Once again, the Pixel 2 XL is catching flak over its screen.

Recently, it was reported that the phone suffers from screen burn-in, wherein remnants of images remain on the screen despite not being actively displayed.

The issue was first spotted by Android Central, and we saw it on two of our Pixel 2 XL review units when we displayed a gray color swatch at 2,880×1,440-pixel resolution. (Android Central suggests a black or red color swatch, but we found gray highlighted the problem more easily). Indeed, there were faint, but noticeable, outlines of the notification bar (which includes the time and battery status) and the navigational hotkeys on the bottom of the display. 

However, we ran the same test on three other Pixel 2 XLs and didn’t see any burn-in effects on those. When we checked the bottom and top of the display for signs of the hotkeys or the time, it was all a monotone gray. 

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Why are people talking about the Pixel 2 XL screen?


Though screen burn-in does happen on different types of displays, OLED screens (which the Pixel 2 XL has) are more prone to it. However, it usually happens after some time, so it’s definitely a red flag if it’s happening in some Pixel 2 XLs this soon. In the one unit with the burn-in issue, we’ve only had it for a week and since that time, its screen has been on for no more than a couple of hours at a time per day.

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Faint remnants of the on-screen navigational buttons are seen in the Pixel 2 XL display.

Josh Miller/CNET

We also didn’t notice this problem when we displayed the same gray swatch (adjusted for their respective resolution) in the smaller Pixel 2, the Galaxy S8‘s AMOLED display and the LG V30, the latter of which has the same POLED (a plastic variant of OLED) screen with the same resolution as the Pixel 2 XL.

This comes off on the heels of last week’s development, in which the phone got grief over its muted colors and bluish hue that was viewable when tilting the phone at different angles (this is known as blue shift). Though these concerns were noticeable, we concluded that the issue wasn’t a deal-breaker since you could only see the differences when compared side-by-side to the Galaxy S8 and LG V30, and that on its own, the Pixel 2 XL still had a sharp and vibrant screen.

With the screen burn-in issue however, you don’t need to compare it to anything to see the problem staring back at you.

Google told CNET that it was “actively investigating” the problem and issued this statement:

“The Pixel 2 XL screen has been designed with an advanced POLED technology, including QHD+ resolution, wide color gamut, and high contrast ratio for natural and beautiful colors and renderings. We put all of our products through extensive quality testing before launch and in the manufacturing of every unit. We are actively investigating this report.”

The problem shouldn’t affect your day-to-day experience with the Pixel 2 XL, and when we tested to see its effect on YouTube, an app that uses the entirety of the Pixel 2 XL’s display, we didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. But it still can be irksome to the eye when you spot it — especially when you consider you coughed up at least $849, £799 or AU$1,399 for the phone. If you see the problem on your Pixel 2 XL, know that you are entitled to a limited warranty that lasts one year from the date you bought the phone.

As for our take, we still think the Pixel 2 XL is an excellent phone, and we’re particularly impressed with its superior camera prowess and useful Google Lens feature. And again, we saw the issue in two of the five review units that we had on hand. But we’re continuing to keep an eye on screen issues in the coming days, to see if it pops up in other Pixel 2 XLs over a longer period of time. In the meantime, if having a superlative screen is a priority for you (and that’s totally fine if it is), you may want to consider other premium phones like the Galaxy S8 or LG V30 as your top choice instead.

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