AnandTech reviews the Google Pixel XL

Also in today’s open source roundup: Samsung apologizes for Galaxy Note 7, and the Mythbuntu distro is dead

google pixel xl

AnandTech reviews the Google Pixel XL

Google’s Pixel XL phone has gotten quite a lot of coverage in the media since its release. But there’s one site that serious Android fans always look forward to hearing from: AnandTech.

AnandTech has a deep, detailed review up of the Pixel XL Android phone and the site’s reviewers came away with mixed feelings about Google’s flagship phone.

Matt Humrick & Brandon Chester report for AnandTech:

Google is clearly and unambiguously targeting the flagship market with its Pixel phones. With a starting price of $649 for the smaller 5.0-inch Pixel with 32GB of storage ($749 with 128GB) and $769 for the 5.5-inch Pixel XL with 32GB ($869 with 128GB), Google is competing directly with Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Apple’s iPhone 7 lineups. Especially in North America where Samsung and Apple dominate, Google needs more than an impressive list of hardware and features to attract customers. It needs to deliver an excellent user experience with few pain points. With its Pixel phones, Google is asserting more control over hardware and design, hoping tighter integration leads to better phones that are worth more than the sum of their parts. Unlike Apple, who executes this strategy well, Google fails to realize any benefit from its more hands-on approach with its Pixel phones.

The Pixel XL’s battery life results are a bit mixed too. In our Wi-Fi browsing test, it clearly loses out to Samsung’s Galaxy S7 edge and Apple’s iPhone 7/7 Plus. It also does not last as long in our GFXBench gaming test, although that’s mainly because it throttles less and maintains a higher level of performance than other Android flagships. When running everyday code that relies on Android system APIs, the Pixel XL fares better, equaling the S7 edge’s runtime; however, this comes at the cost of reduced performance, so this is really more of a draw than a win.

According to Google, one of the Pixel’s key selling points is its camera performance and HDR+ mode. Based on our subjective testing, its camera is certainly very good, but it’s not the best. The auto exposure, auto white balance, and autofocus routines deliver consistently good results in most conditions, and its colors are nicely saturated but accurate. In good lighting conditions, the Pixel’s rear camera equals or even surpasses the Galaxy S7 edge’s camera, but it cannot match the S7’s detail and low noise levels in lower-light conditions.

In the end, the Pixel XL is a decent enough phone, but it is not the ultimate Android phone that people were likely hoping for. It fails to stand out in a crowded market and cannot claim to be the best in any single category; at best it is a jack of all trades. This is a serious problem for a phone that is positioned as and priced like a flagship phone. It also does not help that it’s missing support for microSD cards and wireless charging (it does support the USB Power Delivery specification for 18W fast charging), features that are available on the Galaxy S7 edge. There’s also no environmental protection against water and dust, which both the S7 edge and iPhone 7 Plus include. Even its exclusive software feature, Google Assistant, should be available on future Android phones. In the end, the Pixel XL is a Nexus phone with another name. It still delivers a pure Android experience and timely software and security updates, but is that enough to justify its flagship price?

More at AnandTech

AnandTech’s review spawned a thread in the Android subreddit, and the folks there shared their thoughts:

Mahyarv14: “I agree with the jack of all trades part, but this phone has been the best Android device I’ve owned. And I have owned many devices. Moving from a 6P felt like a big upgrade, especially performance wise. This thing is so damn smooth and runs so cool. ”

WTFYouGuys: “I really appreciate how thorough his reviews are. These days it seems like everybody else just skims over the basics.”

Cdegallo: “On the performance and signal topics, I have not experienced these things on my pixel. Specifically the performance…nothing about it feels slow.

Curious about the camera traits though. I wonder if the spherical aberration correction on their models were off.”

DrexelDragon93: “Ah, just like I thought. The battery is just average. I kept wondering why people on reddit were claiming the whole “7 hours SOT, 36 hours total” when I wasn’t getting anything close to that.

So, those peeps are either lying, lying about their usage, or using their phone on airplane mode with 0% brightness.”

Mysecretaccount726: “I’ve been getting 7 hours of SOT. Just because these synthetic tests don’t show that it is very good, doesn’t mean it actually is. SOT varies wildly depending on how you use your device that nobodies experience can discount someone else’s.”

