Google’s Pixel XL is a wonderful phone, and it’s been my daily driver for the past few months. The hardware on this phone is excellent, but whether it’s for added protection or a better look, most of us will add a case to the phone. There is an alternative, however, a skin.
There are several fantastic skin makers on the market today, but which makes the best skin for the Pixel XL? Over the past few weeks, that’s what I’ve been aiming to figure out. I’ve recently tested four different skins from dBrand, Colorware, Toast, and SlickWraps, all for the Pixel XL. Each skin was tested for a minimum of one week. So, let’s take a look.
dbrand – The tried and true
dbrand is one of, if not the biggest player in the skin game, and for good reason. The company makes absolutely wonderful skins for a variety of different products, and the Pixel XL is no exception.
The company offers about two dozen different color choices for its skins, including several solid colors, leather and metal designs, as well as its famous carbon fiber option. Each skin has a slightly different texture to it, but my personal favorite is the matte texture that come with solid colors.
Fit/Ease of Installation
When it comes to the fit, dbrand’s skin is nearly perfect. Each order ships with two back covers, one which covers the entire device, the other which leaves the top and bottom of the device exposed. Regardless of which one you apply, both look fantastic on the phone.
My personal setup with the Pixel XL used a matte red full coverage back skin and a matte black glass cover. The glass cover sits on top of the red skin. Installation of any skin is going to be a task to some degree, but dBrand makes things pretty easy with custom videos for each device the company covers (pun intended).
The process of installing a dbrand skin on the Pixel XL isn’t a hard task per say, but it is a tedious one. It took nearly 30 minutes to get the installation right, but the results were certainly worthwhile. dBrand definitely has the best installation assistance videos out there, and they really come in handy during the installation.
Another fantastic aspect of dbrand’s skins is the company’s website. It’s easy to find the device you’re looking for and once it comes down to picking colors, the live view and high-quality images of the skins also help make the decision easier.
All of that comes together with a price point that is pretty decent. Pixel XL skins from dbrand start at $9.95 (plus $3 shipping in the US). However, that price will go up as you add pieces, such as the logo, front cover, and glass cover. A “maxed out” skin for the XL will run about $21, which isn’t all that bad.
Overall, dbrand’s skin options for the Pixel XL were probably my personal favorite, simply because the experience overall is the most smooth. It’s hard to have issues with a dbrand purchase, even if the company doesn’t offer the flexibility some of its competitors do.
SlickWraps – Options galore
SlickWraps is dBrand’s main competitor in the marketplace, and for good reason. While the company falls back just a bit in certain areas, it offers coverage for many more devices, as well as offering a plethora of designs unique to the company, such as the Justin Maller-designed Spiderman skin I have for the Pixel XL.
Fit/Ease of Installation
SlickWraps installation process is pretty much identical to that of dbrand, which means you’ll need a clean surface, hairdryer, and plenty of light to get things just right. The installation only took about 15 minutes for me, and the only big flaw is the small folds in the corners, but this is fairly hard to avoid on almost any Pixel skin.
The overall fit around the speaker, camera, and fingerprint sensor is also excellent. SlickWraps also includes a fingerprint sensor cover in the box, but I wouldn’t recommend using it as it blocks the sensor from working, at least in my experience.
SlickWraps also offers a video designed to help out with the installation, but it’s not as easy to follow as some others.
SlickWraps website isn’t as flashy as some of the competitors, but it gets the job done. There are 15 different series of skins available for the Pixel and Pixel XL, including carbon fiber, leather, stone, and solid color designs. My personal favorites, though, are the skins designed by Justin Maller which include various superheroes, movie and TV characters, and just some unique designs overall that you won’t find anywhere else. Picking your skin’s style is easy as well, with choice of color or variant, and the choice of finish on most skins.
