Do we have a good one for you today – The Google Pixel XL takes on the newest from Huawei, the Mate 9. The Pixel XL is Google's replacement for their Nexus line of phones, but also their foray into a new Google ecosystem they are hoping the public will buy into. It is the first phone to have Google Assistant built-in and comes to us with a polished glass and metal backing. The Mate 9 is an all-metal, high-end device with the usual Huawei look with curved sides and small bezels making it comfortable to hold. Both devices are high quality, well-built, and very much of flagship quality. Let's look at just what these two devices have in common, if anything, and then we will take a closer look at each one in hopes that we can determine a winner of this comparison.
The Google Pixel XL and the Huawei Mate 9 have very little in common. Even though the Mate 9's display is larger, Huawei has managed to keep the size in check making it only slightly bigger than the Pixel XL, although it weighs in at 22 grams heavier. The displays are different sizes, use a different technology, and have a different resolution. They both use a different processor and GPU, although in the same league, and they both pack 4GB of RAM. The primary camera areas could not be more different, but both produce excellent photos. They both have an 8MP front-facing camera (FFC) for selfies and video chatting. Both have a fingerprint sensor for unlocking your device as well as authorizing mobile payments. They both use a non-removable battery with rapid charge capabilities. They come with the usual suspects – WiFi, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS, NFC, and the newer Type-C reversible port for charging and data transfer.
Please take a thoughtful look at the detailed Specifications Comparison chart below and here you will see just how these two great devices stack up against one another – click on the "View Full Comparison" link at the end of the chart to expand the details. After that, we will look at each device in greater depth and point out some of its pros and cons. From all of this information, we will try to determine the winner based on specs and execution of design and functions.
Google Pixel XL
Habits are hard to break as many Nexus owners are finding out now that Google has discontinued the name and even the line to some extent. This change is the result of Google working on creating their own Apple-like ecosystem where you purchase several Google products because they all work together. The Google Pixel devices are the first to incorporate Goggle Assistant directly into the device. It is just one of the pieces of the puzzle as owners can communicate directly with their new Home products. Google is hoping that if you buy one device, you will want them all. We will be looking at the Google Pixel XL this time around to see just how this newly designed Pixel XL with its polished glass and metal construction holds up to the all-metal Huawei Mate 9.
The Google Pixel XL sports a 5.5-inch QHD AMOLED display with a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels with 531 pixels-per-inch (PPI.) Google used the newest Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 quad-core processor with a dual-core clocked at 1.6GHZ and a dual-core clocked at 2.15GHz. The Snapdragon 821 supplants the original Snapdragon 820 and is 10-percent quicker according to Qualcomm. They paired the 821 with a powerful Adreno 530 GPU to take on any graphics you can throw its way. It packs 4GB of DDR4 RAM and 32GB or 128GB of the faster UFS memory, although there are no means to expand the built-in memory. Even though it is non-removable, Google did include a large 3450mAh battery for power and has rapid charge capabilities.
Google made the decision to use the same camera in both Pixel models. The camera specifications seem modest at best – it comes with a 12.3MP sensor for the primary camera along with an aperture of f/2.0, phase detection autofocus (PDAF,) a dual-tone LED flash, and no OIS, but does use EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization.) However, when the camera was tested by DxOMark it received a score of 89 – the highest rating yet for a smartphone camera. Google did not skimp on the front-facing camera (FFC) and included a large 8MP FFC that comes with a f/2.0 aperture, a 1.4µm pixel size, and 1080p video support. This combination of specs offers up great selfies to share with your friends on social media as well as video chatting.
Google opted for a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor that will allow you to unlock your Pixel XL or to authorize mobile payments. The Pixel XL will have Android Pay available as well. The Pixel XL has Google Assistant built in that will work with other Google products such as Google Home. It will be running Android 7.1 Nougat out of the box and receive the fastest updates. The Pixel XL measures in at 154.7 x 75.7 x 8.6mm and weighs in at 168 grams. There are three different colors available: Quite Black, Very Silver, and Really Blue (a limited edition color.) The Pixel XL is IP53 rated against dust and splashing water, and the 32GB model will cost you about $770.
Huawei Mate 9
Huawei always likes to have a big screen device in their lineup, and this is where the Mate series comes into play. The newest in this lineup is the Huawei Mate 9. It comes with a full-metal body and small bezels, allowing Huawei to make it relatively compact in physical size. While the US version is on its way, it will only work on GSM networks, leaving Verizon and Sprint subscribers out in the cold. The Mate 9 only comes with a Full HD LCD display resolution – a display this large could really use a higher resolution. It has a solid build to it and with its slightly curved edges feels great to hold over an extended period. Let's see just how it stacks up to the Google Pixel XL.
In the true phablet definition, the Huawei Mate 9 sports a large 5.9-inch IPS LCD FHD display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and only 373 PPI due to its large size. It is running Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box on a powerful 64-bit Hisilicon Kirin 960 octa-core processor with four cores running at 1.8GHz and four cores running at 2.4GHz. It packs 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable internal memory. For graphics, a Mail-G71 MP8 GPU provides outstanding graphics.
Huawei pulled out all of the stops in the camera area by using dual Leica optics – a 20MP sensor for colored photos and a 12MP sensor that shoots strictly monochrome (B&W) photos. Then they added an aperture of f/2.2, OIS, 2X zoom, with both Phase Detection Autofocus (FDAF) and laser autofocus, and dual-tone LED flash. This combination gives photographers a chance to take some great B&W shots. For the FFC the Mate 9 uses a large 8MP sensor with a f/1.9 aperture and 26mm lens for great selfies and video chatting. The Mate 9 has a large, non-removable 4000mAh battery with Huawei's own SuperCharge that will charge your battery from 0-100-percent in only 90 minutes with the provided charger.
The Mate 9 is a beautiful smartphone and has many good qualities, but like any smartphone, there are contradictions. We have a nice, large display, but only an Full HD resolution of 1080p making it a poor candidate for Virtual Reality (VR.) It does have dual speakers with one set on the bottom of the phone, and the second speaker is the earpiece and puts out some nice sounds. Headphones in the 3.5mm jack sound good as well. It is also disappointing in a device this expensive there is no dust or water protection. Like the Pixel XL, the Mate 9 has a rear-facing fingerprint sensor to unlock the device or authorize mobile payments. The Mate 9 comes running Android 7.0 Nougat and measures 156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9mm, weighs in at 190 grams and comes in Space Gray, Moonlight Silver, Champagne Gold, Mocha Brown, Ceramic White, and Black. Its pricing should be somewhere in the $750 range.
…And The Winner Is…
The Final Word
It is easy to pick the Google Pixel XL as the winner of this comparison. With their prices so close, it comes down to specifications, and except for the non-expandable memory, the Pixel XL wins in most categories.
The Pixel XL has an AMOLED display for bolder contrasts, it has the QHD resolution for greater detail, certainly an equal or better processor and GPU. It only has one primary camera sensor but is rated the best smartphone camera for now. It has at least a little splash resistance and will get the fastest Android updates each year. It also comes with Google Assistant built-in and will work with Google Home.
The Huawei Mate 9 is an excellent device and a photo lovers dream with its two Leica lenses. It has a nice size display but is only Full HD. It only works on AT&T and T-Mobile, and that is a big no-no for many users, and if it worked on all major US carriers, the Mate 9 might have won this comparison. For a device costing almost $800, we expect a QHD display and better connectivity on more networks.