Display Comparison

Due to the nature of smartphone and tablet sampling, it's not often that we get two units of a device sent to the same reviewer. Since I already had to set this Pixel C to 200 nits for battery life testing, I figured that it would be interesting to see how the accuracy compares to the original review unit that we received. While a sample size of two is still hardly enough to make any definitive conclusions on the variance from unit to unit, it is an interesting exercise in seeing how far or how little two completely different units differ from one another. If you're looking for more commentary on the Pixel C's display I encourage you to check out the display analysis page in original review.

Display - White Point

Something that I quickly noticed about this new Pixel C unit is that the display is warmer than the original one. This is hardly a surprise, with all mobile devices having fairly high variability with the white point. While the last one was above the standard illuminant D65, this one is a bit below. What this does imply is that Google is probably hovering around D65 with their white point target, so there doesn't appear to be a heavy shift toward the blue to improve battery life, which is something you do see on many other smartphones and tablets. The low power LTPS panel is seemingly able to keep power low enough that shifting toward blue to improve backlight efficiency isn't required to achieve good battery life.

Original Pixel C

New Pixel C

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

This new Pixel C performs a bit worse in our greyscale accuracy test, but the difference really isn't noticeable. In fact, the similarity between the results on both devices is almost spooky, although it really just speaks to the level of consistency Google is enforcing. Due to the green component of luminance dropping off as you move toward 100% white you see similar errors for each shade of grey. I actually tested again to make sure I hadn't accidentally tested the same unit twice, even though the differing white points made me fairly sure of that. While Google isn't giving you ridiculous levels of calibration with DeltaE values below 1, it is clear that they're fairly consistent with targeting a DeltaE of around 3 for greyscale.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

Saturation accuracy drops a bit on the new Pixel C, but it's really not a big enough difference to make an impact on even highly color sensitive workflows. 

Display - GMB Accuracy

In the color checker test we see that both Pixel C units have equivalent average error values. There's not much else to be said here, as both panels are at a point where further improvements to color mixture accuracy won't really bring any tangible benefit.

As I said before, two units is hardly enough to make a conclusion about Google's calibration standards. That being said, you can definitely use the data to get an idea of how tight their tolerances are. I think in this case it's clear that you'll be getting a pretty accurate display with the Pixel C, and the biggest difference will be whether your white point leans more toward red or blue. 

Introduction Software Improvements
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  • Brandon Chester - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    That's good to know. I received contradictory information from Google, but that source looks legitimate. Thank you for that.
  • andreoidb - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    No problem. Though for me the wifi issue is terrible, I get no range and the speeds are consistently worse by a large number then my other devices. Makes using this to consume content almost impossible unless I'm near my router. That rep said the have yet to fix the wifi issue yet. I think they just updated some binary blobs in the February OTA because nothing much is in commit history besides the security fixes.
  • R.M.P. - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    I've felt from the start that Pixel C was something rushed out the door to have a "2-in-1" answer to the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro. It's an unfortunate inevitability. To avoid all the unhelpful confusion it's caused, I just wished they'd called it something like "Nexus Pro" instead of Pixel C. While Android has earned its place by attracting developers in droves, its best place is on smartphones. Like iOS and W10, it's too bloated tied to the world of native apps. In an ideal world, Chrome OS would have an equal complement of Web app developers. Then Google would have a PC product that no one else could even come close to competing with.
  • andychow - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    I would buy this device in two seconds if it came with Chrome OS. Give me chrome, native SSH client, a really good screen and a great battery, then shut up and take my money!
  • jabber - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Give me a phone with ChromeOS on it too!
  • mystilleef - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    Brandon, can you do a YouTube video comparing the input latency and lag on the iPad vs the Pixel C. Cos, I just couldn't see much of any lag or latency in the videos you posted especially when you pinched and zoomed on the Pixel C. Or I'm I missing something?
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, February 18, 2016 - link

    You really can't see that the objects under his fingers before he starts moving them are different than the objects under his fingers when his fingers are actually moving? All OSs have some input latency, but Android has the most of any of the major OSs....and its not something that has really ever gotten better.
    Unfortunately I'm not sure it's something that they'll fix because the OS is "good enough" for their purposes.
    BTW, and this really shouldn't matter, but I have only ever bought Android, specifically Nexus/pixel devices, and the input latency is just a travesty and has always been my biggest source of annoyance. IMHO, I think some of the problems are due to Android's absurd HAL, and, in general, their reluctance to use the much more mature GPL Linux userspace libraries. Audioflinger is just dreadful at latency, even today. A developer at collobora ported PulseAudio to Android a few years ago and demonstrated how much less latency it introduced to the stack relative to audioflinger (a bit less than 20ms total, which is high, but much, much less than audioflinger on the device, and could easily have been improved).
  • dan82 - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    I've been using the new firmware for a 2 weeks as well and think the touch input has been only partially fixed. Things are still somewhat broken if the device is plugged in to charge. One finger is usually ok, but using two fingers (e.g. to pinch-to-zoom) and one of the fingers won't be tracked correctly. While not charging everything is ok and as the tablet luckily has really great battery life, this isn't too much of an issue.

    The keyboard also got much better. The new system version comes with an updated keyboard firmware which improves bluetooth connectivity a lot. The keyboard is no longer randomly disconnecting (and repeating keystrokes). I don't use the keyboard a lot to type, but it is pretty nice as a stand and cover. The magnetic mechanism is still fun to use.

    I also think the Pixel C is currently the best Android tablet. It does get some things wrong that other Android tablets have no issue with, but those are minor:
    - Wifi often disconnects while sleeping (this might of course explain the amazing battery life)
    - No GPS or NFC

    One more grip I have with it is long-term value. Ancient devices like the iPad 2 (2011, around of the time of the Motorola Xoom) and Surface Pro (2013) are still receiving system updates, so they remain current until today. Google promises updates for only 2 years. Of course, an Android system update is somewhat less important as a lot of apps get updated through the Play Store (e.g. Chrome), but you are missing out on some new features (like the new permissions of Android 6.0 that the Nexus 10 didn't get). In my view, that makes it difficult to recommend high priced Android devices, even when the hardware is totally worth it like in this case.
  • Brandon Chester - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    This fix has not gone out to the public yet. The February security patch didn't include any fixes for touch input or performance. It was only 14MB.
  • dan82 - Wednesday, February 17, 2016 - link

    I installed the factory image MXB48T. The touch accuracy is night and day compared to before. A touch firmware can easily be fixed in 14 MB :-)

    A good way to try this is using the Markers app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.... Try drawing with a bunch of fingers at the same time. With the old version, fingers would frequently get dropped (the line has gaps). The reason is that Android thinks a finger got temporarily lifted of the device. With MXB48T, things are fine, as long as you are not charging the tablet. I'm happy to record a video.

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