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October 5, 2017

Google Pixel 2 XL vs. Apple iPhone X: There can be only one

by John_A

Google’s latest hopeful in the battle for smartphone supremacy is the heavyweight Pixel 2 XL. With a stunning, 6-inch AMOLED screen, slim bezels, and a solid set of internal specs, the new flag-bearer for pure Android is sure to attract many admirers. Google has signaled its intention to continue competing in the smartphone hardware business with its recent $1.1 billion acquisition of part of HTC’s smartphone team, but this follow-up to the Pixel XL has a new maker in LG.

Coming near the end of the year, the Pixel 2 XL is entering a crowded field, but no other device casts as long a shadow as Apple’s forthcoming iPhone X. It sports a 5.8-inch OLED screen — Apple’s first — which almost completely fills the front of the phone. It also boasts the lightning-fast A11 Bionic processor, a dual camera, wireless charging, and the new FaceID, which compensates for the lack of a fingerprint sensor.

If you are shopping for a new smartphone right now, and only the best will do, these two handsets deserve a place on your shortlist. But which is better? We need more hands-on time to say for sure but for now, let us compare the specs of the Pixel 2 XL with the iPhone X to see which smartphone comes out on top.

Specs

iPhone X

Pixel 2 XL
Size
143.6 x 70.9 x 7.7 mm (5.65 x 2.79 x 0.30 inches)
157.5 x 76.2 x 7.6 mm (6.20 x 3.00 x 0.30 inches)
Weight
174 grams (6.14 ounces)
175 grams (6.17 ounces)
Screen
5.8-inch Super Retina OLED display
6-inch P-OLED display
Resolution
2,436 x 1,125 pixels (458 ppi)
2,880 x 1,440 pixels (538 ppi)
OS
iOS 11
Android 8.0
Storage
64GB, 256GB
64GB, 128GB
MicroSD card slot
No
No
NFC support
Yes (Apple Pay only)
Yes
Processor
A11 Bionic with 64-bit architecture, M11 motion co-processor
Snapdragon 835, with Adreno 540
RAM
3GB
4GB
Connectivity
4G LTE, GSM, CDMA, HSPA+, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
GSM, CDMA, HSPA, EVDO, LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera
Dual 12 MP rear, 7 MP FaceTime HD front
12.3 MP rear, 8 MP HD front
Video
Up to 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps
Up to 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 120fps, 720p at 240fps
Bluetooth
Yes, version 5.0
Yes, version 5.0
Fingerprint sensor
No, has Face ID instead
Yes
Other sensors
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor, barometer
Water resistant
Yes, IP67 rated
Yes, IP67 rated
Battery
2,716mAh

21 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet, 14 hours of video playback, and up to 60 hours of audio playback

Fast-charging — 50 percent charge in 30 minutes, wireless charging (Qi standard)

3,520mAh

Fast-charging

Charging port
Lightning
USB-C
Marketplace
Apple App Store
Google Play Store
Colors
Space Gray, Silver
Black, Black and White
Availability

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Apple

 TBA
Price
$999
$849
DT review
Hands-on review
 Coming soon

These are two of the fastest and most powerful phones you can find, but there is a significant gap on the performance front. Apple’s custom-designed A11 Bionic chip packs six cores — two for high performance and four for high efficiency — as well as a graphics processing unit that is 30 percent faster than the one in last year’s iPhone 7. That enormous processing power is put to good use with cutting-edge augmented reality support, and the new FaceID technology, which allows you to unlock your iPhone simply by holding it up to your face.

By contrast, the Pixel 2 XL has Qualcomm’s octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor paired with an Adreno 540 GPU. We know this combo well because it is featured in a range of the top Android smartphones over the last few months, from Samsung’s Galaxy S8 to the HTC U11. Google’s new phone is likely to squeeze the best performance from this hardware, because it runs stock Android, with no embellishments, but it’s not going to keep up with the iPhone X. Last year’s A10 chip, which Apple employed in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, beat the Snapdragon 835 in most benchmarks and the new A11 is a lot faster.

