Google Pixel 8 Review: Rounding Off Things


October is the month of new Google Pixel phones, and this year, we got the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. I’ve been very intrigued with Pixel phones ever since their inception in the late 1900s, just kidding, the first Pixel launched in 2016. Feel old yet? I was too poor to afford the original Pixel, although it wasn’t an expensive phone to begin with. Fast forward to Pixel 3, and I was able to get my first Pixel, and I’ve been an avid Pixel user ever since. The camera was and still is the best part of the Pixel experience, apart from the software.

I’ve been using the Pixel 8 for almost a month now, and here’s what I think of it.

Pixel 8 price in India

The Google Pixel 8 gets several upgrades, including one to its price tag. In India, the 128GB Pixel 8 is priced at Rs. 75,999, which is Rs. 15,000 more than the Pixel 7’s launch price of Rs. 59,999. There’s also a 256GB variant of the Pixel 8, which is available at Rs. 82,999. At this price, the Pixel 8 is now on the expensive side of the spectrum and also priced similarly to the iPhone 15. Are all the new upgrades worth the price hike? Let’s find out.

Pixel 8 Review: Design and display

If you pixelate the Pixel 8 and place it next to the Pixel 7, you won’t really be able to tell any difference.

Pixel 8 is smaller in size when compared to the Pixel 7

Google’s Pixel 8 is not a major change from the Pixel 7 in terms of design. The search giant has made small changes to the design, but that has reduced the dimensions of the handset. It also makes the new phone much more comfortable to hold. The Pixel 8 gets a glass back and a matte aluminium frame, very similar to last year’s model. However, this time around, the corners and the edges of the rear glass panel feature a deeper curve. The camera bar at the back is thicker than the one on the Pixel 7, and the camera cutouts are also larger. The LED flash and rear microphone are pretty much in the same location as before.

At the front, the Pixel 8 now gets more uniform side bezels, with the bottom chin slimmer than the Pixel 7. It’s still not quite uniform all around, but it’s a step in the right direction. The volume and power buttons are on the right frame, still very clicky, and the SIM tray is on the left-hand side. At the bottom, you’ll find the speaker, USB Type-C port, and microphone. You also get a third microphone at the top of the phone.

Google has always tried to offer a distinctive design with its Pixel series, from the two-toned colours in the Pixel 2 and 3 to the now famous camera visor. The Pixel 8 offers a unique design when compared to other phones in the market. The camera bar also means the Pixel phones don’t wobble when you keep them on the table. You can even use the camera bar to rest your finger when using the phone.

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The Google Pixel 8 comes with a 6.2-inch full-HD+ OLED display with 120Hz refresh rate

One of the main new features on the Pixel 8 is the 6.2-inch Actua AMOLED display protected with Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus. The panel offers up to a 120Hz refresh rate, either at 60Hz or 120Hz. When you first turn on the phone, the refresh rate is 60Hz. If you want to save battery, you can keep it as is, but if you’re used to high refresh rate screens, then 120Hz mode is the way to go. The panel also offers higher brightness up to 2000 nits and 1,400 nits in HDR mode. All of these are excellent upgrades compared to last year’s Pixel 7, which offered a 90Hz panel with a peak brightness of 1400 nits. In outdoor conditions and under bright sunlight, the new Pixel is much better to read. The display on the Pixel is now proper flagship level.

Google has included an IP68 water and dust resistance rating, which means that you can use the Pixel 8 in the rain. However, I wouldn’t recommend using the phone in the rain or underwater for long durations. A quick dip to take some photos in the swimming pool is totally fine, but completely avoid taking the Pixel 8 underwater during a dive. Overall, I liked the slightly updated design, as it makes a lot of difference in real-world use. Now, if only Google brought back the matte rear glass, which surprisingly is present on the Pixel 8 Pro.

I’d also like to talk about the speakers on the phone. Like all the recent Pixel phones, the Pixel 8 comes with a hybrid two-speaker setup, one on the bottom of the phone and the second one that also works as the earpiece. There isn’t a huge difference between the sound stage on the Pixel 8 when compared to the Pixel 7. There’s a little more bass, and it does get quite loud.

Pixel 8 Review: Performance and Software

The Google Pixel lineup was never known for performance, but they aren’t slow either. Google focuses more on AI and software prowess much more than just brute performance, and that shows. The Pixel 8 won’t win any benchmark scores or give the highest frame rates on games, but you won’t face any hiccups or lag when using the phone daily. While software optimisations are still not on the level of what you see on an iOS device, basic UI navigation, animations, app switching, app opening, and everything in between are quite smooth.

Google Pixel 8 is equipped with the Tensor G3 SoC, and while this is an improvement over the Pixel 7’s Tensor G2, you really won’t be able to tell them apart in terms of performance. The Tensor G3 is a 4nm chip that uses a nona-core architecture, which means there are nine cores. It is paired with 8GB LPDDR5X RAM and an Immortalis-G715 MP10 GPU. For storage, there are 128GB and 256GB options available.

