Should you buy the Google Pixel 3 XL in 2022?

Google Pixel 3 XL
Google Pixel 3 XL (Image credit: Android Central)

Best answer: The Pixel 3 XL has great hardware, easy-to-use software, and one of the best cameras of any smartphone available today, but its successor the Pixel 4 XL has better specs and a cleaner design, and the Pixel 3a XL offers most of the same features for considerably less money.

A great phone that can't quite justify its price anymore

It should come as little surprise that Google makes a fantastic Android smartphone. The Pixel 3 XL went with the same proven formula, focusing on simplicity, speed, and useful features paired up with astonishing camera quality.

The software is far more appealing to use and experience than it is to read about.

The Pixel 3 XL can produce amazing photos in all types of conditions, from bright sunny days to dim indoor settings, all with a single rear camera. With a standalone image processor, the Pixel Visual Core, you can take multiple frames simultaneously with the phone and output one wonderful photo every time you press the shutter button. Add in extras like enhanced digital zooming with minimal quality loss and the Night Sight super-low-light mode, and you have a camera that can match or beat almost any other.

A pair of front-facing cameras takes exceptional selfies, whether you use the Portrait Mode for yourself or the wide-angle shooter for a group. Plus, you get an unlimited full-quality backup of your Pixel photos to Google Photos — that's a treat.

The Pixel 3 XL is still a fantastic phone, but two other phones have since been released that put the 3 XL in an odd position: the Pixel 3a XL and the Pixel 4 XL.

The Pixel 3a XL is a much better value

There's a lot to love about the Pixel 3a XL, which launched at nearly half the price of its higher-end counterpart. It trades in the 3 XL's frosted glass backing for a plastic one, and while it sacrifices amenities like water resistance and wireless charging, the design aesthetic is nearly identical from the back, with the same capacitive fingerprint sensor and two-tone color scheme. Critics of the 3 XL's large display notch on the front will likely appreciate its removal with the 3a XL, with a design much more closely resembling that of the smaller Pixel 3.

The processor is a lower-end Snapdragon 670, which leads to noticeably slower performance, but the 3a XL is still plenty snappy for the vast majority of tasks. More importantly, the Pixel 3a XL has the same photographic prowess of the 3 XL, delivering equally stunning shots in any lighting condition. This is the first time we've seen any phone at this price point take photos that rival those coming from top-dollar flagships; if having a great camera is your main priority, there's no better value around than the Pixel 3a XL.

If you need the best phone money can buy

For those that won't settle for anything less than the best, though, the Pixel 4 XL is the successor to the 3 XL with better specs and a more modern design. With it, you get the top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 and a notch-less display with a new 90Hz refresh rate that makes everything feel far smoother and snappier than before. You also get a series of sensors above the display that enable the Pixel 4 XL's new Face Unlock and Motion Sense features.

The camera experience has also been improved on the 4 XL, with a secondary camera for the first time on a Pixel: a 16-megapixel 2X telephoto lens with OIS. There are new camera modes as well, including the incredible astrophotography mode that lets you take jaw-dropping photos of the starry night sky using a combination of HDR+ and long exposure technologies.

There are some other minor improvements that all add up to a better overall experience. The Ambient EQ setting allows the display to fine-tune its color temperature to match its surrounding area. You also get an extra 2GB of RAM with the Pixel 4 XL (totaling out to 6GB), giving the phone more headroom for running multiple apps at once or shooting 4K video. The aforementioned new Soli sensor allows you to control various aspects of the Pixel 4 XL using gestures without touching the display.

Overall, the Pixel 4 XL is a considerably better phone than its predecessor, despite looking largely similar in design and on paper. At around the same price, it's the phone you should buy if you want the best experience Google offers. On the opposite side of the coin, if you're after the best value possible, the Pixel 3a XL is a phenomenal phone for hundreds less than even a used 3 XL, offering the same great camera experience we've all come to know and love.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.