As for pricing, SlickWraps is relatively reasonable. A full skin for the Pixel or Pixel XL runs $18.95 for full front and back coverage, but you’ll still need to fork over a couple more dollars for shipping and tax. What I have been noticing, though, is that SlickWraps will toss-up a promo code or automatic discounts when you visit the site, sometimes up to 50% off. If you happen to score one of those, this skin is a no-brainer.
Colorware – Blurring the lines between skin and phone
Colorware is best known for its painting services, where you send in a device, the company disassembles and paints it to your specifications, and then puts it back together. Now, the company is making its way into the skin game and recently, it released skins for the Pixel XL.
For the Pixel XL, Colorware offers dozens of options to skin your device. There’s leather, carbon fiber, metallic, stone, wood, and over two dozen solid colors. Each of these can be mixed and matched along the front, rear, and glass of the device.
Fit/Ease of Installation
Colorware’s skins for the Pixel XL nail the fit, and the glossy version I installed on my device not only looked fantastic, but was fairly easy to apply. Colorware only ships one skin per order, so if you mess up, you’re out of luck. Fortunately, you likely won’t mess up as long as you take your time. Colorware’s video tutorial is easy to follow along with, and the skin is easy to line up.
However, as I experienced during my installation, you’ll want to be very careful if you need to peel the skin back up at all. Not only can peeling it up cause the skin to stretch, but it can also rip as mine did in the corner just a bit.
The installation process can take as little as 10 minutes, but again, you need to take your time. The most tedious aspect of installing this skin is to line up the front panel properly and place the rear glass cover properly. In the end, though, this is a fantastic fit on the Pixel XL, arguably the best on this list. The skin fits so well on the phone, it feels like it is a part of the phone which, in the end, is what we’re all going for anyway.
Colorware’s online interface for ordering your skin is one of the big highlights of this product. Not only does the interface provide live previews of the skin for both devices, but it makes the process smooth and easy. Better yet, I found the colors displayed on the website to match up almost perfectly with the final product.
Unfortunately, Colorware’s skins come at a price. Just getting a simple back skin will run you $14, and maxing things out with a front skin, accent glass cover, and logo cover will bring the price up to $45. Shipping isn’t all that cheap either, sadly. Pricing is the main area where Colorware’s skins fall down, but overall, they are absolutely fantastic.
Toast – Something a little different
Toast sets itself apart based on its material. Rather than offering vinyl wraps, the company offers covers made out of various types of real wood. Not only do these covers look gorgeous, but they also offer a little more protection compared to the average vinyl skin.
Fit/Ease of Installation
Despite being made entirely of real wood, Toast’s covers are by far the easiest on this list to install. There’s no hair-dryer required, and it’s a pretty simple and straight-forward process. Toast includes a small list of instructions on the packaging, but the overall rule of thumb here is to line up the camera, line up the fingerprint sensor, and ensure your charging cable still fits by plugging it in during the initial installation. Everything fit perfectly in my experience.
The one thing I did notice about this cover, though, is that the adhesive tends to pick up a lot of dust and hairs (pet owners beware). Immediately following the installation, I wouldn’t recommend placing the device in a pocket, as the adhesive will pick up just about everything. Rather, try to leave it mostly exposed to air for the first few hours to let it cure.
Toast’s online customization tool isn’t the most flashy we’ve seen, but it gets the job done. You’ll find options to select the different types of wood you can use ─ Walnut, Ash, and Ebony (pictured), along with your various options. You can add a front panel, as well as add custom text or an engraving.
The added bonus with Toast covers, though, is the fact that you can add a completely custom engraving. We had the company engrave our logo onto the cover, and the results came out fantastic if I do say so myself.
Toast’s unique options at a cost. Pricing for a rear-only Pixel XL Toast cover is $34, and goes up from there. Adding a front cover adds $10, and custom text adds another $5. For a full custom option, you’ll be paying upwards of $65. In all reality, that’s not too bad for a real-wood option like this, but it’s not an easy pill for everyone to swallow.