Hands-On, Smartphone

This Is (Possibly) the Pixel 4 XL, and We Got Our Hands on One

The Google Pixel 4 XL is arguably the most leaked smartphone in recent memory. Its features, design, and so much more have been leaked numerous times; there are even hands-on videos of the yet to be released smartphone. In fact, we…actually got our hands on a unit too.

At least, we’re almost certain this is the Pixel 4 XL. Given that the device hasn’t even been announced yet, we can’t say for sure this is indeed Google’s upcoming flagship phone, though it does match official images released by the company. Nonetheless, this is our hands-on of the (alleged) Pixel 4 XL.

Now, before we get to it, do note that this device is still running on pre-release software, so some features – especially the camera – do not work quite as well. This comes as no surprise, of course; the Pixel 4 XL hasn’t even been officially introduced by Google yet.

Then again, we’re likely looking at the final hardware of the Pixel 4 XL, so there’s a good chance this is how the phone would look and feel. While I’m not too crazy about the large bezel at the top of the display (possibly to fit the radar technology for Project Soli), it’s certainly a premium device. The matte frame feels great to the touch, and same goes for the glass back (also with a matte finish). 9to5Google believes that this colourway will be called “Clearly White.”

But I’ve got to be honest here: the back panel’s texture isn’t what I expected. Even though it does have a matte texture, it’s a very light finish, to the point where it almost feels like regular glass. I was expecting something like the Oppo Reno‘s frosted glass-like finish, which is a lot smoother to the touch.

However, if that was the case, the Pixel 4 XL would be a lot more slippery too. I imagine this isn’t something most folks would want, so I’d consider the light matte finish a plus point. In retrospect, it’s the best of both worlds: the rear panel still feels like regular glass, but the matte texture is a lot more resistant to fingerprint marks.

So that’s the design of the Pixel 4 XL; let’s get to the other hardware parts now. One of the most interesting new hardware is the phone’s 90Hz display, which I can confirm is available on this particular unit under the Smooth Display option. Basically, the feature “dynamically adjusts the refresh rate between 60Hz and 90Hz.”

As far as I can tell, the display is locked at 90Hz at all times with Smooth Display enabled; I’m not entirely sure exactly when the panel would be set to 60Hz instead. Chances are, only apps that don’t support 90Hz would run at the lower refresh rate.

What about the display quality itself? Well, it’s really quite good. I believe the Pixel 4 XL has an AMOLED screen, given that it has deep blacks with vibrant colours. Diagnostics tool AIDA64 also shows that this phone has a 6.23-inch 3040 x 1440 display – definitely a flagship-tier panel.

Other specifications of the Pixel 4 XL shown on AIDA64 include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset – not the newer and faster 855+ SoC, unfortunately – paired with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage, a 12.2MP rear camera, an 8.1MP selfie shooter, and a relatively generous 3,700mAh battery. It’s not the biggest battery capacity we’ve seen, but it’s probably good enough to return a day’s worth of usage.

And then we have a pretty big new feature on the Pixel 4 XL: Face Unlock, which appears to be Google’s answer to Apple’s Face ID. For the most part, it works a lot like Apple’s implementation. Even the setup process for Face Unlock is very similar to Face ID, requiring me to move my head in a circular motion.

Once the feature is set up, a quick glance is enough to unlock the Pixel 4 XL, and it seems to work even in darker environments. On top of that, it can still recognise my face even when I’m holding the phone sideways or upside down. However, if the Pixel 4 XL is set flat on a table, it wouldn’t be able to recognise my face. I would have to be looking directly at the phone for the biometric security to do its thing.

Speaking of biometrics, Face Unlock is the only biometric security option available on the Pixel 4 XL. That’s right, this phone does not have a fingerprint reader. There isn’t any in-screen fingerprint sensor, or even a conventional capacitive one. Clearly, Google is putting a lot of trust on Face Unlock; perhaps as much as Apple is with Face ID.

Pixel smartphones have always been lauded for their amazing camera performance, so I was quite excited to put the Pixel 4 XL’s dual camera system through its paces. But after taking some shots with the phone, the camera performance…may not appeal to everyone. Judge for yourself with these sample shots comparing it against the Samsung Galaxy S10+.

At a glance, it may seem like the Galaxy S10+ takes better-looking shots, but upon closer inspection, the Pixel 4 XL is actually superior. Not only does its shots have better detail preservation, the colour reproduction is more true to life too.

Of course, some (or most) folks would prefer the Galaxy S10+’s saturated shots – a typical trait of Samsung’s image processing, really – as they are more pleasing to the eye. But if you want more neutral colour reproduction, the Pixel 4 XL offers just that. That being said, the phone does have some difficulty focusing on closer subjects; this is evident in the last set of images above.

