Here we go, one more year. And there are already four that Google has been drawing the attention of the world every October to show in society its solo projects, with which since 2016 it wants to show you that, in addition to being on, it can also be your mobile, and that its bet for the hardware is serious. Really.
And although the beginnings have not been easy, the figures tell us that the plan is beginning to bear fruit. That is why Google has not thrown in the towel, and on October 15, it was planted in New York with Rick Osterloh and company to present the fourth generation of Pixel phones, consisting of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
The news from Google maintains the essence of this family. The Pixel 4 XL -model that we have been able to test over the course of a little over a week-, once again brings with it an endless number of useful functions and systems of what they call machine learning, which make using one of these phones, four years afterward, it remains a unique experience. They have also improved their technical section, the design is now more modern, and for the first time, it includes two cameras on the back. And all, still being cheaper than last year’s models (in Europe). It paints well.
But like the models of the last four years, the Pixel 4 XL is far from perfect. Despite the improvements, its specifications are still lower than those of other models. The camera is not as versatile as, say, the iPhone 11 Pro, and we found striking shortcomings. Because one more year Google has tried to create the best mobiles on the market … In its own way.
Index of contents:
- Google Pixel 4 XL datasheet
- The best of the Google Pixel 4 XL
- General experience
- Motion Sense and Face Unlock
- Face unlock
- Display and layout
- The not so good of the Google Pixel 4 XL
- So are the cameras of the Pixel 4 XL
- Behavior by day, portrait mode, and at night
- Frontal camera
- Video recording
- Google Pixel 4 XL: opinion
- Google Pixel 4 XL price and where to buy
Google Pixel 4 XL: a technical sheet of characteristics and specifications
|Dimensions||160.4 x 75.1 x 8.2 mm. 193 grams|
|Screen||6.3 Inch Flexible OLED
Smooth Display (90Hz Refresh Rate)
|Resolution||Quad HD + at 537 dpi
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, octa-core 2.84 GHz + 1.78 GHz, 8 cores and 64 bits
Security module Titan M
GPU Adreno 640
Chip Pixel Neural Core
|RAM||6 GB LPDDR4x|
Security and operating system updates for a minimum of 3 years
|Storage||64/128 GB UFS 2.1|
|Cameras||Rear: 12.2 MP ƒ / 1.7 main, 1.4 μm pixel, Dual Pixel autofocus, and phase detection, OIS + EIS, spectrum and flicker sensor, 16 MP ƒ / 2 “telephoto,” 4, 1.0 μm pixel, autofocus and phase detection, OIS + EIS.
Front LED Flash: 8 MP ƒ / 2.0 with fixed focus. Infrared spotlight emitter, infrared spot projector, 2 infrared cameras
Fast charging based on USB Power Delivery up to 18W (charger included)
Qi wireless charging up to 11W
|Others||Face Unlock, Active Edge, Motion Sense, USB 3.1 Type-C, IP68 Water and Dust Resistance Rating|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0 + LE (HD codecs: AptX, AptX HD and LDAC), NFC, nano SIM + eSIM, GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac 2 × 2 MIMO (2 , 4 GHz and 5.0 GHz)|
|Colors||White, black, and orange|
The best of the Pixel 4 XL
Typically, this is the section where we go over the technical specifications of the device and how they work together to deliver excellent performance. This will not be the case with the Pixel 4 XL.
In Google phones, the numbers are the least of it, and this was shown by the Pixel 3a XL itself, which with a technical section at the level of a 300-euro mobile phone, is capable of offering an experience worthy of a phone much more expensive. And of course, it was not going to be less in the latest created by Mountain View.
The user experience with the Pixel 4 XL is simply excellent. It may not be the fastest mobile or the one that hides the greatest raw power; I am afraid that this merit belongs to the OnePlus 7T Pro, but I can assure you that it is the most pleasant to use, thanks mainly to software optimized to the maximum, where inconsistencies are conspicuous by their absence. Every detail seems to have been created with care.
“It may not be the fastest mobile or the one that hides the greatest raw power, but it is the most pleasant to use.
