latter feature was present in last year's Pixel 2, which helps capture slightly more detail by decreasing the shutter speed and ISO a bit, but it also takes a couple of seconds longer to save the final image.

You can now also enable RAW shooting, which saves a DNG file along with the JPEG, in case you wish to do some further editing. Macros are highly detailed too, with excellent sharpness around the edges of subjects and a nice shallow depth of field. The latter can be boosted if you switch to portrait mode.

Google says edge detection is improved as it's now using a learning-based depth map instead of stereo depth maps. While we did have some edge detection issues in a few shots where it blurred regions it shouldn't have, it was spot on for the most part and it works very well on objects and human subjects alike. You can now adjust the background blur in the photos app, re-adjust the focus point, and add different filters to the picture.

Another very interesting feature that Google is introducing is called Super Res Zoom, which uses techniques similar to speckle imaging in order to improve detail when you do a digital zoom. According to Google, this involves capturing a series of shots as you steady the camera and then interpolating data from these shots for a more detailed final image. When compared to the standard digital zoom on the Pixel 2 XL, the results are quite remarkable. The Pixel 3 is able to capture a tone of more detail and even retain the colours much better in daylight and at night at maximum digital zoom.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL Super res zoom pixel 2XL ndtv pixelsThe difference between Super Res Zoom on the Pixel 3 XL and regular digital zoom on the Pixel 2 XL is quite remarkable

 

But what happens when you compare it with phones with optical zoom? We tested the Pixel 3 XL against the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Apple iPhone XS, first at 2x zoom and then at the maximum digital zoom of all phones. For the 2x test, we ensured we had enough light as Samsung is notorious for not using the telephoto sensor. Here, we pushed the Pixel 3 XL's zoom slider up by a single notch, since the frame was in line with the other two phones. We noticed that the Galaxy Note 9 overexposes the figurine a bit, messing up the subtle pink colour but at the same time has the least amount of noise. The iPhone XS and the Pixel 3 XL have more accurate colours but the iPhone's image is a little noisy where the Pixel 3 XL has none. It's quite evident that at 2x zoom level, the Pixel 3 XL's fancy new digital zoom keeps up and at times, surpasses the quality of two of the best phones with optical zoom.

Google Pixel 3 Pixel 3 XL Super Res zoom ndtv pixelsAt maximum Super Res Zoom on the Pixel 3 XL and 8x zoom on the Note 9 and iPhone XS, the Pixel 3 XL still manages to hold its own

 

Next, we pushed the zoom slider all the way to the max on the Pixel 3 XL and around 8x on the other two phones, in less favourable light this time. The iPhone XS and the Note 9 still manage a decent job here, but we have to hand it to Google's software wizardry as it delivers the smoothest image while keeping all the important details sharp. No wonder the company didn't bother with a second rear camera.

A very intriguing feature that's coming soon to the Pixel 3 via an update is Night Sight. This promises to brighten up your night shots by at least a couple of stops. We'll have to wait a bit before this feature is available but even without it, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL capture very good detail in low-light. Focusing speeds are just as quick and we ended up with very good detail and colours in landscapes shots and some sharp-looking macros. Low-light landscapes can get a bit noisy in the darker regions but that's just Google's post-processing that favours a brighter image versus suppressing noise.

The secondary 8-megapixel wide-angle front camera is great of capturing more people or more of the background in one shot. Quality of images is good, although the ones shot with the standard camera are a tad sharper since it has a wider aperture and phase detect autofocus.

On the video front, there isn't anything really new compared to last year's model, except for a new Auto framerate mode when shooting at 1080p. Here, you can either set the framerate to 30fps of leave it in auto, where the camera app will choose the framerate based on the scene (and ostensibly the lighting) and it can also dynamically switch between 60fps or 30fps in the middle of shooting, which is pretty cool. This means, in low-light, it will favor 30fps in order to capture more light. This is present in the latest iPhone models as well.

Tap for full-sized Google Pixel 3 XL camera samples

 

Video quality is very good, even in low light and depending on how heavy your footsteps are, the side-effect of electronic stabilisation (warping or jelly effect) can be kept to a minimum. At 4K resolution, there is a slight crop compared to 1080p, but it's not a lot. Stabilisation works well at his resolution too.

Sadly, the Pixel 3 still lacks a 60fps mode at 4K and slow-motion at 240fps is still limited to 720p. Google didn't have a satisfactory answer as to why this feature is missing, and it's definitely not a hardware limitation as we've seen Snapdragon 845 aid capture of 4K video at 60fps on phones like the OnePlus 6.

Heavy use of the camera does take a toll on battery life, like any other phone but generally, we found the battery life of both phones to be quite satisfactory. The Pixel 3 has a 2915mAh battery, which typically lasted about 18-19 hours on average, with the regular mix of audio and video streaming, games, chat apps, etc. This isn't too bad considering the size of the battery. In our internal battery drain test, we managed to loop a 720p video for 10 hours and 18 minutes straight, which is slightly above average.

