Pixel 4XL Initial Thoughts

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Each year since the Note 7 and original Pixel, I’ve had an opportunity to use and review those phones. And each year, it seems like same story – in general, I stay with the Pixel for the camera. Will this year be any different? I can honestly say, this years decision has been difficult…

I believe the Note 10+ is the best Note since the ill fated Note 7. Not that the 8 and 9 were bad, but they both disappointed with the camera and often the camera app was buggy. The Note 10+ has performed flawlessly and while the camera has frustrated me at times, it has been very close to something that is “good enough” and that I could easily live with in order to keep the wealth of features. So, having used the Note for the last few months, here are my subjective thoughts on the Pixel 4XL…

  • Screen
  • The Note 10+’s screen is without a doubt better than the Pixel’s. It just pops out more and for sure is brighter. This isn’t to say the Pixel’s screen is horrible…it is good but no contest here…
  • Performance
  • This one may take some time because my Pixel XL2 and XL3 both developed performance issues over time, mostly when opening and closing the camera app. As it stands now, both phones perform awesomely. The Pixel’s clean Android install always feels just buttery smooth whereas the Note 10+ is fast and snappy but there is something that just seems smoother about a Pixel. RAM management has been OK on the Pixel, though it will often reload Chrome pages that I have open for specific purposes. On the Note with, it’s 12GB of RAM, this never happened to me. Battery life has been a mild concern, especially since coming from the Note 10. I generally charge after lunch at work, take off the charger at 5PM or so and don’t need to charge it again until lunch the next day. With the Pixel, I’m charging in the morning and at lunch again (to ensure charge for the evening) because I wake it to being 35% or less. We’ll see if that gets better soon.
  • Features
  • The Pixel seems to have cut corners this year as we’ve seen in many reviews. What stands out for me is the loss of the wide angle selfie, a feature I LOVED about the 3XL, even if we had to have the notch to get it. The loss of the fingerprint is notable but Face Unlock is so good that I’ve not missed it. Yeah, it stinks there is no more full res backup of photos but I was already paying for 2TB of Google One, so a non-issue for me. Not having a 256GB options is inexcusable.
  • Camera
  • The Pixel Still camera already kicks the Note 10 in consistency, speed and reliability. I can’t say if it is significantly better than the 3XL but so far, I can generally take a photo and feel confident that it is going to look great. The Note 10+ has been capable of some amazing photos but I still battled blurry shots, skin tone that is too bright and slow shutter speed. I’ve not had a chance to try the astral photography as we’ve had cloudy days since getting the Pixel 4XL. Video is alright…I so wish they would allow for 60FPS…the 30FPS video seemed OK if a little blurry.

My battle is that I love the features of the Note 10+. The Samsung “Ecosystem” is tight with it’s accessories and features like Galaxy Watch, Gear 360, Galaxy Buds, Samsung Pay, Charging Pads, Cases, Tab S6, Samsung Dex. But considering the Galaxy Watch and Buds work perfectly with a Pixel (along with Samsung Pay), I may not miss those other features as much as I think. I do like having the option for Dex but even on the Tab S6 with keyboard, I just didn’t find myself using it as much as I would like. For me, it still boils down to the camera and if the Pixel continues to be buttery smooth and the camera more consistent than the Note, it looks like another year with a Pixel.

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