Google Pixel 3 XL hands-on (again): Everything you didn’t already know

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Purely in terms of hardware, the Pixel 3 XL is a little underwhelming. It’s not bad by any stretch, but it doesn’t seem to have aspired to much more than the expensive smartphone norm. That said, there are some new additions here like a Titan Security chip, which aims to help lock down all the sensitive information you store on your smartphone, but it’s hard to get a feel for what that really does during some hands-on time. As you’d expect from Google, though, most of the breakthroughs here are in the camera, though one of the biggest new photo features isn’t quite done yet.

We’ve seen super-low-light modes before (perhaps most notably in Huawei’s P20 Pro) but based off the sample images Google has provided, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL just might be the near-dark shooters to beat. Too bad this feature won’t be available to Pixel users until after the phones launch. Meanwhile, the new Top Shot feature generally does a fine job of figuring out when you’re blinking or otherwise ruining a photo, though I didn’t manage to trip it up by blinking a bit too quickly. (Sometimes things get in your eyes!) Overall, though, if you prefer shooting motion photos as opposed to standard RAW or JPEG stills, Top Shot is a huge help.

Having Google Lens baked directly into the viewfinder is really helpful too, though you’ll still need to switch into a specific Google Lens shooting mode to get the full effect. If you point the camera at, say, a QR code, though, the phone recognizes what it’s looking at and offers a handy link. While it isn’t always the best at matching what it sees to what’s on the web, Google Lens can sometimes be a genuinely helpful tool, and it’s great to see Google making it just a little easier to use.

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