LG’s POLED Issues Are Piling Up — Now It’s Affecting the Pixel 2 XL « Android :: Gadget Hacks


When the LG V30 hit shelves earlier this month, we were excited to see how LG’s all-new POLED panels would stack up against Samsung’s class-leading AMOLED displays. It didn’t take long to realize there was no comparing the two.

We took our LG V30 out of the box, powered it on anxiously … and were immediately disappointed. The blacks looked almost gray — as if this weren’t an OLED panel after all, and instead, was suffering from the type of light bleed you’d normally only see on a backlit LCD display. To quote our writer Kevin at the time, “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s so strange.”

Over the next few days, reports of the V30’s POLED screen suffering from banding, light bleed, uneven colors, and various other defects began to pour in. These were the type of quality control issues that plagued early OLED panels when the technology was in its infancy — the problems we all thought had been solved over the years.

The main issues were banding and uneven colors, which were particularly noticeable when the display was set to low brightness and a solid gray image was shown in full screen. Redditor tortimeyer was able to showcase these problems with a series of photos posted to the V30 subreddit:

(1) Display banding. (2) Uneven colors. Images by tortimeyer/imgur

It was around this time that prospective Pixel 2 XL buyers were starting to worry. You see, Google invested nearly a billion dollars in LG Display hoping the infusion of capital would speed up their development of a smartphone-sized OLED panel, and the Google Pixel 2 XL was set to use the same 6-inch, 18:9 screen found in the V30.

Once the Pixel 2 XL started shipping out, the panic died down just a bit. The banding and uneven colors that plagued LG’s first batch of POLED screens didn’t appear to be an issue for Google’s flagship, as evidenced in the comparison shot by Redditor aeppacher below. I suspect that Google simply raised the minimum brightness on the Pixel 2 XL to avoid this issue, but others have speculated that perhaps Google reserved a higher-binned POLED panel than the LG V30 was using.

The Pixel 2 XL (left) compared to the LG V30 (right). Both phones displaying a solid gray image at the same brightness setting. Image by aeppacher/imgur

Banding and uneven colors aside, the Pixel 2 XL’s POLED screen was not without its faults. Most notably, whites shift to the cool end of the spectrum when the phone is viewed from an angle, and according to several users, colors are fairly drab.

However, both of these issues could be Google’s fault, not LG’s. Android Oreo added sRGB support, so it’s likely that Google has tuned its display to produce more accurate colors than the vivid AMOLED screens Android users have become accustomed to. As for bluish tint at off-angles, the Pixel 2 has a circular polarizer to accommodate sunglasses, and that could be distorting the color temperature.

The “cooling effect” is noticeable when the Pixel 2 XL is viewed at an angle. Image by Droid Life/YouTube

All things considered, this could have been a non-story had the problems stopped there. Maybe the V30 just got a bad batch of POLED screens, and maybe Google’s display calibrations explain the Pixel 2 XL’s quirks. But the problems didn’t stop there, of course.

Now, we’re seeing several reports that the Pixel 2 XL is suffering from screen burn-in after only a few days of moderate use. The on-screen keys and elements in the status bar remain static at all times, which has caused the pixels that make up these icons to get “stuck” in a dimmed-down state. When viewing a full-screen image of solid color, it’s like the on-screen navigation bar is almost still there.

The reports of screen burn are just now starting to roll in, but they’re already pretty damning. So far, Andrew Martonik and Jerry Hildenbrand of Android Central have both noticed it, as has Stephen Hall of 9to5Google. All three writers have stated that their Pixel 2 XLs were only used moderately for a period of less than a week.

An example of screen burn-in on the first-gen Pixel XL. Image by Dallas Thomas/Gadget Hacks

To be clear, screen burn-in is a problem with all OLED displays — it’s just inherent to the tech. Every Galaxy phone I’ve owned has had it, every previous Pixel or Nexus with an AMOLED screen I’ve used suffered the same problem, and even the upcoming iPhone X undoubtedly will. But with the exception of the Galaxy S3 (one of the first mass-market AMOLED phones), it took at least six months before burn-in even started to become noticeable — not six days.

It’s also worth noting that the regular-sized Pixel 2 does not use a POLED screen, so none of these issues are affecting Google’s smaller flagship device. But with Apple swallowing up a huge chunk of all available AMOLED screens for the iPhone X, many other manufacturers will be looking to LG for the displays in their upcoming flagship phones.

Despite all of the advancements in OLED technology over the past five years, it seems like we’re starting over from scratch with LG’s first batch of POLED screens. The growing pains Samsung endured as AMOLED tech matured are hurdles that LG will eventually have to clear themselves. For now, though, it’s become clear that LG’s POLED tech is years behind Samsung’s AMOLED. Let’s hope they catch up soon.


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