Google Pixel 2 vs. Pixel 2 XL: What's the difference?

Google's latest phones are here, and it's clear the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are aimed at very different kinds of users. Like the original Pixel phones, Google has worked with manufacturers with very specific hardware goals in mind. This means things like the camera and processor are identical, but if you're going to choose between these two phones it is important to know what makes each one special.

Here's a quick look at how these two Pixel phones are going to grab your attention.

Train wreck up front, party in the back

You don't have to stare at these phones for terribly long to see there's a significant design difference on the front of these phones. Both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have stereo front-facing speakers, which means these phones are already going to be a little taller than your average phone in the same general size, but the Pixel 2 clearly looks different from the Pixel 2 XL from the front.

This is cool, but show me the specs!

The big bezels on the top and bottom of the Pixel 2 wrap up its 5-inch 1080p display, and there's no denying it looks a little chunky compared to the 6-inch 2880x1440 display on the Pixel 2 XL. This isn't a deal-breaker by any stretch, especially if you compare the Pixel 2 to the Nexus 5X and see how strikingly similar they are physically. Ultimately in comes down to aspect ratio. The Pixel 2 has a traditional "cinematic" aspect ratio (16:9) that makes sure video fills the screen without stretching or black bars, while the "fullscreen" aspect ratio (18:9) of the Pixel 2 XL makes the phone feel like it's nothing but display in your hand when playing games or taking photos.

There are a lot of opinions about which of these phones is doing it "right" on the front end.

The differences don't stop at the bezels, but things do get a little messy from here. The LG-made Pixel 2 XL is packing a whole lot more pixels in its larger display, but more does not necessarily mean better. Setting the two phones side by side, the colors on the larger phone appear less vibrant and almost flat in many situations. Tilting the larger phone to extreme angles reveals a blue-ish tint on the sides of the screen, and using the larger phone with the display brightness all the way down exposes some artifacts that can leave you thinking there's something wrong with the display. Perhaps most egregious of all, there's growing concern these displays are experiencing rapid burn-in when constant blacks are drawn on the display.

For a pair of phones that are as close to identical as you can get from the back, there are a lot of opinions about which of these phones is doing it "right" on the front. If you prefer larger displays and slimmer bezels, you clearly have some thoughts here. If you appreciate a quality display in every situation, you clearly have some thoughts here. Is there a wrong answer here? Not really, but when the most used part of your phone is offering a questionable experience there's plenty reason to pause and think about where your priorities really are.

Size doesn't mean power

The larger display and higher resolution on the Pixel 2 XL means it's going to consume quite a bit more power than the Pixel 2, which is to be expected. Both of these phones are running the Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM, so the Pixel 2 XL is going to have to work a little hard to display a lot of the same things. Because it is also a larger phone, there's a larger battery inside.

The 2700mAh battery in the Pixel 2 should be more than enough to get you through a day of use, but the 3520mAh battery in the Pixel 2 XL is dramatically larger. In fact, its 220mAh greater capacity than the battery in the equally large LG V30, which is good news for anyone who needs a phone that lasts more than a standard day.

Despite this difference in battery capacity, both Pixels have an 18W USB-C PD charger in the box capable of providing up to seven hours of use with 15 minutes connected to power. The numbers on the page may be substantially different, but it's clear Google expects Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL owners to have similar battery life expectations.

Which one should you buy?

Until we learn more about the issues impacting the Pixel 2 XL display, it's a lot easier to recommend the smaller Pixel 2 as "the phone" you should consider buying right now. In fact, it's currently our pick for the Best Android Phone you can buy right now. This doesn't mean the Pixel 2 XL is a "bad" phone, and in fact if you need that larger display or bigger battery there's still a ton of things to love about the larger phone, but when it comes to a zero-compromise experience, I'd say the Pixel 2 is the best bet right now.

Where to buy the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Updated October 2017: We've updated this post with the latest differences to help you make the best choice when upgrading.

Russell Holly

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter