Today we’ll compare two devices that ship with premium hardware, offer premium build quality and come with premium price-tags. The Google Pixel XL is the larger of the two first-generation Pixel devices launched by Google, replacing the much-loved Nexus-line of affordable smartphones that ran pure Android and was a hit not just with the Android developer community, but with millions of pure Android lovers around the world. Sony's Xperia XZ Premium, on the other hand, is the latest flagship smartphone from the Japanese tech major, and comes with an attractive design aesthetic and cutting-edge processing power. They are both great smartphones to own, but only one can win our head-to-head today, so which one is it? Let’s find out!
Google Pixel XL
As mentioned already, the Google Pixel XL is the larger of the two first-generation Pixel smartphones launched last year. The devices are designed, developed and marketed by Google, and are manufactured by Taiwanese tech company HTC. The handsets were officially announced last October, and were put up for sale internationally shortly thereafter. As a successor to the Nexus devices, the Pixel twins have managed to cater to the dedicated Android fan base, even though many of them were originally infuriated at the idea of losing their beloved Nexus lineup. However, the lure of high-end hardware, best-in-class cameras, pure Android experience and super-fast updates soon won over most of the skeptics, with large sections of the dedicated Android community embracing them much the same way they had welcomed the Nexus line years earlier.
The Pixel XL ships with a 5.5-inch WQHD (2560 x 1440) AMOLED display that has Corning Gorilla Glass 4 for protection. The device is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC, which may now sound outdated because of the Snapdragon 835, but is still faster than the chip that powered some of the best phones from last year, including, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge. Google's phablet also comes with 4GB of DDR4 RAM and either 32GB or 128GB of UFS 2.0 storage, depending on the model. The device also ships with a rear-facing fingerprint scanner as well as an NFC chip for compatibility with Android Pay.
Imaging options on the Pixel XL include a rear-facing 12.3-megapixel sensor with an 1/2.3-inch sensor size and 1.55µm pixel size. The sensor is paired with a lens that comes with an f/2.0 aperture. The camera has EIS, PDAF & Laser Autofocus, alongside a dual-tone, dual LED flash. The camera can take 2160p videos at 30fps and 1080p videos at up to 120fps. The front-facing selfie-cam comes with an 8-megapixel sensor with an 1/3.2-inch sensor size and 1.4µm pixel size, alongside an f/2.4 lens. You can only, however, record 1080p videos at 30fps with the front-facing camera. The one thing that needs to be noted here, is that in a benchmark test conducted by DxOMark last year, the Pixel (and Pixel XL) camera received a score of 89 – the highest yet for a smartphone at the time.
On the software side of things, the Pixel XL originally shipped with Android 7.1 Nougat on-board, and along with the Pixel, was one of the first two smartphones to have had Google Assistant pre-installed. As for the rest of the Pixel XL spec-sheet, the device includes a non-removable 3,450mAh Li-ion battery with fast-charging enabled, while local connectivity options include dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA and hotspot, alongside Bluetooth 4.2 with A2DP, LE. The device also has GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS. In terms of sensors, the device ships with an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a proximity sensor, a magnetometer and a barometer. The device measures 154.7mm in length, 75.7mm in width and 8.5mm in thickness while weighing in at 168 grams.
Sony Xperia XZ Premium
The Xperia XZ Premium is not just one of the best-looking smartphones on the market today, but also boasts of some truly impressive hardware that’s on par with the very best on offer right now. The phone features an IPS LCD Triluminous display that has a 4K pixel resolution (3840 x 2160) and is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5. The device is powered by the Snapdragon 835 SoC that comes with eight custom Kryo 280 cores, four of which are clocked at 2.45GHz while the other four run at a maximum frequency of 2.19GHz. An integrated Adreno 540 GPU takes care of all the graphics processing needs. The device comes with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that can be expanded by a microSD card of up to 256GB in capacity.
In terms of optics, the rear-facing camera on the Xperia XZ Premium comes with a 19-megapixel sensor with 5-axis electronic image stabilization (EIS), PDAF and laser autofocus along with the customary LED flash. The camera has an f/2.0 aperture, a 25mm focal length and a 1/2.3″ sensor size, with software features that include geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR and panorama. The camera can record 4K videos at 30fps and 720p videos at an astonishing 960fps, although only for very short bursts (just about 0.15 seconds). The front facing camera is a 13-megapixel sensor that can record 1080p videos at 30fps and, comes with an f/2.0 aperture, a 22mm focal length, a 1/3-inch sensor size and 1.12µm pixel size.
The Xperia XZ Premium also ships with a whole host of sensors including, an accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, barometer, magnetometer (e-compass) and color spectrum sensor. The device carries a non-removable 3,230mAh Li-ion battery with support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0, while cellular connectivity includes support for 4G LTE, 3G HSPA and 2G GSM standards. The Xperia XZ Premium features USB Type-C connectivity, but also includes a 3.5mm audio port. In terms of software, the device comes with pre-installed Android 7.1 Nougat and is likely to receive the Android O update going forward. Like most Sony flagships before it, the Xperia XZ Premium is also fully waterproof and dust resistant, and comes with an IP68 certification, meaning, it can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes at a stretch.
While the Xperia XZ Premium is a decent smartphone in general, you’ll need to remember one thing if you’re planning to buy the device in the U.S. Like its recent predecessors, it also doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner in its U.S. variants. So in spite of a rather hefty price-tag, the device doesn’t come with a standard biometric sensor that’s fairly common these days even in $100 devices for the most part.
And The Winner Is …
The Final Word
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is an excellent all-round smartphone with a build quality that’s second to none. It packs the latest hardware, offers comprehensive protection from the elements and, comes with a striking, yet elegant design that’s unmistakably Sony. On paper, it’s got pretty much everything you’d want from a modern-day smartphone, but in reality, it was difficult to overlook a couple of key issues while deciding the on winner in this comparison. First and foremost is the missing fingerprint scanner that admittedly, is an annoyance only for U.S. residents, but it renders your device incompatible with various mobile payment systems, which is just unacceptable for a device that costs as much as this one. The second thing that went in the Pixel XL's favor are all the third-party developments that always follow Google’s handsets. For a true Android aficionado, they are just too hard to resist. Even if you’re not into all that, you’d still appreciate the lightning-quick updates that not only bring new features and fix annoying bugs, but also keep your device protected from the latest malware. That being the case, the Google Pixel XL is the clear winner in today's comparison, all things considered.