Samsung has dominated the manufacturing of OLED panels for smartphones and televisions, but recently, LG has closened the gap between the two Korean companies. The Google Pixel 2 notably features an LG-manufactured P-OLED panel, which we highly praised in our review. Samsung, LG, and even Sony have intensified their efforts to ship the best mobile OLED display on the market: Samsung with the Galaxy Note 9, LG with the V40 ThinQ, and Sony with the Xperia XZ3. With the release of the Google Pixel 3 XL, you may be wondering which company Google is sourcing their OLED panels from. As it turns out, it’s a Samsung made panel.
While evaluating the Pixel 3 XL, I discovered a calibration file called qdcm_calib_data_S6E3HA8_ 6.3_command_mode_panel.xml which references the same Samsung DDIC used in the Samsung Galaxy S9 series. The 6.3 in the filename matches the 6.3-inches of the display on the Pixel 3 XL. There’s also a firmware file for Samsung’s S6SY761 touchscreen digitizer.
This year’s Google Pixel 3 was developed quite differently than the previous two generations. The Google Pixel’s ODM was HTC for both the regular and XL model, while the Pixel 2’s ODM was HTC and LG for the regular and XL models respectively. After acquiring the HTC engineers who worked on the Google Pixel, Google decided to develop the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL entirely in-house using Foxconn’s factories for manufacturing. There were early rumors that Google would source notched OLED panels from LG Display for the Pixel 3 XL, but neither Google nor LG confirmed the news at launch time. Thanks to iFixit’sthorough teardown of the Pixel 3 XL’s display, we can now definitively confirm that it’s Samsung we have to credit for the excellent display.
We’ll hopefully do our own display analysis of the Pixel 3 XL in the near future. For now, we can share some of our thoughts based on hands-on previews of the device.
Initial Impressions of the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL Displays
The following section was written by Dylan Raga, our display analyst.
Relative to the Pixel 2 XL, the improvements in the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL displays are impressive. Solid colors appear bright and inky, and no longer possess a grainy appearance like on the Pixel 2 XL. The absence of grain also helps text and curves appear sharper and smoother. One of the lesser-talked issues of the Pixel 2 XL display is that the top glass felt hollow, and the display itself seemed sunken in. On the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL, the lamination of the OLED is now closer to the top glass, allowing the on-screen elements to appear closer to your fingertips when pressed, and tightens the feeling of touching the screen. The Pixel 3 family also opted to ditch the Pixel 2 XL’s 3D glass curves, which possibly resulted in its hollow display due to their inexperience with working with actual curved “3D glass.” The angular color shift is also much improved for most of the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL units and falls in the acceptable range for flagship OLEDs. The smaller Pixel 2, which is commonly accepted to house the superior display panel, did not exhibit any of the above issues. However, just like last year, this year’s Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL do appear to have different characteristics between the two display panels.
In terms of brightness, the Pixel 3 full-screen (100% APL) brightness is similar to that of the Pixel 2 XL’s (and therefore brighter than the smaller Pixel 2), with the Pixel 3 XL slightly but noticeably edging out the two. Android Central claimed that the Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL displays reached a minimum of 400 nits for a full-screen image, however, we measured both the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL to have already achieved more than this for a full-screen image, so the 400 nits minimum is nothing to write home about.
The display calibrations are where the bulk of the display differences rise. Empirically, the Google Pixel 3 XL display calibration in the Natural screen color mode appears excellent and competes toe-to-toe with Apple’s latest iPhone display calibrations. The Pixel 2 XL display had near-perfect chromatic calibration but significantly overshot its display gamma, resulting in color tones that were too dark. The Google Pixel 3 XL improves upon the display gamma significantly, appearing to have a gamma very close to the desired target of 2.20, with colors remaining very accurate. However, the Pixel 3 does not seem to be garnished with the same improvement; color tones still appear to be a little bit too dark, with a display gamma visually in the neighborhood of ~2.40, like the Pixel 2 XL (2.42).
Google received harsh criticism last year for shipping their 2017 flagship phones with a color profile that targets accurate colors, a decision that most Android OEMs no longer follow, and one that Apple has always done for their phones. The Pixel 2 XL calibration wasn’t perfect, but many people attributed the color profile to resulting in the inferior panel. Many Android users are used to the punchy, over-saturated color profiles that OEMs ship with their displays, with Samsung phones being the most infamous example, shipping with their Adaptive display profile. For the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, Google caved in and defaulted the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL display panels to their new Adaptive color mode, which Google has not revealed much about yet so far. At a glance, the profile is actually different for the two phones. For the Google Pixel 3 XL, the profile seems to be similar to Samsung’s Adaptive display screen mode. The smaller Google Pixel 3, however, has an Adaptive profile that closely resembles the Saturated screen mode in the Google Pixel 2 XL. The Google Pixel 3 in this mode is noticeably more saturated than on its larger variant.
Other aspects of the display have yet to be evaluated.