Yesterday Google pulled the covers off its Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones and in doing so, gave the mobile tech-consuming public a new conundrum. Which Pixel handset should they opt for? Today, I’m going to pit the Pixel XL against the iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy Note 7 to see which flagship handset has what it takes to come out on top.
Comparing the Pixel XL with other flagship handsets
If you’re wondering why the Note 7 makes it into this comparison, I understand that Samsung has had its problems with the device, but not every unit out there is exploding. From the real-world reviews I’ve read, it’s clearly a worthy contender.
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As for the Pixel XL, it is a little early to tell how this handset behaves in the real word in heavy use, but we’re going to look at this comparison from an on-paper perspective and then try to come up with some answers. Right now no handset comparison worth its salt can leave out the behemoth that is the iPhone 7 Plus. Whether you like or loathe Apple, one point I think many can agree on is that it makes great smartphones.
So now that I’ve shared why each handset is being compared, let’s have a look at design, size, cameras, hardware and price.
As you would expect, the Pixel XL, Note 7 and iPhone 7 Plus all have a premium look and feel. The Pixel XL is relatively similar to the Note 7 in terms of build, using both glass and metal. However, the iPhone 7 Plus is different in that Apple has chosen to use an all-metal design.
Another similarity between the Samsung and Google devices is their inclusion of a standard headphone jack. Apple has elected to tread a different path and has removed it. Instead, it is using the Lightning port or Bluetooth for headphone connections.
With regard to colors, the 7 Plus has the biggest variety with five options. The choices are Jet Black, Matte Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. The Galaxy Note 7 has four color options which are, Blue Coral, Gold Platinum, Silver Titanium, and Black Onyx. Finally, there is the Pixel XL with its three color options, which are Quite Black, Very Silver, and Really Blue.
Both the iPhone 7 Plus and Galaxy Note 7 have fingerprint sensors positioned on their fronts. However, the Pixel XL has its positioned on its back in the middle of the glass panel. An additional similarity between the Apple and Samsung devices is dust and water resistance, with the iPhone benefiting from an IP67 rating and the Note from an IP68 rating. Unfortunately for the Google Pixel XL, there’s no protection from dust or water.
Sizes and weights compared
The Pixel XL’s overall size measurements are 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6mm, while the Note 7 comes in at 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9mm, and the 7 Plus measures 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm. The iPhone 7 Plus weighs 188 grams, the Note 7 tips the scale at 169 grams, and the Pixel XL weighs 168 grams. So the iPhone 7 Plus is the biggest and heaviest of all three devices, while the Pixel XL is the thickest and lightest and the Galaxy Note 7 is the smallest.
Yesterday Google threw down the gauntlet and challenged Apple to prove that its cameras are better, firing the first shot by producing a benchmark result from DxOMark’s camera benchmarking program which gave the Pixel XL a three-point lead. Here’s how each camera setup compares:
The Galaxy Note 7 has a 12-megapixel dual-pixel camera with an aperture size of f/1.7 and optical image stabilization on its rear. Additionally, there is a dual-LED flash which helps it perform better in low light conditions. On the front, there’s a 5-megapixel sensor with an f/1.7 aperture, meaning it too should do well in low light.
We have a 12-megapixel dual-lens setup on the iPhone 7 Plus. One sensor is a telephoto lens with an f/2.8 aperture, and the other is a wide-angle sensor with an f/1.8 aperture. There’s also optical image stabilization for the first time on an iPhone and a quad-LED flash, which helps it camera take better nighttime video and photos. On its front, the 7 Plus has a 7-megapixel sensor with an f/2.2 aperture and a Retina flash.
The Google Pixel XL features a 12.3-megapixel rear camera with an aperture size of f/2.0 and 1.55µm pixels. The camera’s features include optical image stabilization, a dual-LED flash, auto-focus, phase detection and laser auto-focus. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and an aperture size of f/2.4.
So here’s what we can say about each camera’s standout points. The Pixel XL has the highest resolution front-facing camera at 8 megapixels, The Galaxy Note 7 cameras both have the widest apertures at f/1.7, and the 7 Plus has a dual-lens camera capable of both manual and digital zoom.
The iPhone 7 Plus comes with Apple’s fastest chipset ever, the A10 Fusion. Apple stated at its event in September that this is the most powerful chip ever in any smartphone. It works in concert with the M10 co-processor, which looks after the graphics.
Apple has been vague about how much RAM its iPhones have, but there is a consensus on the 7 Plus which suggests 3GB is about right. The handset is supposed to provide an additional one hour of life compared to its predecessor. However, with what many may see as an under-powered 2,900mAh battery running the device, that’s hard to believe.
Apple has finally removed the 16GB storage option from its line-up, instead preferring to start with 32GB now. The other options are 128GB and 256GB, and as always, there’s no microSD support.
The Pixel XL has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and 4G of RAM, which makes it very quick and powerful. It also uses USB Type-C, which charges its large 3,450mAh battery. Unfortunately, like the 7 Plus, it doesn’t include microSD support. So whether you choose the 32GB or 128GB storage option, that’s your lot.
Depending on where you are in the world, the Note 7 can have a Snapdragon 820 or an octa-core Exynos CPU. It has 4GB of RAM, plus a powerful 3,500mAh battery that uses USB Type-C for charging. If you’re looking for a choice of storage options, I’m sorry to say that there is only 64GB. However, it can be supplemented with a microSD card up to 256GB.
If you’re in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, or Australia, you can pre-order the Pixel XL now. If you’re in the U.S., it can be purchased from Verizon and Best Buy stores. There’s also an unlocked version for sale directly from the Google Store. Off contract, the price of the Pixel XL is $769 for the 32GB and $869 for the 128GB model.
The iPhone 7 Plus is available to buy right now (subject to stock availability); its off-contract prices are: $769 for 32GB, $869 for 128GB, and $969 for 256GB.
The only Note 7 option varies in price depending on the carrier you purchase it from. At the time of writing this, it was $834 at U.S. Cellular, $849 at Sprint, $864 at T-Mobile, and $880 at AT&T.