Google Pixel 3 XL Final Review — The 3A-

In about 2 months, Google is going to be releasing the Pixel 4, from Project Soli to multiple cameras to practically no chin at all, it seems like a huge upgrade. But that begs the question, how is the Pixel 3 holding up today? Let’s see.


Let’s just get straight into the Pixel lineup’s biggest feature: the camera. In my opinion, the Pixel 3 has the best photo camera on any phone. The photos are natural, with good colour reproduction, amazing stabilisation, and plenty of sharpness. And, of course, Night Sight still feels like magic.

Despite all of this, in 2019, a single rear camera is just unacceptable. “Super Res Zoom” is more gimmick than feature, and, while the wide-angle lens on the front is useful, the hardware is inadequate, which often leads to motion blur. But, credit where credit is due, when it works, it is very useful.

The video is also completely terrible, on my model especially. Video constantly drops frames, resulting in videos that look often like a slideshow, audio is muffled, and it doesn’t allow live background blur, like some competitors.

The Notch

In 2019, most of the Pixel 3’s design is outdated. From the rear fingerprint scanner to the huge notch, most of the Pixel 3’s design features have been fazed out by other manufacturers.

Speaking of the notch, it is big and does sort of look like a face. But, genuinely, who cares? Nobody notices the notch when they use the phone, or any phone with a notch for that matter. Yet the fact remains, the Pixel 3 XL’s notch doesn’t do much to justify its existence. Hopefully, the Pixel 4 is going to fix that, by adding the face unlock that probably should have been on the Pixel 3.


The Pixel 3’s software hasn’t declined nearly as much as I expected it to over the past year. Granted, it didn’t start out great, but it has really held up. I upgraded to Android Q beta about a month ago, and I actually think that improved performance. My opinion that both Oneplus and Samsung’s software skins are superior hasn’t changed, but I do now think that stock Android is more than usable. In Android Q, especially, the navigation gestures have been improved greatly, from the animations to the amount of screen that is occupied by it.

The 3a

As for the elephant in the room, yes, the Pixel 3a offers a very similar set of features for less than half the price. Is it worth it though? Check it out here. But it is undeniable that £900 sounds ridiculous next to £300, especially when the main feature is nearly the same quality on both.

I don’t really understand what Google is doing here. I don’t know why anybody would buy the Pixel 3 over the 3a today, and it seems like the internet agrees. I also think that the 3a will hurt sales of the 4, which will probably start with a price tag about 3x higher than the 3a’s. People said that the 3a was like a Pixel 3, but just a bit worse. But, I disagree. The 3 is worse than the 3a. It has worse battery life, worse durability, and yet a much, much higher price tag.

Everything Else

The Pixel 3’s battery life is truly appalling. I haven’t lasted a full day on a single charge in about 3 months. Wireless charging helps, but at only 10 watts, it is very slow now. Speaking of slow, “fast” charging is 20 watts, which is very slow by today’s standards, but still manages to juice up the phone quickly, because of its small battery.

The haptics are great, nearly iPhone level, the screen is perfectly adequate for my needs, and the fingerprint scanner is below average. IP68 is always good to have, stereo dual front-facing speakers are great if you use phone speakers a lot, and the back is very, very easy to scuff and scratch. Overall, it is very ordinary, for a price that isn’t quite justified, in my opinion.

Something that is also worth noting is Google phones’ rapid depreciation. On CeX, a popular second-hand technology site, they will give you £272 for the Pixel 3XL 128GB model, which sold for £999 originally.

In Conclusion

The Pixel 3 XL is not a good phone. It is usable, but it doesn’t really stand out in any way, which makes its high price tag hard to justify. But, nobody can deny that the camera is pure magic. I am not a good photographer, but photos come out looking as if they were shot on a DSLR.

To me, it comes down to battery life. You could have your dream smartphone, and it would be hot garbage if the battery didn’t last more than 4 hours at a time. My one wish for the Pixel 4, is that the battery is bigger than that of the 3. Please, please Google. Just give us 6 hours of screen on time.

So what do you think? Do you have the Pixel 3? What do you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

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