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Google Pixel 3XL launched: First impressions

10 October 2018

The company on Tuesday introduced the Google Home Hub, a smart speaker with a display. It features all the same music-playing and smart home connectivity of the regular Google Home, including the ability to set routines that can be triggered with a keyword or phrase, but also adds full support for video on YouTube.

Google's been incessantly talking about AI for the a year ago and its use of the term is a little overblown. We liked it but were struck by its limited functions. A pen for use on the touchscreen costs US$99.

Well, we just dug out the dusty box, plugged it in, updated it, and waited to see how much had changed.

"We consciously made a decision to not include a camera on Google Home Hub so you feel comfortable placing it in the private spaces of your home, like the bedroom", says Google Home Product Management VP Diya Jolly.

While the phones haven't become mass-market hits, Google has seen more success with its home products. Amazon has two Echo devices - the new, second-generation Echo Show and Echo Spot - with integrated cameras that let users "drop in" and automatically start a video call based on a list of approved contacts.

Even if Google was able to nail the hardware, and make a smartwatch which feel just as premium as the Apple Watch, its clear that Wear OS needs a lot of work to match the premium hardware. It's essentially a speaker with a 7-inch tablet screen on the front that runs a variant of the Google Assistant Smart Display software launched earlier this year. And it has speakers and microphones so it can answer queries and play sound.

Everybody knows that no matter what Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg and his antisocial network says ("Facebook doesn't listen to, view, or keep the contents of your Portal video calls"), the Portal will be used to gather and sell your personal data.

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You can engage a feature called Night Light where the Slate switches from harsh blue light to warmer tones so it doesn't over-stimulate your eyes.

Google says the Pixel Slate will be available "later this year" for $US599; the Pixel Slate Keyboard will cost $US199, while the new stylus is $US99. But if you are willing to accept that proposition, it is less obnoxious than the alternatives. Even if Google wants to give this level of security to the masses, the problem is that people don't want to make the effort to secure themselves: In January, at the Usenix Enigma security conference, a Google engineer told attendees that only 10% of Gmail users use two-factor authentication to make life harder for hackers. While we could direct you straight to Google's keynote address, we'd rather focus on the initial impressions from tech enthusiast MKBHD, someone who wouldn't be tempted to pull any punches. That, unfortunately, is the mechanics of the market. We need more time with it in our test rooms to deliver a more definitive verdict.

Of course, a Google device wouldn't be complete without a solid Search function. Increasingly, it seems likely that whatever company gets an initial foothold in your home, that will drive future purchasing decisions. Here are the best bang-for-buck plans from Telstra, Vodafone and Optus that you can purchase today.

The new "XL" in the market is exactly what we have been expecting but then that was only on the hardware side of things.

The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL phones offer significant upgrades to prior models by adding a almost edge-to-edge screen on the larger model, more display area on both phones, faster processors and an improved camera. It's not like she doesn't already have the very finest photographic equipment that is available to buy.

This gets you an Intel Celeron processor that's still unnamed, 4GB of memory and a 32GB solid-state drive (SSD) inside to power the experience.

Google Pixel 3XL launched: First impressions