Google Pixel 2 XL: Day Three Notes

Google Pixel 2 XL: Day Three Notes

I assume it’s understandable if I’m perhaps overly-sensitive to the quality issues that many have reported with the Pixel 2 XL. On that note, I’ve been watching my own Pixel 2 XL a bit more closely than I might have otherwise.

So here are a few more notes, following up on my previous posts, Google Pixel 2 XL First Impressions and Google Pixel 2 XL: The Morning After. I don’t intend to post something like this every day—at some point, I just need to move on with my life—but this device is on my mind. A lot.


The weather didn’t cooperate as fully as I wanted yesterday, so I only made a handful of test shots, in this case pitting the original Pixel XL and its amazing camera against that of the Pixel 2 XL.

My biggest takeaway involves the display, not the camera itself: Outside in the bright (if cloudy) day, the Pixel 2 XL’s display was incredibly washed out and hard to see, whereas that of the original Pixel XL was easily visible. (Was, in fact, bright, colorful, and crisp-looking.)

This is alarming, frankly. One of the things I really like about the previous Pixel XL is its photo-taking prowess, and I used this device over the past year to take photos during vacations and work trips around the world. If you can’t see what you’re trying to take a photo of, the experience is obviously quite diminished.

That said, it was just the one time, and I need to test this more to see what’s up. Also, a coming Google update which adds more brightness/vibrancy modes might help obviate this problem. So I’ll sit tight on that for now.

Getting past this disappointment, I could see very clearly that the Pixel 2 XL takes excellent photos. In fact, I could tell this quickly right on the device, which is interesting because—you may recall—that the Pixel 2 XL does not offer the same vibrant display as its predecessor. That is, most photos of the same subjects (e.g. “trees”) were actually more colorful and vibrant on the Pixel 2 XL despite the fact that that device has a duller display.

Obviously, what I needed to do was look at them on my PC. Which I did. And, sure enough, the Pixel 2 XL shots are “better”—with crisp details—and are generally more colorful. You can see this most easily by simply viewing the respective photo thumbnails in Google Photos, like so.

What you can see here is that the Pixel 2 XL shots (on the top) are more vibrant, especially in the leaves and in the yellow fir needles on the edge of the street. The Pixel XL, on the bottom, handles the contrasting areas in the sky pretty well, but that’s about it.

Some—but not all—of the other sets of photos I took are similarly dramatic. For example, these pictures of a bush outside the house likewise show off the Pixel 2 XL (on the top).

Granted, some sets of photos are harder to tell apart. But it is fair to say that the Pixel 2 XL never under-performed its predecessor. Again, it’s early, but that’s a good sign. When you rely on automatic focus as I do, you need the thing to just work. So far so good. (And to be clear, the camera app on both phones was configured as is normal, with auto-HDR.)

Here’s a zoom-in close-up from a leaf shot.

And a zoom-in on that cat photo at the top (which is partially zoomed above).

One thing I’ve only looked at briefly is portrait mode, a feature Google pulls off with just a single camera lens; Apple requires two for this. You may recall that I was—and remain—very unimpressed by portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus. So I will be testing this feature side-by-side as well.

Active Edge v. car

I mentioned the goofy squeezable sides on the device, which can be used to trigger Google Assistant. A number of readers noted that this feature could be convenient, and I agree. But when I put the phone in my car’s phone holder—the amazing and highly-recommended Exogear Exomount—I inadvertently triggered Google Assistant every single time I touched the phone to adjust the angle or view.

The issue is that the Exogear Exomount literally squeezes the sides of the phone: That’s how it holds your phone so securely. I don’t drive all that much, but I’d have to disable this feature—which is actually called Active Edge—if I did. Or maybe just test adjusting the squeeze sensitivity.

Anyway, the Exogear Exomount is the single best way to mount your phone in the car, assuming you have a CD player. It’s rock-solid.

More soon.


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Conversation 33 comments

  • Jaxidian

    09 November, 2017 - 9:55 am

    <p>Paul,</p><p><br></p><p>For the outdoor brightness, next time you go out, <strong>disable Adaptive Brightness</strong>. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not but it works very differently on the Pixel 2 XL than it does on the original Pixel 1s. I kept it on with the OG but I disable it on my Pixel 2 XL. It really isn't very good but normal brightness modes provides a much better result (if you don't mind tweaking it). <strong>Especially</strong> outside!</p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      09 November, 2017 - 11:14 am

      <blockquote><a href="#214289"><em>In reply to Jaxidian:</em></a></blockquote><p>I disabled adaptive brightness when I first got it. I will play with the brightness setting outside and see what's up.</p>

      • TraderGary

        09 November, 2017 - 2:50 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#214306"><em>In reply to paul-thurrott:</em></a></blockquote><p>The first thing I did on my Pixel 2 XL 128 is disable adaptive brightness. When I'm going to use my P2XL outside in bright light, I turn the brightness to maximum. Maximum is too bright for normal indoor use where I normally keep it at 50%. For me outdoors definitely requires maximum. Did you do that?</p>

