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Google weighs in on Pixel 2 XL display, says it may add "more color options"

Following complaints about the Google Pixel XL 2's display, Google has stated that it will consider "adding more color options through a software update."

Published onOctober 19, 2017

The Google Pixel 2 XL.

The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have officially been released and many pre-order customers should be receiving their packages today. It’s an exciting time for Android fans, but tempering that excitement is news that the Google Pixel 2 XL may have some “issues” with its display.

Reports on Reddit and the XDA Developers forums suggest that the Pixel 2 XL’s screen is the victim of several problems, including muted/undersaturated colors, grainy images when scrolling down web pages, and a blue tint.

Pixel Visual Core: A closer look at Google's hidden chip

CNET has subsequently compared some phones at its office, including a couple of Pixel 2 XLs, to try and get to the bottom of this. They learned that the display situation amounts to “more of a nuanced issue, and less of an open and shut case.” This comes as no surprise, for reasons I will discuss further down.

When put side-by-side with the Galaxy S8, CNET found that the Pixel 2 XL’s display was less saturated, even when the XL’s vivid mode was switched on. But, honestly, having a less saturated screen than a flagship Samsung phone isn’t really a big deal — Samsung has kind of nailed that particular aspect of manufacturing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of phone displays struggled to match the Galaxy S8 for quality. CNET also added that you might not notice this lack of saturation in day-to-day use.

Meanwhile, the issue of grain or blotches seems even more niche: it may only be present only when viewing the display in dark rooms when scrolling on white backgrounds with the brightness turned down (yes, really). One of CNET‘s staffers actually said that they couldn’t even see the supposed problem.

Here’s how Portrait Mode works on the Google Pixel 2

It’s not yet known if this just relates to pre-release units or if it is, in fact, a wider problem, but the screen blotches defect does sound like something that was noticed on the LG V30 display too. With both devices making use of the same screen, it seems entirely possible that the same problems could affect both.

In a statement to CNET, Google had this to say about its Pixel XL 2 display:

We designed the Pixel display to have a more natural and accurate rendition of colors this year but we know some people prefer more vivid colors so we’ve added an option to boost colors by 10% for a more saturated display. We’re always looking at people’s responses to Pixel and we will look at adding more color options through a software update if we see a lot of feedback.

A few things to bear in mind, here. Firstly, screen complaints often come up at the launch of a new device, and we’ve seen a number already this year. Whether it’s jelly scrolling on the OnePlus 5, or the red display of the Galaxy S8, it’s not uncommon. Seeing such comments at the release of a highly anticipated phone like the Google Pixel 2 XL isn’t completely unexpected.

The other consideration is that feelings on display vibrancy are subjective: some people prefer rich colors while some people prefer something more neutral. Similarly, some people like warmer display colors and some like them cooler. In other words, what is a lack of saturation to one person could just be a well-balanced screen to another.

Google might want to tweak the amount of saturation that its “vibrant” mode adds to the display (10% possibly isn’t enough) and it might roll out more color options in the future. It might even need to address the potential low-light blotchiness, which its statement didn’t address. But while that statement may look to some like an admission that the company still has work to do, I think Google knows that a quick comment that promises nothing — for a potentially small issue that may blow over quickly — is a smart way to deal with unrest.

What are your thoughts on the situation? Let us know in the comments.

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