The latest iteration in the Pixel series and Google’s latest flagship phone is the Pixel 3, predictably coupled with the larger Pixel 3XL, which we here at EFTM got out hands on. To keep this real simple for you, it’s brilliant. While there isn’t anything insane about it, there’s a simplistic elegance that can’t be ignored.
- The new camera software is doing exceptional work.
- Coupled with Pixel Stand, you’re getting pretty great functionality.
- It will do EVERYTHING you want and need it to without hassle or question.
- Not much has changed since the Pixel 2.
- We’re still waiting on some features to be enabled in Australia.
Google’s Pixel 3XL is a phenomenal phone that does everything well. It doesn’t have anything gimmicky or groundbreaking (despite the fresh camera tech), and is simply efficient. Retailing for $1,349 I’ll argue that this is the phone. THE phone. I can’t imagine anything knocking the Pixel 3XL off the pedestal in the near future.
If the price is a bit steep, consider the standard Pixel 3, selling for $1,199.
CAMERA & AI TECH
I couldn’t possibly start a review of this phone with anything other than the camera and it’s AI-software. AI is short for artificial intelligence and represents the ‘machine learning’ that Google has used to develop this tech.
To simplify, Google show some groovy software an excessive amount of images, teaching it along the way how to optimize each one. That way, when you go to take a photo on your Pixel 3, it already has that learned knowledge as to how to make it look best. This is evident in features such as;
Top Shot – This mode is for those of us that struggle to take a great shot when more than one person is involved. I know myself I’ll sit around and take 15 photos to get one where either everyone is smiling or there isn’t hair blowing everywhere, etc. Top Shot essentially takes multiple photos both before and after you press the shutter button so that should you miss the opportunity for the perfect moment, it still gets captured. And for those wondering, they do just get dumped out of memory if you don’t decide to utilize the feature.
Wide Angle Selfies – An underestimated and often overlooked aspect of camera technology is field of view. We’ve seen a lot of phones in the market recently utilize multiple cameras in the name of macro photography but I’d argue selfies are in significantly higher demand. The dual-lenses at the front of the Pixel 3XL offer the ability to alter your field of view in selfie mode, allowing you to do this;
Super Res Zoom – So you know those times when you’re trying to zoom in and snap a shot of something just a little too far away? Or otherwise getting a sneaky ‘macro’ shot but your hands are too shaky and the photo turns out garbage? This Super Res Zoom feature is essentially an automatic steadying and detail adding feature – it ensures your zoom shots look incredible.
Built-in Google Lens – For those that aren’t familiar with Google Lens, I last described it as “an app developed by Google that uses artificial intelligence to identify ‘things’ through your camera lens. What’s a thing? Point the camera at a restaurant or shop front and it’ll bring up the Google page on said store. Point the camera at a book and you can copy the text straight from the camera app. The app will even go so far as to identify furniture, clothing, animals and plants.” In the shot below, Google Lens is taking me to the link on the back of this sugar packet, I can get there straight from the camera app!
Photo Booth; This mode is kind of groovy feature Google have implemented that takes a shot each time you’re smiling, which allows you to perch your phone up somewhere or hold it in a way that you wouldn’t typically be able to use the shutter.
Night Sight; Taking machine learning to the next level, Google have their tech working to ‘put light’ into low-light shots. Now this is a function that I wasn’t able to demonstrate myself but rest assured that it is coming to the Pixel 3 in the near future and the demo shots that Google showed me were unbelievable. Stay tuned for this.
The Pixel 3XL has a big screen size at 6.3″, with an incredibly similar aesthetic to that of the Pixel 2. In fact, here they are side-by-side.
If you were trying to pick the difference, there’s a slightly different finish on the two-tone of the Pixel 3XL that makes it a little nicer (although more slippery) to hold and that same two-tone has a curved glass edge on it. The fingerprint sensor, camera and side buttons are all in the same positions although the sim card slot has been moved to beneath the phone beside the USB-C charging port.
The Pixel 3XL comes in three colours, Just Black (as demonstrated), Clearly White and Not Pink. There isn’t much to say about the look of this phone other than that it’s clean, elegant and beautiful.
Now to the underrated accessory of the year – the Pixel Stand. This device is a wireless charger and ‘docked Google Home’ if you will.
Essentially, when your drop your Pixel 3 (or in this case the 3XL) into the stand, it begins charging and morphs to Google Assistant/Home mode where it will at all times be listening for your “Hey Google” command to assist and visually represent anything you may need. However while waiting, it will roll through slideshows of your photos and/or chosen galleries, such as;
I came out of the gate saying this was underrated because I really don’t think it copped the coverage it deserved and I stand by that. I know it didn’t interest me an awful amount until I’d used it – but take my word for it, I genuinely think the Pixel Stand is a useful and nice way to integrate Google Assistant more firmly in your life.
It retails separately for $119 AUD.
I won’t go crazy with the details here but just to rapid fire some other features/specs of this phone, it’s equipped with;
- Dual firing front facing speakers that Google are claiming to be the loudest. This comes right as the Razer Phone 2 has released making a remarkably similar claim. When my demo model arrives I’ll be sure to do a comparison.
- Shush Mode – When enabled, if you flip your phone face down on the desk it will enter do not disturb mode temporarily, which is a nice way to either focus on work or enjoy coffee with a friend.
- App Lockouts – Nothing terribly new, the app lockout feature allows you to monitor and control the amount of time you spend on specific apps.
- Anyone who buys the Pixel3/XL before the end of the year will get 3 years of Google Photos premium service (which is awesome but by no stretch required).
- Call Screener – While this feature isn’t yet available in Australia, when enabled it will allow you to monitor a ‘call screen/message bank’ process in real-time so you can decide whether on not you want to take a call. This is to filter out telemarketers!
- The battery is 3430 mAh, which is above average but relatively sub-par for a flagship.
In summary, once I give Google back the demo model of the Pixel 3XL I’ll probably go buy one. I really enjoyed my time with this phone and am keen to see where else the Pixel series leads.