Camera: 9 / 10
The camera is one of the main features of the Pixel XL. Also Google has gone on a limb and called it not just the best camera on an Android phone, but also the best camera ever. It comes with a Sony IMX378 12.3MP rear camera with an f/2.0 aperture. It supports phase-detect autofocus as well as laser assisted auto focus. There’s a 1 / 2.3-inch sensor with a pixel size of 1.55 microns. On the front you get an 8MP 1 / 3.2-inch sensor which has an aperture of f/2.4 and pixel size of 1.4 micron. While the rear camera is capable of shooting 4K UHD videos, the front camera can shoot up to 1080p video. The Google Pixel XL lacks optical image stabilisation, but it makes use of the gyroscope to provide electrical image stabilisation while shooting videos.
Image quality of the photos coming out of the Google Pixel is excellent. Daylight images are packed with details and it has a great dynamic range. The HDR+ mode is on by default, and thankfully it does not make you wait while the image is being processed. The processing happens in the background, letting you shoot bursts without bothering. The software manages all the processing work in the background. I liked the gesture of pressing the power button twice to get to the camera even if the phone was in sleep mode. When shooting street, this aspect really helps capture instant photographs. There were instances during daytime where the HDR+ mode gave some unnatural halo around objects surrounded by the sky. Another issue, which has been acknowledged by Google as well, is that of lens flare when you point the camera at a strong light source. The example below shows how the Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus shot the same composition with the cameras being pointed at the sun.
In the low light photography testing, the Pixel XL was clearly better than the iPhone 7 Plus. Here is the complete comparison. The focussing speed takes a slight hit in lowly lit situations. But the image processing algorithms manage to keep the noise under control. Noise when present is luminance noise, rather than chroma noise.
Video quality during daylight was quite good. The EIS is on point. With a 60fps FullHD video, you get stutter-free, rolling shutter-free footage. I could easily imagine using this as a primary camera on family outings for shooting casual videos. The low light video footage isn’t very impressive and the outcome can get quite patchy at times.
All things said and done, Google’s claim that it is the best smartphone camera, does hold true to some extent. Images coming out of the Pixel XL are more punchy as compared to those from the iPhone 7 Plus, which gives a much more flat output. While the iPhone 7 Plus has a great camera in itself, the Pixel XL definitely edges ahead in a lot of areas, barring lens flare control. Google says it has released a patch, for what seems to be a hardware issue. But then, Google’s image processing algorithm has really come of age, maybe lens flare wouldn’t be as prominent in future updates.
Battery: 8.5 / 10
Google Pixel XL offers a 3450mAh Li-ion non removable battery. This is a respectable configuration. I could easily get through a day of regular usage out of the Pixel XL. It gave me an average screen on time (SOT) of around 4 hours 20 mins on most days. The bundled charger supports quick charging using the USB PD charging technique via the Type C port. It takes around 90 mins to charge the Pixel XL from 0 to 100 percent. PC Mark for Android gave a fabulous battery life score of 12 hours 14 mins, which is the highest I’ve seen on an Android smartphone.
Publish date: November 8, 2016 9:18 am| Modified date: November 9, 2016 9:36 am
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