Again, do note that the Pixel 4 XL I’m testing is not running on final software, and the camera app still looks like a work in progress. As a matter of fact, there isn’t any quick shortcut to use the (supposed) 16MP telephoto sensor. In order to zoom in, I’d have to pinch to zoom on the camera interface; it seems to switch to the telephoto sensor around the 2x zoom mark.

Once the camera application and its image processing have been properly tweaked by Google, I reckon the Pixel 4 XL would have even better camera performance. Personally, I’m hoping the autofocus speeds and accuracy would be much better in the finalised software.

The Google Pixel 4 XL looks to be a meaningful upgrade over its predecessor, and this is only based on my time with an early pre-release unit. Without a doubt the true potential of the phone will be fully realised once it’s running on consumer-ready software.

Google’s Project Soli on the Pixel 4 XL is especially intriguing, which allows for motion controls. Unfortunately, this feature isn’t enabled on my pre-release unit, so I couldn’t put it to the test. Regardless, Soli is similar in practice to the Z Camera on the LG G8 ThinQ, as well as the Huawei Mate 30 series‘ Gesture Sensor.

What’s left now is for Google to introduce the Pixel 4 XL and reveal exactly how much it will cost, which is happening next month on 15 October. Hopefully, Google’s flagship smartphone will make its way to Malaysia as well, even if the Pixel series never made it here officially.

Read more:

Closer Look at the Pixel 4 XL: Next Gen Google Assistant, Selfie Camera, Face Unlock Limitations

41 Replies to This Is (Possibly) the Pixel 4 XL, and We Got Our Hands on One

      1. Great news! Thanks for answering. Could you please compare it and, say, Galaxy S10, when they lying side by side with maximum brightness?

        PS: Sorry for asking same question in different post, didn’t see your answer here.

  1. Hi! What video recording options are available on the Pixel 4? Is video recording at 4K 60 FPS available? What slow motion resolutions and speeds are available? Thanks!

    1. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any new addition to video recording. Our pre-release unit can only record at up to 4K 30fps.

  2. “It’s not the biggest battery capacity we’ve seen, but it’s probably good enough to return a day’s worth of usage.”

    Not being funny but a device which is assumed to cost in excess of £1000 should not have expectations this low, especially when it comes to things like battery capacity, which is probably the costliest part of it. It should be beating expectations on almost all areas of hardware and software. Really disappointed in this phone. So much so that I’m debating waiting a 3rd year to get the next iteration.

    1. I agree with you, the battery is too small in my opinion.

      Usually the Display is the most expensive part in phones, not the battery.

  3. Thanks for your nice report is very useful!:-)

    Only a question: did you see if the PiIxel 4 XL has a very wide angle, such as the P30 Pro or iPhone 11 Pro Max, or it still stops at the equivalent 28 mm? Thanks!

  4. How do you take away the fingerprint reader?! I use that constantly, and for various apps as a safety precaution. Looks like I’m definitely not getting a pixel 4XL…. No fingerprint reader is just ridiculous.

    1. I disagree. A proper face unlock that goes beyond using just a camera, and is instead using a 3D map of your face is quite safe.

      From what i’ve seen the effort to break Apples Face-ID has been higher than breaking fingerprint scanners. Excluding Samsung S10/Note10 ultrasonic scanner.

  5. excuse me…
    – can u tell me about colorful wallpaper that appear on this phone, is the live wallpapers or not (still)?

    – is main camera on rear back have wide, and selfies have ultra-wide?

    – can u show the new sound recorder apps works and ui, on ur next article on this phone?

    thanks 😀 so excited until Oct 15.

    1. – Yeap, it’s a live wallpaper!
      – No wide angle for the primary camera sadly. None for the selfie shooter too.
      – We’ll try to look into it!

  6. Great article! Does the Phone still have active edge (the squeezing function to activate Google Assistant)? And does the phone have a brightness boost function when there is direct sunlight on the screen (is the screen still readable with direct sunlight on it)?

  7. Wherr is ultrawide camera. They should have added that given now every phone has. Ultrawide is more useful than telephoto. Its really bad.

  8. Hey, I am a Dev who worked on enabling the astronomy mode in the leaked gcam. However we were unable to get hdrnet and audio zoom working as their code is contained within a separate library. Could you see if /vendor/framework contains a experimental2019 file? This would allow trying hdrnet and audio zoom on current pixels.

  9. Great initial review of the Pixel 4 XL! Curious to see what the camera can really do once the phone is officially released. As it is, it’s looking great! Can’t wait to get my hands on one!

  10. Nothing really new about this camera. Same main sensor than current Pixels plus telephoto lens and you can even „astrophotography“ with P30 and others, too. I also feel that Pixel 4 can‘t beat iPhone 11 in low light this time.

  11. Just so you know. Virtually no where on the internet can we find information about the exact weight of the phone. People want to know if this phone will be bigger and heavier than the previous 3xl.

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