Google Pixel 8 review: doing things the Google way
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Google Pixel 8 Intro
Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, has been gaining steady momentum for years now, and it has become an even hotter topic in the last two. When it comes to smartphones, Google is arguably the company that has used the power of AI in the most creative ways we have seen so far, and the tech giant has doubled down on that aspect with the Pixel 8.
The 2023 vanilla flagship from Google does come with new hardware, don't get us wrong, but most of it is there to empower the myriad of new software features it comes with, most of which are related to the cameras and what you can do with them during shooting and after.
Speaking of software, Google has also done something amazing this year by promising the longest software support we have ever had on a Pixel phone, much more compared to the likes of the Galaxy S23 series for example, and even one year more than what Apple promises for its iPhones. And all of this for the modest price of $699 for the base model!
Pixel 8 offers.Now, that price tag is nice and all, but as you might already be thinking, there are some obvious corners that Google continues to cut with its base flagship. But let's dive in and see whether they can be overlooked in favour of everything else the
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What’s new about the Pixel 8:
- Google Tensor G3
- 7 years of software updates!
- 120Hz display refresh rate
- 2000 nits peak brightness
- Awesome new software features
- Upgraded main camera
Table of Contents:
(Image credit - PhoneArena)
What's in the Pixel 8 box? Well, unlike all of the "magic" that Google has packed within the phone itself, the box is nothing special per se. It comes with the phone itself, a SIM ejector tool, an adapter that helps you switch from your previous phone more easily, and a 1m USB-C to USB-C charging cable (USB 2.0).
Google Pixel 8 Specs
New processor and a Pro-level display
Here is a quick glance at the Pixel 8 spec sheet:
The most notable mention here is the jump from 90Hz (on the Pixel 7) to 120Hz screen refresh rate, overshadowing a certain company's vanilla flagship competitor that still has only 60Hz (*cough, Apple, cough*). Charging is also slightly faster, jumping from 27W compared to the predecessor's 21W.
Of course there's also the brand new Google Tensor G3 which enables all of the old and new AI smarts that come with the Pixel 8, but more on that later.
Don't forget to check out our full Pixel 8 specs page if you want all the details!
Google Pixel 8 Design & Colors
Small but effective changes and two new colors
At a first glance, the Pixel phones have not changed too much visually since the introduction of the Pixel 6 series, and that continues to be the case with the Pixel 8. It still comes with that iconic camera bar at the back, a metal frame, and glass back.
But look closer and you will notice that the corners of the phone's frame are more oval, making it have a less blocky shape than the Pixel 7, while the bezels have are thinner and seemingly more symmetrical. These might seem like small design improvements, but combined together they do make an impression while using Pixel 8.
When it comes to durability, you get the same level of protection as last generation, meaning Gorilla Glass protecting the back and front panels, as well as an IP68 certification for water and dust resistance (water resistant in fresh water up to 1.5 metres for 30 minutes)
Colors-wise you get only three options, which are not that exciting this year. Here are all the Pixel 8 colors:
Google Pixel 8 Display
Brighter and smoother
(Image credit - PhoneArena) Pixel 8 display.
The vanilla Pixel 7 from last year had a pretty alright display for all intends and purposes, but it wasn't exactly flagship-level. With the Pixel 8, however, Google has delivered a Pro-level display to its affordable $699 base flagship, with improvements in two key areas.
For starters, the peak brightness has jumped to 2000 nits (matching the iPhone 15). Additionally, you also get a 1400-nit peak brightness for HDR content. To make the deal even sweeter, Google has increased the maximum refresh rate to 120Hz, something the iPhone 15 sorely lacks, despite the fact that it costs $100 more.
These two upgrades feel like the final two parts Google had to add to the puzzle to make the display on the Pixel 8 look genuinely great, and it really does. Admittedly, going from a 90Hz screen refresh rate to 120Hz does not have the same stark difference when you upgrade from 60Hz to 90Hz, but it definitely gave that "premium" feel while scrolling through social media or the UI.
The higher display brightness is probably the improvement that you will notice a bit later, but the difference is definitely there. In real life use, going outside on a sunny day when the light is harsh, it was noticeably easier to make out what's on the screen compared to the Pixel 7, which had a peak brightness of 1400 nits.
Google Pixel 8 Camera
(Image credit - PhoneArena) Pixel 8 camera.
The cameras on the Pixel 8's back haven't changed too much, at least when it comes to their megapixels. The main (wide) snapper still comes with 50MP, but it has been upgraded to be 25% more light sensitive than before. The 12MP ultra-wide shooter has remained the same as last year. As for the selfie shooter, it comes with 10.5MP.
But as we all know, it's not all about the megapixels when it comes to Google's, well, Pixels (you saw that coming, didn't ya).
