iPhone X vs. Pixel 2 XL: Apple's Phone Is a Notch Above

Update: This story has been adjusted to reflect news of Google pushing out a software update that fixes display issues in the Pixel 2 XL.

Google is challenging Apple with its second generation of smartphones, the Pixel 2.

The Pixel 2 XL is the one closest in size to the iPhone X, but unlike Apple, Google didn’t reserve any features for its 6-inch model.

Now that we've gotten our hands on Apple's OLED screen-packing, bezel-shaving, notch-bearing iPhone X, it's finally time to examine how well it stacks up against Google's latest, the 2 XL.

Sure, the Pixel 2 phones and the iPhones both feature OLED screens, but which is brighter and which is more colorful? And can the Pixel 2's single rear camera keep up with the iPhone X's dual rear lenses? Let's find out.

iPhone X vs. Pixel 2 XL: Specs Compared

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Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone XPixel 2 XL
Starting price$999$849
OSiOS 11Android 8.0
Display5.8 inches (2436 x 1125)6 inches (2880 x 1440)
CPUA11 BionicSnapdragon 835
Storage64GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB
Rear CameraDual 12-MP (wide-angle: f/1.8, telephoto: f/2,4)12 MP (f/1.8)
Front Camera7 MP (f/2.2)8 MP (f/2.4)
Battery life10:4912:09
ChargingLightning, Qi-based wirelessUSB Type-C
Size5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches6.2 x 3 x 0.3 inches
Weight6.14 ounces6.2 ounces

Design: Notch or not?

While the iPhone X caught a lot of flack for its notch, the section at the top of its display that holds all of its cameras, at least it looks like a modern phone. The Pixel 2 XL may have minimal bezels, but it looks older than the iPhone X and uninspired.

And while the iPhone X's glass back enables the nifty convenience of wireless charging and its shiny stainless-steel frame turns heads, there's something to be said for the Pixel 2's aluminum back. It offers an excellent grainy feel that makes the Pixel 2 and 2 XL easier to hold, though we imagine many will lose this texture by applying a case to the device.

Apple and Google's phones both use a different cable for charging (Lightning for the iPhone X, USB Type-C for the Pixel 2), neither now feature a headphone jack, so both push users toward a life filled with wireless headphones or dangling dongle adapters.

Measuring 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches, the 5.8-inch iPhone X is smaller and easier to hold than the 6-inch 2 XL (6.2 x 3 x 0.3 inches). Its 6.1-ounce weight, though, is close to the Pixel 2 XL (6.2 ounces).

Winner: iPhone X. By nearly eliminating the bezels, the iPhone X is the easier-to-hold phone, and its steel frame keeps it looking sexy.

Display: OLED War!

Now that Apple's finally caught up with the competition by giving the iPhone X an OLED touch-screen display, the race for the best smartphone screen is a lot tighter. If only the Pixel 2 XL didn't already feature some newsworthy blunders.

But let's start at the specs: the 5.8-inch iPhone X display has a resolution of 2436 x 1125 pixels, while the Pixel 2 XL’s screen is bigger, at 6 inches and sharper at 2880 x 1440. So Google's phone is off to a good start.

However, the Pixel 2 XL has suffered from some display-quality issues, including weird color balance and OLED burn-in. Google claims its software update — which began to roll out to devices on Nov. 6 — will fix the problems. Said update adds a Saturated display mode that Google hopes is more pleasing to those not satisfied with the original options, In order to prevent OLED decay, this update introduces a "fade out" for the on-screen navigation buttons and an adjustment to the screen's brightness.

The iPhone X is the much, much brighter of the phones, emitting up to 574 nits, outshining the 438-nit Pixel 2 XL. That brightness also helps the iPhone X achieve much wider viewing angles.

The iPhone X produces a narrower range of colors at 128.6 percent of the sRGB color gamut, below that of the 130-percent Pixel 2 XL. However, the iPhone X offers more accurate hues; it registered a Delta-E score of 0.21 (0 is perfect), compared with 0.28 for the Pixel 2 XL.

Winner: iPhone X. The display in the iPhone X is brighter and more accurate and doesn’t have any notable issues.

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Cameras: Can one as be as good as two?

The Pixel 2’s and iPhone X's cameras are both great, but each has its own strong suit. You'll find the best image quality for photos taken in daylight with the dual 12-megapixel shooters in the iPhone X, which also captured more natural skin tones during our testing. The iPhone X also benefits from a 2x optical zoom from its dual rear shooters, while the Pixel 2 XL gets by with digital zoom.

