Google just got done announcing its Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones, and although we’ve seen them repeatedly over the last couple months, now we’re finally getting an up-close look and the chance to try them firsthand. Just how much does that notch on the XL stand out? Have the screens improved? How does the matte glass on the back feel compared to the aluminum of the older Pixels?
These phones feel significantly more premium than last year’s Pixel 2. Moving to a glass from and back gives them a much higher quality overall look and feel. The glass on the rear is a single pane, with the matte finish sort of sanded in the bottom half. It does mean, however, that these phones are slightly heavier than the last generation.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
We’ll need to spend more time with the screens to really give a final judgement, but my initial impression that the Pixel 3 XL screen is significantly improved over last year’s screen. Everything is less muddy and clearer, without being fully blown out to Samsung-level garishness. The smaller Pixel 3 also has a great screen, now slightly bigger than last year’s. It’s a diamond pentile subpixel arrangement, if you’re curious.
Sincerely: the screen is so much better.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
Oh and: the notch on the Pixel 3 XL is not as egregious in person as it is in photos. Is it big, yes: but also totally not a problem for me. I can’t help you decide whether or not it’s too big for you or not, but I can tell you that the slightly larger screen on the smaller Pixel 3 has me seriously considering going to the smaller phone.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge
Camera quality also seems pretty great. I took a super quick portrait shot, backlit, with some pretty shaky hands (see it below). We will of course need to do way more testing to render a judgment, but at the very least it’s safe to say that Google hasn’t backslid at all since last year’s best-available camera.
Google spent more time talking up a bunch of AI features that are built into the camera, including Lens and a night shooting mode and so on. We haven’t been able to test them all, but I did give the “Top Shot” feature a try. If it thinks you’ve taken a bad photo, a button to pick a better shot will appear when you look at the photo, but you can always find a “Select shots” button hidden in a menu. It works, but as with the wide-angle selfie camera, I don’t know that it’s so much better than what we’ve seen before that you should buy the phone for this feature.
We tried Google’s fancy digital zoom thing and it is definitely a digital zoom thing. I didn’t really notice it being especially great — but again we’ll need to do a ton more testing and comparing before I can really say. Also, you can put Iron Man in your selfies.
But there is one standout feature that is as good as advertised: call screening. When you get a call, you can tap the screen button and the person on the other end hears a fairly natural, Duplex-style AI voice talking to them. It shows what they say back in real time on your screen and despite some hiccups from this loud room, it totally worked. You can tap little text responses right on the call screen and it will speak those responses to your caller.
You shouldn’t answer spam calls at all (it encourages them), but if you think something might be real, it’s a super great option to have.
Both Pixels pack a larger display inside the same overall form factor as last year. The $899 / $999 Pixel 3 XL moves up to a 6.3-inch QHD+ screen (made possible by its deep notch) and the regular $799 / $899 Pixel 3 has a 5-inch FHD+ screen. It looks like a smaller Pixel 2 XL, just as the leaks indicated. If the display cutout bothers you, this is definitely the one to get since it has the exact same cameras, processor, RAM, and other core specs aside from screen resolution and battery capacity.