Google Pixel 2 Review: So good, I almost don’t care about the headphone jack

The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are not phones I expected to be impressed by.

Not after a year full of some of the most groundbreaking smartphones in recent memory, like the Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Note8, the V30, and the OnePlus 5. Not after the iPhone X was announced to commemorate a decade-long legacy of revolutionizing the smartphone. Not after relentless leaks suggested the Pixel 2 would be little more than a stock Android take on rote 2017 specs. And especially not after Google removed the headphone jack.

And yet here I am, ready to gush about the Pixel 2. It’s my favorite phone of 2017 – actually, my favorite phone in years – and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It’s also because I like it so much that I will be ranting about its more vexing qualities. Tough love, as they say.

N.B.: Other than their screens, battery, shape, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XLs are virtually identical. You can assume anything I say about one applies to the other unless otherwise specified.

Starting on a positive note, the Pixel 2’s design strike a refreshing balance between understated and unique – Google is getting really good at making pretty things. Branding aside, the phones seem to embody the company’s aesthetic, and while they won’t scream ‘LOOK AT ME’ as you walk through the Verizon store, taking a closer look will make you appreciate the details.

The first thing I noticed when picking one up is the metal finish. Google is using a sort of matte paint job that feels softer and more grippy compared to the usual slippery anodized aluminum. It looks the part too, less shiny and fingerprint-y than the typical metal phone.

It feels like the hardware equivalent of Material Design, and the accented power button on some colorways adds a little of that Google quirkiness. I’m particularly fond of the ‘Kinda Blue’ color, which I’m Kinda Sad™ is not available on the XL.

Of course, this couldn’t be a 2017 review without talking about bezels; the smaller Pixel 2 has plenty of them. Yes, it has stereo speakers, but it still looks outdated. I mean, The Essential phone fits a 5.7-inch screen in a body that’s actually a few cubic millimeters smaller.

But much as I love tiny bezels, it’s not a dealbreaker. The Pixel 2 is one of very few flagship Android phones you can still use with one hand, and a taller screen would just make it harder to reach high UI elements.

The XL has less bezels but not as little as a Note 8, V30, or S8. That’s okay though, it crosses ‘good enough’ threshhold for me, and the bottom bezel is smaller than the top, making it easier to reach the top of the screen. I like the gentle curves at the sides of the screen, which don’t cause annoying reflections, and there’s enough bezel to prevent you from triggering the touchscreen.