First look at Google’s Pixel 3 and 3 XL

Google just got done
announcing its Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones
, and although
we’ve seen them leaked repeatedly over the last couple months,
we’re finally getting an up-close look and the chance to try
them firsthand. Just how much does that notch on the XL stand
out? Have the screens improved? How does the matte glass on the
back feel compared to the aluminum on the older Pixels?

These phones feel significantly more premium than last year’s
Pixel 2. Moving to a glass front and back gives them a much
higher-quality look and feel overall. The glass on the rear is
a single pane, with the matte finish sort of sanded in the
bottom half. It does mean, however, that these phones are
slightly heavier than the previous generation.

Photo by Dan Seifert / The

We’ll need to spend more time with the screens to really give a
final judgment, but my initial impression is that the Pixel 3
XL screen is significantly improved over last year’s
screen. Everything is clearer without being fully blown out to
Samsung-level garishness. The smaller Pixel 3 also has a great
screen, now slightly bigger than last year’s. (It’s a diamond
PenTile subpixel arrangement, if you’re curious.)

Sincerely, the screen is so much better.

Photo by Dan Seifert / The

Oh, and the notch on the Pixel 3 XL is not as egregious in
person as it is in photos. Is it big? Yes, but it’s also
totally not a problem for me. Well, except for one thing: the
way that the notch “area” cuts off into the rest of the screen
can be super inelegant, and it can make stuff just look a
little chopped off.

I can’t help you decide whether or not it’s too big for you,
but I can tell you that the slightly larger screen on the
smaller Pixel 3 has me seriously considering going to the
smaller phone.

Photo by Dan Seifert / The

Camera quality also seems pretty great. I took a super quick
portrait shot, backlit, with some pretty shaky hands (see it
below). We will of course need to do way more testing
to render a judgment, but at the very least it’s safe to say
that Google hasn’t backslid at all since last year’s
best-available camera.

Google spent more time talking up a bunch of AI features that
are built into the camera, including Lens and a night shooting
mode and so on. We haven’t been able to test them all, but I
did give the “Top Shot” feature a try. If it thinks you’ve
taken a bad photo, a button to pick a better shot will appear
when you look at the photo, but you can always find a “Select
shots” button hidden in a menu. It works, but as with the
wide-angle selfie camera, I don’t know that it’s so much better
than what we’ve seen before that you should buy the phone for
this feature.

We tried Google’s fancy digital zoom thing and it is definitely
a digital zoom thing. I didn’t really notice it being
especially great — but again, we’ll need to do a ton more
testing and comparing before I can really say. Also, you can
put Iron Man in your selfies.

But there is one standout feature that is as good as
advertised: call screening. When you get a call, you can tap
the screen button and the person on the other end hears a
fairly natural, Duplex-style AI voice talking to them. It shows
what they say back in real time on your screen and despite some
hiccups from this loud room, it totally worked. You can tap
little text responses right on the call screen and it will
speak those responses to your caller.

You shouldn’t answer spam calls at all (it encourages them),
but if you think something might be real, it’s a super great
option to have.

Both Pixels pack a larger display inside the same overall form
factor as last year. The $899 / $999 Pixel 3 XL moves up to a
6.3-inch QHD+ screen (made possible by its deep notch) and the
regular $799 / $899 Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch FHD+ screen. It
looks like a smaller Pixel 2 XL, just as the leaks indicated.
If the display cutout bothers you, this is definitely the one
to get since it has the exact same cameras, processor, RAM, and
other core specs aside from screen resolution and battery

Sample Portrait

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