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Google Pixel 3 XL vs. OnePlus 6T: Save Your Money

As frustrating as it was to decide, you should go for the cheaper phone. Here’s why.

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Frustrating.

That’s the word I’d use to describe my time trying to compare the Google Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T, the companies’ latest flagships. Both are good phones with their own fair share of positives and negatives. But considering how I feel about the Pixel 3 XL, I thought I wasn’t being reasonable. That is, until I came to a conclusion that many of you may be surprised by.

Let’s compare the Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T to see which one is worth your hard-earned dollars.

[We’d like to extend a special shout out to Verizon who was able to hook us up with the Google Pixel 3 XL for review! You can check them out at their website here.]


Design & Build

There’s no denying both the Pixel 3 XL and OnePlus 6T look very similar. Both phones offer frosted glass backs, aluminum side rails, and thin form factors. Of course, Google opts for a glossy glass area on the back of its phone while OnePlus sticks with a frosted finish through and through. Regardless, they’re very similar in appearance with only a few characteristics separating them.

During day to day usage, I’ve found the 6T to be the most comfortable to hold. It isn’t as wide as the Pixel 3 XL and it’s easier to do things like text with just one hand. The screen is also taller and gives you a longer canvas to consume content like reading articles and e-books. I’m a huge fan of this form factor so, in terms of hand feel, the 6T takes the cake.

The 6T also wins from a functionality standpoint. The Pixel 3 XL comes with smushy, soft power and volume buttons that are a bit hard to press. Meanwhile, the 6T delivers super clicky and satisfying buttons that are a pleasure to press. You also get an alert slider with the device that, quite frankly, will make you question how you ever lived without it.

None of this is to say the Pixel 3 XL has a poor design. In fact, I think it’s one of the best on the market thanks to its premium feel. But unless you plan on using your phone exclusively with two hands, the OnePlus 6T will probably suit you better.


Display

Speaking of the 6T suiting you better, the display is another area where OnePlus’ offering reigns supreme. But not in quality. In implementation.

On board, you’ll find a 6.4-inch Optic AMOLED display with a resolution of 2340×1080 and an aspect ratio of 19.5:9. With the Pixel 3 XL, you get a 6.3-inch P-OLED display with a 2960×1440 resolution and 18.5:9 aspect ratio.

In terms of quality, the Pixel 3 XL takes the crown. Its colors are reproduced nicely, contrasts are better, and the entire display feels more like a printed image whereas the 6T feels like you’re looking at a screen. Of course, OnePlus’ offering does have a very nice panel and it even gets brighter than the Pixel 3 XL’s. But when boiled down to quality, the Pixel is the winner.

This is where things get interesting, however. Because no matter how you play it, you can’t talk about either phones’ screen without mentioning their notches.

The OnePlus 6T takes an elegant approach when it comes to the notch. Its teardrop shape doesn’t take up very much of the display and fits in the notification bar seemlessly and effortlessly. When watching full-screen content, next to nothing is blocked out. Of course, certain games might not be fully compatible with the cutout, but even if you stretch them to full screen, they still look half decent.

For whatever reason, Google’s implementation of the notch on the Pixel 3 XL is the polar opposite of the 6T’s. Whereas the OnePlus has a tiny and minute cutout, the Pixel decides to go with something completely obnoxious and unconstitutional. Seriously, it should be against the law to have a notch this big.

It makes the notification bar unnecessarily tall; it pushes content down too far; and when blacked out, the notch takes up way too much screen real estate. Not a day goes by that I look at the Pixel 3 XL’s notch and wonder, “What was Google smoking when it decided this was a good idea?”

Sure folks, you can try to justify the Pixel’s humongous cutout by stating how it includes two selfie cameras, a stereo speaker, and other sensors while the 6T sticks with just a single front shooter. But to me, Google doesn’t do enough to make having such a gigantic notch worth it.

If the notch were half as tall as it is, I wouldn’t be complaining as much. But because it’s not, I can’t help but conclude that the OnePlus 6T has the better implementation.