However, the Pixel 2 XL produced superior photos in low light. Comparing shots taken in a sparsely lit restaurant, my colleague Mark and the table he was sitting at appeared brighter and more clearly in the photo taken by the Pixel 2 XL, while a burning candle was rendered as a blown-out white cylinder in the snapshot from iPhone X.

Fortunately for selfie takers, both the iPhone X and Pixel 2 xL offer portrait mode with their front and rear cameras. The iPhone X’s camera provides a more-even bokeh effect, but we preferred the selfie image quality from the Pixel 2.

Winner: A tie! The iPhone X and Pixel 2 are too close to call for photo quality.

Performance: Not even close

While the Pixel 2 and iPhone X seem to be neck and neck in many ways, that's not the case with their performance. Both feel responsive in everyday use, but the A11 Bionic processor in the iPhone X puts the Snapdragon 835 chip in the Pixel 2 to shame when performing resource-intensive tasks and in synthetic benchmarks.

For example, it took the iPhone 42 seconds to transcode a 2-minute 4K video in the Adobe Clips app, while the Pixel 2 took a whopping 2 minutes and 55 seconds. The iPhone X's Geekbench 4 general-performance test score of 10,357 is also a massive win, towering over the 6,282 of the Pixel 2.

Winner: iPhone X. The iPhone X's A11 Bionic power blows the Pixel 2 XL out of the water.

Special Features: To each their own

The Pixel 2 and the iPhone X both feature biometric security, but Apple's flagship offers one significant trick that Google's doesn't.

Face ID proved pretty dependable during our testing, allowing you to log in just by starting at the front of the iPhone X and swiping up. The Pixel 2's fingerprint reader is no slouch, though, snappily unlocking that handset. Between the two, the edge goes to the Pixel 2, as it requires only one step to get into your phone.

The iPhone X's Animoji are cute and impressive. These characters come to life based on your expressions, and include the audio of what you say; they feel like the start of a trend, compared with the Pixel 2's ho-hum AR stickers.

You also get Qi-based wireless charging from the iPhone X, saving you the time and effort of connecting it to a wireless charger. Also, charging the iPhone X from its glass back frees up its Lightning port for use with a headphone adapter, if you're not ready to abandon your wired headphones.

The Pixel 2 XL has a secret weapon of its own in Google Assistant, which is not only smarter and faster than Siri, it gets tripped up less with your queries. Plus, you can summon Google Assistant with a quick squeeze of the bottom of the phone.

Winner: Tie. The iPhone X has wireless charging, but the Pixel 2 XL has the superior digital assistant.

Battery Life: Which lasts longest?

The iPhone X lasts for a long time on a single charge, but the Pixels XL goes further. On the Tom's Guide Battery test (continuous web surfing over LTE), Apple's flagship lasted 10 hours and 49 minutes, which is over an hour behind the 12:09 time from the Pixel 2 XL.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL. Google's phone has more endurance.

Value: How big is your budget?

If you opt for the $849 Pixel 2 XL, you'll be saving $150, compared with the iPhone X. The standard Pixel 2 XL comes with 64GB of storage, but spending $100 more will get you 128GB.

The iPhone X starts at a whopping $999 for 64GB, and you can quadruple that for $1,149. That’s a high price, but you'll be much less likely to run out of room with 256GB.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL. You'll have more cash left over for accessories and stuff like food.

Bottom Line

At 5 to 4, the iPhone X wins this close battle of flagship smartphones. These two phones simply excel in different areas, and what matters to you most will likely sway your decision.

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Apple iPhone XGoogle Pixel 2 XL
DesignXRow 1 - Cell 2
DisplayXRow 2 - Cell 2
PerformanceXRow 4 - Cell 2
Special FeaturesXX
Battery LifeRow 6 - Cell 1 X
ValueRow 7 - Cell 1 X

The Pixel 2 XL offers a bigger and sharper display, a better digital assistant and longer battery life at a significantly lower price. Its cameras also beat the iPhone X in low light while offering better detail and more even exposure. However, some early quality-control issues with the display — which Google is trying to fix — could give some pause.

While pricier, the iPhone X boasts a superior OLED display, a sleeker design and much faster performance along with wireless charging. The device has serious camera chops, too, as its rear camera sports an optical zoom, and its front and rear shooters capture more natural-looking portraits. You really can't go wrong with either phone, but the iPhone X has the edge.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.