The Pixel 3 XL is out, but even after the usual slate of announcements and reviews, there are still a few things we don’t know about it. For some answers on the internals, we turn to iFixit, which recently ripped open the Pixel 3 XL to show the world its insides.
In last year’s Pixel 2 XL, the LG OLED display panel was a big concern. Last year LG jumped back into the OLED smartphone market after being absent for years, and it found itself way behind the competition. The display was grainy and dirty looking at low brightness, and there were burn-in issues. Others complained of a color shift whenever the phone was looked at on an angle. The smartphone OLED industry leader is Samsung, which supplies displays for its own Galaxy line and for Apple’s high-end iPhones.
After undoing tons of glue, screws, and connectors in the Pixel 3 XL, iFixit found (drumroll please) a Samsung Panel! The clearer, brighter display is one of the biggest upgrades in the Pixel 3 XL, and the presence of a Samsung panel explains why. Earlier this year, LG announced it had formed a “strategic partnership” with Google (but denied an earlier report that Google invested any money in LG), but apparently this partnership wasn’t enough to secure a supply of quality OLEDs for the Pixel line. While Samsung is the market leader, LG isn’t totally locked out of the smartphone OLED market—just last month, the company reportedly secured a deal to supply displays for the iPhone.
It looks like iFixit had a hard time getting into the Pixel 3 XL. The site notes that a lot more glue was used than last year, and when going in sight-unseen, iFixit actually broke a few components. A ribbon cable underneath the battery tore while removing the battery, and the site ripped a speaker in half while removing some shielding. Gruesome.
The layout and internals of the Pixel 3 XL look mostly the same as the Pixel 2 XL last year, with most of the changes coming in things you can see in a spec sheet. These include a big wireless charging coil now and a reworked speaker arrangement. The phone has been flipped around this year, though. On the Pixel 2 XL, you take the display off first; on the 3 XL it’s pretty much the last thing you remove.
There are a few special chips in the Pixel 3 XL that Google hasn’t talked much about. iFixit found the same Google SR3HX “Pixel Visual Core” chip as last year and the new Titan M security chip, labeled “Google H1C2M.” As much as the Pixel camera impresses, iFixit confirms that Google is doing this with the same hardware everyone else uses: a Sony camera sensor, in this case the IMX363.
iFixit gives the phone a 4 for repairability (out of 10), which is worse than the Pixel 2 XL’s “6” last year. iFixit dings the phone for the fragile, all-glass panel, a ton of glue construction, and says the display-at-the-bottom design is a lot harder to replace than last year, since you have to take the whole phone apart.