Fix the Pixel 2 XL Black Crush Issue

A lot of people complain about the Pixel 2 XL screen quality and for good reason. Out of the box, colors look undersaturated, blacks look crushed, and there’s an off-axis blue shift. This phone costs over $850 and should have a top of the line screen. Samsung makes some of the best OLED displays, but this one uses a screen by LG.

I’ll show you how a two dollar and fifty cent app fixes at least one of those issues.

The Black Crush Issue

The two major issues I had with this screen are the desaturated colors and the black crush. Google resolved the first issue in an update that enabled the “saturated” mode in the settings. Before that update, the only options were natural and boosted. Both had muddy yellows and bland reds.

Pixel 2 XL Black Crush Issue

The second issue is with black crush. There are many levels of brightness between absolute black (when all pixels are off) and the brightest white (when all the pixels are on max brightness.) The problem was that some of the darker shades that were not absolute black, were showing up as absolute black. They call this crushing, or clipping and it leads to too much contrast. You won’t see details in shadows that you should be able to see. You want a natural transition between light and dark.

The Fix

Until Google addresses this issue in a future update, the fix is to use an app called Screen Balance. This app allows you to tweak the color temperature, brightness, and contrast. I found out about this app from the YouTuber, This is Tech Today.

Screen Balance is a free app, but if you want it to start on boot-up and also access more advanced settings, you need to pay for the pro version. As of right now, the pro version of the app is $2.50.

What the App Won’t Fix

The app won’t resolve any blue-shift issues or graininess at low brightness. It will fix the black crush issue. It will also allow you to calibrate the white balance to something more pleasing to your eye.

Why I didn’t Use the Recommended Settings

The recommended settings that I found online said to set the white balance to Fluorescent (warm) and strength to 60%. It did eliminate the black crush, but it turned true blacks into a gray shade.

Pixel 2 XL Black Crush Issue

One benefit of using an OLED screen is that it can display true black by completely turning off the pixels. That means when I’m watching a video where black bars show, the bars blend into the black bezels on the phone.

Those settings also made the white balance too warm for my taste.

My Methodology of Calibration

My Settings for Screen Balance App:

– All settings for Color Mode “RGB” on Pro Version

– Calibrations made with night mode off

– To achieve true black levels, set strength to 4% when adaptive brightness is on, 2% when adaptive brightness is off.

My first goal was to reduce the black clipping as much as possible without affecting true blacks.

I used a video on YouTube from the AVS calibration discs. The first test shows different levels of black and dark gray. You should be able to see all the flashing lines up to the reference black level. If you don’t see some of the lines flashing, that means that you have crushed black levels.

Pixel 2 XL Black Crush Issue

My Settings (Pixel 2 XL Max Saturation & True Black, Adaptive Brightness On)

Red (255)
Blue (255)
Green (255)
Strength (4%)
Contrast (100%)
Brightness (100%)

I found that between 2% and 4% strength were optimal depending on whether I had the adaptive brightness turned on or off. With those settings, I can see all the flashing lines, but at max brightness, the black background still blends into the bezels.

Emulating Different Screens

Pixel 2 XL Black Crush IssueFor fun, I wanted to see if I could use this app to emulate some of the screens I had lying around.

Check out the description in my Improve the Pixel 2 XL Screen Quality video for the settings for the iPad Pro and iPhone X

I have a 9.7″ iPad Pro with a Retina IPS display. This is using LCD technology so it cannot display true blacks like an OLED, but Apple’s color calibration has always been excellent.

When using the iPad Pro as my reference screen, I made sure to turn the brightness to max, night shift off, auto-brightness off, and True-Tone off.

I used 18% gray as my white balancing point of reference. 18% gray is also called middle gray and is perceptually halfway between black and white on a lightness scale.

I eyeballed the red, green and blue values, so I’m sure someone else could do a better job if they spent more time or used a calibration spyder. Also, keep in mind that screens can have variations, so what works well on mine, may not be perfect on yours.

