Google Pixel XL Review

- Introduction -
- Physical features -
- Audio -
- Display -
- Bootloader unlocking -
- Repairability -
- Custom ROM & Kernel Availability -
- Other issues -
- Conclusion -

Introduction

The Pixel XL - originally meant to be a replacement for the Mi A1, which, at the time I obtained it (somewhere around mid 2019), is still in my cousin's hands (he needed a replacement PDA since his PDA got stuck at fastboot & I didn't bring a PC at that time).

Physical features

The Pixel XL feels forgettably fine.

On the top section, there's the secondary mic & the headphone jack on the left. Not the best place for the headphone jack since it'll impact your left hand while in landscape, but at least there's one.

USB-C charging port, speaker, & primary mic on the bottom corner.

Left section contains only the single SIM tray, no microSD whatsoever.

Right section is home to the volume & power buttons. One thing to note is that the power button is above the volume buttons.

Front side is reserved for the 5.5' 16.9 OLED, front camera, & earpiece. The bottom is just a big, wasted space.

The back is a glass / metal hybrid with the camera & fingerprint scanner on the glass section.

For materials, the front display is covered with Gorilla Glass 4, with aluminium covering the sides & the buttons. Said aluminium shell also covers the back, though the top section is glass.

Audio Quality

The Pixel XL has a bottom-mounted speaker & top-left-mounted headphone jack.

The speaker's quality is serviceable, but due to its position, it's much more likely to get blocked than the likes of LG V30.

The headphone jack quality is average.

Display

The 5.5' 16.9 OLED display is fine enough (turned-off blacks are good). Since it's an OLED, burn in will eventually happen. However, due to its 16:9 aspect ratio, Fate/GO didn't produce any blue bars.

Bootloader unlocking

The bootloader unlocking process is foolproof & simple : plug PDA to PC, enable OEM unlocking & USB debugging in stock OS' developer options, boot to fastboot & fastboot oem unlock in fastboot. No connecting to internet (if you have the adb/fastboot tools ready).

Repairability

In terms of repairability, the Pixel XL is fine, though you may have to sacrifice the display to open it up. Once the display's separated from the frame, there's still the midframe. However, everything is easy to replace beyond that.

iFixit teardown video | iFixit teardown article (Javascript required) [archive.org] [archive.fo]

Custom ROM & Kernel Availability (as of 3/11/2020)

In terms of custom ROMs, the Pixel XL is in quite a bind. Yes, there's Lineage, /e/ (Pie-only), & Lineage-microG, & Bliss graciously provides a Vanilla build (as usual with them, it's neglected in favor of the Goolag builds). However, a good portion of the Pixel XL's custom ROM are bound to be loaded with Goolag builds . While this may be a sensible move considering TWRP not being fully usable (3.3.0.0 has issues with A10, anything beyond it can't be installed, including 3.4.0.0, which fixes the aforementioned issue), this isn't a good look for the Pixel XL.

As for the custom kernels, they're mainly for A10. They can be used with Pie ROMs (which I'm currently using), but they're currently no longer in active development (3.x is discontinued by Linux kernel devs).

Other issues

Let's start out with the bad ones:

And, finally, the actually good ones:

Conclusion

The Pixel XL's a meh PDA, that's all. Sure, it has basic amenities like a headphone jack & USB-C port. However, compared to the OnePlus 3(T), you're trading an extra SIM slot, capacitive buttons below the screen, & an alert slider for an arguably better camera quality. To me, someone who don't generally care about camera stuff, it's not worth it.

However, depending on which marketplace you're getting it from, the Pixel XL could serve as a somewhat better replacement PDA compared to the Mi A1. Of course, you're still missing the microSD slot.

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