Pixel 4 and 4 XL review: A slightly flawed taste of the future

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After Google started making its own smartphones in 2016, it quickly fell into a predictable pattern: Those devices would pack clean software, take surprisingly good photos and launch sometime in October. Sure, Google added features here and there over the years, but it never strayed too far from that original formula. Until now, that is.

With this year’s Pixel 4 and 4 XL, Google is charting a new path for itself. Beyond those hallmark features — which we still see here, by the way — these new Pixels respond to hand gestures in addition to just taps on a screen. They’re better at interpreting and acting on your voice commands. They even have super-fast screens, so the things you do on them just look better.

I don’t think Google has ever been this ambitious with a pair of Pixels before, and if some of its gambles pay off, there’s a chance the company could reshape what it means to use a smartphone entirely. That’s a pretty big “if,” though. I can’t say Google got everything right here, but I do know that these Pixels are fast, weird and very much worth a closer look.

Engadget Score

Poor

Uninspiring

Good

Excellent

Key

Pros
  • MotionSense feels like the future
  • “Smooth” display looks great
  • Speedy performance
  • Google Assistant is faster and smarter
  • Great camera experience
Cons
  • Motion Sense is finicky
  • Face Unlock could be more secure
  • Middling battery life
  • Slightly dull design

Summary

The Pixel 4 XL packs all of the same new features as its smaller siblings, and on the whole, these additions should be enough to excite even wary Pixel fans. It’s fast, thoughtful, and benefits from additions like a big, 90Hz screen and the ambitious Motion Sense system — when it works correctly, that is. Beyond all that, though, the Pixel 4 XL’s real draw is its bigger battery. It’s still doesn’t last as long as some of the Pixel’s rivals, but it’s noticeably better than what the standard Pixel 4 is capable of. If you’re enthusiastic about Google’s new additions and don’t mind a bigger phone, the Pixel 4 XL is clearly the model to invest in.

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