Also, note that what the camera sees is different from what my eyes see. In this clip, the grays have a similar color temperature when looking at it in person. On camera, they look way off. It might also have to do with the fact that the Pixel 2 XL screen is OLED and is considerably brighter.

I’ve created one profile that simulates the iPad Pro’s LCD screen, with its lack of true black and all. I also made a profile that achieves true black, but emulates the iPad Pro’s color temperature.

My friend brought his iPhone X, regarded as one of the best screens out right now (yes, it is made by Samsung, but Apple set up the color profile and they did a great job). I prefer their calibration to the oversaturated look of the Samsung phones.

I did my best to match the Pixel 2 XL’s screen to the iPhone X’s and I am happy with how it turned out.

Pixel 2 XL Black Crush Issue


There are technical differences between the LG screen and the Samsung screen that causes the differences in the way they render colors. It’s most noticeable in reds and yellows.

There’s only so much that you can do using software tweaks. If the hardware can’t output a certain color at a certain brightness, it just can’t do it.

If you’re willing to root your phone and install a custom kernel, you can use an app called KCal that allows further customization. That’s a big commitment for me though. I want to run my Pixel 2 XL stock for a while. I’m sure I will root and install a custom ROM at some point, but not now.


I’m happy with how my screen on my Pixel 2 XL looks. At no point have I looked at it disappointed by what I see, even when comparing it to my iPad Pro or iMac Retina. It may not be the best screen out there, but it’s still great. We can only hope that Google will come out with a future update with the proper calibration to make the most of this hardware.

Let me know if these tweaks improved your screen. If you have suggestions for other settings, post them in the comments and let us know your method of achieving those settings.

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The Moment Case and Lenses for Pixel 2 XL

After receiving the Pixel 2 XL and being impressed by its photo quality, I’ve been considering getting the Moment Lenses. Although I have a few cameras already (DSLR, micro four thirds, GoPro, and more) I felt there was a place for the Moment lenses and Pixel 2 XL combination in my arsenal. Luckily they were having a holiday sale and I was able to pick up the Moment Case in Walnut, the new Wide Lens, and the Tele Lens at a discount.

First Impressions of the Moment Lenses and Pixel 2 XL Case

Moment Case for the Pixel 2 XL

The unboxing experience was great and the packaging is well designed. The Pixel 2 XL case in Walnut feels solid and snaps on and off the phone easily. It’s by no means a slim case. It adds a little bit of bulk but it feels like the perfect balance of weight and width to support the lenses. The buttons on the side are flush with the case but are easy to find. Each lens comes with its own felt pouch for storage and a lens cap. The lenses attach easily and securely to the case.

Moment 18mm Wide Lens Review

Moment 18mm Wide Lens

The build quality on the 18mm Wide Lens is great. The lens has a good weight to it and feels well built. I used a focus calibration chart to test the lens and the lines remained straight and retained their sharpness. The Wide Lens also shows little light loss.

Moment 18mm Wide Lens on Pixel 2 XL

Moment 60mm Tele Lens Review

Moment 60mm Tele Lens

Moment 60mm Tele Lens on Pixel 2 XL

I bought the Tele lens to enhance the Pixel 2’s portrait mode and in hopes of getting some shallow depth of field when shooting video. Unfortunately I discovered that the Pixel 2’s portrait mode gets confused when the lens is in use. Additionally, the image quality is disappointing. The resulting images are soft, especially in the corners. It is noticeably less sharp and has some barrel distortion. Both the Wide and Tele lens exhibit some color fringing but it is much worse on the Tele lens. There is also significant vignetting with the 60mm Tele lens.

Moment Wide Lens vs Moment Tele Lens

Moment Tele Lens Vignetting

The Tele lens does add some depth of field when shooting videos on the Pixel 2 XL but for me it’s not worth the loss in image quality. Overall, the 60mm Tele lens did not meet my expectations.


I would definitely recommend the Moment Case and the 18mm Wide Lens. Instead of the 60mm Tele lens for portrait use, I prefer the Sirui Portrait Lens. It is not made for telephoto shots, but it’s much sharper around the edges for portrait shots within 10ft.

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