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Google Pixel 8 & Pixel 8 Pro review: Setting the standard for Android phones

Overview, Handling, Display, UI, Features

Google Pixel 8 Pro (left) and Google Pixel 8 (right).

TL;DR version: Pricing could be better, but they're great Android phones with nifty AI features nonetheless. You'd be surprised by our Editor's Choice pick.

All in on AI

Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro aren’t just phones any more. It’s a window into a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) uplifts and complements the human condition, bringing out little improvements to let humanity achieve a new standard beyond the weakness of flesh and fickleness of minds.

At least, that’s what Google wanted you to think when they first introduced the phones during its online keynote announcement, given how the presentation made a wonderful AI drinking game*.

*(Take one neat shot per mention of “machine learning” and finish a whole glass per “generative AI” quip. HWZ is not responsible for any of your drinking choices or consequences).

Google Pixel 8 Pro and Google Pixel 8.

Leading the Android 14 duo is a brand new Google Tensor G3 processor, which Google said has "the biggest machine learning model" that's "10x more complex" compared to its previous Tensor chipsets.

Amongst all the smartphone brands, Google’s claims about AI are more believable given their work in using generative AI to create easy-to-use features for everyday users.

Some examples new to Pixel are Magic Editor (move or remove unwanted things in your photos), Best Take (selecting ideal faces in group photos), and Audio Magic Eraser (remove noise from two-minute videos). All these are on top of its improvements to older AI tricks, which you can try on the Google Photos app.

Google also gave the phones fancy names for their OLED displays, with the Pixel 8 using Actua (6.2-inch) and Pixel 8 Pro’s called Super Actua (6.7-inch). They’ve also blown out the competition by setting a good example for long-term user support with seven years of updates to its operating system, security, and Feature Drops (software) for the new Pixel 8 series phones until 2030.

Otherwise, these phones look and feel the same as their predecessors, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro. Surely, there must be a reason why these phones saw a S$100-S$250 price hike, with the Pixel 8 launching at S$1,099 (128GB) while Pixel 8 Pro goes at S$1,549 (128GB), right?

Let’s see if Google really thinks its updated software and new processor are enough to make you part with more money than before.

Google Pixel 8 Google Pixel 8 Pro
Google Pixel 8 Google Pixel 8 Pro
Launch SRP From S$1099 From S$1549
Network: Up to 5G Sub 6GHz Up to 5G Sub 6GHz
Operating system Android 14 Android 14
Processor Google Tensor G3Titan M2 security co-processor Google Tensor G3Titan M2 security co-processor
Built-in Memory 8GB RAM (LPDDR5X) 12GB RAM (LPDDR5X)
Display 6.2-inch, AMOLED, 2,400 x 1,080 pixels resolution, 60-120Hz refresh rate, HDR, 24-bit colour, up to 1,400-nits HDR brightness, 2,000-nits peak brightness 6.7-inch, LTPO AMOLED, 2,992 x 1,344 pixels resolution, 1-120Hz refresh rate, HDR, 24-bit colour, 1,600-nits HDR brightness, 2,400-nits peak brightness
Camera Rear:(Main) 50MP Octa PD, 1/.31-inch sensor size, f/1.68 aperture, 1.2μm pixel size, 2x Optical Quality, 8x Super Res Zoom(Ultra-wide) 12MP, f/2.2 aperture, 1.25μm pixel size, 125.8° FOVSingle-zone Laser detect Autofocus, OIS+EIS on main cameraFront:10.5MP, f/2.2 aperture, 1.22μm pixel size, fixed focus Rear:(Main) 50MP Octa PD, 1/.31-inch sensor size, f/1.68 aperture, 1.2μm pixel size, 2x Optical Quality(Ultra-wide) 48MP, f/1.95 aperture, 0.8μm pixel size, 125.5° FOV, AutoFocus(Telephoto) 48MP, f/2.8 aperture, 0.8μm pixel size, 5x optical zoom, 30x Super Res ZoomMulti-zone Laser detect Autofocus, OIS, EISFront:10.5MP, f/2.2 aperture, 1.22μm pixel size, fixed focus
Video Support (Rear) 4K60FPS, Slow motion 240FPS, OIS, Macro Focus Video (Rear) 4K60FPS, Slow motion 240FPS, OIS
Connectivity Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2, Google Cast, Dual Band GNSS, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2, Google Cast, Dual Band GNSS, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
Storage Type 128GB (UFS 3.1)256GB (UFS 3.1) 128GB (UFS 3.1)256GB (UFS 3.1)512GB (UFS 3.1)
Battery 4,5,75mAh27W wired fast-charging (PD 3.0)18W wireless fast-charging (Qi-certified) 5,050mAh30W wired fast-charging (PD 3.0)23W wireless fast-charging (Qi-certified)
Dimensions 150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9mm 162.6 x 76.5 x 8.8mm
Weight 187g 213g

Minor changes outside

Google Pixel 8.

