Let’s cut to the chase. The Pixel XL isn’t just important - it’s one of the most meaningful things Google has ever done when it comes to smartphones.

And yes, I know I’m talking about the company behind the world’s most popular mobile OS.

This top-spec handset isn’t just meant to put every other Android phone to shame - it’s supposed to convince iPhone owners to make the switch too.

I’m sad to say goodbye to the great value Nexus range, but I can see Google’s thinking behind the name change. Nexus phones were for geeks, right? All the cool kids bought Samsung Galaxies. Before they started exploding.

The Pixel XL is going to change that. This is the first Google phone, built to keep Android die-hards happy and beat Apple at its own game.

Google Pixel XL design: Glass half full

For a flagship phone, the Pixel XL doesn’t exactly have killer looks. There’s no Galaxy-baiting curved screen, or iPhone-esque gold or pink colours here. Sorry, rose gold.

Instead, you get an all-metal frame, glass front, and chunky bezels at the top and bottom. Seriously, why does it need massive bezels when Android has on-screen buttons?

It’s not ugly by any means, just a little... meh, in both the black/gunmetal grey and silver/white colour choices. Because of course the UK doesn’t get the eye-catching Blue version.

Those rounded edges feel comfortable enough in your palm, and 168g hardly makes it a heavyweight, but it’s a little thick at 8.5mm.

There’s a bit more personality going on around back, with a split design that’s two thirds matte metal and one third shiny glass. You won’t find any HTC branding here, even though the Taiwanese company actually builds the Pixel XL - just a subtle Google logo.

It’s also where you’ll find the fingerprint scanner, conveniently placed exactly where you index finger naturally rests. Sure, you can’t unlock the phone when it’s lying flat on a desk, but honestly, do you do that a lot? Thought not. This divided opinions in the Stuff office, but personally speaking, I think Google made the right call moving it to the back instead of the front.

Google Pixel XL features: HEAD IN THE CLOUD

That fingerprint sensor does double duty as a quick way to bring down the notification drawer, without having to reach up to the top of the screen. It’s a godsend here, as the large 5.5in screen and thick bezels stretch your thumbs to their limits.

Throw in Nougat’s new Split Screen mode and it finally feels like a bigger screen phone running stock Android makes sense. I didn’t have two apps open side-by-side very often, but it was handy to have the option just a tap or two away.

Google’s added plenty of other neat little touches, like the USB C port on the bottom for hassle-free charging (no more having to flip-reverse your cable every time you go to plug it in) and a headphone jack on top - that rarest of extras in a 2016 smartphone.

There are a few omissions that might raise an eyebrow, like the lack of waterproofing. Now I’ve never once dropped my phone into a pint glass or a pub toilet, but it’s still one box that Samsung, Sony and even Apple have ticked with their top-end phones.

The one thing I really miss, though? a microSD card slot.

With the 128GB model commanding a £100 (RM515) premium over the basic 32GB version, you’re either going to have to splash out upfront or be careful with your installed apps and downloaded music - even with Google automatically flushing your photos into the cloud when you run low on space.


Google Pixel XL camera: PICTURE PERFECT

That’s right - every Pixel and Pixel XL get completely unlimited cloud storage for photos and videos. You can snap away all day and never run out of room for full resolution stills or 4K videos.

Good job, too. Google reckons the Pixel XL has the best camera ever fitted to a phone.

The 12.3MP sensor has large 1.55μm pixels and is paired with an f/2.0 aperture lens - the same combination that served the Nexus 6P so well last year. The underlying hardware is different for 2016, though, and there’s plenty of software magic on-board to help your photos look their best.

Oh, and it doesn’t bulge out the back of the phone. Take that, Apple.

Video gets a big boost too, with electronic image stabilisation doing a great job of smoothing out handheld videos. It’s not quite as good as having a stabilised gimbal, but it’s the best I’ve seen from a phone. Walk slowly and softly, and the results look seriously cinematic.

It's just a shame there's so much rolling shutter whenever you point the lens at artificial lights. It's not so noticeable in stills or even recorded video, but the live viewfinder picks it up instantly. It's irritating, and hopefully something Google can fix with a software update.

Tech Specs 
5.5in, 2560x1440 AMOLED
Quad-core Snapdragon 821
12.3MP rear w/ phase detect & laser autofocus, dual-LED flash, 8MP front
32GB on-board
Android 7.1 Nougat
155x76x8.5mm, 168g
Stuff says... 

Google Pixel XL review

Understated looks and a focus on software over top-spec hardware hide what an important phone this is - even if hardware geeks won't be blown away
Good Stuff 
Fast camera that takes quality snaps
As slick and streamlined as Android gets
Bad Stuff 
Only average battery life
Marmite school of design
No standout features