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Pixel 2 XL second opinion: worth another look
The last time I laid my hands on a Google Pixel 2 XL was during Google’s announcement back in early October. The time I spent with the device was naturally very brief. I’ve now been using the Pixel 2 XL as my daily driver for the last week or so and, while we’ve already reviewed the Pixel 2 XL, I would like to offer a second opinion, addressing some of the controversies and issues surrounding the device since its release.
In light of our extensive Pixel 2 coverage, I’ll keep this fairly light. If you want to know all the nitty gritty details of the Pixel 2 XL, feel free to read our in-depth review if you haven’t already.
There’s been a lot of controversy around Pixel 2 XL’s display. Reports of issues like color shifting when viewed off axis, dull colors, screen burn-in, and touch screen latency on the edges of the display have plagued the phone. Some of these issues are legitimate complaints, and Google has already started rolling out software updates to improve the display.
Some of these issues have definitely been overblown. Maybe that’s just due to Google being such a large company. Even the smallest problems can be magnified to astronomical proportions when we expect nothing less than the best.
Some of the issues surrounding the Pixel 2 XL have definitely been overblown
While it does exist, the color shift isn’t that big of a deal. I didn’t notice it unless I intentionally looked at the display off-axis, which was very rare. I understand that if you’re sharing the display with someone else to watch a video they may not get to experience the display properly but for single person use this is a minor issue at best.
Many smartphone displays exhibit some degree of color shift. The LG V30‘s display has the same blue color shift when viewed off-axis too. The Note 8‘s display has color shift as well, but it tends to give a warmer appearance when viewed off-axis so it isn’t quite as jarring as a screen that turns blue.
The bigger issue I had with the Pixel 2 XL’s display was with its colors and how flat the screen looked out of the box. Google was pretty quick to address this, though, and it was a pretty short-lived issue. Pre-update, the display only had one extra color option with a “vivid” mode that didn’t seem all that different. Now the vivid mode has been replaced with boosted, natural, and saturated color modes.
I don’t notice much of a difference between boosted or natural as they both still look pretty muted in color but the saturated mode was exactly what I was looking for. It adds just the right amount of vibrancy to make the screen pop, without being quite on the level of a Samsung display. I know Google wants to keep the colors looking natural, but I think the addition of the saturated mode allows the screen to truly show its beauty.
Google wants to keep colors looking natural, but the saturated mode shows the screen's true beauty
Burn-in and latency
As far as screen burn-in goes, I haven’t noticed any during my week of use but it’s something I’ll continue to monitor. While the touch latency issue at the edges of the screen hasn’t affected me in daily use, I have noticed the problem when using the Display Tester app from the Google Play store. Unless you’re using apps or games that involve a lot of interaction from the edges of the display, you most likely won’t notice it. It’s an issue that Google says they will resolve with an update soon.
The design of the Pixel 2 XL is something I’ve fallen in love with. I appreciate that Google has stepped away from the iPhone-esque look of last year’s Pixel and created a design truly their own. The glass window on the back has returned, now established as one of the Pixel’s visual hallmarks. When you see this device it’s hard to mistake it for anything else. It’s a clean and simple looking metal and glass slab. The textured coating doesn’t cheapen the feel of the metal and the added grip is a nice benefit.
The size of the phone is a lot bigger than I initially remembered. While it has that 2017 look with the 18:9 screen and rounded corners, the bezels surrounding the phone aren’t that small, especially the side bezels. The Pixel 2 XL has the same size screen as the LG V30 but because of the difference in bezel size, the V30 is smaller in both height and width. The top and bottom bezels on the Pixel 2 XL are much more forgivable since they house front facing speakers and really aren’t even that big.
I’m very glad Google brought back front facing speakers as they sound fantastic with great clarity, but I am bummed about the removal of the headphone jack. The phone seems thick enough to fit one.
It’s great that Google included a 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter in the box, but not having a headphone jack built into the phone can still be a nuisance, especially for me as I quite frequently use my phone for music at the gym. The adapter is one more item to remember. If I forget to keep it attached to my favorite headphones or bring it along, I’m caught with a pair of headphones and nothing to plug them into.
My favorite part of the Pixel 2 XL experience so far has got to be the camera. I’ve used quite a few Android phones throughout 2017 and this is easily the best camera so far. Photos taken on the Pixel 2 XL are truly incredible. They look great in daylight and lowlight, and the level of detail, sharpness, color, and dynamic range is fantastic. The way the camera handles highlights, especially in low light, impressed me the most, as it’s an area a lot of Android cameras struggle with. They’re not overexposed or bloomy and are on par or better than the image quality produced from the iPhone.
My favorite part of the Pixel 2 XL experience has been the camera, and portrait mode in particular
What I’ve enjoyed the most is the camera’s portrait mode. A lot of smartphone cameras nowadays have a portrait mode and pretty much none of them are perfect. The Pixel 2 XL, using just a single lens, is the most consistent phone I’ve used when separating the foreground and background. Portrait mode is also available on the front facing camera, which is where I see most people using this mode, especially if you’re into taking selfies. That added level of depth gives selfies a more professional look and the Pixel 2’s camera isn’t overly aggressive with softening your face, preserving a lot of the detail, sharpness, and a more natural appearance.
In terms of general performance, there isn’t a whole lot to say. The phone is incredibly fast and responsive. Even though it’s packing practically identical specs to every other flagship Android phone released this year, the Pixel 2 XL feels quicker and more fluid than other phones when opening apps or swiping and scrolling through the interface.
A lot of that can be attributed to Google’s optimizations and the stock Android experience, which is one of the main reasons I prefer Google’s offerings over other OEMs. Whether it be the previous Nexus line or the current generation Pixel products, Google does it better.
Android Oreo on the Pixel 2 XL is just a pleasure to use. All the little touches Google has added make this version of Android feel more polished than ever before. Things like the new animation for the power menu, the Google search bar moving to the bottom of the screen, and the new Now Playing feature, which displays song titles currently playing on the always-on display or notifications panel, may all sound like minor changes, but they make a huge impact to the overall experience.
I’m also a big fan of the Pixel 2’s new squeeze feature to access Google Assistant. I thoroughly enjoyed HTC’s squeeze implementation on the U11, so I’m pretty happy to see it here on the Pixel. The only thing I wished that Google did differently is allow for remapping to other functions or apps, like HTChas done with Edge Sense.
Battery life on the Pixel 2 XL has generally been quite good. The phone lasts me comfortably through the late hours of the night, with around 4 to 4.5 hours of screen on time. That’s pretty good, considering my usage is quite heavy. I do a fair amount of gaming, YouTube watching, and viewing live streams on Twitch.
It would have been nice for the it to have wireless charging (if that even would have been possible through the small glass section on the back). I’ve become accustomed to that convenience lately, but by no means is it a deal breaker for me.
Overall, the Pixel 2 XL is everything I expected it to be. It performs extremely well, has a phenomenal camera, and Android Oreo is a joy to use. The issues that have plagued this phone since it’s launch really aren’t as big of a deal as the media and public have made them out to be, so don’t let them deter you.
Despite some minor complaints, I’ve enjoyed every moment with the Pixel 2 XL and until there’s another Android phone that can trump it’s fluidity and camera, it will continue to be my phone of choice.