Google's Nexus phones got a lot of undeserved praise in their time. Go back and look at a lot of those reviews, and you'll see a lot of talk about how great those phones were "for the price" with a lot of glaring flaws overlooked. Good news, times have changed! Google's phones are priced like premium phones now, and they deserve to be critiqued as such. If you read Pixel 2 XL reviews all over the web, one thing you'll see with the quality reviewers out there is an especially critical tone taken with the display.

But in many cases, I think people are going a little too far. While this is absolutely not the best display you can get on a phone today, it's a damn good display and you're more than likely going to love it in the context of the entire phone.

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Non-issues everywhere

Here's a quick list of the complaints you'll find with the Pixel 2 XL display if you go looking around the web:

  • Color Shift: If you have a flat white background, say on a Google Search results page, you'll notice a subtle shift from white to blue to red when you rotate the phone in your hand. This means from some angles it will look a little funny, but you're never going to perceive this shift while holding the phone in your hand straight-on. This isn't unique to the Pixel 2 XL; unsurprisingly, the LG V30 has the exact same "issue" when looking at the display from various angles.

  • Grainy/Muddy colors: If you have the display brightness down as low as it can go, flat color spaces will have some grain to them. It makes flat white backgrounds look like they have a texture. You have to be really looking to see this, and with the screen brightness above 30%, I've yet to see this grain. This may be something that bothers you if you're looking for it. I can count the number of times I have set my phone to minimum brightness on one hand and still have three fingers left to do something else, so it's never a thing I'm going to notice, much less care about.

  • Washed out colors: Surprise! If you use a Galaxy S8 or Note 8 with factory settings, every display that isn't tuned to be extra saturated looks a little on the dull side. This has nothing to do with a "defect" in the Pixel 2 XL display, and everything to do with some folks preferring more saturated displays and setting two phones side-by-side. This couldn't be any less of an issue. Google calibrated this display to reproduce 100% of the DCI-P3 color space, and if you go in and turn off Samsung's display "improvements" you can get the exact same color gamut.

All caught up now? Great. Just so we're clear, some of these things are actual, legitimate flaws in the display panel. They are things that are really, actually part of the experience of using the Pixel 2 XL. But none of them are constant concerns that will have you screaming about how Google could have let you down like this as you go to actually use this phone. It's a solid display for just about everything, including virtual reality and seeing in direct sunlight.

What's the actual 'problem' here?

Basically, LG's P-OLED displays are, conservatively, about one generation behind what Samsung is doing with its Super AMOLED displays right now. That's not surprising: Samsung has been a leader in the display world for several years now, just look at anything it's made since about the Galaxy S5. There's a reasonable argument to be made for wanting an $849 phone to have the best of everything, and right now that means it would have to have a Samsung display.

As a consumer, you should absolutely be critical of the things you spend money on.

But there's a lot more to any phone than its display. The Pixel 2 XL is amazingly fast, packs a pair of cameras that delight with every press of the shutter, and features Google brains under the hood that often feel like witchcraft. On one hand, who wouldn't want a phone where every single line in the spec sheet is the absolute best? On the other hand, this is reality and there are always trade-offs. With the Pixel 2 XL, that trade-off is the display isn't completely flawless.

And really, that last bit is super important. These "flaws" are, at their worst, non-issues for most people. If I turn the brightness on this phone down to the minimum and hand it to 10 random people to ask them what they think of the display, the answer will be "wow, that's a nice phone" nine out of 10 times. I know, because I did exactly that. (I was also wearing a lab coat at the time, so you know it was all totally legit.)

As a consumer, you should absolutely be critical of the things you spend money on. Google is asking you to spend $850, and telling you this thing you should buy is better than the other $750-$950 things available today. In my opinion, Google is absolutely right — and if you like large phones and the Google experience, you're going to love the Pixel 2 XL. If you're on the fence, go into a store and test it for yourself. Whatever your buying decision, you'll see for yourself this display is a thoroughly enjoyable part of an incredible phone.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL


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