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Pixel 3 XL review: A big phone with a fantastic camera and a big notch

The Pixel 3 XL is a bit different to what you usually see from big-screen phones. It costs under $1,000 ($899, £869, AU$1,349), and it has one rear camera lens, no more. As the 6.3-inch version to Google’s 5.5-inch Pixel 3 phone, the 3 XL serves up a nearly identical experience to its smaller counterpart. Sure, there’s a notch and a bigger battery to compensate for the larger screen’s power drain, but like with the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, there’s no standout feature separating Google’s phones.

At $100 (£130, AU$150) more than the Pixel 3, it’s not too much to fork over for having a larger screen. But compared to other phones, the Pixel’s lack of expandable storage complicates its overall value. Though the starting price for the 64GB model is cheaper than that of the iPhone XS Max and Galaxy Note 9, the gig-to-price ratio is cheaper with the second-tier iPhone XS Max, and the Note 9 can add up to 512GB of external memory. The Note 9 also has an embedded stylus, which adds more productivity skills to the phone.

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With the Pixel 3 XL, Google hops on the notch bandwagon.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If the Pixel 3 XL is out of your budget, consider the OnePlus 6T. It also has high-end hardware, a nimble camera and a big 6.41-inch screen, but starts at only $549 (£499 an AU$774, converted) for 128GB. If you’re open to iOS, the iPhone XR is $150 cheaper than the Pixel 3 XL and is worth looking into as well. (Keep in mind that all three phones don’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, but Google does include USB-C headphones and a 3.5mm adapter in the box.)   

But if you can afford it, the Pixel 3 XL is one of the best phones you can buy. It may not be as premium as the iPhone XS Max or Galaxy Note 9, but its fantastic camera and extra perks like unlimited cloud storage and timely software updates make it a top-of-the-line phone to get. At times, it even takes better photos than the iPhone XS.

For a more in-depth breakdown, including camera and software analysis, head over to my Pixel 3 review.

Editors’ note: This review was originally published on Oct. 15, 2018, and was updated on Nov. 9 with additional analysis of the OnePlus 6T.  

Pixel 3 XL design and screen

Last year’s Pixel 2 XL experienced some issues with screen burn-in, wherein remnants of images remained on the display, even when the screen changed. After using this phone for a week and a half, I haven’t seen or noticed any of the same burn-in problems, including any remaining home key images, when I displayed an all-white or gray color swatch. 

Whether on TVs or phones, OLED displays are more prone to the issue after all, and I also haven’t handled this Pixel for very long. It’s important to keep in mind that image retention can happen with any OLED phone’s screen — yes, even Apple acknowledges the possibility. So far though, it’s not appearing in the Pixel 3 XL.


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