The Pixel 3 XL on the other hand has a larger 3430mAh battery, which as expected, lasted a couple of hours longer than the Pixel 3 with similar usage. We got a lower runtime of 9 hours and 42 minutes in our tests, which is probably due to the higher resolution display. Once again, we've only been using these phones for about a week so perhaps over a longer period, Android Pie's Adaptive Battery feature may yield better results as our routines get more defined.

The new Pixels support Qi wireless charging and Google has introduced its own wireless charger called Pixel Stand, which will go on sale next month for Rs. 6,900. Once docked, you'll be able to perform additional functions like use your phone as a photo frame, interface with smart home devices, and use the upcoming Sunrise alarm feature.

Fast charging is supported with wired and wireless charging. The Pixel 3 uses USB Type-C's Power Delivery 2 (PD2) standard for fast charging, which in our test, offered roughly 66 percent charge on the Pixel 3 and 58 percent charge on the Pixel 3 XL in an hour. We wish the phones also supported Qualcomm's Quick Charge technology since it's easier to find adapters for that in case you forget to carry yours. You'll also have to take extra care of the bundled cable as the power adapter accepts a Type-C port and not the standard Type-A.


Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL in pictures

Verdict
The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are a showcase for what Google does best - deliver a very unique software experience using standard hardware. There are some custom chips thrown in this year for added security but overall, the new phones aren't technically very different from Android phones, some of which cost nearly half as much. However, it's the machine learning and AI features baked into Android Pie and other software tweaks unique to the new phones which help them stand out. If you're simply after the best Android hardware then phones like the OnePlus 6, LG G7+ ThinQ, and any other number of Snapdragon 845-based phones will do the same job, at a much lower price.

The 4GB of RAM in the new models is also a bit of a concern as we're not sure how it will hold up over time. We would like to think that Google has thought of this and has contingencies in place to prevent the RAM from being a barrier. It's also unlikely that we'll see a higher RAM version of the Pixel 3, so if you're thinking of waiting for such a phone, chances are it might not happen.

Google shouldn't have a hard time convincing buyers about how good the new Pixel 3 is since it continues the superior camera legacy and once you hold the phone, you can instantly tell it has a much better feel compared to its predecessors. The notch on the bigger phone is a bit of an eye-sore, but honestly, after using it for a few days, you'll barely notice it.

The main challenge for Google right now is convincing buyers to shell out Rs. 71,000 for the Pixel 3 or Rs. 83,000 for the Pixel 3 XL, and these prices are only for the base models. If you want 128GB of storage, be prepared to fork out Rs. 9,000 more for each of them. While these are still lower than what Apple is charging for its top of the line iPhone models, it's still a lot higher than Samsung's flagship Galaxy Note 9.

It's very clear that Google is sticking to Apple's philosophy of only building premium smartphones, but what it needs to understand is that one of the reasons why people still pay absurd amounts for an iPhone is because of the stellar after-sales service that Apple provides. This gives you the confidence that if anything were to go wrong, you won't be hung out to dry. Google doesn't exactly have a stellar track record of after-sales service for its Pixel smartphones in markets like India. We hope that changes this year, but it's still a leap of faith for all those who'll be upgrading to the Pixel 3.

We feel the launch prices are simply too high as they are now around Rs. 10,000 more than what the Pixel 2 series launched at last year. Had the Pixel 3 stared at around Rs. 50,000 and the Pixel 3 XL around Rs. 60,000, it would have made a lot of buyers who were going to take the plunge with Samsung, reconsider their decision. Perhaps we'll see a “temporary price drop” just before Christmas, like we did with the Pixels 2 series last year.

Overall, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are a marked improvement over last year's models and from what we can see, they don't really have any deal-breaking flaw other than very high price tag. They are well-built, look great, have solid performance, and continue to shoot amazing photographs, thanks to great software. If we were to pick our favourite of the two, we'd recommend getting the Pixel 3 XL over the Pixel 3. The bigger battery and the larger, higher resolution display simply makes for a better experience.


Can Google Pixel 3 succeed in India without massive discounts? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Excellent build, comfortable to handle
  • Intuitive software features
  • Very good cameras
  • HDR capable display
  • Excellent stereo speakers
  • Bad
  • Expensive
Display5.50-inch
Processor2.5GHz octa-core
Front Camera8-megapixel + 8-megapixel
Resolution1080x2160 pixels
RAM4GB
OSAndroid 9.0
Storage64GB
Rear Camera12.2-megapixel
Battery Capacity2915mAh
  • Design
  • Display
  • Software
  • Performance
  • Battery Life
  • Camera
  • Value for Money
  • Good
  • Excellent build
  • Intuitive software features
  • Very good cameras
  • HDR capable display
  • Excellent stereo speakers
  • Bad
  • Poor notch design
  • Expensive
Display6.30-inch
Processor2.5GHz octa-core
Front Camera8-megapixel + 8-megapixel
Resolution1440x2960 pixels
RAM4GB
OSAndroid 9.0
Storage64GB
Rear Camera12.2-megapixel
Battery Capacity3430mAh
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