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The Google Pixel 3 XL marries the best camera phone we’ve ever tested with a sizable, albeit controversial color-rich 6.3-inch OLED screen. It’s the right fit for people who don’t mind the notch cut out at the top and have already adjusted their grip for bigger smartphones in the past.
Its 12.2MP rear single-lens camera outperforms dual- and triple-lens smartphone cameras. We found its photos more consistently usable than photos from Samsung, Apple and LG’s camera phones. Even digitally zoomed-in pictures looked better, thanks to Google’s machine-learning camera software.
We’re not sure what we’re more impressed with: the science that happens behind-the-scenes every time we snap a photo, or the actual Google Pixel 3 XL pictures. We were similarly pleased with the twin 8MP cameras, and felt the wide Group Selfie lens came in handy to capture more moments with friends. We just wish the default camera tricks were fleshed out when it came to triggering the selfie camera timer, and that Google had its own take on hyperlapse videos.
The Pixel 3 XL is the phone for power users who want an edge in daily picture-taking, and want it with a bigger screen and extra battery life. That said, for most people, we would recommend the smaller 5.5-inch Google Pixel 3. It has tighter dimensions for easy one-hand use, and it’s cheaper. Use that saved money for the 128GB of storage version, unless you really need the extended battery life.
Should I buy it?
Yes, if you’re a power user who wants a big screen with the best camera. When testing a whole series of camera phones, more times than not, we preferred the Google Pixel 3 XL photos. Google’s backend camera software is superior and there are actually more features to come. Just know that the bigger size does come with the notch cut out that you can’t ignore.
Who’s it for?
The Pixel 3 XL is meant for people with big hands and slightly bigger budgets than the preferred Google Pixel 3. It has the same great camera and snappy performance, but in a bigger size. If your current smartphone has a larger screen, you may not want to downsize. That makes the Google Pixel 3 your top choice if you want to reap the benefits of its top-notch camera.
Samsung Galaxy S9
With similar screen sizes, camera specs, and performance, the 6.3-inch Galaxy S9 Plus is the chief rival of the Google Pixel 3 XL. However, there are some key differences. You won’t find a notch cut out on Samsung’s phone and its screen is slightly curved at the sides for a more elegant look and feel. We also liked using Samsung’s phone triggering gesture-controlled camera timer, and recording hyperlapse and super slow motion videos. But when it comes to more meaningful photo quality Google’s rear-and-front-facing cameras shine.
Full review: Samsung Galaxy S9
The iPhone XS Max has a slightly smaller notch and bigger screen at 6.5 inches, and while its camera is the best on an iPhone, we found many of its photos exhibit warmer tones. The real reason to choose Apple’s flagship smartphone is because you might already full invested in the iOS 12 ecosystem, be beholden to iMessages, and own an iPad and Mac.
Full review: iPhone XS Max
The LG V40 isn’t a bad smartphone thanks to its 6.4-inch OLED, but it’s certainly not the best value at its launch price. The rear triple-lens camera provides normal, wide, optically zoomed angles, but we consistently found the Google Pixel 3 XL to be sharper – often by a long shot. While LG’s camera app is more full-featured next to Google’s somewhat thin camera modes, there’s no one big reason to choose the LG V40 over the Google Pixel 3 XL.
Full review: LG V40