Operating System, Software And Camera – Google Victory And A Draw
Operating System And Software – A Google Victory, Hands Down
This is a very broad but crucial area of functionality and performance that likely should take more bandwidth than I’m about give it. In short, however, Google has reached a point of refinement with Android 7 Nougat such that any advantage of a light skinning from Samsung Touchwiz or other manufacturers’ skins has been negated. It’s the little things that matter and from the large, square icons on the phone dialer for favorites, to integrated search across the OS and Ambient Display features that wake the screen up when you receive app notifications, Android 7 feels feature-complete and powerful now.
Heck, you can even hit the power button and do a soft reset and not just power down the device now – something most other device owners took for granted (but was previously unavailable on Nexus devices). You also get split screen multitasking with Nougat, which is a nice perk but admittedly something I haven't utilized.
However, what’s most satisfying about Android 7 Nougat on the Pixel XL is the complete lack of bloat, how tight it runs, its lower memory footprint and overall efficiency. There is no question, Samsung’s Android “bit rot” is notable and documented. I reserve the right to revisit this area in the months ahead but for now, pure Android 7.1.1 Nougat is clean, light and sublime. I love it and it's probably the single most endearing quality of the Pixel XL for me currently. The phone is so fast and lag-free that I can't go back to my previous experience with the Galaxy S7 Edge. Even without rebooting for weeks on end and with several apps open, the Pixel XL just hums.
Google Assistant - Smarter, More Useful And NaturalAnother nice touch, if you're use to working with such entities, is Google Assistant. Google has refined and enhanced its AI such that it's more useful now and will respond to more conversational type commands and interaction. You can say things like "OK Google book me a meeting in my calendar" and the system will walk through the fields of a calendar event entry with an open mic listening for information, rather than requiring you to say "OK Google" on every command or entry. Also, since Google hasn't rolled out its new assistant to ecosystem partners just yet, it's currently an exclusive.
Pixel XL vs Galaxy S7 Camera Performance – A Virtual Draw?
This again is a tough, subjective area of performance. On one hand, the Galaxy S7 series has arguably the best rear HD camera performance of any handset on the market (including the iPhone 7), until now. The Google Pixel XL’s rear 12.3MP shooter is also very impressive. Still images are sharp with good color balance and perhaps a bit more accurate than Samsung’s slightly over-saturated renderings. I'm more accustomed to seeing pics shot on the GS7 Edge, so I'm still occasionally missing some vibrancy but the Pixel XL's super-crisp still image results, with a more natural color balance from what I can see, are growing on me.
As I noted, however, this is an area of subjective opinion, obviously. From what I’m seeing, the Galaxy S7 series does a better job of capturing color depth, while the Pixel XL’s f2.0 Aperture lens tends to render images slightly more cleanly, especially in low light conditions. In short, for me, it's a virtual toss-up but you may like the color balance of auto mode shots from the Galaxy S7 series slightly better. That said, if accuracy and the lowest noise possible are your metrics, then Pixel XL probably wins. I haven't assembled A/B shots here, though it's something I might circle back on later. For now, if you head to our Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge review's camera performance page, you can see easily what I mean about color and light reproduction. I will say that auto-focus performance with the Pixel XL is easily as fast and accurate as the GS7 as well. Regardless, you won't be disappointed with the Pixel XL's camera performance. It takes great still shots and also shoots 1080p 60fps video if you want, too.