Google Pixel 3 vs Pixel 2: Should you upgrade?

Pixel 3 vs Pixel 2: How much has Google improved its flagship?

One of the leakiest phones of recent years has just been officially revealed: the Google Pixel 3. Google’s latest flagship comes in two sizes and updates both the design and specs when compared to last year’s Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL.

Should you be getting ready to upgrade? Let’s see how the Pixel 2 compares to the brand-new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Pixel 3 vs Pixel 2: Is the design different?

Just like with the Pixel 2, both the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL look different. This is a different approach to Apple, who tend to keep its two phones sizes looking very similar.

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The Pixel 3 looks most like the Pixel 2 XL thanks to the 18:9 display and thinner bezels. The Pixel 3 XL, on the other hand, adds a notch into the equation – a rather large notch. This means that if you watch lots of video it’ll likely get in the way, provided you’re watching in the phone’s native aspect ratio. The notch here feels a lot more intrusive than on other phones with a similar style. We’ll likely get used to it over time – hopefully.

Google has also switched to a completely glass back, rather than having a glass portion sitting above a metal area. This makes the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL the first Pixel phones to support Qi wireless charging.

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There’s no headphone jack on either the Pixel 2 series nor the duo of Pixel 3s, however, an IP68 rating is still here along with the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. USB-C is the main charging connection and that sits on the bottom.

The colours these phones come in are slightly different too. The Pixel 3 came in white, blue and black, with the Pixel 2 XL getting rid of the blue option. There’s a bit more parity with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL as they both come black, white and a light shade of pink, confusingly named ‘Not Pink’.

Pixel 3 vs Pixel 2: What’s new with the specs and features?

As you’d expect with a yearly upgrade of a flagship phone, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL improve the chipset used to power the phones.

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were both powered by the Snapdragon 835, with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL upping that to the newer Snapdragon 845. The 845 offers improved speed in both the GPU and CPU, along with support for gigabit LTE.

4GB RAM remains the same across all the Pixel phones and it seems odd that Google hasn’t upped that to at least 6GB for the Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL. Storage still starts at 64GB too (again with no microSD) with a 128GB option available too.

During the announcement for the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, Google talked up the camera capabilities of the phones heavily. The 12.2-megapixel f/1.8 camera remains similar in terms of specs, however, Google has again worked hard on the computational side of things and some of the demo images it showed off looked truly stunning.

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The camera app has been tweaked too and it seems much easier to quickly jump between different modes including new additions Top Shot, Super Res Zoom and Night Sight. Some of these features will then trickle down to the older Pixel devices too.

There are changes on the front camera as well. On the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL there was a single 8-megapixel selfie shooter – but now there are two of them. One of them remains your standard, closely-cropped sensor with the other being wide-angle – called the Group Selfie Cam. Having a wider camera allows you to cram more faces into the photos.

The Pixel 3’s battery is marginally larger than the Pixel 2’s while the Pixel 3 XL actually packs in a slightly smaller cell than 2017’s XL model.

The Pixel 2 had a 5-inch screen, with the Pixel 2 XL upping that to 6-inches. Both new phones announced today have larger screens than their predecessors. The Pixel 3 has a 5.5-inch FHD+ 18:9 display with the Pixel 3 XL boasting a 6.3-inch 2960 x 1440 18.5:9 panel. HDR support is here too.

Pixel 3 vs Pixel 2: Are they more expensive?

Google’s upped the starting price of this year’s Pixels, with the Pixel 3 coming in at a far-from-trivial £739/$799 and the 3 XL costing £869/$899, with an additional £100/$100 added onto each if you opt for the larger 128GB storage capacity.

Early verdict

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL look like good phones, however, they seem to be very minor updates over the outgoing models. There’s been a bump in specs and some nice features added – wireless charging being one – but nothing we’d consider substantial. Of course, that could all change when we properly spend some time with those shiny new cameras.