Should you still buy the Pixel 2 XL?

Despite its flaws, the Pixel 2 XL is one of the best Android devices out there

Pixel 2 XL

Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for: two more people talking about the Pixel 2 XL and its issues.

We know there’s no scarcity of opinions on the Pixel 2 XL, but given the controversy surrounding the Pixel 2 XL following the device’s initial review, MobileSyrup thought it made sense to discuss the flagship smartphone’s current pros and cons, as well as how we feel about Google’s device now that the dust has settled.

Below, senior editor Patrick O’Rourke and senior reporter Rose Behar go head-to-head on the pros and cons of the device, taking into consideration screen burn-in and other reported issues.

Before we dive in, here’s a quick primer on what many consider the most serious issue, screen burn-in.

Screen ‘burn-in’ refers to the permanent discolouration of a screen after an image remains on the display in the same location for a long period of time. All OLED displays can suffer from screen burn-in, but to see it so quickly is disturbing. However, Google calls the Pixel 2 XL’s display problem ‘image retention’ — not screen burn-in. Image retention generally affects LCD screens, and is temporary.

Google details how it plans to avoid the image retention worsening through software fixes here.

Make sure to stay tuned until the end of this story to see how we’ve amended our initial review of the smartphone and adjusting the score.

Patrick: I’m of two minds about the Pixel 2 XL.

I know the device has a number issues, particularly in the screen department, but I still really like the phone, particularly the unique panda coloured iteration. But then I think about whether or not I would still recommend the Pixel 2 XL to a friend that cares passionately about tech.

Pixel 2 XL on flat table
At this point, despite all the reported issues, I would.

Apart from Samsung’s smartphone offerings that include the ultra pricey Note 8 and the S8, the Pixel 2 XL remains one of my favourite smartphones of the year.

While a minor annoyance, the screen burn-in hasn’t been an issue for me. The only time I notice it is when displaying a grey image on the screen — it literally has not appeared for me in any other instance.

If the image retention gets worse, then I’d say that’s a completely different situation (this is something we really can’t predict at this point). I do, however, believe Google’s claims that the problem is what the company is calling image retention or differential aging and not standard burn-in.

It’s also reassuring that Google is extending the smartphone’s warranty to two years, though there’s no guarantee it explicitly covers the Pixel 2 XL’s display retention problems.

Rose: It’s a really interesting, divisive topic. I loved the Pixel 2 XL before the issues came to light, and much of what I love about it still stands. It still has what I believe is the best smartphone camera on the market. It still operates with the most gorgeous, intuitive version of Android I’ve ever used.

It offers deep integrations of the Google products I use daily, along with promising new ones. It still looks better, aesthetically, than last year’s model. Performance and battery are up there with any 2017 flagship I’ve used. That’s a whole lot of good — nay, great — arguments to go for the Pixel 2 XL. But then there’s issue of the display.

It was immediately apparent the display wasn’t great compared to other flagships, but I’m not the type of person who watches TV on my smartphone, so I brushed off the muted colours, blue tint and graininess. What primarily concerned me, and what continues to concern me, is the screen burn-in, because not only is it a feature that can’t really be fixed with a software update, it also has the potential to degrade at a pace that prematurely ages the appearance of your brand new phone.

Most of the other issues I’ve seen turn up I’m not too worried about. I think software fixes will handle most of them, as was the case with the original Pixel. The burn-in, that’s what really makes me hesitant to recommend the device. Though I suppose, looking at competition, there aren’t many flagships that aren’t facing issues (for instance, the iPhone X and LG V30).

Patrick: When we first got the Pixel XL 2 at the MobileSyrup office, I honestly didn’t notice the reported display issues until we started directly comparing it to other devices, particularly the S8 and the iPhone. Even then, I didn’t think the display was bad. Sure, the hues are muted and toned down, but if true-to-life colour is what Google aims to achieve with the 2 XL, the tech giant hit that mark.

To some extent — at least until the display burn-in issue — I feel like the Pixel 2 XL’s display problems were blown significantly out of proportion. I’m also pleased that Google didn’t ignore the complaints and has address the problems with a new display colour option update. The new ‘boosted’ option really looks great if you prefer more vibrant, Samsung-esque coloured screens.

One thing I didn’t talk about in my initial review but that is now slowly eating away at my brain, is how easily it is to scratch the Pixel 2 XL’s display. Anyone who knows me is aware that I do my best to keep smartphones, even review devices, in immaculate conditions; yes, I use glass screen protectors and even cases.

My Pixel 2 XL’s display is covered in scrapes and scratches and I’ve only been using the device for a few weeks. I’ve been careful with the phone, so I can only imagine what it might look like if I was more careless with the device. There are also reports about the Pixel 2 XL’s soft glass beginning to pop up on forums. I’ve found this issue reminiscent of how easy it was to scratch the original Pixel’s exterior.

Rose: To be fair, it would’ve been a bit difficult to ignore the complaints — the backlash really took on a life of its own, and some people say it’s overblown.

There are certain things that are just too major to ignore, like a literal lack of the Android operating system, but when it comes to things like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity issues, which will likely be solved with updates, the criticism often seems over-the-top.

Is it just a case of overzealous fans scrutinizing the device far more closely than most consumers investigate their phones? I can’t help but think that’s playing a role in the staggering amount of bad press about the Pixel 2 XL.

But the 2 XL isn’t completely alone there. As I mentioned above, the iPhone X has received criticism for unresponsiveness in the cold, crackling speakers and a green line issue on some displays.

That’s not to mention the fact that close relatives are routinely able to break into each other’s phones through Face ID — an issue Apple has acknowledged, but still a deal-breaker for some.

Then there’s the LG V30, a fantastically ambitious device that reportedly has the same burn-in issues the 2 XL does, which makes sense considering LG created both devices’ hardware and OLED panels.

So, having said all that — does the 2 XL contend with these other somewhat flawed devices? I think so. Is the clear winner of the latest crew of major flagships the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Note 8? Objectively, sure, but in my heart — no. The camera and overall software experience still push the Google Pixel 2 XL over the top for me, flaws and all.

Besides, Google’s offering a two-year warranty worldwide now, which does something to assuage fears about potentially intense burn-in degradation.

Patrick: I definitely think some of these issues stem from this being Google’s flagship device and the smartphone being held to a higher standard, but the number of problems really is impossible to ignore at this point (plus, the fact that the display is so easy to scratch is driving me crazy).

In the end I’d still recommend the smartphone, though I think buyers should be aware of the screen retention issue. It would be great if Google somehow fixed many of these flaws on the manufacturing level, but the likelihood of that actually happening is ridiculously slim.

Pixel 2 XL

Yes, there are other flagship Android smartphones on the market that have experienced less issues — the S8/S8+ and the Note 8 for example — but I feel that despite the Pixel 2 XL’s flaws, the superb camera, sleek, stock Android operating system experience, and overall look of the smartphone, outweigh the display problems many won’t notice unless they’re intentionally looking for then.

With all that said, we’ve decided to adjust our final review score for the Pixel 2 XL.

We still think the smartphone is solid offering from Google, but given all of the issues we’ve slashed half a point from our original score of 8.5, with the Pixel 2 Xl’s rating now sitting at 8 out of 10.

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