Google Pixel XL – a Travel Photographer’s Review
Google Pixel XL has arrived! Finally we have a good competitor in high end smartphone market! Google Pixel was launched in October 2016. I am thrilled to be one among the first 2 Indian travel bloggers to review this 2 month old smartphone. I was floored the first time I held this new piece of technology in my hands. It fits so perfectly in my palm that I felt it was born to be there always! Here is a review on this gorgeous piece more from a travel photographer’s point of view.
Google Pixel XL Review
Looks of Google Pixel
There are no frills and fancies and ‘I look good’ kind of hardware features. The smartphone is more software centric and has ‘I mean business’ kind of feel. Though the phone is full 6inch, the touch screen is less than 5inch. The camera lens and sensor at the top helps you orient the phone in hand. The bottom bezel could have been put to some use.
It comes in 3 colors: Silver, Quite Black and Really Blue. Front glass is 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The back has ‘2 tone’ finish. The back and sides is a single metal frame. One third of upper back frame has glass patch which gives it a different look. The antennas work unblocked and there is the fingerprint sensor in this part. The left side of the phone has textured power button and volume control button. The sim card tray is on the right side of the phone. It can house only a single nano SIM card and no microSD card.
Google Pixel XL specifications
Both Google Pixel XL and Google Pixel have same specifications, except screen size, resolution, and battery capacity.
Processor – Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC with two 2.15GHz cores and two 1.6GHz cores for efficiency, along with integrated Adreno 530 graphics.
Storage – 4GB of RAM and either 32 or 128GB of fixed storage.
Connectivity options – Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G and 4G (with support for Band 40 used by some LTE networks in India).
Sensors on the phone – Compass Magnetometer, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer, Ambient light sensor, Gyroscope and Barometer.
Cameras in Google Pixel XL
12.3-megapixel camera at the rear with 1.55µm pixels plus phase detection as well as laser auto focus and 8-megapixel front shooter for selfies.
Both smartphones contain the same camera hardware and software. Pixel camera snaps photos quickly and easily. Its default enabled HDR+ smarts feature ensures even exposure throughout the frame. I found the colors captured are rich and balanced, no over saturation. In direct sunlight too the captures are good avoiding drastic distortion with halo or glare on the lens. Colors captured are real and with fine details.
Google compresses the images to a “high-quality” size and it looks fantastic in the phone screen.
Various Modes of Pixel Camera
Some interesting options are photosphere mode, burst, and slow motion. For lens blur mode the app asks you to move the phone slightly after taking a shot so it can grab another with the same lens at a slight offset. In indoor lighting conditions too the camera didn’t fail and has captured good details.Pixel guarantees very good performance under all conditions a normal user would need. For travel photography where I had to zoom in and capture structures at a distance the camera has functioned well. Have a look at the pictures of St. Philomena Church and Mysore Palace.
Videos with Google Pixel
You can save location of pics clicked. Volume key action has 2 functions: Shutter and Zoom, you can use them for shooting videos. Video resolution of both back camera and front camera is 1080p. There is video stabilization on/off control and this feature is remarkable. You can see in the video below which I shot sitting in a moving vehicle. I was impressed to see absolutely stable results.
Selfies with Google Pixel
In selfie smartphone market too the Pixel is a hot competitor.The front-facing camera shoots and captures well, definitely not a disappointment to those who crave for more selfie exposure. Double-tap the power button for quick access from anywhere straight to camera app. And the wrist flick to reverse the camera was a surprise fitted in, it overcomes the difficulty to hit the on-screen software button while using one hand. Such small little features makes the Pixel a pleasant camera experience.
Battery in Google Pixel XL
Pixel has an outstanding performance on this factor. Prior to Google Pixel I have handled other smartphones and I would often worry whether the battery would conk off during assignments. A travel bloggers regular schedule would be something like accessing maps, searching out places to halt, see, shoot and eat. A Google Pixel can sustain this very well. I easily got 15hours during day with some video shoots too. The battery charges fast. And with an hour’s charge it lasts one whole day very well. Two factors that help conserve battery power when not in use or physically moving are: improved power management and Doze 2.0.
With Google Assistant feature Google Pixel XL has become the most resourceful alternative to other high end smartphones. Check out the possibilities with Google Assistant during your travels:
- Google Assistant understands contexts of conversations and provides relevant responses. Google Assistant knows 70 billion facts. It will be able to tap into the company’s Knowledge Graph – the semantic database Google uses to answer all queries.
- Google Assistant can scan your personal data, via your Google account. It can select out specific addresses, remind you of calendar entries and various bills to be paid from your end.
- GA learns about you, your preferences and choices. While introducing Assistant, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said “the more you use it, the better it gets.” This includes learning your habits (when you leave for work, get home, usually go for movies, etc.), as well as your likes and dislikes in order to serve you better.
- GA teaches you stuffs. Travelling to a new place? Learn the basics of the new language there with GA.
- As a travel photography blogger I found its feature of giving ‘local recommendations’ extremely useful. With GPS and Internet connection on Pixel phone, I got some relevant recommendations for restaurants, hotels, fuel stations etc.
- Google Assistant keeps information ready at hand meaning even if you haven’t asked it for anything, it provides you info on topics you were talking with your friends. A discussion on travel destination or a movie with your friend will be followed by information about the hotel and tourist attractions about the location, movie hall timing without any prompting from your side.