        • Mulderjoe

          Premium Member
          09 November, 2017 - 3:04 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#214345"><em>In reply to TraderGary:</em></a></blockquote><p>I did the same thing. I disabled the adaptive brightness and boosted the brightness to 75-80%. And yes, there's indeed a blue-ish tint to the screen, which is fine if you're not comparing the screen constantly to another phone (like the Note 8). The camera is excellent. Huge improvement over my Note 4, as is the battery life.</p>

          • TraderGary

            09 November, 2017 - 5:15 pm

            <blockquote><a href="#214346"><em>In reply to Mulderjoe:</em></a></blockquote><p>My screen has no blue tint unless I turn my P2XL at an angle that I would normally never use, so it isn't an issue. I didn't even know there was all this paranoia going on about blue tint for the first couple of days I had it. I came from a Nexus 6 and the difference in speed isn't subtle. I thought my Nexus 6 had a good camera, but the P2XL image quality is in a whole different league.</p>

  • Sprtfan

    Premium Member
    09 November, 2017 - 9:57 am

    <p>The picture of the bush outside your house looks more vibrant on the Pixel 2 but is it true to the actual color? With out seeing the bush I can't tell but something about the picture from the Pixel 2 looks a little off. </p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      09 November, 2017 - 11:14 am

      <blockquote><a href="#214290"><em>In reply to Sprtfan:</em></a></blockquote><p>Yeah, it is truer to real life as well.</p>

    • jwpear

      Premium Member
      09 November, 2017 - 12:07 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#214290"><em>In reply to Sprtfan:</em></a></blockquote><p>That top set of bush photos, looks like it has a purple tint to me. My first reaction was the bottom looked better, but I prefer warmer tones in photos. It's interesting that the top is truer.</p><p><br></p><p>Thanks for sharing the comparisons, Paul. I look forward to seeing the comparisons with the iPhone.</p>

      • wright_is

        Premium Member
        10 November, 2017 - 4:54 am

        <blockquote><a href="#214316"><em>In reply to jwpear:</em></a></blockquote><p>We have a similar bush in our garden and the colours are more in the direction of mauve than red. That struck me with the Pixel 2 pictures, that they looked more natural, based on my knowledge of the plants.</p>

  • MattHewitt

    Premium Member
    09 November, 2017 - 10:41 am

    <p>This is the best car mount I have ever used. I’ve had it for over two years and it has held up nicely. Best of all it’s magnetic, so that would alleviate your accidental Google assistant triggering. I have used it with the Plus sized iPhones and it holds them extremely well if you use the included plate inside your phone case. Best $11 I’ve ever spent. </p><p><br></p><p>Car Mount TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot Magnetic Universal Car Mount Holder for Smartphones including iPhone X, 8, 7, 6, 6S, Galaxy S8, S7, S7 Edge – Black</p&gt;

    • Bluesman57

      10 November, 2017 - 8:34 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#214297"><em>In reply to MattHewitt:</em></a><em> Wow, that's certainly cheaper than the Logitech SmartCar mount I bought. Never saw that before.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

      • MattHewitt

        Premium Member
        13 November, 2017 - 11:50 am

        <blockquote><a href="#214704"><em>In reply to Bluesman57:</em></a><em> Yeah I've been using it for over two years. At first I was afraid the magnet would somehow mess with the phone (science isn't my strong suit) but it seems to work perfectly. Just being able to slap the phone against it when I get into the car and use it for directions or whatnot without fiddling is great.</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • mmcewan

    09 November, 2017 - 10:42 am

    <p>Much ado about nothing.</p><p><br></p><p>I'd offer that the way our brains 'auto-correct' everything we see means that there isn't any 'correct image' to be judged. What if your brain happens to like over-saturated color, even if that isn't the truth of the scene? Is that camera better because it captured the truth, or because it happened to tickle your own preferred distortion of the truth of the scene? Maybe in our matrix, we prefer the lie, and that's ok. But I'd focus more on how fast the camera focuses and shoots and it's depth of field and how adequate the flash is, etc, the stuff actually affected by the hardware.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

    • Paul Thurrott

      Premium Member
      09 November, 2017 - 11:15 am

      <blockquote><a href="#214298"><em>In reply to mmcewan:</em></a></blockquote><p>LOL. Thanks for assuming I'm an asshole.</p><p><br></p><p>But my mistake, I didn't mention it. The Pixel 2 XL image is more accurate too.</p>

  • torsampo

    09 November, 2017 - 10:56 am

    <p>I had a similar conflict between Active Edge and <a href=";psc=1&quot; target="_blank">my car mount </a>. Adjusting the sensitivity let me use the car mount with no issues and still use Active Edge without feeling like I was in a strongman contest.</p>