But let’s look at it step by step, from the beginning. Even with the screen “off,” the Pixel 4 XL stands out for its fantastic Always on Display mode, the best and most complete seen on an Android so far. A battery level accompanies the time, date, and time widget, and depending on the situation; we will see information such as the song that is heard around us thanks to the “It is playing” mode, our next calendar event, information about an upcoming flight or pending notifications.
When you get to the home screen, one of the great animated wallpapers that Google has included on its phones since the first of the Pixels will probably be waiting for you. As soon as you touch the screen, a nice animation of the wallpaper welcomes you to the lock screen, where a small padlock alerts you that the phone is locked. By the way, you can now display the quick settings panel by swiping down on the home screen.
When moving through the interface or between applications, what is surprising is the extreme fluidity of the system, even more evident if you come from using a lower category device. Part of the fault is the new screen with a high refresh rate, which I will talk about in more detail in its corresponding section. The renewed gestural navigation system included in Android 10 also influences which is more or less like. Despite its problems – such as the fact that most apps have not yet adapted their side menus -, it is an objectively more intuitive and smooth solution than the pseudo-gestures of Android 9.
And more small details emerge to continue adding value to the experience the more you use your mobile. For example, the haptic engine is once again, one more year, the best in an Android terminal and increasingly close to reaching the level of the Taptic Engine of the last iPhone. The audio is also excellent: clear, with a very good maximum volume level, and without distorting excessively at the highest levels.
Those who missed a bit more freedom when personalizing the experience now have a reason to bet on the new Pixels. With Android 10, a customization panel is introduced in the style of the latest OnePlus models, which allows you to modify both the accent color of the system, the typography, the shape of the icons on the notification panel, and quick settings and then the app icons themselves.
To this same section, there are other added points that, despite not being 100% usable, mainly because they are only available in some regions or English, sooner or later they will end up reaching everyone. This is the case of a car accident detection, the subtitles “live” for any video – yes, you better keep this function deactivated when you are not using it, your battery will appreciate it – or the renewed Google Assistant, now with functions such as continuous conversation, or with a smaller voice model, to the point of being able to be integrated directly into the device, so that voice-to-text transcription and query processing is much faster than on any other phone with the Assistant.
This last measure also takes advantage of the new voice recorder application, capable of transcribing the recordings automatically and organizing the audio clips so that it is possible to search among them through text queries. But yes, like the functions mentioned before, this tool works only in English.
The Pixel has previously been criticized for a certain “lack of courage” on the part of Google when it comes to providing their phones with unique technologies and functionalities, in the way that firms such as Apple or Samsung are accustomed to us, designed to make the “Pixel experience” of which I spoke before.
But this year, Google makes that supposed lack of fearlessness one of the strengths of the Pixel 4, through the inclusion of the Motion Sense system, based on Soli technology. And… first of all, what is Soli?
Although at the time we already addressed this technology in more detail, it is worth remembering that it is a radar-based movement detection system, which acts as follows according to the official documentation :
- The Soli radar emits electromagnetic waves in a wide beam. Objects within the beam scatter this energy, reflecting some of it to the radar’s own antenna.
- The properties of the reflected signal, such as energy, time delay, and frequency change, capture information about the characteristics and behaviors of the object, including size, shape, orientation, material, distance, and speed.
- By processing temporal variations in the signal and other captured characteristics, Soli can distinguish between complex movements to understand the size, shape, orientation, material, distance, and speed of the object within its field.
And all that, thanks to a small chip built into the upper edge of the Pixel 4 screen. Surprising, right? It is even more so when we see Soli’s demonstration video and see how the system was conceived to carry out complex operations through submillimeter movements.
Maybe that’s why the fact that the most you can do with Soli on the Pixel 4 are to change songs or pause alarms is somewhat disappointing. However, the potential of this system is immense, and I trust that over time Google will be able to introduce more and more functions with which to take advantage of this tool. If not, I fear that the last five years of working on a project involving experts in semiconductor design, digital signal processing, algorithm development, and machine learning will not be entirely justified.
