The launch of the Google Pixel XL and its smaller sibling marks the first time Android users can really point to one phone as being the best representation of its operating system. In partnership with HTC, Google took a major role in designing the Pixel lineup, to the point that you'll only see Google branding. With the Pixel XL now taking over the emblem of flagship Android phablet, we put it against the Apple iPhone 7 Plus to see how the two super-sized phones compare.
|Name||Google Pixel||Google Pixel XL||Apple iPhone 7 Plus|
|Operating System as Tested||Android 7.1 (Nougat)||Android 7.1 (Nougat)||iOS 10|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||Apple A10|
|Dimensions||5.6 by 2.7 by 0.3 inches||6.1 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches||6.23 by 3.07 by 0.29 inches|
|Weight||5.4 oz||5.9 oz||6.63 oz|
|Screen Size||5 inches||5.5 inches||5.5 inches|
|Screen Type||AMOLED||Quad HD AMOLED||Retina|
|Screen Resolution||1,920 by 1,080 pixels||2,560 by 1,440 pixels||1,920 by 1,080 pixels|
|Screen Pixels Per Inch||441 ppi||543 ppi||401 ppi|
|Camera Resolution||12.3MP Rear, 8MP Front-Facing||12.3MP Rear, 8MP Front-Facing||Dual 12MP Rear, 7MP Front-Facing|
|Wireless Specification||802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband)||802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband)||802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband)|
|Read the Review||Read the Review||Read the Review|
Design, Features, and Display
Google's inspiration for the Pixel XL's design is immediately apparent; it looks like a hybrid between the iPhone 7 Plus and 6s Plus. It has a metal unibody similar to both iPhones, the characteristic antenna lines from 6s Plus, the same camera placement (absent the hump), two bottom-firing speakers like the 7 Plus, and a sizable bezel on the top and bottom lip of the phone.
The big differences are that the 7 Plus features a haptic Home button/fingerprint scanner on the front, while the Pixel XL has the fingerprint sensor on the back. Both phones have their charging ports on the bottom—USB-C for the Pixel XL and Lightning for the 7 Plus. The XL retains the 3.5mm headphone jack that Apple dropped from its iPhone 7 lineup.
There are some small distinguishing qualities, like a panel of glass that partially covers the back of the XL, as well as the placement of the power button and volume rocker on the right. Either way, both phones are fairly similar in overall dimensions. The Pixel XL measures 6.1 by 3.0 by 0.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.9 ounces, while the 7 Plus (6.2 by 3.1 by 0.3 inches) comes in heavier at 6.6 ounces.
Neither are really phones you can use one-handed, so be sure your thumb is ready to stretch to reach the opposite side. When it comes to physical features, the biggest difference between the two phones is waterproofing. The iPhone 7 Plus has it, the Pixel XL does not. Like the Samsung Galaxy S7, the 7 Plus is IP68 waterproof, letting it survive for 30 minutes under six feet of water.
The displays on both devices are 5.5 inches, but their panels are fairly different. The Pixel XL has a 2,560-by-1,440 Quad HD AMOLED display, giving it a rich pixel density of 534ppi. That's much sharper than the 1,920-by-1,080 Retina display on the iPhone 7 Plus, which only has 401ppi.
That said, both displays have their strengths and weakness. The 7 Plus's panel is extraordinarily well-calibrated, bright, and has a wide color gamut. It benefits from excellent viewing angles and visibility in direct sunlight. In contrast, AMOLED panels benefit from true black, lighting pixels only as necessary, giving it somewhat richer and more saturated colors and battery savings. Both should look good in their own right.
Processor and Battery
The Pixel XL is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4GB of RAM, and comes with 32GB or 128GB of internal storage. It's a chipset we expect to be more powerful than the Snapdragon 820 processor, which we've regularly benchmarked on AnTuTu (to test overall system performance) as scoring in the 120k to 150k range. The XL should also benefit from Google's lightweight Android UI.
