Google’s Pixel 2 XL is a great phone, except for one key element — the display. Between terrible viewing angles, burn-in issues, and just overall poor quality control, people aren’t happy. And they shouldn’t be; this is an $849 phone.
Now that “burn-in gate” has really started to affect early Pixel owners, many are asking if it’s worthwhile to check out the smaller Pixel 2 instead — so let’s take a closer look.
The best gifts for Android users
When our initial reviews of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL went live last week, I also posted a brief comparison of the two phones based on initial impressions. However, in the time since, I’ve had a lot more time to spend with the Pixel 2 as my daily driver thanks to a fortunate Google Store error.
After using both phones for a while, I can honestly say they are both fantastic, and the smaller model actually has a lot of pros that have me loving it.
This display doesn’t burn-in (yet!), and the quality is better too
My biggest complaint with the Pixel 2 XL is burn-in, but that’s not all that’s wrong with that 6-inch “bezel-light” display. The viewing angles are horrible with an annoying blue tint when you view it off-axis. The overall quality of the display (note, not the sharpness) is also in question with some users complaining about blotchy colors. The colors are another issue as Google’s use of sRGB has proved pretty unpopular.
To be clear, the smaller Pixel 2 doesn’t change the issue with sRGB, but the colors feel a lot more vibrant to me, especially when it comes to reds. Aside from that, however, it’s obvious where the advantage is — this one doesn’t burn in as far as we can tell. There have been some rare reports on the web of the problem affecting smaller Pixel 2s, but it hasn’t happened to ours.
Reports of the Pixel 2 XL’s burn-in show it happening in as little as a few hours of usage, as is the case with my own unit. Meanwhile, my Pixel 2 hasn’t seen the same issue at all. I’m sure it will have trouble down the road as the first Pixel did (and even Samsung’s screens do!), but it’s not anything in the ballpark of what we’re seeing on the XL.
The smaller size is really comfortable, and I usually prefer big phones…
Since the LG G3, my personally owned daily driver has always had a screen size over 5.5-inches. I love bigger phones with all the extra screen real estate, but the Pixel 2 has me rethinking that. With Google’s special coating for extra grip and just the overall footprint, this phone is really comfortable to hold and use.
Bezels or not, the Pixel 2 is an awesome phone
However, the thing people will immediately complain about is the bezels. The Pixel 2 has insane bezels. As my colleague Hayato Huseman put it, people complained about the original, and the 2 makes it seem like HTC/Google took it as a challenge. They’re ridiculous.
That said, they don’t ruin this phone. You still get the best camera on the market, the fastest Android experience, and all of the perks of a Pixel such as unlimited photo backup and faster updates. Sure, it’s not going to be a pretty phone that turns heads, but it’s going to be a phone you’ll enjoy if you focus on what actually matters (i.e. not the bezels).
Although the battery life isn’t as good…
The one reservation I have, though, is the battery life. The Pixel 2 is a small, thin phone, and that means the battery is smaller. At 2,700 mAh, you’re getting significantly less battery life compared to the XL’s 3,520 mAh pack. In short, the battery life on the Pixel 2 XL is ridiculous. It lasts longer than any other Android phone we’ve tested, by a lot. We’ll have more on that in the final review, but long story short, the smaller Pixel 2 doesn’t match up in this area.
That said, I haven’t been totally disappointed in the battery life on the smaller phone. I’m still able to get through a full day with 20% left and 2-3 hours of screen time, and with fast charging, that’s more than enough for my needs.
Should you do it?
Honestly, I can’t give a concrete answer here yet. The smaller Pixel 2 has treated me well so far, but going from a bigger, arguably better phone to one that’s smaller and doesn’t have quite as nice a design, is a tough step to make.
If you still want Google’s incredible new camera, I say go for it. Otherwise, maybe give the Essential Phone a shot with its massive price cut. There are a ton of other phones out there too, but the best solution could very well end up being just waiting for Google to solve the XL’s problems.
Hopefully, that’s going to happen.