Axehomeless: “You do realize that these tests are neglecting everything about OS optimizations, because that depends on how smart a devices uses it’s ressources and goes back to sleep/idle. These tests are charging, doing something until they die, which tells you a lot of stuff, like how effieciently the hardware runs in loop, how much the display is draining the battery etc.

But it’s so far from real world usage, that you can’t really say anything definitive about that, especially since 7.x brought a different background coaliscing system.”

OiYou: “Everyone’s usage is different and theres so many different variable. You cannot flat out say somebody lieing because your not getting what they’re getting.

On another note my regular Pixel battery life isn’t too mind blowing either.”

Letracho: “The thing that stood out to me was how good LCD displays are. iPhones and the 5X kill it in color accuracy. They also get brighter.

Are color saturation, pure blacks and screen burn-in really that important to people? AMOLED just seems so inferior when compared to LCDs. And I have a Note 4. Much prefer the display on my 5X.”

VictoriousRaptor: “Now that we’ve gotten the most unbiased review of the Pixel we could get, a review that in fact does not claim the sunshine blows out the phones ass, I wonder how people here are going to dismiss Anandtech and how their detailed reviews aren’t relevant for real users.

Never mind that the issues Anandtech touched upon do affect real world uses. This place however did set themselves up for eventual disappointment by propping this phone up so high”

Dlongb13: “Definitely a sum of its parts phone. Day to day use this is the best mobile experience I’ve ever had. This year alone I’ve used the S7, 6P, iPhone 7, and Note 5, there is nothing that competes for how I use my phone. It is so smooth and fast that I grab my phone to complete tasks as opposed to using my laptop. I want to use my phone for everything now.

Part of this has to do with how incredible Nougat is to use and multitask with. It’s astonishing to me how much more of a productive OS it is than iOS. The iPhone 7 was just a smooth, sometimes even faster, but the hoops to jump through and the disconnect of apps slows down the workflow, at least for me.

You may not think the Pixel is for you, and maybe it isn’t, but use one for a week or so and then go back to a competing Android OEM. It becomes apparent how much ground they are going to have to make up on the software are of things.”

More at Reddit

Samsung apologizes for Galaxy Note 7

Samsung has been in a world of hurt since it had to recall its Galaxy Note 7 phone. The company has taken out full page ads to apologize to its customers and to try to salvage what’s left of its brand appeal.

Nick Start reports for The Verge:

In an effort to restore some consumer goodwill after the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung ran full page apology ads in three major US daily newspapers today. The letters, which appeared in Monday editions of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, were aimed at English-speaking consumers, according to The Korean Herald. The letter is signed by Gregory Lee, the president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America.

The company says it’s continuing to investigate the device’s development and manufacturing processes to fully unearth what exactly went wrong and caused the device to catch fire and combust. The Note 7, which was initially released back in August, suffered from critical flaws in its design that led to overheating. Samsung initially recalled millions of units in early September, but permanently discontinued production a month later after replacement phones began exhibiting the same issues. As of last week, around 85 percent of all devices have been returned, the company says.

All in all, it’s clear Samsung leadership feels the need to mend bridges. “Most importantly, safety remains our top priority,” the ad says in conclusion. “We are grateful for your ongoing support and again, we are truly sorry.”

More at The Verge

Mythbuntu is dead

Mythbuntu has been discontinued, according to a note posted on the official Mythbuntu site. Mythbuntu had been set up to combine MythTV and Ubuntu.

Simon Sharwood reports for The Register:

The project’s death notice offers a simple reason for the distro’s demise: the team working on it has shrunk from ten to just two, the remaining maintainers want to get on with their lives and just don’t have time to do the distro right.

The decision means that Mythbuntu ISOs will soon be hard to find and updates will cease. Myth TV is a discrete project and there is no evidence it will cease any time soon. Users will be heartened to learnt hat the Mythbuntu has promised that “MythTV packages in the official repositories and the Mythbuntu PPA will continue to be available and updated at their current rate.”

The project’s demise is another example of an open source project running out of steam: Apache Open Office was recently revealed as struggling to maintain a critical mass of developers.

More at The Register

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