Better late than never: Pixel 2 XL first impressions


It has been just over two months since the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were announced and they been Google’s best selling phones to-date. That is no surprise, but the devices have received certain criticisms. More of that criticism has been directed to the larger Pixel 2, mainly due to the LG-made POLED display. Although the devices have been on sale for two months, we finally were able to get our hands on one.

When the first round of screen issues were starting to spread, I decided to hold off on pre-ordering my Pixel 2 XL. This was something I’ve never done before. With the Nexus 6, Nexus 6P, and Pixel XL, I pre-ordered as soon as Google launched the page. Another reason is due to the fact that we are a smaller site, and we fund our own devices. The price jump on the Pixel 2 was enough for me to hold off until recently, once the price on the Pixel 2s were slashed.

I knew right out of the gate, LG’s OLED displays weren’t going to be at Samsung’s level, but I wasn’t expecting them to have the issues they have. They were heavily criticized for issues such as blue tint, black crush, black smear, and burn in. Google must have increased LG’s QA process because users have claimed that devices manufactured later have better displays. The model I have was manufactured on November 25, so it is quite new.

My only Pixel 2 XL display issue – black smearing

When I first booted the device up, I went on as normal. I didn’t go out of my way to check to see if the screen had any issues. I wanted to naturally experience them. My first night using the Pixel 2 XL I left it on the sRGB setting along with Night Light automatically enabled. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to run into my only real issue with the device: black smear.

Pixel 2 XL display

I tend to browse Fenix for Twitter as well as Relay for Reddit a lot. Both apps have OLED themes that I always have enabled. The first night, I turned my brightness all the way down while browsing both of those apps, and noticed the smearing. Images and text were heavily smeared with black when scrolling. Almost to the point of being unreadable when scrolling.

To clarify, this is something I would do all the time with my original Pixel XL – brightness all the way down, Night Light enabled, and browse OLED themed apps. Smearing was not noticeable to me. To double check, I even went back after the fact to confirm. It wasn’t there. I know black smear is characteristic of OLED displays, but the smearing I’m experiencing is below average. I will further go over the display in the full review.

The build is similar to last year’s, but it is an improvement

Aside from the slight display issues, the rest of the Pixel 2 experience has been great. One of my favorite parts of the new device has to be the feel of the device. I didn’t have any issues with the original Pixel and its wedge shaped designed, but something about the Pixel 2 being flat makes me like it more. I really appreciate how much more surface area the sides of the device have. It makes it much easier to grasp and hold onto. Both the display and the back of the device curve slightly into the edges to make it seem like the device flows together. Overall, it is very comfortable to hold onto.

Pixel 2 XL back

The Black and White variant that I currently have has a very slick feel to it. Although it is an aluminum build, Google put a plastic-ish coating over the top of it. I don’t mind it, but it is very slick. The Just Black variant has a different texture which makes it have a little more grip. Both are quite different than the original Pixel devices.

Plastic button on the Black and White variant is a buzz kill

Pixel 2 XL Black and White orange power button

Since I have the Black and White variant of the Pixel 2 XL, it comes with the orange colored power button. I thought it added a subtle flair to the device, so I was on-board. The first few days both the volume rocker and power were very clicky and tactile. However, recently the power button has been very sub-bar. It isn’t as clicky anymore and is very mushy when pressing it down. In case you didn’t know, the Black and White version has a plastic power button whereas the Just Black version has a metal power button. Why Google would do this, I don’t know.

Software, camera, and battery life are all excellent

The user experience is the one thing that always has me coming to Pixel devices. Last year’s Pixel was the smoothest running device I had ever used. So much so that I returned my Galaxy S8+ to keep using my Pixel XL. Plus, no device in 2017 had a camera that could compare to the original Pixels until later in the year. Even though my Pixel XL was still as smooth as ever running Android 8.1, the Pixel 2 XL still surpasses it as expected. It probably doesn’t hurt that it features the latest Snapdragon 835 processor.

I still have not run into any freezes or software hiccups while using my device. Some may criticize that Google only put 4GB of RAM in the Pixel 2s (same as last year), but I find it to be more than enough. When devices feature 8GB of RAM it is just a marketing ploy to top other devices on the market. 4GB of RAM is more than enough enough for what the Pixel 2 is made for.

Pixel 2 XL camera

The camera on the 2 XL is the most praised portion on the device. If you care, it currently has the highest score on DxOMark for a smartphone: 98. That is one point higher than its Apple rival, the iPhone X. I won’t go over it much as it has been extensively covered, but it is great. I haven’t taken many pictures, but the ones I have, always come out crisp and clear.  Portrait mode is as good as expected, especially when you consider the device only has one camera.

Pixel 2 XL battery life

Lastly, battery life is something Google devices have always excelled at. Since the devices run a stock version of Android with no extra bloat, battery life benefits a lot. The Pixel 2 XL packs a 3520mAh that is more than enough to get me throw my day. On an average day, I have any where from 3 to 5 hours of screen on time, and am left with 40%+ left in the tank.

I didn’t cover all of my feelings and experiences of the Pixel 2 XL in this first impressions, but will in the full review. Issues aside, this is by far my favorite Android device. Only a week into using the Pixel 2 XL and I do not regret buying it whatsoever. There were plenty of other options on the market, but I made the right choice. Be sure to keep an eye on FWNED for our official review, and first one in a long, long time.


About Author

I skateboard, listen to metal, write on my website FWNED, autocross, and love messing with new phones. Currently I'm using a Pixel XL running Pure Nexus with ElementalX as my daily driver.