We've gotten our first real look at Google’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, one of the last major smartphones to debut in 2017. Following Google's big product unveiling this week, critics finally have the chance to try the new phones for themselves, and the early response has been surprisingly polarizing.
While Google is clearly ahead of the curve in terms of software and artificial intelligence, the notable lack of dual rear cameras, wireless charging and a more modern design on the smaller 5-inch Pixel 2 has left some disappointed.
Our own Philip Michaels admits that, on paper, Google's latest smartphones aren't particularly distinctive from the competition. It's when you take stock of everything the company has done in artificial intelligence, and witness how the Pixel 2 integrates with Google's new family of devices, that it all begins to make sense.
Michaels was impressed with how easily Google Lens turns everyday surroundings into actionable items. And while we'll reserve judgment on the much-hyped 12-megapixel camera until the full review, he says the Pixel 2 delivered impressive portrait-style shots in spite of the absent second lens.
"Active Edge was very responsive when I gave a Pixel 2 XL a few squeezes at a demo area after Google's press event in San Francisco."
"If Google Assistant plays a major role on the Pixels, the camera really remains the device's centerpiece."
"The Pixel design remains uninspired. I played around with the black-and-white Pixel 2 XL, which reminded me of a tuxedo-clad penguin in smartphone form."
CNET’s Lynn La was impressed with the convenience of the Pixel 2’s pressure-sensitive squeezable sides, as well as the improved portrait-taking experience. However, La also pointed out the phones’ less adventurous design and reliance on only one rear camera was at odds with the industry’s latest trends. She called the removal of the headphone jack “a divisive move that's going to upset plenty of people.”
“These pixels are also the first phones to launch with Google Lens, a camera feature we loved when we first learned of it back in May.”
“[The Pixel 2 adds] water resistance like so many top devices, and an uncommon extra — in this case, squeezable sides.”
“The competition is crazy-fierce, from the iPhone 8 and iPhone X to the Galaxy Note 8, LG V30 and even the midprice champ, the OnePlus 5, all of which also have great cameras and impressive, high-end specs.”
MORE: Pixel 2 vs Pixel 2 XL
TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington went hands on with the Pixel 2 XL specifically, and came away with very positive impressions. Etherington says the handset should “easily be a category leader,” and praised the phone’s 6-inch quad-HD OLED display, light aluminum frame, and rear camera. He noted no lag when using the Pixel's much-touted Portrait Mode, and said it felt “super fast and responsive” overall.
“The QHD resolution renders both texts and images with crisp detail — which is great news because the camera captures images with a sharpness that displays well on this new phone screen.”
“[Active Edge] is a great way to trigger Assistant without having to say “Okay Google” out loud in a crowded environment.”
Chris Velazco of Engadget was delighted at the speedy user experience and excellent camera performance of both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, but admitted that side-by-side, the latter is the more attractive device. Velazco said the phones churned out “consistently excellent” photos, and remarked that the second-gen Pixel camera seems better than the iPhone 8 Plus’ and Galaxy Note 8’s, even after very brief testing.
“The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are exactly what you'd expect a pair of high-powered phones to be in 2017.”
“Both are almost shockingly light, and both of their coated aluminum bodies look and feel more premium than I would've expected.”
“Getting the phone to recognize a squeeze took more force by default than seemed comfortable.”
“It would've been nice of Google to bring those sweet, 18:9 screens to its smaller phone.”
While SlashGear’s Chris Burns said the Pixel 2 XL felt like a “more refined, sharper” device than its predecessor, he was less upbeat when the conversation turned to the smaller Pixel 2. Burns said current Pixel owners might want to wait out this generation if they prefer the more compact design, calling it only an “incremental update” over the existing device.
Still, he praised the loud front-facing stereo speakers, and commented the two devices feel remarkably similar in quality despite being manufactured by different companies — HTC with the Pixel 2, and LG with the Pixel 2 XL.
“The [Pixel 2 XL’s] hardware has been tweaked in all the right places, making the industrial design look as good as the experience therein.”
“The larger Pixel 2 has a display that’s far closer to total frontside coverage than any Google-made device released before.”
“For those of you that stick to the smaller device, you might just want to wait for the next generation, as [the Pixel 2 is] not super extremely different.
Android Police’s David Ruddock had a chance to test the Pixel 2 XL, and was immediately pleased with the new design. Ruddock said the fit and finish feels like a step in the right direction following last year’s debut, although the craftsmanship is not necessarily superior to anything Apple or Samsung has produced. He concedes that while the overall product is “hardly revolutionary,” it’s a natural progression of Google’s smartphone design, and addresses some of its predecessor's key pain points, like lack of water resistance and optical image stabilization.
“I loved the first XL, and this really just seems to be an improvement on that phone in every way — sans headphone jack.”
“Fast updates, an uncluttered interface, great cameras, and competent smartphone basics are the bread and butter of Google's in-house devices.”
“The demo area lighting made it hard to get a good look at the screen in low light, but I was able to see some of the banding I've observed on my pre-production V30 devices.”