The Google Pixel 2 XL Display ‘Problems’ Are Serious Or Not?

Google has issued a formal response to the numerous complaints that emerged over the past week about the seemingly poor quality of the display in its Pixel 2 XL flagship smartphone.

One of the firm’s VPs of engineering, Seang Chau, tried to address two of the main issues users encountered with their Pixel 2 XLs: Screen burn-in, and colour accuracy and dullness. Screen burn-in, also known as differential aging, is a common issue among organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays, such as the one used in the Pixel 2 XL.

What happens is that as pixels light up individually (there isn’t a backlit panel that is either turned on or off all at once), having the same graphic displayed for too long can cause those particular pixels to “burn,” and show a ghost image that doesn’t go away.

The big-screen Google Pixel 2 XL starts at $849. Is the 6-inch OLED display worth the big bucks?

This short review is focused almost entirely on the display due to ongoing issues raised by user communities. The Pixel 2 XL’s display is made by LG Display — a relative newcomer to the smartphone OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display business, which to date has been monopolized by Samsung. (Note that the smaller Pixel 2’s display is made by Samsung.)

The off-angle blue tint (conspicuously different than the 1st gen XL), the less saturated colors, and an odd grayish blotching on the default apps screen, did not make us a happy buyer.

Why the 180?

The off-angle blue tint just doesn’t bother many of us now. Especially, after taking some photos with the excellent camera. The results were impressive.

Besides, the blue tint thing is really only an issue on white backgrounds: it’s not an issue when you’re looking at a color image. And, again, it’s really not an overall deal-breaker anymore for me.

After viewing lots of images and photos, Yes, in some photos the colors are less “vibrant” compared to the 1st gen XL but that doesn’t necessarily mean less accurate. Accurate color reproduction is good.

“1st gen Pixel XL (L) and Pixel 2 XL: colors are less vibrant but not necessarily less accurate.”

Google is looking very cooperative on all the issues that buyers raised with them and provided thoughtful feedback. Also, Google provides an in-depth “deep dive” on the XL’s display on the Pixel User Community.

To fix this problem, Google says that it will release a software update that lets users have more saturated colors on their displays.

“We’ve received some feedback about the Pixel 2 XL displays not appearing as saturated as other phones. We attribute this perception to our choice to calibrate the Pixel 2 XL for delivering natural, accurate colors, taking advantage of the new color management support in Android 8.0 Oreo,” Google vice president of engineering Seang Chau said.
“Based on the feedback we’ve received since announcing Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, we learned that some users do want even more vibrant colors. So, through a software update to Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, we will soon be adding a new “saturated” color mode. The saturated mode puts the display into an unmanaged configuration, similar to how the Pixel 1 operates. The colors will be more saturated and vibrant, but less accurate (similar to most other smartphones which display more vibrant colors): we give consumers the option to choose the color saturation.”

Chau explained that this is “differential aging” and that extensive testing of the Pixel 2 XL display show that its decay characteristic are comparable to OLED panels that are on other premium smartphones.

Chau said that they’ve already included software to mitigate this occurrence, but Google will still roll out another software update to enhance it.

“We’re currently testing a software update that further enhances protections against this issue by adding a new fade-out of the navigation bar buttons at the bottom of the Pixel screen after a short period of inactivity,” Chau said. “In addition, we’re working with more apps to use a light navigation bar to match their app’s color scheme. The update will also reduce the maximum brightness of the Pixel 2 XL by a virtually imperceptible 50 cd/m2 (nits), thereby significantly reducing load on the screen with an almost undetectable change in the observed brightness.”

Display expert Raymond Soneira, President of DisplayMate Technologies: Raymond Soneira provided some information on background that was helpful. And provided this comment:

“Very few reviewers understand current display technology, which gives rise to lots of bogus claims. You can’t simply eyeball mobile and TV display performance anymore, the displays are now considerably more complex with lots of internal modes and variables that need to be properly lab tested, measured, and evaluated.”

Display P3 can render more colors than sRGB because it has a wider gamut. Without color management, the Android OS passes the decoded sRGB image through to the display, unaware that the display has a wider gamut than the content. As a result, the display reinterprets the color values in this wider gamut and effectively “stretches” the colors.
This makes the reds more red, the greens more green, etc. To the user, the screen looks more saturated and colors “pop” more. But the stretching is imprecise; it’s not what the image designer intended.
There’s no way for the designer to calculate the stretching effect, hence the rendered colors are not accurate. Most Android mobile phones with OLED displays look saturated for this reason.

Meanwhile, Google also offered a temporary fix for this issue. The clicking noises are apparently being cause by the NFC chip inside the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Users who are experiencing these noises will simply have to turn off NFC under the connected devices Settings.

Extended Warranty

In light of these several issues, Google is also extending the one-year warranty for both handsets up to two years.

“We’re very confident that the Pixel 2 delivers an exceptional smartphone experience, and to give users peace of mind, every Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL will now come with a 2-year warranty worldwide,” Google vice president of hardware product management Mario Queiroz said.

Would you buy the Pixel 2 XL?

My answer – Yes. With the caveat that some consumers may be put off by the off-angle blue tint and the less-saturated colors. But I would advise not overreacting simply because you’re not getting over-saturated colors.

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