The Pixel 4 XL is Google’s newest flagship device. The question that is going to be asked throughout this review is “what makes a flagship a flagship”. This device has been flooded with controversy concerning aspects such as the specifications, build quality, and software choices. My main question is, do these aspects make it not a “flagship” or a bad device in general? Some of this will be opinion, but I want to make this review as objective as possible. One thing I do want to say is I LOVE the “Oh So Orange” color. It is amazing and this is the last time I will bring it up. Now, onto the review!
I am going to make this as brief as possible because, in my opinion, the specifications are not super important with this device in particular.
64 or 128gb storage
12mp main camera and 16mp 2x optical zoom camera (rear)
8mp front camera with a 90 degree field of view
IR face unlock with Soli Radar sensor
Dual Speakers (one bottom facing one front facing)
USB C port (no 3.5mm jack and no dongle in the box)
6.3 inch 3040 x 1440p 90hz display (XL) or 5.7 inch 2280 x 1080p 90hz display (regular)
3700 mah battery (XL) 2800 mah battery (regular)
The Pixel 4 XL has a very nice display. It is as you would expect of a device of its caliber. It gets just bright enough to see outside, colors are accurate, and blacks are deeps and inky. Exactly what you would expect from a high-quality OLED panel.
One aspect I haven’t heard many people talk about is the real-time color correction. The color tone of the device shifts slightly depending on the lighting condition. iPhones have had a feature similar to this for a few years now and it’s why their devices always seem to have such great color profiles. The Pixel 4 devices do something very similar. Although you don’t notice it I think that’s for the best. The display looks consistently good and I think that deserves kudos to Google.
The 90hz has been a consistently good for me. I have not noticed when the frame rate shifts from application to application. I really can’t say I have a strong opinion against the switching of the refresh rate. Have there been bumps? Yes, there have been, however, in the time the device has been out Google has heard the issues and are working to fix the problems. The addition of monthly patches means that if you have an issue that isn’t the direct quality of the screen itself, the software should be fixed.
I apologize to everyone expecting me to complain about there not being top of the line specifications in this machine. The Snapdragon 855 and 6gb of ram do a fantastic job in this device. I have never had dropped frames, lag, or stutter. As long as Google does a good job with its software (which, who knows if that will happen) this device will be great and stay great.
I have had no problems with multitasking. I feel as though 6gb of ram is a good fit for this device. It’s not meant to be a multitasking king, but if you’re switching between two or three apps regularly you won’t see a problem. The only app that continues to eat your ram for breakfast is the camera. I think it’s mostly how Google does its image processing but if I take a few pictures or a video you will always have to reload the app you were last using. Other than that though, multitasking is just fine.
If you’re looking to game on the 90hz display you should be in good shape. I am not the biggest mobile gamer, however, light gaming should be fine. I recommend looking up what games support frame rates over 60hz. Games such as Mario Run look fantastic and run great on the Pixel 4 XL. In the long run though, if you’re looking for a gaming phone you’re probably not looking at a Pixel in the first place.
It’s a Pixel phone, it wouldn’t make sense for me to NOT talk about the camera. I am not going to talk about what this camera doesn’t do though. We already know the device doesn’t have a wide-angle camera or 4K60 video. Is that sad? Yes, it is. However, the Pixel 4 line does some really awesome things such as Astrophotography and 8x “lossless” zoom. If you want a really fantastic point and shoot camera then chances are you will love the Pixel’s camera. I have TONS of samples I will be posting below. I want you, the reader, to make your own opinion because this is a situation you can do so! My samples will be below. Leave your opinions in the comments below!
The battery life isn’t great, but not terrible. I can, on average, get until about 12-13 hours of battery life with 3.5-5 hours of screen on time. Standby time is when I notice the battery is draining the most. I am generally surprised when I haven’t touched my phone in 7 hours at work and my phone goes from 90% to 60%. It is my hope some of this can be fixed by software updates.
