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Some Pixel 2 XL screens are actually good

When it first launched in October, Google’s Pixel 2 XL was met with a ton of criticism — much of it coming from me — about its sub-par display. Among the issues identified by reviewers were muted colors, a potential image retention problem, and, most obvious of all, a horrible blue shift anytime you were looking at the screen at an angle. It was all serious enough to prompt Google to extend the Pixel 2 XL warranty by a year and issue a software update to recalibrate the phone’s colors. The one thing Google couldn’t fix was that blue color shift, but as it turns out, that problem isn’t universal to all Pixel 2 XLs: some devices out there don’t have it nearly as bad as others.

I was first alerted to this fact by the Jerome Ortega video above, wherein he demonstrates how his newer Pixel 2 XL has a warmer display that exhibits very little color-shifting when tilted at an angle. It is, by all accounts and appearances, just a much better display. I got hold of a newer Pixel 2 XL this past week and, sure enough, it too has a nearly total absence of blue color shift. It’s almost as good as looking at a modern OLED panel from Samsung, and you can see it pictured on the left in the image at the top of this article.

Doing a bit of digging around the subject, I’ve been able to ascertain that the display model and supplier haven’t changed: it’s still LG Display that’s providing the 6-inch OLED screen in all Pixel 2 XLs. Furthermore, this doesn’t appear to be a matter of the older phones having worse displays than the newer ones: the 2 XL that I have with a good screen was built in October, whereas commenters in an XDA thread about the Pixel 2 XL’s screen woes still report buying “distractingly blue” displays made in December.

Having spent a lot of time with the older, bluer Pixel 2 XL over the past couple of months, I can say that it’s usable even with its imperfect screen. You’ll never love the experience, but it’s an okay compromise to make for the sake of the awesome camera performance and battery life that this device provides. But here’s the thing: there are Pixel 2 XLs on sale that don’t ask for that compromise. My newer device is much easier on the eyes and makes me genuinely pleased to hold and play with it (in part because it also has the prettier panda colorway).

Ultimately, this situation appears to be another failure of Google’s hardware quality control. Beside having such a wide divergence in quality among its displays, the company also managed to ship out some Pixel 2 units without an operating system, some others with empty packaging, and another that literally failed a quality control test. I haven’t yet been able to get a satisfactory response from Google on this matter, but will update this article should one be forthcoming.

In an ideal world, only the nicer, better screens would be making it out to retail, and every Pixel 2 XL would look as good as the one I’m presently using. But we’re not living in that world, and for now at least, we’re mostly left hoping and guessing about exactly what sort of a display we’d get when ordering a Pixel 2 XL.


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