Google married software and hardware to incredible results with last year’s Pixel and Pixel XL. This year's Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, which we've now had a chance to review, pull off the same feat, giving Google the phones it needs to take the fight to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Apple’s upcoming iPhone X.
The $649 Pixel 2 and $849 Pixel 2 XL may share the same name, but they’re separated by a couple of stark differences, especially when it comes to design.
Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Specs
|Google Pixel 2||Google Pixel 2 XL|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835|
|Screen||5-inch full-HD OLED with Gorilla Glass 5 and Wide Color Gamut||6-inch quad-HD P-OLED with Gorilla Glass 5 and Wide Color Gamut|
|Cameras||Rear: 12MP f/1.8 aperture with OIS and EIS|
|Rear: 12MP f/1.8 aperture with OIS and EIS|
|Storage||64GB and 128GB||64GB and 128GB|
|Audio||Dual Front-Facing Speakers|
No 3.5mm Headphone Jack
|Dual Front-Facing Speakers|
No 3.5mm Headphone Jack
|Software||Android Oreo||Android Oreo|
|Bluetooth||Version 5.0||Version 5.0|
|Special Features||Active Edge, Google Lens||Active Edge, Google Lens|
Both handsets are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor and have 4GB of RAM. After benchmarking the new Pixels, we found that Google's new phones beat the Galaxy S8 and Note 8 in a test where we converted a 4K video clip to 1080p. The Pixel 2 also enjoyed a slight edge over the S8 when it came to loading apps. In other benchmarks like Geekbench 4, though, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL fell behind Samsung's phones. And everything trails the iPhone 8, which remains the fastest phone we tested.
For the new Pixels, you can opt for either 64GB or 128GB in storage. Both phones feature IP67 water-and-dust resistance.
For the rear camera, Google is using a single-lens 12-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. The cameras are identical on both models, and feature optical as well as electronic image stabilization. Despite only having one lens, the Pixel 2 can still pull off portrait-style photos with blurred backgrounds, thanks to Google's machine learning and the sensor's dual-pixel technology. Because it all works through software, such photos can be taken even with the 8MP front-facing camera.
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The smartphones feature stereo front-facing speakers and are launching with Android Oreo, the latest version of the mobile platform. Google is promising three years of software updates for the Pixel 2 series, breaking from its longstanding tradition of ending development after two years.
More controversially, Google has finally decided to nix the 3.5mm headphone jack. It's a reversal of the company's stance last year, when it touted the presence of the port in the first-generation Pixel as a major advantage over the iPhone 7, which notoriously omitted it. However, both phones will come packaged with USB-C-to-3.5mm adapters so you can continue to use your existing headphones, and support Bluetooth 5.0 for wireless playback. Pixel Buds, wireless headphones Google built with the Pixel 2 in mind, tap into the phone's smarts by using Google Translate to provide on-the-fly speech translation.
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The new Pixels also utilize pressure-sensitive edges that can be squeezed for additional controls, a feature that Google calls Active Edge. The HTC U11, released earlier this year, included similar functionality. Google acquired a portion of HTC’s smartphone team in September.
That’s mainly where the similarities end between Google’s latest flagships. While the 5-inch Pixel 2 sports a design very similar to last year's phones, the 6-inch Pixel 2 XL features an edge-to-edge curved display with much narrower bezels all around. The screens are different, too; the regular Pixel 2 receives a 1080p OLED panel, while the Pixel 2 XL gets a quad-HD OLED display.
Beyond that, the larger version will have a bigger battery with a capacity of 3,520mAh, compared to the 2,700mAh pack in the smaller model. In our battery tests, which involve continuous LTE surfing over T-Mobile's network, the Pixel 2 lasted 11 hours, 7 minutes, while the Pixel 2 XL held out for 12:09. Both phones are among the 25 longest-lasting phones we've tested.
The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are available for pre-order, with the phones arriving in store on October 19. You can buy the phone through Verizon or unlocked from Google. Both the Pixel 2 and 2 XL work with Google's Project Fi network.
Editors' Note: This article was originally published Oct. 4 and updated on Oct. 18, with results of our Pixel 2 testing.