It is no secret that the big G excels when it comes to applying artificial intelligence to its phones' cameras, and this year the company has upped the ante once again. Besides the improvements in color reproduction and image detail, there are new — what one might call — "magical" camera features that help the Pixel camera experience stand out from the competitors.
For starters, there is the Best Take feature, which combines similar pictures into one where everyone looks their best. Users can pick from several faces for each person in the photo, and the Pixel 8 seamlessly replaces them. Kind of freaky, which you will notice is a common theme with this phone.
There's also the Audio Eraser for video which you can utilize to remove unwanted sounds from a recording. It is smart enough to categorize the sounds into different types, so you get the option to select which ones you want to be muted.
Arguably most powerful of all is the Magic Editor — a spiritual successor to the Magic Eraser from the previous generation. Now, removing objects and people from a shot seems to be even more comprehensive than before, with the feature being capable of removing things that you are wearing like a bag or scarf, for example.
But it is not just removing things that the Magic Editor is capable of, it can also reposition subjects in different spots on the image, or completely replace a sky to make it look more appealing. Frankly, these new capabilities are impressive, but also a bit scary considering how much they can bend what was really in the shot.
Sharp detail, great dynamic range, vivid colors. What more can you ask for?
The Pixel 8's main camera manages to take some awesome low-light/night photos. You might also notice that there are no light leaks or reflections in the form of circles, like you get with an iPhone for example. If we were to take a wild guess we would say that Google is working more of its software magic to battle this problem here.
2x sensor crop
There might not be a dedicated telephoto camera on the Pixel 8, but the 2x sensor crop seems to be doing a good enough job. The text is perfectly readable.
It seems the camera had some trouble with the HDR in the first shot, the second one is taken with the 2x sensor crop mode and it looks much better. Sometimes the phone might get the calculations wrong and give you an image that you did not expect. Most of the time, though, it delivers.
The ultra-wide camera is obviously not as sharp or capable as the main one, with images looking more grainy. That said, the color reproduction is still great, especially for a secondary camera, and so is the high dynamic range.
Google Pixel 8 Performance
Higher performance for more powerful features
Google's Tensor chipsets never really reached the same heights of performance that the flagship Galaxy and iPhone devices do. That said, we have the new Google Tensor G3 running the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro this year, which the company boasts about by, of course, once again focusing on all of the AI-related features it enables.
Things like the new camera features, improvements in video and audio quality, even better Clear Calling for a more pleasant phone call experience, filtering a higher number of spam calls, and more.
In terms of memory and storage, the Pixel 8 has 8GB of LPDDR5X RAM and, somewhat disappointingly, it still has UFS 3.1 with 128/256GB options. We say disappointingly because we were hoping Google would upgrade the storage to UFS 4.0, which is twice as fast and considerably more power efficient.
As we already expected before we tested the Pixel 8, it is still behind the competition when it comes to pure horse power. That said, benchmarks don't give the full picture, and we are talking about a phone that is less expensive than said competition, so this difference in processing speed and graphics performance can be overlooked.
In general, the Pixel 8 was pleasant to use, despite its apparent lower performance. Some of the camera software features we mentioned earlier, like Best Take, felt a bit slow, but this might be improved with future software updates from Google.
Google Pixel 8 Connectivity
Connectivity-wise, the Pixel 8 is almost fully stacked with the latest and greatest. That includes support for Wi-Fi 7 (only in US, CA, UK, EU, AU) and Bluetooth 5.3, both of which are the latest versions of the respective tech. The only thing that is missing is the Ultra-Wideband chip for accurate ranging and spatial orientation which the Pixel 8 Pro comes with.
Google Pixel 8 Android Version and Software
The software magic does not begin and end with the camera system. Oh no, not at all. The Pixel 8 comes along with a bunch of new hat tricks or improved old ones and they are pretty neat (still scary in some cases though...).
For example, the Google Assistant is now capable of summarising a whole webpage and giving you the most important information, so you don't have to go through the whole thing yourself. What's more, speech to text is now completely on device and is both faster and more accurate than before. Also, there is a new Fix It feature that proofreads anything you type on the phone's keyboard.
But probably the one that gave us the most "wow" factor was the new version of Call Screen, which now sounds MUCH more natural and human-like. It is basically like having a personal AI call center inside your pocket. Of course, this is all thanks to the new Tensor G3 sensor. That said, the feature still only works in the US.
Additionally, Face Unlock via the selfie camera is now fully capable of covering the highest Android biometric class, meaning it can be used for making online and contactless payments via Google Wallet!
There are also some other small neat new software features, like the creating a unique AI-generated image to use as a wallpaper, which you get by typing in instructions. The results were kind of mixed, with some images looking pretty plain or boring, while in other cases there were examples that worked quite well with the Material You design language.