Now, Motion Sense works, and it does it well. Once you become familiar with the gestures and understand that the system works best when the phone is perched on a flat surface with the screen facing up, the detection of gestures is accurate and fast and can sometimes be used quite a bit.
But that’s not the only feature of Motion Sense, and I’m surprised that it’s not being mentioned more often than that which is, in my opinion, the most useful feature that Soli enables: proximity detection.
Using the radar built into the device, it can detect our presence and act accordingly. In this way, if we are within an area of around two meters near the smartphone, the radar will detect us and keep the “Always on Display” mode active to see information, such as notifications or the time at a glance. If, on the other hand, we leave the room in which the terminal is located or move far enough away, the screen will turn off to save energy. Motion Sense will also detect the gesture of bringing the hand to the device to pick it up. It will activate the screen even before our fingers have come into contact with the terminal so that the facial unlocking system comes into play as soon as possible. And, speaking of which …
Having tried some of the fastest fingerprint readers on the market, whether they are capacitive like the Galaxy S10e, optical like the OnePlus 7T, or ultrasonic like the Galaxy Note 10+, I have to admit that, after having used the face unlock of the Pixel 4, I am convinced that this is the example to follow.
The Pixel 4 XL’s facial recognition and unlocking system are probably the fastest currently available on a mobile phone – I’ve said goodbye to your lock screen because you’ll see it very rarely. And unlike the one that includes models such as OnePlus or some Xiaomi, it is an advanced system that uses the different sensors located on the front of the phone to scan facial features. It is not possible to fool you with a photograph. It works even in absolute darkness.
“Say goodbye to your lock screen-, because you will see it very few times.
In addition to that, it has a great advantage over the Face ID system of the latest iPhone, and it is its extreme convenience thanks to the ability to take you to the last application you were using before locking the phone, without having to touch the screen or the phone’s power button thanks to the aforementioned radar.
But despite being the fastest, it cannot be considered the safest. At least not for now. As the company itself has recognized, it is possible to unlock the phone even with closed eyes, which entails certain risks depending on the situation – although if you are really concerned about your security, you should be using a good password and not a biometric system of this type-. However, they have confirmed that in a few months, the option to prevent unlocking with eyes closed will be introduced. It will be necessary to check if keeping this option active could affect the speed of the unlocking process.
It is also necessary to mention that facial recognition can verify payments or authenticate in apps and services. Unfortunately, at the time of publishing this review, the apps that support this verification system can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Of course, starting next November 1, all app updates must point to the Android 9 API so that developers will have to adopt the BiometricPrompt API, thus supporting verification through facial recognition.
Display and layout
Google learned from the mistakes made with the Pixel 2 XL and made the 3 XL’s screen one of the best on the market. This year, the panel maintains some of the traits of the past generation while raising the bar on key areas.
Of course, the OLED technology is maintained, which provides excellent contrast levels with totally pure blacks and an outstanding sharpness given its Quad HD + resolution. Color reproduction is excellent, especially if you choose the automatic color mode, which will intelligently vary the tones depending on the content displayed. The viewing angles are also good, as there are no exaggerated color changes when turning the terminal. Although it is often overlooked on more than one occasion, the proper functioning of the automatic brightness deserves to be mentioned.
As news, Google introduces a high refresh rate on the screen of the Pixel 4 XL –also on the Pixel 4–which intensifies the feeling of softness already characteristic of the phones of this series.
Now, the function that Google calls “soft screen,” available in the system settings, will only update the screen content to 90 Hz in specific situations – for example, when the screen’s brightness level is higher. 75% – and therefore, the experience will not be as smooth as one might expect. To do this, it will be necessary – and, in my opinion, highly recommended – to force the frequency to 90 Hz from the developer settings.
The second of the novelties is the Ambient EQ system, which in a similar way to the True Tone function of the iPhone, will modify the temperature of the screen depending on the ambient light. The results, yes, are not as appreciable as in Apple models; the Pixel 4 only varies between 6300k –minimum–, 6700k –by default– and 7450k –maximum-.