In terms of the screen on time, I really don’t have a huge issue. While it’s not mind-blowing it’s not horrible either. Again, unfortunately, this device isn’t made for road warriors. I think the biggest bummer is if the phone is dead you can’t use the amazing camera. I wouldn’t recommend carrying a portable battery with you, but I would suggest grabbing your charger to plug in if you get a cup of coffee. The battery life isn’t the reason to buy the phone, but it’s not the reason to not buy it. (It is for the smaller Pixel though)
This is where I want to put those smaller points that shouldn’t get their own section but I still want to discuss.
In my opinion, Google does a phenomenal job with their software. It has been incredibly smooth, consistent, and just customizable for me to make it feel like it’s my own. I can alter aspects such as icon shapes, font type, accent colors, and dark mode. It’s not too much, but it adds just enough for me in addition to Android’s customizability. It’s not Oneplus or Samsung levels but keeping things fresh but simple is a nice change for me.
One aspect that isn’t so amazing about Google’s software has been its bumpy reputation with software updates. I personally had to wait approximately 2 weeks for the November Security patch and am still waiting on the December patch. In the past, Google has been known to get security patches out quickly and reliably. This has not been the case recently. With fun additions such as “feature drops” people are going to want that update button to work, and it simply doesn’t. I hope Google fixes this soon.
Yes, I am bundling Face Unlock in with security. Security comes in two forms with this device. One side is the Face Unlock which is quick and responsive. Is it perfectly secure with being able to unlock with your eyes closed? No, but no biometric security is foolproof. Fingerprints can be manipulated too. Unfortunately, the fix that didn’t need a fix won’t be here for a few months. However, for what Face Unlock is right now, it’s pretty good. Is there room for improvement? Sure, however, I am happy with it.
The second, more important aspect of security is the monthly security patches. These security patch updates ensure your device has as many security holes patched as possible. This also ensures that your device is getting other bug fixes as soon as they’re available. It’s a good way to show consumers that the manufacturer is still dedicated to their consumers and that they can expect issues they say may be fixed on a known time frame. I think this is great for consumers and if Google were to change its policy to even support devices with security patches for 4 years that would sweeten the deal and something us consumers should push for.
This radar chip is kind of cool, but definitely not a selling feature. Using it to light up your display when you’re reaching for it is cool, but it’s temperamental. It doesn’t work well if your phone is standing up or depending on how you’re reaching for it. When it does work though, it’s pretty cool.
The other things it does, are fairly boring an unreliable. Soli can turn down the volume of an alarm as you reach for the phone. While it does work well I rarely used it. I usually use one of my many Google Home Minis as an alarm clock. Although, I’m sure many of you might use this I think this feature in an actual alarm clock makes far more sense. Lastly, you can use it to move back and forth between songs by waving your hand over your phone. I would not recommend this feature. I don’t think the sensors are big enough to accurately read such precise movements.
Call Quality and Speakers:
One of this device’s best features is its speakers. Having an amazing set of dual speakers means you hear your calls and your music loud and clear. Although the device is ip68 water and dust resistant I did not notice any muffling of the speakers. I also have not heard of anyone complaining of how I sound on their end. If you’re looking for a great device to consume media on then I say this may be the best device other than the Razer Phone 2.
The Pixel 4 line of device is one plagued with controversy. There were many months of leaks, battery life issues, and the 90hz display wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. All of this being said, the Google Pixel 4 does a great job for what I need it to do. I don’t notice any lag, the battery is good enough, speakers are great, it gets updates right when they release (most of the time), and the camera is impeccable. The device certainly has its downfall, and I won’t say it’s perfect, however, I would still recommend it. I can set anyone I know up with a Google Pixel and expect minimal questions. It’s a Google phone for the masses, and that’s why I can easily recommend this device, especially with the crazy deals Google puts out this time of year.
This device was not provided by Google and was purchased with Nick’s own money. This review was not passed through Google and you are reading it at the same time they are. Being as this is all the opinions above are our own.