As for the Android version, of course, the Pixel 8 comes out of the box with Android 14, the latest version of Android, which brings along higher levels of customization, enabling you to alter the color, type, and size for the lock screen. The more exciting part lies in the software support though!
Unlike Google's Pixel phones until now, which were ironically lacking behind the likes of competitors like Samsung, Google now offers a total of 7 years of software and security updates with the Pixel 8!
To put this into some context so we can appreciate it even more, that's 4 years of software updates more and 3 years of security patches on top of what was previously offered. This is without a doubt one of the main reasons to upgrade to a Pixel 8! It's also more than what Apple promises for its iPhones!
So, with this new 7-year software support, the Pixel 8 will be going from Android 14 all the way up to Android 21 (wow, that feels weird to say). In other words, the Pixel 8 will continue getting updates until 2030!
Google Pixel 8 Battery
Faster charging, but not by much
(Image credit - PhoneArena)
The battery on the Pixel 8 is slightly larger than the previous generation at 4,485 mAh (compared to 4,355 mAh). Despite the slight increase in battery capacity and the new Tensor G3 chipset on board, the battery life felt similar to last year's Pixel 7, however, our tests showed a different story.
PhoneArena Battery Test Results:
The Pixel 8 seems be fairing noticeably better when it comes to how long its battery lasts, especially when it comes to web browsing. Not to mention when we compare it to the competition. Stay tuned for our gaming battery life test too!
Google Pixel 8 Charging Speeds
Google states that the Pixel 8 wired charging speed has increased to 27W from 21W on the predecessor, and that seemed to be the case as the phone charged a bit quicker compared to the Pixel 7. Of course, it is still not on the level of faster-charging phones like some OnePlus' out there, but it does the job.
Google Pixel 8 Audio Quality and Haptics
Still has some room for improvement sound-wise
The audio of Pixel 8 is clear and good enough for listening to any kind of speech-related content. It gets pretty loud too, however, the overall sound profile does seem lack a bit when it comes to richness and depth, so you probably won't be able to replace a portable speaker with this phone.
As for the haptics, our initial impressions during the hands-on experience we had with the Pixel 8 were that it offered some improvements on that front, which was only reaffirmed as we spent more time with it. It feels like Google has increased the intensity of the vibrations in comparison to its previous flagship lineup, and the good news is that we are not talking about mushy-feeling haptics here.
Google Pixel 8 Competitors
The Google Pixel phones have one major benefit compared to their competition, and that's their price! While the Galaxy S23 and iPhone 15 start at $799, the Pixel 8 is going for $699 for the same storage option. Now, as you might imagine, there are some sacrifices made to achieve this, like a less powerful chipset or less cameras.
The Galaxy S23, for instance, might be a hundred bucks pricier, but it often goes on sale. It also comes with a dedicated 3x telephoto camera and, typically, a faster chipset (although this one is not certain until we get to test the Tensor G3). Until now, the Galaxy also came with the best software support on the Android side of the spectrum, but the Pixel 8 has that beat by a lot!
The iPhone 15, on the other hand, also does not have a third camera at the back, but nevertheless it is the king when it comes to video recording, and it has stellar chipset performance too. There's also Apple's "Ceramic Shield" which is more durable compared to what Android phones have for display protection. Then again, it is the only phone it its price range with a 60Hz display, and iPhones usually don't go on sale. What's more, the Pixel 8 beats even the iPhone when it comes to software support now!
Google Pixel 8 Summary and Final Verdict
(Image credit - PhoneArena)
It looks like the Pixel 8 continues the tradition its predecessors have kept going for years now, which is to deliver a great all-rounder package for an equally great price tag. But this year it feels like we are getting even more Google goodness, ie software magic, for the same price.
The camera on the Pixel 8 might not have received any major new hardware, but it can capture 25% more light and it is the gateway to some mind-boggling software features that make you question what a photo is. There are also those awesome 7 years of promised software updates, which make the Pixel 8 super future proof and an overall, and more environmentally friendly in a way.
Of course, it is not all good with the Pixel 8. Despite its AI smarts, the Pixel's chipset continues to be slower compared to the likes of Qualcomm's Snapdragon and Apple's Bionic chipsets. And this shows in some instances, even ones having to do with the new Pixel-specific software features that came with this generation. There's also the fact that charging still leaves more to be desired, and you still don't get a dedicated telephoto camera.
All things considered, however, the Pixel 8 still offers a LOT for its price, including a unique user experience thanks to its exclusive AI magic. In fact, it even feels like that is more the case this time around than in previous years. If you like its creative twist on software and iconic design, you probably won't be left disappointed.
*Disclaimer: You may notice review scores have changed on PhoneArena! Since September 20th, we have started using a new scoring system and we will soon explain what exactly goes into this new PhoneArena review score. Stay tuned.