On paper, Google's Pixel 3 XL has the most powerful hardware currently available and its software is only supposed to further optimize the experience. However, after the first couple of days of testing some major problems have come to light, regarding poor RAM management and multitasking. Should you be worried?
To test the performance of the Pixel 3 XL, we used our usual benchmark apps that measure pure processing power, graphics performance and memory speed:
As for gaming, we tested the Pixel 3 XL with games like Life is Strange, Asphalt 9, Hearthstone, PUBG and Fortnite. Obviously, your performance expectations and experience will vary according to you daily use.
Yes and no - it depends on your point of view. Just to recap, under the hood of the new Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL you can find a SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with an Adreno 630 GPU. This is the best mobile chipset available at the moment, if we look only at the American companies. The CPU is comprised of 8 cores (4x 2.8GHz Kryo 385 Gold and 4x1.7GHz Kryo 385 Silver) and runs at the nominal frequency - no overclocking or underclocking at Google.
Unfortunately, this chipset will soon be replaced by a newer version. New top-of-the-range smartphones are already expected to hit the market during the first quarter of 2019. However, this does not mean that the Snapdragon 845 will suddenly become less functional. Just look at the incredible fluidity of the Pixel 2, which sports the even older Snapdragon 835 and is still more responsive than many smartphones equipped with the latest generation chip.
The main complaint Google has to deal with does not concern the hardware used, but the lack of RAM - only 4GB is available on the Pixel 3. A couple of international journalists documented and filmed an aggressive behavior in multitasking management on the Pixel 3, when compared to other devices such as OnePlus 6 that have twice as much system memory.
It's true, 4GB of RAM on a flagship in 2018 is basically unheard of. This is partly because there is no real need for it, but at a starting price of $799, Google could have put in a little more effort. In any case, the behavior observed on the Pixel 3 press devices can be caused by an early version of the software (the build installed on our smartphones with the number PD1A.180720.030 technically dates back to July despite patches in September). The issue does not occur on the Pixel 2, which has 4GB of RAM, either - supporting the software problems hypothesis.
|Pixel 2 XL||Huawei P20 Pro||Galaxy S9
|Sony Xperia XZ2||Google Pixel 3 XL|
Sling Shot ES 3.1
Sling Shot ES 3.0
Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0
The benchmark tests we performed confirm, in part, the problems with RAM management that we hope will be solved with the update coming before the official sale of smartphones. Looking at the table above, you can see that in the PassMark Memory test the result is not only much lower than that of other 2018 flagships, but also about half of last year's Pixel 2 XL score. This is certainly a symptom of non-final software and I'm sure the problem will be solved by Google soon.
The other results are in line, though slightly lower, with the other smartphones equipped with Snapdragon 845 CPU and internal memory type UFS 2.1. Ice Storm Unlimited is the only test in which the device that does not score well enough, but this could again be due to software. We will examine this further in the full review of the Pixel 3 XL.
After some small issues with Asphalt 9 - the app was initially not compatible from the Google Play Store, I finally managed to spend a few hours driving cars. As I expected, the game was perfectly fluid and smooth, even if the loading times could sometimes be slightly longer than those on the iPhone X or the Note 9. No problems with Hearthstone - the game manages to run perfectly even on mid-range hardware nowadays.
Fortnite and PUBG are in a different category. I'm absolutely convinced that these games are able to run at 60fps on most modern top-of-the-range smartphones, but are artificially limited to 20 or 30 fps via software. This is probably done to ensure that all mobile gamers have the same experience, without being penalized for having an older smartphone. We already noticed this situation during the trial period for our review of the Razer Phone 2.
Final Fantasy XV and Life is Strange proved to be as impeccable as Asphalt. Not only were there no problems in the performance of the titles, but the high framerate accompanied by the beautiful display and stereo speakers of Pixel 3 XL allow you to enjoy an immersive gaming experience using the highest settings.
The small hiccups should not scare you
The Pixel 3 XL has all the power you need. Xperia XZ2 shares not only the SoC but also the "meager" 4GB of RAM with the Google smartphone and has no performance problems whatsoever. Thanks to the software optimization to which Google has accustomed us to, I'm sure that the problems that emerged in these first reviews and tests will be solved without a hitch before the smartphone even hits the shelves.
Hardware and performance-wise, the Pixel 3 XL doesn't have to envy the likes of OnePlus 6 or OPPO Find X Automobili Lamborghini in everyday use. Besides the RAM management issue I told you about above, the smartphone runs smoothly and quickly, without ever losing responsiveness. However, the differences between the Pixel 3 XL and 2 XL are not major - 64GB of non-expandable internal memory on both devices will not entice many users to switch to the 2018 model. This issue will be discussed in more detail in the full review of Pixel 3 XL.
Have you pre-ordered the Pixel 3 XL? Are you still considering it or did you get scared by these first articles about its performance issues? Let me know what you think in the comments.