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October 10, 2018

Google Pixel 3 vs. Google Pixel 3 XL: Which should you buy?

by John_A

We’re a virtual company made up of tech experts from across the globe. We live and breathe Android phones, and use nearly every one and examine the details to help you make the best decision when buying.

Google Pixel 3

Compact yet powerful

3-render-front.png

$799 at Google Store

Pros

  • Easily usable in one hand
  • Stereo speakers
  • Wireless charging

Cons

  • No headphone jack
  • Battery on the small side

It’s a relatively small phone, but the Pixel 3 has all of the same features and power of the larger 3 XL. The 5.5-inch 18:9 display looks great, and makes the phone compact enough for anyone to use with one hand. The only potential downside here is a smaller-than-average 2915mAh battery.

Google Pixel 3 XL

True flagship

xl-render-front.png

$899 at Google Store

Pros

  • Huge screen
  • Stereo speakers
  • Wireless charging
  • Sizable battery

Cons

  • No headphone jack
  • Very large display notch

Google took the Pixel 2 XL’s body and fit a much larger 6.3-inch 18.5:9 display — and it’s not all about size, the display is dramatically better as well. The rest of the phone builds on all of Google’s strengths: simple hardware, capable specs, smooth software and an amazing camera experience front and back. It even has a sizable 3430mAh battery inside.

Google does a great job of offering a high-end smartphone experience in two different sizes with very few compromises. That philosophy carries into the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, which are identical aside from the chances necessitated by their size differences.

What’s the difference between the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL?

The best way to start off this comparison is to talk about everything that’s shared between these phones — and thankfully for potential Pixel 3 and 3 XL buyers, most of the experience is identical. Both have identical internal specs, anchored by a Snapdragon 845, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The cameras, too, are shared, including the dual front-facing shooters. Both have stereo speakers, and both miss out on a headphone jack. The hardware is absolutely the same from top to bottom — without a reference for size, you can’t tell the difference between the two in a photo. And they even come in the same three color choices: black, white and “not pink.”

Operating system Android 9 Pie Android 9 Pie
Display 5.5-inch OLED2160x1080 (18:9)Gorilla Glass 5 6.3-inch OLED2960x1440 (18.5:9)Gorilla Glass 5
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845Pixel Visual Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845Pixel Visual Core
RAM 4GB 4GB
Storage 64/128GB 64/128GB
Expandable No No
Rear camera 12.2MP, 1.4-micron, PDAFf/1.8, OIS 12.2MP, 1.4-micron, PDAFf/1.8, OIS
Front camera 1 8MP, auto focusf/1.8, 75-degree lens 8MP, auto focusf/1.8, 75-degree lens
Front camera 2 8MP, fixed focusf/2.2, 97-degree lens 8MP, fixed focusf/2.2, 97-degree lens
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS Wi-Fi 802.11ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0 LE, NFC, GPS
Audio Stereo speakersUSB-C Stereo speakersUSB-C
Battery 2915mAhNon-removable 3430mAhNon-removable
Charging 18W USB-C PDQi wireless 18W USB-C PDQi wireless
Water resistance IP68 IP68
Security Fingerprint sensor Fingerprint sensor
Dimensions 68.2 x 145.6 x 7.9 mm 148 g 76.7 x 158.0 x 7.9 mm184 g
Colors Just Black, Very White, Not Pink Just Black, Very White, Not Pink

There really are just two differences to evaluate: screen size and battery. I specifically say screen size because Google worked very hard to make sure this year’s phones have identical-looking displays. Whether you get the 6.3-inch Pixel 3 XL or smaller 5.5-inch Pixel 3, the OLED panels have been selected and calibrated to look the same. The Pixel 3 XL also has a sizable display notch that’s visually distracting for some people, and obviously cuts into the usable space of that larger panel — even still, it has a little more room than the Pixel 2 XL, and much more than the Pixel 3.

It simply comes down to screen size and battery needs.

The other necessary difference is battery — 2915 vs. 3430mAh. With a 17% larger battery, the Pixel 3 XL will certainly have longer battery life — we just don’t know how much longer. It remains to be seen how the battery size difference will translate into real-world usage, since Android 9 Pie is better with power management than Oreo, but Google’s history doesn’t fill us with confidence — the Pixel and Pixel 2 were both very weak in the battery department. Some are willing to take that battery trade-off to have a phone they can easily use one-handed, but it isn’t always worth it for everyone.

The screen size differences obviously lead to changes in overall phone size. The Pixel 3 is a bit of a unicorn amongst modern-day flagship phones, with a very compact case that’s actually marginally smaller than the Pixel 2. It’s easily manageable in one hand, and easier to slip into a pocket even with a case on it. The Pixel 3 XL, on the other hand, follows the flagship trend of being really large. It’s about 12% wider and 8% taller than the Pixel 3, which is considerable — but of course, you get the extra screen and battery as a benefit. You just have to decide if it’s worth it for your needs (and hands).

Google Pixel 3

Compact yet powerful

3-render-front.png

$799 at Google Store

A proper flagship phone without the usual massive size and weight.

A smaller screen doesn’t lead to compromises in features or hardware quality. The Pixel 3 has everything the XL version does, except the necessary smaller battery. You get the fantastic software, performance, camera capabilities and screen quality.

Google Pixel 3 XL

True flagship

xl-render-front.png

$899 at Google Store

Google’s best-ever phone, with a big screen and battery to match its capabilities.

Phones are large nowadays, and Google’s Pixel 3 XL is no exception. A 6.3-inch OLED screen is dramatically improved from the Pixel 2 XL, and the rest of the experience builds on Google’s strengths: awesome software, great performance, innovative camera features and guaranteed updates.

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