Google Pixel 2 XL vs Apple iPhone X: Which is best?

Google and Apple both went big, but we could only pick one

Last year, Google decided to take on Apple's iPhone by… well, making a phone that looked decidedly like an iPhone. And it was fine, but the imitation didn't match the source material.

Now it's 2017, and the companies' respective visions for a top-end smartphone have diverged. Apple's is the iPhone X, which brings a radical screen-centric redesign to the iconic handset, complete with higher-end components, plenty of premium flash, and a massive price point to match.

Google's Pixel 2 XL doesn't copy the iPhone X, thankfully, but it follows the similar all-face screen approach, more closely resembling the recent efforts of Androids from Samsung and LG. It's an attractive-looking handset with some added perks, plus its own sizable price point – albeit a fair bit lower than Apple's.

Both are out now, so if you're eyeing something new, large, and beautiful, these might be two of the top phones on your list. But which really warrants the massive investment? Here's our updated showdown, now that we've reviewed both handsets.

Design: The notch has it

The iPhone X and Pixel 2 XL both move away from the tried-and-true (or maybe tired-and-true) iPhone aesthetic from the last few years, which is good news for Apple – and maybe even better news for Google, given the lacklustre impact of the last Pixel.

Apple's new ultra-premium device is all screen on the front, top to bottom and left to right – well, except for that odd notch right at the center top. That might throw you for a loop, but ultimately the screen-centric approach is truly dazzling. Pop in glass on the back and this is a gorgeous phone. And it better be for RM5149, right?

The Pixel 2 XL, meanwhile, kind of resembles a cross between the Galaxy S8 and the LG G6 – both phones we really like the look of. But it doesn't have any real defining elements on the front, except that it feels a little too big: the top and bottom bezel are a bit much, and it kind of diminishes the all-screen design.

The smaller glass cutout on the back is a nice touch, though, and the more colourful home button is neat. But ultimately, the iPhone X makes a much stronger impression and feels super premium in the process.

Winner: Apple iPhone X

Screen: Shining stars

Now that Apple has made the move to OLED panels for the iPhone X, it can finally compete on screen quality with most Android rivals – including the Pixel 2 XL.

Apple's panel is a 5.8in display at an extra tall 19.5:9 aspect ratio, and at 2436×1125 (458 pixels per inch), it's a nice step up from the already-crisp iPhone 8 Plus panel (a 5.5in 1080p LCD, at that). But the Pixel 2 XL has it beat on sharpness, with its 6in, 18:9 OLED display coming in at 2880 × 1440 (538 ppi).

But honestly, there's no clear visual difference here in terms of sharpness, given the size of these handsets, and both phones benefit from the deeper blacks and brilliant contrast of OLED tech. Both are pretty natural-looking, too - and Apple's has the True Tone tech that automatically adjusts the colour based on your ambient lighting. Both also run supported HDR content thanks to their wider colour gamuts.

Apple's notch might push some people away, but after spending a bit of time with the iPhone X, we barely noticed it at all. And ultimately, both of these screens are really, really fantastic.

Winner: Draw

Camera: Repeat champion

When the Pixel and Pixel XL launched last year, Google declared that they offered the best smartphone cameras to date – and they weren't lying. So when they said that the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are even better, well, we were pretty optimistic.

And now that we've reviewed the Pixel 2 XL, we believe that it's true. Shots are realistic and packed with detail, cramming in loads of dynamic range. The results don't look overwhelmingly sharpened or too-vivid-to-be-true: they just look phenomenal and lifelike.

Google's 12MP f/1.8 back camera has both optical and electronic image stabilisation, as well as dual-pixel PDAF and laser-assisted focusing – and it snaps several shots in an instant and stitches them all together for one wonderful result. It also does a Portrait-style mode from both the back and front cameras, despite the fact that it's not a dual-sensor phone. Now that's impressive.

But the iPhone X has two back cameras, of course, like the iPhone 8 Plus and 7 Plus models. Both are 12MP shooters (f/1.8 wide angle and f/2.4 telephoto), and you get optical image stabilisation on both this time around. With more light captured by the sensor, better low-light shooting thanks to the added optical stabilisation on the second sensor, and improved HDR shooting, it is Apple's best smartphone camera to date - albeit just a smidge better than the 8 Plus, really.

In our testing, the photos were crisp and full of detail, with vibrant colours - although the results looked a bit oversaturated at times. The Pixel 2 XL has the edge on natural colours. Meanwhile, the second sensor brings improved Portrait shots, along with the cool new Portrait Lighting feature, which lets you tweak the scene around your subject.

It's close enough that the average user should be thrilled with either camera, but the Pixel 2 XL delivers slightly better colouring and zoomed-in detail. It truly is the best of the best right now.

Winner: Google Pixel 2 XL