The 6T also utilizes the screen for cool new features, specifically an in-display fingerprint reader. Whereas the Pixel 3 XL sticks with a reader on its back, OnePlus implements the sensor under the 6T’s screen. It works around 85 percent of the time, largely because of how new the technology is. I say this because the Pixel 3 XL’s physical fingerprint reader, a technology been around for more than five years, works 95 percent of the time.

In terms of coolness, the 6T reigns supreme. But when it comes to practicality, many might prefer the Pixel.


Performance

I’m just gonna say this up front: my Pixel 3 XL is the tortoise to my OnePlus 6T’s hare. Except instead of stopping midway to take a break, the 6T just keeps going and going and wins the race.

With the Pixel 3 XL, you get a Snapdragon 845 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. That might sound like a decent recipe of specs (especially considering how well Google has been able to optimize similarly-specced phones in the past), but in reality, it just isn’t enough. I’m met with constant app stutters, dropped frames during gameplay, and general slowness that I would’ve never expected from a Pixel-branded device.

Meanwhile, the OnePlus 6T offers some of the best performance I’ve ever had from an Android phone. It also uses a Snapdragon 845, but it opts for 8GB of RAM instead of four and includes 128GB of baseline storage. It’s better at multitasking, gaming, everyday operations, and heavy tasks that can take a toll on your device. Better specs don’t always lead to better performance, but in this case, they definitely do.

Compared to the Pixel 3 XL, it’s night and day. Google’s phone just can’t keep up with the OnePlus 6T. The latter is a jaguar, the former is a sloth. I hate to be that harsh, but when compared to one another, it’s just the truth.


Camera

Here’s another truth: the Pixel 3 XL has a much better camera than the OnePlus 6T.

On the back of the device, Google includes a single 12.2MP camera with an f/1.8 aperture. Typically, on flagship smartphones, you’d find two or even three rear cameras. But for the Pixel 3 XL, Google is sticking with its single lens approach to photography.

Meanwhile, the OnePlus 6T opts for two cameras on its back; there’s one main sensor at 16MP and a secondary telephoto camera at 20MP. Both offer f/17 apertures.

As you can see in the images, OnePlus is pretty aggressive with its HDR that photos can feel pretty artificial. Pictures could also be a tad bit sharper and less saturated. With Google’s phone, however, a much better HDR algorithm is used to bring out natural highlights and shadows to create a very visually-pleasing photograph that’s sharp, colorful, and properly exposed.

For portrait mode, OnePlus uses a dedicated telephoto camera to collect depth information. The result is a pretty pleasing photo to look at with a more natural look. However, edges of your subject can get blurred pretty easily and overexposure tends to be a problem more often than not.

With the Pixel, Google utilizes its software to pull out the subject you’re taking a photo of and blur its surroundings. It can look more artificial than what the 6T produces, but oftentimes, the Pixel is better at edge detection, resulting in a more stunning portrait.

In terms of video, the 6T and Pixel 3 XL capture nice footage. I would have to give the edge to the 6T in this cae as it can shoot in 4K at 60 frames per second. The Pixel 3 XL, meanwhile, is stuck at 4K 30 frames per second. They’re both equally pleasing to look at with similar stabilization.

For selfies, however, the Pixel 3 XL takes the crown. It uses two different cameras: a main 8MP f/1.8 lens and a secondary 8MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle camera. This lets you get more of a scene into a frame and fit more friends if you’re taking a groupie.

The 6T, on the other hand, sticks with a single 16MP f/2.0 lens. Selfies are okay, at best. Portrait mode kinda sucks, but that’s worth noting since the Pixel 3 XL crushes it with portrait selfies thanks to Google’s software.

Overall, I have to hand it to the Pixel 3 XL. It just has a far superior set of cameras than the 6T. OnePlus’ sensors aren’t bad, by any means, and are perfectly capable of taking some great photographs. But when put side by side, the Pixel just dominates.


Software

Whenever you see a Google-branded device, you know you’re getting a great software experience. That’s what you get with the Pixel 3 XL. The device comes with Android 9 Pie out of the box and includes all the features you’ve heard about associated with the latest version of the operating system. This includes Digital Wellbeing, better notification management, free original-quality Google Photos backup, Call Screening, and more.