If you’ve used the Pixel 6, 6 Pro, 7, or 7 Pro, you won’t find the Google Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro any different in the hand. The Camera Bar design returns for a third time, with slightly rounded aluminium rails and a glass finish to the touch.

Perhaps the Pixel 8 Pro might feel slightly different because Google switched to a flat display instead of keeping the old curved look. Still, the change won’t affect how you hold and view your Pro device. If anything, we’re glad Google stopped with the curved glass front, as it makes the premium-priced phone look dated.

Google Pixel 8 Pro.

The Pixel 8 Pro has a frosted glass rear, while the Pixel 8 comes with a polished glass back. Google’s choice of frosted glass makes the Pixel 8 Pro less susceptible to fingerprint smudges.

Then again, the standard Pixel 8’s polished back doesn’t attract stains. Both are nice to look at if you can live with Google’s milky pastel hues (our Pixel 8 was in Rose, while our Pixel 8 Pro came in Bay colourways).

If it isn't for the sizes, you definitely can't tell apart both Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro by looking at their panel for quality differences alone.

What we liked most were the mild changes to the OLED displays. Google’s design choices made the Pixel 8’s panel quality even closer to the Pixel 8 Pro (details here). Both can peak at 120Hz refresh rates, with the same competencies (HDR content support, 24-bit colour depth) and features (Always-on Display, At A Glance, Now Playing).

Pixel 8 Pro justifies its higher price tag with its LTPO OLED packing a wider refresh rate range of 1-120Hz (Pixel 8 packs 60-120Hz), along with a significantly higher HDR and peak brightness of 1,600-nits and 2,400-nits, respectively.

That said, the regular Pixel 8’s 1,400-nit HDR brightness still fares well in Singapore’s hot and hazy outdoor afternoons, easily taking on 1080p content under the sun without breaking a sweat.

Pixel 8 (top left) and Pixel 8 Pro (bottom right), viewing both displays under afternoon sunlight.

Another difference is Pixel 8 Pro uses the latest Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 for protection against scratches and drops, while Pixel 8 uses Corning’s previous glass version for the same purpose. We’ll leave it to you to hit those links and check out their minor differences.

Despite their sizes resulting in different display resolutions, both Pixel 8 (2,400 x 1,080 pixels) and Pixel 8 Pro (2,992 x 1,344 pixels) have similar pixel density (Pixel 8 at 428 PPI, Pixel 8 Pro at 489 PPI) and identical 20:9 aspect ratios. There’s no perceivable quality difference between them, so choosing the 6.2-inch Pixel 8 or 6.7-inch Pixel 8 Pro boils down to your preferred handling size. You’re getting IP68 dust-and-water resistance either way, with thin bezels on both devices.

Since Google didn’t make massive changes to the display, waterproofing, handling, or design, we’ll jump straight into the AI features peddled during the keynote.

Android 14 takes a back seat for generative AI

Can you tell if it's Android 14 at a glance?

One big change about the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro is that these Pixel phones are the first Android mobiles to come with Android 14.

Google usually pushes out the updates to their own devices first, making these 2023 Pixels the first-ever phones to have a public-ready copy of the latest Android operating system.

There isn’t much for Pixel 8 series users to brag about with Android 14 since the updates are mostly under the hood (as covered at Google I/O earlier this year). Here’s a summary based on the official blog post announcing the Android 14:

More personalisation (new or custom lock screen shortcuts, templates, fonts, widgets, formats)Generative AI wallpaper (more below)Monochromatic theme for easier viewingHealth Connect for centralising health tracking information100% pinch and zoom for MagnifierFlash Notifications for visual light flashes (inside accessibility settings)General privacy and protection additions, like alerting you if unknown tracking devices are on you

No, seriously, can you?

You can see it was not a massive change in its design or UI like Android 12 two years ago. Back then, Google introduced head-to-toe customisation for a truly personalised experience. Android 14 being familiar is a good thing, because it also means the new Pixels are still true to their pure Android roots.

