A weekend with the Pixel 3 XL: The camera proved its worth

A Google Pixel 3 XL arrived the day before a vacation and it turns out the camera is as good as every Pixel 2 owner said.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

Reviewers praised the performance of the Google Pixel and Pixel 2 cameras and after several days with the Google Pixel 3 XL I can now see why so many find it appealing. The Pixel 3 may be the first Google Pixel phone I buy that sticks around for a while.

Earlier today, ZDNet's Jason Cipriani posted his first impressions of the Pixel 3 XL with all of the key distinguishing features of the device and some of his thoughts on using it over the last few days. Regular readers know I'm quite a fan of the Galaxy Note 9 and for many reasons it still is a better phone for business.

Also: 10 reasons the Galaxy Note 9 is better than the Google Pixel 3

While the Note 9 may be better for productivity, the Google Pixel 3 XL is a blast to use. It is extremely responsive when scrolling or jumping between apps, has some excellent Google Assistant features, has a battery that can go all day long, and captures excellent quality photos.

Since I spent a weekend on the East Coast for my 25th US Coast Guard Academy reunion, most of my use has consisted of Waze for navigation and the camera for capturing vacation photos. A sample of some of those photos is included in the embedded image gallery.

A weekend with the Pixel 3 XL: in pictures

Wide-angle selfies has allowed me to capture shots of my entire family while also including some of the sights around us. Portrait mode results are very impressive with family and friends loving shots of my family. The camera also has some impressive dynamic range so that landscape photos look great too.

It's an interesting experience to capture portrait mode shots with the Pixel 3 since the viewfinder doesn't show a preview of what to expect like we see on the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or other smartphones. You can view your portrait results after you capture the photo so it's a bit of a surprise to see how well the Google software optimizes the shot. I do like that you can view both the portrait result and full resolution shot with no background blur and that both images are saved in Google Photos.

Also: Pixel 3 vs. Pixel 2 vs. Pixel: Every spec, compared CNET

I am a major fan of buttons to quickly launch a camera and double-pressing the power button to launch the rear camera has allowed me to catch shots quickly. A quick twist of the phone to switch to the front camera is also a handy gesture option.

With Google Assistant integration, you can also use your voice to capture photos so you do not have to position yourself awkwardly to press the shutter button. Photobooth, Playground, and video capture are still to be tested.

Also: Google Pixel 3 XL first impressions: There's (even) more to like

Google Lens worked very well at recognizing trees as I was trying to figure out which ones had leaves changing with the fall colors, identifying monuments and then having Google describe the monument in detail, and helping translate documents in foreign languages. The flawless performance of Google Lens on a Pixel phone is impressive.

While Jason will post a review of the larger Pixel 3 XL, I'll be following up with my thoughts on the smaller model that I bought from Google. Let me know if you have any questions to address in my formal review. After a few days of use, it is possible that the Google Pixel 3 XL may knock the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 from the top of my 10 best smartphones list.

Google Pixel 3 event: All the key moments from the show

Previous and related coverage:

Google Pixel 2 XL review: It doesn't get any more Google than this

The Pixel 2 XL has an improved camera, new design, and new software tricks.

Google Pixel XL Review: Nexus is dead, long live the Pixel

Google's push into becoming a hardware company by creating its own smartphone is off to a fantastic start.

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