  • Brian Devins

    09 November, 2017 - 12:04 pm

    <p>Your cat's eyes and brow have the exact same expression as yours!</p>

  • Winner

    09 November, 2017 - 12:41 pm

    <p>You could get a magnetic mount instead, they work really well.</p>

  • X911ty12

    09 November, 2017 - 12:43 pm

    <p>Your cat looks sad. </p>

  • Danny Riley

    Premium Member
    09 November, 2017 - 1:00 pm

    <p>I saw in another comment that someone recommended turning adaptive brightness off. I leave it on and it seems to work better than the 1st gen Pixel for me. I've never had problems seeing the screen in the bright sun. It "adapts" quickly and brightens up the screen very well. Also, the ability to view the screen with polarized sunglasses has been an amazing improvement for me here in Florida. I've not seen many people talking about that in reviews, but I've never had a phone that could do this and it's been awesome.</p>

  • Stooks

    09 November, 2017 - 2:06 pm

    <p>iPhone X is the answer to your problems :)</p>

  • Piras

    09 November, 2017 - 2:45 pm

    <p><span style="color: rgb(50, 72, 95);">Bonjour Paul,&nbsp;regrette-tu d'avoir passé d'IOS&nbsp;à Android à temps plein</span>?<img src=""> </p><p>J'ai pour ma part, de la difficulté à me défaire d'IOS. J'ai essayé plusieurs fois mais je reviens toujours sur IOS.</p><p><br></p><p>Thought I'd make you practice your French !</p>

  • fraXis

    Premium Member
    09 November, 2017 - 4:09 pm

    <p>Paul, you are squeezing it wrong. :-)</p><p><br></p>

  • James Wilson

    09 November, 2017 - 4:27 pm

    <p>I like the magnetic mounts where there is a mount on the windshield, and you put a magnetic 'sticker' inside your phone and they just click together – very cool even over bumpy ground. You obviously need a phone whose back comes off though – unless you have the phone in a case – in which case the strip is hidden that way. I personally think the CD method is too low down.</p>

  • GT Tecolotecreek

    09 November, 2017 - 4:39 pm

    <p>How about when you post sample images include links to the unedited full size version of the files? </p><p>Pretty hard to evaluate the differences in the postage stamp previews. </p>

  • Andygoes

    09 November, 2017 - 8:16 pm

    <p>Paul, perhaps you did this already, but since you were comparing on Google Photos can you confirm that both phones are uploading the same quality of photo? I seem to recall that a high quality version is free to store, but the uncompressed version goes against the 15GB storage on Photos. If you've made the change in upload quality on the original and not the 2 (since you just got it), perhaps the uploads are of different compression algorithms…(??) Still "stuck" on W10M, so don't play much with Photos!</p>

    • Nicholas Kathrein

      Premium Member
      09 November, 2017 - 10:43 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#214420"><em>In reply to Andygoes:</em></a></blockquote><p>Both pixel phones have free full size Google photos service. That shouldn't be an issue but didn't hurt to check.</p>

    • Stooks

      09 November, 2017 - 11:20 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#214420"><em>In reply to Andygoes:</em></a></blockquote><p>The high quality version does nothing to the image as long as it a 16 megapixel or less image. So from those phones with 12megapixel it should not be downsampling it. If you upload a picture that came from a camera that takes 20 megapixel photos then it will downsample them to 16 megapixel. I bet you could not tell to be honest.</p><p><br></p><p>Also like Nicholas stated he is using a Pixel on Fi, and has unlimited full size photo storage now.</p>

      • Andygoes

        10 November, 2017 - 2:05 am

        <blockquote><a href="#214429"><em>In reply to Stooks:</em></a></blockquote><p> excellent, thanks to both for the responses! Sounds like Paul is indeed comparing Appl…er, uh…Oreos to Oreos.</p>

  • normcf

    09 November, 2017 - 8:22 pm

    <p>Maybe change the Active Edge to open Google Maps. :)</p>

  • Osmanmohamed

    09 November, 2017 - 11:32 pm

    <p>I am curious about one thing, regarding the CD mount, I recently got one like that for my car. Is there any risk you think it poses to the CD drive. could the constant pressure cause any damage long term you think?</p>

  • wright_is

    Premium Member
    10 November, 2017 - 4:52 am

    <p>When I get in the car, I put my phone in my bag or in the box under the armrest in the middle console. The radio plays media automatically over bluetooth and it also has handsfree, in case somebody calls. That way, I am not tempted to use the phone when on the move.</p>

  • Bluesman57

    10 November, 2017 - 8:25 pm

    <p>I just installed the update with the saturated color mode and it works as advertised, looks just like the old Pixel screen when set to "Saturated". The other two settings are "Boosted" and "Natural". There's nothing wrong with this phone's display, it's the color settings just like Google says.</p><p><br></p><p>I use the magnetic Logitech SmartCar Mount. Super easy to use, no clamping or other fooling around. </p>

  • polymath

    13 November, 2017 - 10:05 am

    <p>The cat is saying "you know the XL was the wrong phone to buy,, a bigger battery &amp; hi end display, is all that's different but you would not listen, now my cat food will have to be cheaper to pay for the for the XL, and all these articles too explain why…" something along those line's i imagine. mmeeeooowwwwww</p>


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