The Apple A10 Fusion processor is the fastest processor available on a phone in the US, and the fastest one we've tested. We found it to be 40 percent faster than the Snapdragon 820, taking advantage of two high-performance cores clocked at 2.3GHz and two low-power cores for applications like Bluetooth audio.
We'll need to do our own testing, but preliminary benchmarks show that the Snapdragon 821 is significantly outmatched by the A10's Fusion processor in both multi-core performance and single core performance. Again, these are early unverified results, so stay posted for our own testing.
Battery life is another factor that's hard to test without having the phone. For its part, the iPhone 7 Plus has a 2,900mAh cell under the hood, giving it a solid battery runtime of six hours during our rundown test, where we stream full-screen video over LTE at maximum brightness.
The Pixel XL has a larger 3,450mAh battery, but as we've noted in our previous reviews, testing Android phones against iPhones in terms of battery life is particularly difficult because iPhones tend to have more power-hungry screens with a higher maximum brightness, but Android devices bleed more energy with background processes.
Camera performance is shaping up to the biggest factor when it comes to differentiating between the iPhone 7 Plus and the Pixel XL. On paper, the XL has a 12.3-megapixel rear-facing sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, laser autofocus, and dual-LED flash. It's capable of recording in 4K at 30fps and has an 8-megapixel front camera. Google has also emphasized the time and effort it spent in perfecting the camera for low-light shots. There's no OIS, but video is stabilized by using the gyroscope.
The iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent shooter. It has two 12-megapixel rear cameras on the back, one with OIS and another with 2x optical zoom. There's also a 7-megapixel front camera. It's not quite as sharp as the Galaxy S7's camera in our lab tests, but it's still one of the best sensors you can get. The use of the optical zoom also gives it much finer detail than the digital zoom of rival Android phones. The 7 Plus is capable of 4K video recording.
However, the Pixel XL did top DxOmark's ranking, scoring 89, which is better than the 86 scored by the iPhone 7, which has the same 12-megapixel primary camera. We'll be putting both phones to the test in a shootout when we get our hands on the XL.
Android and iOS are dramatically different platforms, but they've drawn closer in recent years. The general rule of thumb has been that if you prefer to customize every aspect of your phone, then Android is the way to go. On the other hand, iOS is preferable for a less fragmented experience, better app support, and more reliable updates.
This may not be true for the Google Pixel XL. It comes running a version of Android 7.0 Nougat and will get updates directly from Google, so you can expect to be first to get new versions of Android. It also incldues 24/7 live customer support on the phone itself, and can take advantage of Google's advanced machine learning protocols for Google Assistant. However, this also means you may not get the same flexibility and degree of control you used to on Nexus devices like the 6P and 5X since Google is keeping a tighter grip on the OS.
The iPhone 7 Plus runs iOS 10, which is very much Apple's own closed garden ecosystem. It comes with revamped messages, effects, third-party app integration, improved widgets, actionable notifications, an improved photos apps, and the ability to delete Apple's pre-installed apps. There's definitely been a convergence in terms of features and functionality between both platforms, and the Google Pixel XL only makes the gap even smaller.
Price and Conclusions
The Google Pixel XL comes in three colors—Very Silver, Quite Black, and the limited-edition Really Blue—at a starting price of $769 for its 32GB model. The 128GB model is $100 more, at $869. It is available for pre-order through the Google Store, Verizon, and Best Buy.
The iPhone 7 Plus is almost identically priced. It comes in jet black, black, silver, gold and rose gold. Its 32GB model is $769, 128GB is $869, and 256GB is $969. It's clear that with its pricing, Google is trying to position the Pixel XL as a legitimate competitor to the iPhone 7 Plus. We'll have to reserve judgment on if Google succeeds in this endeavor when we get the Pixel XL to test here at PC Labs, so stay tuned for our full review.
Fo more, check out how the Pixel stacks up against the Samsung Galaxy S7.