The design deserves a special mention. Regardless of whether you like its aesthetics or not, it is undeniable that the Pixel 4 XL is the mobile with the best build quality ever created by Google. The matte black coating on the side edges contrasts with the matte panel –in the colors white and orange– or glossy –in the black finish–, and added to its relative lightness and thinness; they make it a comfortable phone to use.
Being objective, it is true that the aesthetics of its front part is not the most modern on the market. The margins, especially the upper one, have a considerable size, and, in short, the space is not as well used as in other models. Beyond that, there is no doubt that it is a recognizable design, and in my opinion, it is one of those phones that you need to have in hand to appreciate its charm.
The not so good of the Pixel 4 XL
At this point, it seems that having to live with some other type of compromise, easily solvable with improved hardware, is something inherent in the Pixel series. The first of the models fell a little short with its 32 GB of storage. The second generation was famous for the questionable quality of its screen signed by LG. The Pixel 3 generated controversy for its poor management of RAM, mainly due to its lack of it.
And I am very much afraid that the Pixel 4 and 4 XL will be remembered for being two almost round phones … that are barely able to get awake at the end of the day. The autonomy of the largest model of this family is, to say the least, mediocre, and I don’t want to imagine how critical the situation can be on the Pixel 4 with the smallest screen diagonal with only a 2,800 mAh battery and the same rate. 90 Hz refresh rate on your screen.
“The Pixel 4 and 4 XL will be remembered for being two nearly round phones… barely able to make it up to the end of the day.
On a “normal” day, the Pixel 4 XL’s battery allows it to reach 4 or 5 hours of the screen with about 20 hours of use, figures that place it at the bottom of the table, and make it the most disadvantageous. The problem is further aggravated considering that this is the year in which Apple, historically criticized for the poor autonomy of its iPhones, has finally raised the bar in this regard and has launched the iPhone models with greater autonomy of history. An important part of the Pixel 4 series.
And what would a Pixel be without its shortcomings? In the Pixel 4, the list of things that fall along the way grows, and details that already seemed to have been forgotten, such as the 3.5 mm headphone port, the adapter for the headphones of a lifetime are added, or the own type C headphones that were included with the previous generation.
But there is more. The lack of a fingerprint reader, despite the extreme convenience of the face, unlock system, is debatable. As is the fact that an 899 euro mobile phone has “only” 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage memory, the latter being a drawback that is further aggravated when we take into account that the Pixel 4 is the first of the saga – not counting the 3rd and 3rd XL – that does not offer unlimited storage in original quality in Google Photos.
Nor can one miss the fact that, at the end of 2019, the year in which it has been more than demonstrated that photographic versatility is one of the most important aspects when evaluating the experience with a mobile camera, the Pixel 4 arrived without an ultra-wide-angle lens. And while we are, let’s talk about photography.
So are the cameras of the Pixel 4
Four years later, Google has succumbed to temptation. The Pixel 4 XL – along with its little brother – is the first phone of the brand to integrate two cameras on its back. Two sensors that actually act like one. Or at least that’s the feeling Google wants you to get when taking photos with its latest phone.
To begin with, unlike what happens on other devices, in the Pixel 4 camera app, you will not find a button that allows you to switch between the main and secondary lens, so you will not know when you are using the ‘telephoto ‘of 16 megapixels, and when the main sensor of 12. The difference in terms of color reproduction between the two cameras is also not appreciated, and this is undoubtedly a point in favor of the Pixel 4’s photographic system compared to other models.
The reason why Google has decided not to differentiate between the two sensors located on the back of its latest phone adapts to the philosophy of the Pixel: the intention is that you forget about numbers and technical data sheets and that you focus only on the experience.
And it succeeds. Thanks to the excellent processing carried out by the phone’s software, it is possible to obtain excellent captures regardless of the zoom you make on the scene, either using the main sensor –digital zoom up to 1.8–, the tele –1.8x– or the zoom hybrid of up to eight magnifications, which even at the maximum will offer detailed captures, dangerously close to the results of mobile phones with dedicated optical zoom such as the Huawei P30 Pro or the OPPO Reno 10x.