The fact that the Pixel XL 2 has 4GB of RAM to the iPhone X’s 3GB of RAM, is not going to improve things for Google’s phone because Android and iOS handle memory management in very different ways and so the iPhone simply doesn’t need as much RAM for comparable performance.

Both phones offer 64GB in the basic model, or you can pay more to jump up to 256GB with the iPhone X, or 128GB with the Pixel 2 XL. Neither offers a MicroSD card slot for expansion.

We don’t think you’ll really feel the difference in everyday use now — both these phones are plenty fast and powerful enough — but there’s no doubt that the iPhone X has more raw power and that will likely tell over time as these handsets age.

Winner: iPhone X

Display, design, and durability

Google’s Pixel 2 XL is a big phone by any measure, but the manufacturer, LG, had some practice shrinking bezels and fitting gorgeous OLED screens, most recently in the LG V30. The two-tone design on the aluminum back, which we saw in the original Pixel phones, has been retained in the Pixel 2 XL, but this time the signature glass portion at the top has shrunk in size and the fingerprint sensor sits below it. The main camera is at the top left corner, flanked by the flash. Flipping it back over, there is a power button on the right spine, highlighted in orange, with a volume rocker slightly further down.

The 6-inch display dominates the front of the phone and it is one of the sharpest displays we have ever seen with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,440 pixels, giving it a pixel-per-inch score of 538. Thin bezels top and bottom house the front-facing stereo speakers, microphone, front-facing camera, and a few other sensors. The Pixel 2 XL is significantly taller and a touch wider than the iPhone X, but they weigh about the same.

The iPhone X marks a real change of direction for Apple by embracing the bezel-less trend and adopting OLED screen technology. While the notch that eats into the top of the display has garnered some negative reactions, most people agree that the iPhone X looks stunning and futuristic. A svelte, steel frame gives way to a glass back, which allows the iPhone X to support wireless charging. The dual camera module is stacked vertically, unlike the 8 Plus. Overall, it’s a beautiful device that reflects Apple’s minimalist approach to design.

The notch is a necessary evil, as it houses the front-facing camera, FaceID tech, speaker, microphone, and some other sensors. There is no room for a fingerprint sensor, but the almost all-screen front allows Apple to pack a 5.8-inch screen into a relatively compact body. The OLED screen is the sharpest Apple has ever put in a smartphone, with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels, giving it a pixel-per-inch score of 458.

On the durability front, Apple’s iPhone X and Google’s Pixel 2 XL boast an IP67 rating, which means they can be dunked at a depth of up to one meter for 30 minutes without sustaining any damage. Neither of these phones has a 3.5mm audio jack, so you’re stuck with adapters or Bluetooth 5.

While the Pixel 2 XL has a slightly bigger and sharper display, the iPhone X is smaller and more stylish. The design of the iPhone X is a real leap for Apple, while the Pixel 2 XL feels like an evolutionary step for Google. The iPhone X edges for the win in this one.

Winner: iPhone X

Battery life and charging

The Pixel 2 XL is packing a sizable battery rated at 3,520 mAh. That is a touch bigger than last year’s Pixel XL, which we found fairly average in the battery department. We expect the Pixel 2 XL to last at least a full day between charges, maybe longer. The iPhone X has a much smaller, 2,716 mAh battery. It has a slightly smaller screen to power and there may be efficiency benefits from that A11 chip, but we fully expect it to be in the daily charging category. We’ll have to test them out in the wild to be sure, but you’d expect to get more battery life from the Pixel 2 XL based on the specs.

As for charging, the iPhone X can charge 50 percent in 30 minutes. The Pixel 2 XL supports fast charging, too, with a 15-minute charge providing up to 7 hours of battery life.

