tl;dr: This is a great phone for travel.

By Jessica Plautz
October 18, 2016
The Google Pixel phones.
Credit: Google

Travel can really put a device to the test. Battery life is much more important when there are no available outlets at the airport, and good photo quality is a requirement for vacation photos.

And then there's keeping track of reservations, getting directions, looking up restaurants, finding museum hours, checking in at the airport...

That's why we took the new Google Pixel on the road for our review.

The Phone

The Google Pixel XL that Travel + Leisure tested is on the heftier side: It's 6.09 inches long, almost 3 inches wide, and weighs 5.92 ounces. That's slightly smaller and lighter than the iPhone 7 Plus. The smaller size, the regular Pixel, is 5.66 inches long, 2.74 inches wide and a bit more than 5 ounces. (That makes it slightly larger than the iPhone 7.)

In hand, the XL was comfortable—but occasionally required two hands. (I'm looking at you, Twitter Android app with the tabs at the top of the screen.)

The phones have 4GB RAM, and the choice of 32GB or 128GB internal storage. In addition, Google is offering unlimited online photo and video storage with a Google account.

Unlike the iPhone 7, Pixel keeps the analog headphone jack.

Pixel's screen is beautiful—noticeably so when looking at photos taken with the rear camera.

The Cameras

Smartphone cameras have been great for a while, but the Pixel's rear camera is still impressive.

The 12.3 megapixel camera got the highest ever score—an 89—from image reference quality site DxOMark. There's also an 8 megapixel front-facing camera, which comes in handy for vacation selfies.

On the road, the image stabilization proved most useful and most remarkable. Standing and taking a video created so smooth a finished product that I couldn't imagine better results with a tripod.

Google Assistant

Pixel comes with Google Assistant built in, which came most in handy with asking for directions (“OK Google, where is the ferry landing?”), setting reminders (“OK Google, remind me to order groceries for home before my flight.”), and checking flights (“OK Google, what time is my flight?”).

But of course, talking to computers isn't perfect yet (will it ever be?), and advanced requests or follow-ups are not Assistant's forte. And maybe it's how I talk to computers, but every time someone else was around when I said “OK Google,” they didn't think it was a command—they thought I was annoyed and talking to my phone. It wasn't annoying, though—maybe I just have the vocal version of RBF.

That said, I had more luck with Google Assistant understanding my requests and returning useful information than I've had with Siri. (Don't tell her.)

Android OS

Pixel comes with Android 7.1 Nougat, with a long list of pre-installed apps. All of the info Google has for you, from upcoming appointments and reservations to recommended news stories, is available with a swipe over to the left.

The Battery

Battery life on the Pixel XL was impressive. Even using the phone as a mobile hotspot, streaming video and music, and using maps, the battery still had a decent charge at the end of the day. But we'll have to add a note here that this is a new device—whether the battery life is this impressive 6 months from now has yet to be seen.

Charging was fast, and since we travel with a battery pack, using the Pixel involved no worries about the phone dying.

The Price

Google Pixel starts at $649, or $27.04 a month for 24 months, going up to $869, or $36.21 a month, for the XL with 128GB storage. That makes it comparable in price to the iPhone, and slightly more expensive than some other Android options like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.