Of course, “normal” shots are still Pixel’s specialty. Three years refining a process that looks like magic –but, as the great Marc Levoy explains well, is nothing more than simple physics.–Google achieves in this Pixel 4 the results closest to excellence that we have seen in a phone that refers to photography through systems such as HDR +, night vision, or Super Res Zoom.
Is the Pixel 4 XL’s camera better than the iPhone 11 Pro? In the absence of a direct comparison, I’m afraid not. Considering that Apple had raised the bar in this regard thanks to its own AI systems in the iPhone 11 Pro, the comparison with the latest Cupertino model is obvious. But I would not dare say that the iPhone is better than the new Google mobile, although it is more versatile. They are simply two different approaches, but simultaneously similar, to understanding mobile photography. I am very afraid that tip the balance in favor of one or the other based on their photographic quality is a mistake.
But, let’s talk about results.
Behavior by day, portrait mode, and at night
On portrait mode, comment that Google has fine-tuned the background blur algorithm, and thanks to the information captured by the 16-megapixel secondary sensor, it is now even more natural.
As for night captures, Google can save any situation thanks to its processing, almost eliminating noise, preserving a very high level of detail, and balancing the highlights so that they do not end up monopolizing the shot. Of course, the Night Vision mode is still present, capturing light from where there seems to be none. And unlike the night mode of other devices, this can be used in any situation regardless of the scene’s lighting to get more detailed images even if there is enough light.
According to Google, the Pixel 4 does not record 4K video at 60 FPS because the clips would take up too much space. I wish Google itself had invented a solution to that problem…. Regardless of this limitation, video recording is not one of the many strengths of the Pixel 4.
The clips are of good quality, and the combination of OIS + EIS results in videos free of shake and jerky movements. However, the iPhone continues to be the reference in this field, and I fear that this will not be the year in which the Pixels will take the baton.
Google Pixel 4 XL: Andro4all’s opinion and final thoughts
Long since the battle for the throne of Android stopped play in the field of hardware and numbers. You have to see how firms like LG, Sony, or HTC have been adrift for years despite building technically impeccable phones.
And Google has found in this paradigm shift a great opportunity to demonstrate what it can offer by building a phone created around its services, those that for years have been fed with data from millions of users around the world. Now they go to work to offer a unique experience in the Android universe.
But that is not the idea that Google has been pursuing since the first generation of the Pixel series. Its technical sheet may not be the bulkiest, and that its shortcomings keep it from being a mobile as round as a Galaxy S10 or a Huawei P30 Pro. Instead, the idea of the brand is to achieve that invisible excellence, which cannot be measured in benchmarks or specification lists.
Because as I said at the beginning, the Pixel 4 XL is the best, but in its own way. And if Google’s ideas suit your needs, here’s your next mobile.
Price and where to buy the Pixel 4 XL
The Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL can be booked from the same day they are presented, and all those who did will receive a Google Nest Hub as a gift.
In case of not having reserved it, it is possible to buy either of the two models in the Google Store, at 759 or 859 euros for the Pixel 4 of 64 and 128 GB respectively, and of 899 or 999 euros for the Pixel 4 XL protagonist of this analysis, with the same storage configurations.
|Should you buy the Google Pixel 4 XL?|
|Conclusions||The Pixel 4 XL is the mobile that best represents the maturity reached by Google as a mobile manufacturer: a terminal that does not drag as many commitments as its predecessors, but that continues to add value to the “Pixel experience” while increasing even more, the level of what he is best at, photography. If not for its autonomy and for certain shortcomings that make it less attractive, today we would talk about the best mobile of the year. But we must settle for the best Pixel ever. That is not little.|
|Punctuation||9.0 Google Pixel 4 XL
Experience is not measured in numbers. Autonomy, yes.
Sharlene Meriel is an avid gamer with a knack for technology. He has been writing about the latest technologies for the past 5 years. His contribution in technology journalism has been noteworthy. He is also a day trader with interest in the Forex market.