Display: 8 / 10

Pixel XL (7)
The Pixel XL sports a 5.5-inch QuadHD display with a native resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. This gives it a pixel density of 534PPI which makes it quite sharp. The AMOLED display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 coating. The glass covering does rise a millimeter over the metallic frame. The bezels on the top and bottom are quite thick. The display is bright and offers good viewing angles. Thanks to the AMOLED display the black levels are quite good. There was no issue with sunlight legibility. But the auto-brightness mode transition happens in noticeable steps, something that can get a tad bit annoying indoors or when you are walking in the park with overhead trees in the afternoon.

Google Pixel XL (1)

Consuming videos on the display is a pleasure, thanks to the great contrast offered by the Pixel. Gaming gives a similarly good experience. Text appears sharp. There is fairly little to complain in this department. It is not as vibrant as the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge though, but then again, a lot of people do not like the over saturation seen on Samsung devices.

Software: 8.5 / 10
Being a Google Phone, the Pixel XL comes with the latest Android 7.1 Nougat OS. The OS looks different from the Android 6.0 Marshmallow. In fact, a lot of people I showed it to thought that it was some skin atop Android. For someone who hasn’t seen the Pixel, one can forgive that error.

The Android 7.1 Nougat eschews a lot of the traditional stock Android design elements. The app drawer is replaced by a swipe up mechanism which shows you all the current apps you have on your device. From the top left hand side of the display, you have a prominent G of Google Search sliding out, tapping which you get a Google Search bar with five your last search terms. Swiping to the left most screen brings up the familiar Google Now interface with the Now cards. Even the traditional Home, Back and Recents button have a slight modification. While the Back button and Recents are seen as solid triangle and square, the Home button is a solid circle with an outer ring. Long pressing this button, brings up the voice-activated Google Assistant.

PixelXL BM6

Google Assistant. This is actually the major feature of the Pixel, something which differentiates it from other Android smartphones on the market. No I don’t mean just the Assistant itself, but the fact that Assistant is baked right into the 7.1 Nougat on Pixel XL. Just long tap the home button, and you can start asking Assistant queries for which you need the answers. Since Assistant is a self learning tool, it will get better with time. Just like Google Now cards. You can only access Assistant inside the Allo app on other Android devices.

If you followed the Made By Google event, you will know that Assistant isn’t just another added feature on an Android smartphone, but a feature that Google plans to bake into a lot more of its hardware products. Assistant plans to be device agnostic. Google Home is one such product which works exclusively on Assistant.

PixelXL BM5
Notifications offer a lot more detail

Another interesting change from Android 6.0 Marshmallow has got to do with notifications. You get an additional downward pointing arrow beside the notification, tapping on which gives a more detailed view of it. With some notifications such as from WhatsApp or Gmail, you can take action from the notification shade itself.

Since it’s a Google phone, it will be the first to receive Android updates. This promise of timely updates has also made a lot of other manufacturers pull up their socks as well. So, it’s great for the Android user community in general, where fragmentation in OS versions is a big pain point.

There are six quick menus which are accessible on first swipe from the top. Tapping on the battery icon shows a usage graph which is quite insightful over just the percentage indicator. You get an approximation of the battery life left. You can also activate the battery saver mode from this screen itself. Second swipe shows the 3×3 grid of quick menus.

PixelXL BM7

Quick Actions is an interesting feature, which is activated by long pressing on certain apps. For instance, long pressing on the Clock app brings up actions such as Start screen saver, Start Stopwatch, Create new timer, Create new alarm. Each of these Quick actions can be pinned to your home screens. Different apps give different quick actions. Think of it as the 3D touch peek feature, without 3D Touch.

The settings menu has undergone some cosmetic changes as well. You get an additional Support tab, which connects you to a Google support team which is available from 9AM to 6PM everyday, to resolve your phone issues. I tried this feature, but wasn’t very satisfied with the answers, and had to eventually Google my query. There’s a Nearby feature which gives you push-notifications from services and devices close to you (within a 30m radius). Another interesting feature is the live wallpapers culled from Google Earth, which show a parallax effect everytime you swipe between home screens.

The user interface will require a mild learning curve. But there are some quirks. For instance, there are three ways in which you access search – Assistant, Google Search app, Google bar. It would have been much better to see some sort of integration there. Also lack of a Gallery app is annoying as you have to download a separate app to see all the image and video media separated in folder view.

Publish date: November 8, 2016 9:18 am| Modified date: November 9, 2016 9:36 am

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