Let’s get into the software side of things now. Since the Pixel is a Google phone, you get the cleanest Android software. I’ve always loved the stock Android feel and look of the Pixel software, so much so that I’d always try to install Pixel Experience ROMs on all my Android phones. You do get some extra features, though, which are exclusive to the Pixel lineup. There’s the awesome Now Playing feature, which can auto-detect songs playing around you. With Android 14, you also get several new add-ons, such as Lock Screen customisation, new Clocks, monochrome themes, and more. Google has also improved Face Unlock with more security, and it now works for payments, sign-ins, and supports banking apps.

Pixel 8 also brings a bunch of new AI features, such as the new Audio Eraser, Best Take, and Magic Editor. Google has also announced that it’ll soon integrate its Bard chatbot with Google Assistant. This should enable the Google Assistant to provide richer results by using data from other Google apps.

The Audio Eraser feature is pretty cool, and I tested it thoroughly. It does exactly what it says and erases distracting sounds from your audio recordings. I recorded some wind chimes with traffic noise in the background and was able to remove the traffic noise with the tap of a button. Then there’s Best Take, which can be really helpful at group gatherings. Take a bunch of group selfies or photos, and you can then use Best Take to select the exact faces of each individual in the photo.

Magic Editor is an advanced version of Magic Eraser, and it lets you change an image altogether. You can crop the subjects out and move them around, you can change the background, and you can change the sky. This worked quite well most of the time, and I was able to move objects around, change the sky, move the subject, and, ultimately, change the entire composition of the photo. It is indeed Magic unless you’ve used Photoshop. A point to note is that you will need to upload the photo to Google Cloud to use the Magic Editor feature, which means that this feature doesn’t work on your phone and requires an internet connection. Real Tone, Google’s technology to accurately detect skin tones, is now available on video.

There’s also a new AI wallpaper feature that lets you create your own custom wallpaper based on preset inputs. You can get a lot of cool wallpapers with the feature, and there can be so many variations that you may never run out.

With the Pixel 8, Google has also announced 7 years of OS upgrades. Yes, that’s right, your Google Pixel 8 series now supports 7 years of Android and security updates. That’s the most anyone has ever offered on the Android side of things. Even Apple only offers 5 years of software support for the iPhone. Will the Pixel 8 survive those 7 years? Maybe, if you take good care of it, you can get 7 years out of the Pixel 8 series.

In the couple of weeks I’ve been using the Pixel 8, I did not face any issues with the software. Although Pixels are also known for bugs, this time around, there weren’t any yet. Gaming, watching videos, and using various apps have been smooth and fast. However, I did notice some minor heating when using the Camera and playing games for more than 25 minutes.

Pixel 8 Review: Battery Life

The Google Pixel 8 comes with a slightly larger battery compared to the Pixel 7, but it did not fare that much better than the predecessor. You get a 4,575mAh battery that lasted for about 20 hours in our HD video loop test. With regular usage, the phone lasted me more than a day, but that’s without gaming. When I used the Pixel 8 to watch some YouTube videos, take photos, and play a couple of games, I was left with about 25 percent battery life at the end of the day. That would’ve lasted me an entire night and then some, but I’m not sure why Google still hasn’t figured out how to improve battery life when the screen is off.

As for charging, the Pixel 8 now supports 27W fast charging support, which should result in faster charging times. I tested the Pixel 8 with an 18W Google charger, and a full charge took about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Meanwhile, 30 minutes of charging bumped the battery percentage to 38 percent, and an hour of charging gave the phone 71 percent juice.

Pixel 8 Review: Cameras

Now, let’s get to the part that most people relate Pixel phones to: the awesome cameras. Ever since experiencing the Pixel camera with my Google Pixel 3 five years ago, it’s been really hard to like anything other than a Pixel phone for mobile photography. I made a brief stopover at iPhone land, but that didn’t last, and I missed the Pixel terribly. Google has been improving its cameras with every new Pixel launch, and the Pixel 8 carries a similar formula.

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The Pixel 8 features a 50-megapixel primary rear camera

The Google Pixel 8 features a 50-megapixel primary rear camera with a new f/1.68 aperture lens that can now let in 21 percent more light compared to the Pixel 7. It also features Dual Exposure, which takes two images with different exposures, helps reduce noise and makes photos and videos sharper. The ultra-wide 12-megapixel sensor also gets an update and now comes with autofocus and 22 percent wider FoV (125.8 degrees) compared to its predecessor. And for the first time, the smaller Pixel also gets a Macro mode, thanks to the new updated camera.

