Pixel 2 review: Google does it again

This time last year, the differences between the Pixel and Pixel XL were so small that we felt comfortable putting both reviews under one URL.You couldn’t get away with that this time around: the differences between the handsets are not just visible in size and price, but in verdict – one is a strong thumbs up, while the other is a big old “meh”.

When our box of Googly goodness arrived last week, Jon – being reviews editor – got first dibs. The fancy looking Pixel 2 XL was his for the weekend, while I had to settle for the more boring-looking Pixel 2. I got the last laugh. While Jon was having all kinds of issues with the Pixel 2 XL, me and its smaller brother were having a wonderful time getting acquainted.

Barring a couple of caveats, I’d recommend the Pixel 2 to anyone, while Jon would struggle to advise you buy the Pixel 2 XL. Read on to find out why.

Google Pixel 2 review: Design

Did you like the look of the original Pixel? If you did, you’re in luck. The Google Pixel 2 looks very similar to the original Pixel – in fact, a barman at a Kingston pub asked me if I was using a Pixel when I was paying for drinks with Android Pay, because he was having issues with his.

Is that a problem? Not really. Okay, there’s no edge-to-edge display like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or iPhone X, but then the Pixel 2 does retail between £50 and £370 cheaper. It’s thin, light, and I personally like the textured aluminium back, which feels less slippery than the glass of its rivals. The distinctive glossy glass panel is back, albeit smaller than last time around, but other than that it’s fairly understated. Even the familiar Google “G” is quiet: dark grey on a black background.

It’s the same weight as last year, tipping the scales at only 143g, but it has lost a little from its waistline, measuring a svelte 7.8mm to last year’s 8.5mm. This isn’t the overwhelming positive it first appears, though – in fact, it’s the very definition of losing weight in the wrong places. The Pixel 2’s crash diet has ensured that the 3.5mm headphone jack is gone. Gone, but not forgotten at least – Google does throw in a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box, which is better than nothing. Be thankful for small mercies.

There’s another downer on the design front, although it’s one that will come as no surprise to anyone that’s ever bought a Google-branded handset. There’s still no room for expandable storage. In other words, the 64 or 128GB of onboard storage is all you’re ever going to have. That particular pill is made easier to swallow with Google’s offer of unlimited photo storage, but even that has a catch – it runs out in three years.

Google Pixel 2 review: Screen

Turning on the Pixel 2 for the first time reveals a screen that’s very hard to tell from the original Pixel – which is to say that it’s very good indeed, but you’re retreading old ground by reading this section. It’s the same 5in display, the same 16:9 aspect ratio, the same 1,080 x 1,920 resolution and AMOLED technology … and the same 441 pixels per inch.

Weirdly, colour accuracy is a tiny bit worse than last year’s but there isn’t a great deal in it and I doubt you’d spot it with the human eye. On the positive side, it does go a touch brighter, rising to a maximum brightness of 418cd/m2 compared with last year’s 411cd/m2. Being an AMOLED screen, contrast is perfect, by definition.

So, on paper, some minor changes, but all you really need to know is that in person, the Pixel 2 has a brilliant screen, with bright, vibrant colours and oodles of detail. Videos look great, and icons looks beautifully sharp. It may be more of the same, but when the same is as good as last year, it’s hard to stay mad.

Crucially, this makes it much better than the Google Pixel 2 XL, which as Jon found in his review, suffers from discoloration when viewed even from the slightest of angles. You may wonder if we just had a faulty unit – but we looked at those loaned to our sister publications IT Pro and Expert Reviews and found exactly the same issue.

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