You’re also first-in-line for software updates. When Android Q is released to the world, the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will receive the upgrade on day one. Meanwhile, other third-party devices will have to wait until their manufacturers get around to updating the devices. This is what’s called update fragmentation, when OEMs take longer than competitors to get upgraded operating systems out to their devices.

Of course, not every Android manufacturer is slow when it comes to updates, and a good example is OnePlus. With the 6T, you get OxygenOS based on Android Pie, and it’s just as good (if not better) than what you get with the Pixel 3 XL.

All the standard Pie features are on board like better notification management, UI tweaks, and improved security. But instead of including a somewhat locked down version of Android like on the Pixel, OnePlus lets you customize OxygenOS to your liking. This translates to a system-wide dark mode, custom accent color selection, and multiple options for navigation.

That last feature is extremely important. I hate the gesture-based navigation system on the Pixel 3 XL, and the same one can be found on the 6T. However, instead of sticking to it exclusively, OnePlus provides two other methods of navigation: a traditional three-button navigation bar and a full-screen gesture system similar to the iPhone X. The latter is my personal favorite as it’s the most intuitive, and it makes using the 6T more pleasing than using the Pixel 3 XL.

It’s worth noting, however, that OxygenOS does have its problems. For instance, while it’s lightning fast, it’s not as appealing to look at since Google’s version of Android has smoother animations. The former also isn’t first-in-line for software updates, despite still receiving them in a timely manner. So if you like curb appeal and need the latest software ASAP, the Pixel 3 XL is gonna be your best option.

For everyone else, though, the 6T will suffice.


Battery

OnePlus and Google have reputations for building phones with great battery life. But when putting the 6T up against the Pixel 3 XL, it’s clear who the winner is: the 6T.

Inside the Pixel 3 XL, you get a somewhat large 3,430mAh battery. On paper, that should be enough to get you through a day, and it is. But with the 6T’s 3,700mAh battery, you can get at least a full day of heavy use, not have to worry about plugging it in at night, and use it for at least another half day once the sun rises. You simply can’t do that with the Pixel 3 XL.

OnePlus has the right recipe for endurance. It utilizes a Full HD+ display instead of the Quad HD+ resolution on the Pixel, and its aggressive battery management in the background helps to extend your usage beyond normal life cycles for a full cell of this size. Google does a decent enough job to get you through a day, but OnePlus goes far and beyond to ensure you can get at least a day and a half out of its latest phone.

The OnePlus 6T also wins when it comes to charging speeds. Whereas the Pixel 3 XL takes around one and a half to two hours to charge from zero to 100 percent, the 6T manages to go from zero to 100 percent in a maximum of an hour and a half. Oftentimes, it’s even quicker than that. To go from zero to 50 percent takes less than 30 minutes with the OnePlus and takes around 35 to 40 minutes with the Google device.

Mind you, these are small differences. Both have fast charging and will be sufficient for your everyday lifestyle. But OnePlus always manages to succeed expectations with its Dash Charging technology that I can’t help but give the 6T the win in the battery department. You won’t necessarily be disappointed by the Pixel 3 XL, but the 6T is the clear superior when put head to head.


Conclusion

The Pixel 3 XL, during my testing, has been a phone that’s frustrating to justify. Its performance, design, and overall experience feel underwhelming and unimpressive. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 6T checks nearly every box when it comes to a new smartphone thanks to its incredible speed, great battery life, and premium look and feel. Of course, the Pixel has a far better camera and you’ll be first in line for software updates, but the 6T isn’t too far behind in these regards.

Unless you absolutely need the very best camera on a phone and you demand to have Android Q the day it comes out, I think a majority of people will be happy with the OnePlus 6T. Not only do you get a better day-to-day experience, you’ll also save between $300 and $400, possibly even more if you buy the phone at a discount.

It’s hard for me to recommend the Pixel 3 XL. There are things I like about it, but as an overall package, I can’t justify it, especially since it starts at $899. But for $569, the OnePlus 6T goes far and beyond what’s required for a mid-range-priced phone. So if you’re trying to decide between these two phones, go for the 6T. I think you’ll be really happy.

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