The iPhone X also supports wireless charging via the Qi standard, which is very handy if you have wireless phone chargers. Sadly, the Pixel 2 XL doesn’t support wireless charging, but it still wins this category for the larger battery capacity.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL

Cameras

Google continues to ignore the dual camera trend with the Pixel 2 XL, which has a single camera sensor rated at 12.2 megapixels with an f/1.8 aperture. The original Pixel proved that a well-designed single lens camera with clever software can go toe-to-toe with any dual-lens setup, and the hardware in the Pixel 2 XL has been improved. DxOMark has scored it at 98, the highest score of any smartphone camera so far. For comparison, the second place phones right now are the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 on 94. Google added optical image stabilization and made some software tweaks to improve the overall experience. The Pixel 2 XL also offers a portrait photo mode, on both the front-facing and rear cameras, like the iPhone X, though it works differently. The fact that Google provides free, unlimited cloud storage for all your photos and videos in high resolution is a valuable extra.

Apple’s iPhone X camera sports dual 12-megapixel sensors, combining wide-angle and telephoto lenses, with f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures, respectively. Both have optical image stabilization, to help prevent blurry shots. You can take unique portrait shots and tweak the light source with the Portrait Lighting feature. There is also a powerful bokeh effect, to blur backgrounds, and 2x optical zoom. The front-facing camera boasts Apple’s True Depth system, employing an infrared camera that works together with the 7-megapixel front-facing camera to securely recognize your face and unlock your phone. It can also be used to animate emojis with your own facial expressions, something Apple calls Animoji.

On the video front, Apple’s camera can shoot 4K at 60 frames per second and 1080p at 240 fps. By contrast, the Pixel 2 XL tops out at 30 fps for 4K and 120 fps for 1080p footage.

We want some hands-on time with these cameras before we declare an overall winner.

Winner: Tie

Software

Both Android and iOS are polished, feature-packed platforms that have much more in common than divides them. You can all the major apps and games on both. Familiarity is probably going to dictate your preference. Google’s Pixel 2 XL runs the latest Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box and will get updates just as soon as they come out, which is more than you can say for a lot of other Android flagships. This is Google’s vision of how Android should be, and it’s every bit as slick and stylish as Apple’s iOS. The iPhone X also runs the latest version of Apple’s platform, iOS 11, and it will get updates as soon as they’re released for the foreseeable future.

The iPhone X has a handful of nifty features connected to the front-facing cameras, which we have already discussed. But the Pixel 2 XL offers Active Edge, which allows you to squeeze your phone to launch Google Assistant or snap a selfie, like HTC’s Edge Sense on the U11. Both Google and Apple are highlighting augmented reality, with a range of fun games that play out on top of your coffee table, and handy apps that can help you preview furniture in your living room. The best ARKit apps are well worth a look for iPhone owners, but Google is doing something similar with ARCore. Google also has Daydream VR, whereas Apple has yet to jump on board with virtual reality.

Both platforms are great. We can’t award a winner in this category.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

Neither of these phones is available yet. The iPhone X is available for pre-order from October 27 and will begin shipping on November 3. The Pixel 2 XL is available for pre-order now and should start shipping on October 17.

The iPhone X starts at a whopping $1,000 for the 64GB model, while the 256GB variety will cost you an extra $150. It will also be available on contract from all the major carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint and you can expect to pay close to $50 per month if you opt for the 64GB model on a 24-month contract.

The Pixel 2 XL starts at $850 and Google is offering a Home Mini speaker, which usually costs $50, for free with every purchase for a limited time. We’re not sure about carriers just yet.

Winner: Pixel 2 XL

Overall winner: Apple iPhone X

If the iPhone X price tag gives you pause, or you prefer Android, then the Pixel 2 XL may prove irresistible. It has a gorgeous, big display, an excellent camera, and some slick software extras. Google’s latest and greatest looks fantastic and we can’t wait to spend more time with it, but Apple’s iPhone X edges the overall win. It’s more powerful, it has a more daring design, and we’re excited about the dual cameras on the back and FaceID on the front. These may be the two best smartphones to launch this year, so you can’t really go wrong. It’s a very close run thing, but the iPhone X is our winner.




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