AI wallpapers could be better

AI generated wallpapers are found in the Settings app.

Google’s Generative AI Wallpaper is an Android 14 feature launching first on Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

As its name implies, you “create” a wallpaper with AI prompts, selecting a theme and picking out adjectives and nouns from a fixed list of suggestions.

Making your own AI wallpaper is fun for the first few minutes, but it quickly became stale for us due to the limiting parameters — the options only let you exchange certain words in a prompt for a different look. The resulting AI images are also repetitive.

One of our many attempts.Another of our many attempts.

For instance, our cotton lamp prompt only has three different types of lamps on repeat, with mildly different patterns and ground. The lace UFO looks like different mushrooms in the sky. While they’re interesting, it’s unlike truly creative thinking (e.g. we wanted Victoria's Secret Angels descending from an equally dazzling UFO).

We get that it’s a flex by Google and its work in generative AI, but we won’t be switching to its AI wallpapers anytime soon. Also, you can use external AI tools with more granular control and save the results as phone wallpapers, so that’s the standard Google needs to beat for this feature to feel practical.

Photo edits like Magic

Magic Editor is an option in Google Photos (bottom left icon after hitting Edit).

But not all of Google’s generative AI on the Pixel 8 series are disappointing. A clear winner for us was Magic Editor, which is even more mind-blowing than Google’s old Magic Eraser. You highlight the areas you want AI to work on, and Google will do its best to erase or move what you singled out.

Just look at this example:

Magic Editor attempt with pebbled foot reflexology path.

In this attempt, we wanted to see what Google would’ve done if we wanted to remove the pebbled path. The results were amazing — we were given three choices, with varying levels of dried leaves. Magic Editor also retained the metal railings despite our highlight selection cutting across the base of those stilts.

Here are more examples. See if you can spot the difference.

Fine, this one's a bit too obvious. Let's try a harder one.

Magic Editor makes another attempt at our Editor's work desk.

Magic Editor is extremely effective within certain limits. For example, It couldn’t handle replacing details on the toy packaging cleanly.

You also need pinpoint precision to catch extremely fine bits the AI can miss out on (like that smidgen of tofu we didn't catch). Nonetheless, this is a practical application of generative AI making itself useful for the everyday user. You only need a modicum of attention to detail and functioning fingers to use Magic Editor effectively.

Magic Editor working on Google Photos images that were taken by another phone.

It also works on photos you’ve taken in the past, like this shot of drinks from a different phone. To do so, it needs to be retrieved from your Google Photo’s cloud storage.

Dragging-and-dropping to reposition subjects is possibly the best use of Magic Editor, given the details its AI could generate.

Using Magic Editor to move your subject is a matter of drag-and-drop, followed by 15 seconds of the AI figuring out what to fill the gaps with.

Other AI applications include Best Take and Audio Magic Eraser, which we’ve covered in our hands-on article here. Everything we’ve mentioned up to this point is available on both Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

Not quite the temperature sensor we wanted

Is it really 30 degrees Celsius?

Unique to the Google Pixel 8 Pro is a temperature sensor and the Object Temperature app hidden inside Tips. According to Google, it uses the Pixel 8 Pro's infrared sensor to calculate object temperature, but the brand's explanation wasn't really sufficient in helping us understand why we need to select different settings for different materials.

Our initial impressions found the sensor fairly accurate since it came within 1°C of the single subject we tried on. But, after an extensive time with the phone, we eventually found Pixel 8 Pro’s temperature sensor wildly insufficient for practical use.

Temperature readings can vary widely (up to 10°C) depending on material selection, which is strange (since temperature isn’t innately dependent on material type). The sensor also can’t give consistent readings despite multiple attempts at the same object in a very short period of time (e.g., a cloth surface can give you a 1°C++ difference across multiple tries in 10 seconds).

This means the Pixel 8 Pro’s thermometer cannot replace food thermometers, e.g. those used for coffee-brewing or sous vide, since these cooking techniques require precise temperature control. It can give you a temperature estimate, but why give approximate readings when an accurate one is better?

We also understand that Object Temperature isn’t designed for the human body since that would likely require a certification from various health authorities worldwide.

Given its unfinished state, we don’t understand why Google thought this feature was worth a shout-out for Pixel 8 Pro during its keynote.

Thankfully, we doubt anyone in the real world would buy a phone because it has a thermometer. Unfortunately, the extra money you pay for the Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t always translate to having better features.

Now, on to the better stuff about Pixel phones — imaging.

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