In a year of stiff competition from Apple, Samsung, LG and OnePlus it might seem a bit hyperbolic to say the Pixel XL beat the rest ‘comfortably’. But it really did.

Lots of metrics are factored in when I’m considering what makes a ‘good’ smartphone, or, indeed the ‘best’. Battery life, performance, camera, build quality, innovation, sound quality and overall design, amongst others. The more boxes the phone ticks, the higher it scores.

But one factor trumps all others: how much of an all-rounder it is. That means how many of the features it has are ‘above-average’ or ‘good’. The last phone I considered to be a true all-rounder was the iPhone 6 Plus. Now it’s the Google Pixel XL.

The Google Pixel XL. Image credit: Jay McGregor

Google’s first (official) effort is an impressive one. Most smartphone manufacturers have one standout feature and fail elsewhere. For example, HTC has excellent sound output but performance is often a mixed bag. Or, say, LG which has some clever, innovative ideas that come at the expense of build quality and battery life.

With the Google Pixel XL it nails almost every area. The camera is still the best I’ve ever used in a smartphone. The app is lacking some manual controls, but the fact that auto mode produces near perfect results means limited manual control doesn’t really matter. The battery life is also the best I’ve tested this year. I went to bed the other day with 60% battery left after 12 hours of medium usage.

Performance remains lightning fast, which is particularly apparent when I’m escaping into VR worlds with Day Dream. And the overall build quality is solid. It feels rugged despite being light, slim and crammed full of functionality.

Nexus devices being ‘bland’ isn’t really an accurate trope any more. Stock Android is an impressive standalone OS that doesn’t need touching up by third party manufacturers or roms to make it interesting. Nowhere else is that more apparent than the Pixel XL. The integration of Assistant, fast updates and security patches and minimalist UI gives the Pixel XL the cleanest – and most efficient – Android experience on the market.

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