Google Pixel 2 XL: Day Three Notes

Posted on November 9, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 33 Comments

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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