Six Weeks Living With The Pixel 4 XL!

Pixel 4 Six Week Review

Six weeks ago, I received my new Pixel 4 XL; and despite the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack, fingerprint scanner, and replaceable battery, I find myself extremely happy with Google’s latest and greatest overall.

Despite it’s bigger screen size, compared to my LG V20, the Pixel 4 XL has an overall smaller footprint, which, for me, is a little too large to use comfortably one-handed, I wanted the XL version, so that’s an observation, not a complaint. I recommend a case for the Pixel 4 XL, it’s a slippery device with glass on the front and back, I bought a Tech 21 Evo Check case, which makes the device slightly bulkier, but it feels more secure in my hand, without a case, I felt I needed to handle it with kid gloves constantly.

Initially, I enabled the on-screen navigation buttons, disabling gesture-based navigation, but I had to reenable the gesture navigation as I could not use continuing conversation with the on-screen buttons. And, after taking a day to get used to it, the gesture-based navigation is quite intuitive, and I cannot imagine going back to the traditional on-screen buttons, but the option is there for those who prefer it.

Although I do lament the omission of a 3.5mm headphone jack, using a USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter does allow me to use my favorite pair of earbuds. And, the sound is fantastic, good clarity overall, meaty midrange and clear highs with the lower frequencies being punchy, if not the deepest bass I’ve heard through my 4-year-old earbuds, and the volume is adequate for most situations with zero distortion. The main downside to this USB-C adapter arrangement is that I cannot charge and listen at the same time.

The camera, the reason I bought a Pixel this time, is surprisingly good, even without manual exposure control. Google’s AI photography is excellent in most situations, even when zooming past the optical 2x lens. The AI does a good job of reducing the blockiness you’d associate with digital zoom, although I’d rather move closer and use the 2x lenses for better clarity, it’s good, but not the same as optical zoom. I do however wish that Google would allow shooting in 3:2, in addition to 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios.

Photos get backed up to the cloud, i.e. Google Photos in high quality, not original quality like previous Pixel’s, but, I can live with that. The quality offered by Google Photos is high enough to keep me happy. I am a professional photographer, so I would never use a phone for my professional work, I’d use my Canon 5DmkIV or 6DmkII for that, so the high-quality backup from the Pixel 4 is great for me.

Video is the Pixel 4’s weak point, it’s fine for capturing family events and casual video, but this is not a filmmaker’s phone despite 4K30 recording. I recorded a 1080p60 video of my daughter singing in her recital, and the video seemed a little soft and grainy, in good indoor lighting. But, the worst part is the audio recording, it sounded muffled like all the higher frequencies had been rolled off. I could recover it in post-production, but straight out of the phone, it’s terrible while listening through full-range speakers.

The Google Assistant is amazing, it understands my UK westcountry ‘farmer’ accent just fine, rarely misunderstanding me, which is a massive improvement over the Google Assistant in my old LG V20. I feel like I can actually use the assistant to send text messages and initiate phone calls now without sending gobbledegook or calling someone, other than the intended person. The only inconsistency is sometimes, the response will be silent, instead of verbal confirmation, which could be a problem while driving.

Battery life, which seems to be a bone of contention for many reviewers of the Pixel 4 XL, for me, is fine. I’m no power user, by any stretch of the imagination, but in my use, I easily get two full days, with 15 to 25% remaining at the end of day 2. My average screen on time is 1 1/2 to 2 hours a day, sending texts, Email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube viewing, and of course, phone calls, maybe 10 to 25 minutes a day.

Being a Google device, phone and security updates are frequent, in the six weeks, I’ve had the device, the Pixel 4 XL has updated twice, once mid-December and again, today, with a security patch update dated 1/1/2020. That said, both times I had to manually check for updates, I didn’t get a notification that a new update was available, but that might be a setting I have not enabled on the device.

After six weeks, I would definitely recommend a Pixel 4 XL; if that changes, I will update this review.

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