Take better photos on your Google Pixel 2 with this trick

Since the Pixel 2 and 2 XL launched back in October, we’ve known that both phones sported a dormant processor named the Pixel Visual Core. While it is still dormant on Pixel 2 phones running on the stable Android 8.0 channel, for those of us whose phones have recently updated to Android 8.1 Developer Preview 2, the Pixel Visual Core can be manually enabled. Join us after the break to find out how to enable the Pixel Visual Core processor on your Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL phone. 

What is the Pixel Visual Core and what will it bring to the table?

Before we get to enabling the Pixel Visual Core, let’s be clear about what we think it will achieve. Enabling the dormant processor isn’t going to double the quality of the photos that the Pixel 2 (or 2 XL) can take with its already class-leading camera. Instead, the Pixel Visual Core is more about expanding those capabilities to third-party apps. We all know that taking photos with a third-party app such as Instagram or Snapchat doesn’t produce the same quality image that would be taken by the phone’s built-in camera app. But by enabling the Pixel Visual Core, the developers of third-party apps can tap into the Android Camera API and thus gain the same HDR+ characteristics that the Google camera produces.

Google has stated that this is an ‘Early Release‘ for the Pixel Visual Core and as its machine learning component matures we’ll no doubt get a better idea of just what the co-processor is capable of. For the moment, though, it’s very much a work in progress, albeit one with heaps of potential.

How to enable the Pixel Visual Core processor

If your phone is running the Android 8.1 Developer Preview 2 already, you’ll  need to open up the Settings app and tap on System

Scroll down to Build Number and tap it seven times, whereupon you’ll be notified via a toast that “You are now a Developer!

Go back to the main Settings menu and tap on Developer Options

Now you are in the Developer Options section, simply scroll down to the end of Debugging and enable the Camera HAL HDR+ toggle and then reboot your phone.

As mentioned, this is just a starting point for the Pixel Visual Core, it mostly affects third-party apps that are tapped into the Android Camera API at the present time. The processors potential has barely been scratched but its influence will be easier to measure as it matures in the months ahead. Let us know if enabling the Pixel Visual Core has changed your camera taking experience in the comments below and don’t forget to check out the first five things you need to do with your Pixel 2 as well as how to change its color profile.

About the Author: Peter Holden

He's been an Android fan ever since owning an HTC Hero, with the Dell Streak being his first phablet. He currently carries a Pixel 2 XL, Huawei P20 Pro, and a Huawei MediaPad M5 (8.4) in his pockets and thinks nothing of lugging a 17-inch laptop around in his backpack. When not immersed in the world of Android and gadgets, he's an avid sports fan, and like all South Africans, he loves a good Braai (BBQ).