In short: The 6.3-inch P-OLED display panel found on the Google Pixel 3 XL is the best mobile screen ever commercialized and is “visually indistinguishable from perfect,” benchmarking experts at DisplayMate report. The recently unveiled smartphone matched or exceeded existing records in half a dozen aspects, with one of the more impressive ones being its best-in-class absolute color accuracy. As Google opted to equip the handset with an OLED panel, the very nature of that module also ensured the Pixel 3 XL offers an infinite contrast ratio given how it’s capable of delivering true blacks by simply not lighting up individual pixels, which also conserves energy, i.e. improves battery life compared to LCD solutions, making applications such as always-on displays much more easier to do with a minimal energy footprint.
The Pixel 3 XL also experiences the smallest shift in color accuracy with changing average picture levels of image content, DisplayMate found, with the main implication of that claim being that the device should perform well with a variety of visual content, even when the scenes are changing quickly and varying radically. The 4.3-percent screen reflectance is also the smallest on the market, as is the 28-percent brightness variation at a 30-degree viewing angle. As is the case with other QHD+ smartphones, the Pixel 3 XL offers the absolute top of what the human eye can perceive in terms of resolution on a small mobile screen – a panel with a 3K resolution of 2,960 by 1,440 pixels amounting to an 18.5:9 aspect ratio.
While Sony previously commercialized 4K mobile screens, the difference between the two isn’t visible to the human eye in regular use and can only be noticeable in the context of virtual reality applications, previous testing performed by numerous sources has revealed. In overall, Google surpassed all expectations in the display segment with its latest Android flagship that now stands as the best example of mobile screen excellence which is unlikely to be dethroned until next year, as suggested by DisplayMate’s in-depth review. While the smaller Pixel 3 utilizes a similar P-OLED panel, the FHD+ resolution of the 5.5-inch screen made it ineligible for a closer inspection from DisplayMate that only reviews the very best of what the industry has to offer at any given time. That resolution downgrade aside, the Pixel 3 should offer comparable performance in the display department as far as color accuracy and usable viewing angles are concerned, whereas its smaller pixel count shouldn’t be too obvious given how the phone uses a more compact screen.
Background: Prior to the launch of Google’s Pixel 3 XL, DisplayMate considered Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 to feature the best smartphone screen ever created. As Samsung designs, manufactures, and calibrates its mobile screens, the company traditionally tops its competitors in the display quality segment every year, though Apple broke precedent with the iPhone X last year, managing to outperform the Galaxy Note 8 with its custom OLED panel that was still manufactured by Samsung Display.
Besides the three aforementioned devices, DisplayMate’s top-of-the-class rating has previously been given to the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone XS max, with all five of them delivering perfect calibration accuracy, excellent viewing angles, and ultra-premium performance in many other categories, though no single handset has been found to be the absolute best in every relevant respect.
The fact that Google now managed to take the mobile display crown marks a massive comeback for the company whose last year’s handset was plagued with screen issues that prompted numerous complaints and refund requests. While not all industry watchers agreed with the assessment that the Pixel 2 XL had major display issues, Google’s calibration decisions clearly weren’t to many people’s liking but the firm appears to have learned its lesson, having now mounted a display comeback in style. The company’s 2017 flagship used an LG Display P-OLED panel but Google has yet to reveal the manufacturer of the Pixel 3 XL screen and may choose not to do so at all.
Impact: While Samsung has been returning to the mobile display throne on several occasions in recent times, it failed to remain seated in it in time for two straight holiday seasons in a row now. Given that state of affairs, especially in light of the fact that it was now surpassed by a relative newcomer to the smartphone market (at least in terms of hardware), the South Korean original equipment manufacturer may end up going all-out with the next generation of its Super AMOLED panels for smartphones.
The results achieved by the Pixel 3 XL are impressive in virtually every respect, though the differences between the new Android flagship and Samsung’s latest high-end release shouldn’t be particularly obvious in everyday use. Much like the Pixel 3 XL, the Galaxy Note 9 was also described as being “indistinguishable from perfect” in more ways than one. As far as regular use is concerned, most consumers are unlikely to notice a significant difference in the performance of the two smartphones’ panels, particularly if they choose to use similar display settings on both, as suggested by the DisplayMate’s new review and the company’s August findings about the Galaxy Note 9.
Recent reports suggest the Galaxy S10 lineup may feature a design that will be revolutionary on several fronts, including that of display notches; as in – it may somehow manage to continue inching closer to truly bezel-free designs without designing devices that feature such cutouts or any other elements that would break their symmetry. Whether that truly ends up being the case remains to be seen but given how Samsung isn’t the undisputed mobile display leader any longer, the company will surely be incentivized to reclaim that title for more than a few months in 2019. As for Google, DisplayMate’s best-ever rating is a massive technical win for Alphabet’s subsidiary whose latest Android flagships have otherwise been met with a lukewarm response from the tech community, partly due to the fact they remained stuck on single rear cameras and were generally envisioned as a more of a refinement of the Pixel 2 line instead of a series offering major innovations, which is something that most other major manufacturers did with their 2018 handsets already.