Pixel 2 XL is a promising phone with new caveats
Posted: Oct 26, 2017
When it comes to the camera, processor and software, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL are both identical and fantastic. The differences between the two come down to price (obviously), size, bezel width and screen technology. We loved our early experience with the Pixel 2 XL, but any potential buyers need to know about some problems with its screen that have come to light since we first reviewed the iphone screen replacement.
Wait, what's happening?
The Pixel 2 XL has a bigger 6-inch display a higher resolution than the 5-inch Pixel 2. But it also uses a different technology, a plastic-OLED (POLED) display, while the Pixel 2 has a more traditional AMOLED screen.
Within the first week of its availability, there have been reports of the Pixel 2 XL display exhibiting screen burn-in, wherein remnants of earlier images remain on the screen despite not being actively displayed. In two of the five Pixel 2 XLs we have, we saw evidence of screen burn-in.
When I displayed a gray color swatch on my review unit, I saw outlines of the notification bar (which includes the time and battery status) and the navigational hotkeys at the bottom of the display. These faint lines still lingered after the display was turned off overnight and after running a screen burn-in fix video, which suggests that this issue is more persistent than image retention (a temporary form of screen burn-in).
Screen burn-in is a known issue that affects various types of displays where images -- like on-screen navigation buttons -- remain in the same spot for an extended period of time. The Nexus 6, which had an AMOLED screen, reportedlyhad similar issues. But it usually happens after some time, and the fact that it's happening on a phone as expensive as the Pixel 2 XL so soon is concerning. We haven't seen burn-in issues in the smaller Pixel 2, the LG V30 (which also has a POLED display) or the Galaxy S8.
Keep in mind, however, that when we ran the same gray-swatch test on three other Pixel 2 XLs, we didn't see any burn-in effects on them -- not yet, anyway.
When I tested to see its effect on YouTube videos, an app that uses the entirety of the phone's display, I generally didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. But I could see ghostly outlines of the hotkeys when I went looking for them. They showed up when a video happened to show light colors at the right side of the screen for more than a few seconds.
What can I do if I'm affected?
We don't know how many units are affected. Google said it's "actively investigating" this issue. Those who purchased the Pixel 2 XL through the Google Store can return it there within 15 calendar days after they received it. You're also entitled to a limited one-year warranty so long as the phone was purchased through an authorized retailer. As for returns specifically due to screen burn-in, Google said its warranty covers a number of areas, but it will evaluate the claims on a case-by-case basis and offer a relevant solution.
Note, however, that the Google Store generally has more liberal return policies than other retailers. That's why it's best to purchase Pixel phones there, rather than through a carrier or other retailer. We've reached out to Verizon about its return policy specifically related to the Pixel 2 XL and potential burn-in issues but have yet to hear back. In the mean time, inquiry with your local Verizon retailer to initiate a return.
Is that all?
There's another, more minor screen concern. Google has deliberately calibrated the Pixel 2 XL display to have a more muted and washed-out appearance than what you'll find on the Galaxy S8 ($749.11 at Amazon.com). There's also a bluish hue that's visible when tilting the phone at different angles (this is known as blue shift).
While the Pixel 2 XL's screen isn't as vibrant as some of its competitors, I don't view this problem as a deal-breaker. The display is still sharp and bright, and you can only see difference when comparing these phones side-by-side. It comes down to a matter of personal preference: If you want to see more saturated colors (that aren't necessarily accurate), go with the Galaxy S8. If not, the Pixel 2 XL is completely satisfactory. As for the blue shift, this is a hardware issue you'll find on most phones if you tilt the screen far enough. How wide you want this tilting window to be depends on your tolerance.
Unlike the issue of burn-in, though, software changes could ameliorate the Pixel 2 XL's color palette. Google has stated that the company "will look at adding more color options through a software update" if user feedback warrants it.
What's CNET's take?
To pixel peepers -- anyone for whom screen quality and color accuracy is a top priority -- these issues can be irksome, and if having a superlative screen is a priority for you (and that's totally fine if it is), I suggest a few great alternatives below. That includes the smaller Pixel 2, which has the same camera features, software goodies and processing speeds as the Pixel 2 XL, but uses a different AMOLED screen.
In the meantime, we're keeping an eye on our other Pixel 2 XLs to see how they fare over time with normal use. Right now, we don't know how serious or how widespread the burn-in issue is. In other words: Are these anecdotal issues with an early batch of screens, or are they symptomatic of an endemic problem with the product?
As such, we aren't changing our review rating for now, but we may do so at any point in the future when and if warranted by continued testing or third-party reports, or if Google provides more relevant information.
If these display problems don't deter you from the Pixel 2 XL's roomy size, promptly updated Android software and peak performance though, the phone is still otherwise great, and it's entirely possible your unit will be problem-free.
If you opt for the XL, we'd recommend that you take a look at it in real-life to make sure you're happy with the screen's color palette, and compare it side-by-side with the standard Pixel 2 and Samsung Galaxy iphone screen. When purchasing, verify the vendor's return policy -- again, the Google Store is the safest bet -- and pay close attention to the screen while in the 15-day return period.
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