Google also brought along a redesigned Camera app on the Pixel 8, now available on older Pixel phones. The app now has a dedicated Video and Photo mode, which includes all the different modes tucked away neatly. However, Google did move the Shadow, White Balance, and Brightness sliders to a toggle below, which is kind of annoying now. On the Pixel 7, it’s still on the viewfinder and much easier to use. The Pixel 8 also doesn’t get the Manual mode available on the Pixel 8 Pro, which, again, is annoying, as both phones use the same chipset and the main primary sensor and should technically be able to use manual mode.

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Pixel 8’s camera app offers easy mode switching

The Pixel 8 now also supports photo capture in Display P3 colour space, which means that you can now get a greater range of colours when viewing the photos on a compatible display. The option is set to sRGB as default, which means that you’ll need to head to Advanced Settings in the Camera app to enable Display P3 colour space. Another new software feature is the ability to capture extra metadata information that is used in the Photos app to offer Ultra-HDR support.

You will not be disappointed with the Pixel 8 when in comes to photos and videos. You get excellent high dynamic range, sharp details, great low-light photos, and the video is better than last year, an improved ultra-wide camera, and all the AI goodness that I mentioned above. I’ve almost always come out very impressed with the photos that the Pixel 8 takes, even in some super tricky conditions. I would still take the Pixel 8 over the latest iPhone or Samsung for photos and low-light photography. Google has also managed to improve the ultra-wide camera this time around.

The primary 50-megapixel upgraded sensor on the Pixel 8 takes excellent photos in daylight. You will not see any major improvements over the Pixel 7, but photos are now slightly sharper. Google likes to have punchy contrast, brighter highlights, and cooler colour tones, and a more natural white balance in its photos, and I like that. It’s the classic Pixel look, and it still is the best among flagship phones.

Moving on to the ultra-wide, which has a wider FoV than the Pixel 7 and offers a Macro mode, now takes sharper and more detailed images. The Macro mode is quite good, if you’re into macro photography. The mode turns on automatically when you get very close to a subject. Google has also added auto-focus to the ultra-wide camera, making it more reliable for landscape photos. Overall, I found the ultra-wide photos from the Pixel 8 to be better than the Pixel 7.

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(Top) Macro mode on Pixel 8 (Bottom) You can get really close to the object

One of my favourite modes on the Pixel phones is Night Sight and Astrophotography. Things are slightly better with the Pixel 8 this year, but mostly, it’s the same excellent low-light shots that I was used to with the Pixel 7. Thanks to the new Tensor G3 chip, though, the processing times are now faster. I didn’t really get to test the Astrophotography mode, but I doubt there have been any major changes, as Google didn’t really speak much about it during the launch.

The Pixel 8 offers several photo modes, including Action Pan, Long Exposure, Portrait, and Panorama. All these were already available on the Pixel 7 and performed pretty much the same. Again, I did notice some improvement in the photo process times, especially in Portrait mode and Long Exposure. You get 1.5x and 2x zoom in Portrait mode, with the default being 2x. Portrait shots are well-detailed, with good exposure and skin tones.

Pixel 8 takes portrait shots in 2x and 1.5x (cropped in from main camera)

Coming to the selfie camera, the Pixel 8 features a 10.5-megapixel sensor that offers 1x and 0.7x options. The 0.7x is the ultra-wide native FoV of the camera, whereas 1x is cropped in. Selfies come out great in daylight, and you can also get some good shots in low light, thanks to Night Sight. It would’ve been nice if Google added auto-focus to the front camera, which is available on the Pro model.

Pixel 8 offers 0.7x and 1x modes for selfies, with the 0.7x being its native FoV

In the video department, the Pixel 8 can record up to 4K 60fps on all cameras, but the best output is obviously from the primary rear camera. There’s 24fps and 30fps video recording, and all video is stabilised. You can get some really good footage from the rear primary camera in daylight, especially if you have 10-bit HDR enabled. The footage has plenty of detail, excellent stabilisation, great dynamic range, and the colours are well-balanced with a hint of saturation. Even in low light, the Pixel 8 can record good-looking footage with great dynamic range and colours, although you will notice some downgrade in quality. The ultra-wide camera, on the other hand, doesn’t perform that well, although you do still get excellent stabilisation. However, I’d recommend avoiding shooting videos with the ultra-wide as much as possible.

Pixel 8 Review: Verdict

The Pixel 8 is a big upgrade over the Pixel 7 thanks to Google rounding off a lot of things. You get a brighter and flagship-level display, a super comfortable and compact design, improved cameras, and plenty of improvements. Then there’s the new AI camera features, such as Best Take, Magic Editor, and Audio Eraser, that make life easier. The new Tensor G3 chipset, which, although isn’t a huge improvement, is plenty for all kinds of tasks. Battery life is good too, but nothing to write home about.

However, all of these improvements also come with a big price hike. Is it worth the price hike? Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend the phone for anyone looking to buy a flagship Android all-rounder, but if you’re a Pixel fan and are coming from an older Pixel phone, then you should definitely upgrade. Pixel 7 users, I’d say best to wait for the next Pixel.

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