Monday, May 20, 2024
Smart Phones

Google Pixel 8 hands-on preview: it’s all about AI!


Google Pixel 8 Intro

The Google Pixel 8 is here, and it comes with Google’s new Tensor G3 chipset, enabling a bunch of new software features while improving ones that already existed. It is Google making classic Google upgrades, like creative uses of artificial intelligence (AI), especially when it comes to snapping shots or recording videos.
Probably most exciting of all is the massive increase in software support, with more than double the years of OS updates than what previous Pixels had! There are several other tweaks that make the new Pixel 8 sound like great package as a whole, especially with that equally amazing starting price at $699, so let’s get ourselves familiar with all the new vanilla flagship from Google has to offer!

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

Table of Contents:

Google Pixel 8 Specs

New processor, Pro-level display

Here is a quick glance at the Pixel 8 spec sheet:

The most notable mentions 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*). 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

Mostly the same, with new colors

 

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, curved edges, a metal frame, and symmetrical bezels, although said bezels are now slightly thinner. The phone seemed more round than its predecessor, which is probably why it felt even comfier in the hand.
For protection, you get the IP68 certification, and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus (sadly, not the second generation, unlike the Pixel 8 Pro).

Google Pixel 8 Display

One of the most noticeable upgrades with the Pixel 8 is the same part we stare at most of the time, the display. While it comes in basically the same size and resolution as before, it can now go up to 2000 nits of peak brightness and up to 1400 nits for HDR content. Google calls this an “Actua Display”, but don’t let that confuse you, it is simply branding for the increased brightness to make it sound cooler.

Besides the higher brightness, the Pixel 8 display brings along another improvement in the form of a higher refresh rate, jumping to 120Hz, compared to the 90Hz on its predecessor. Unlike the Pixel 8 Pro, however, it does not go any lower than 60Hz, so it is not as power-efficient.

Google Pixel 8 Camera

Scary smart!

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.

As we all know though, 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 their 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 though, 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.

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.

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 (PR), 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 summarizing a whole webpage and giving you the most important information, so you don’t have to go through the whole thing yourself. Speech to text is now completely on device and is both faster and more accurate than before. Additionally, 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 basically like having a little AI call center for yourself inside your pocket. Of course, this is all thanks to the new Tensor G3 sensor.

Google also mentioned that Face Unlock via the selfie camera is now fully capably of covering the highest Android biometric class, meaning it can be used for making online and contactless payments via Google Wallet!
As for the Android version, the Pixel 8 is the first phone to ship with Android 14, the latest version of Android, which brings along higher levels of customization, enabling users to alter the color, type, and size for the lock screen. It also introduces increased power-efficiency and performance tweaks. The more exciting part lies in the software support though!

Ironically, despite the fact that the Android operating system is developed by Google itself, the company’s Pixel phones have not been the ones with the longest period of software support for the last few years. Well, that is changing with the Pixel 8 series, and boy is it a big change!

With the Pixel 8 (and 8 Pro), owners will get a total of 7 years of OS and security updates! 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

Should last most throughout a full day

The battery on the Pixel 8 is slightly larger than the previous generation at 4,485 mAh (compared to 4,355 mAh). With this slight increase in battery capacity and the new Tensor G3 chipset on board, we expect to see some noticeable improvements to the battery life during our own testing.

Google Pixel 8 Charging Speeds

Google advertises its entry-level flagship with the same “up to 50% charge in about 30 minutes” description as last year, so we don’t expect any surprising increases in charging speeds this year (sadly). We will let you know more after we get to test the charging ourselves.

Google Pixel 8 Audio Quality and Haptics

Google did not mention anything new related to the speakers of the Pixel 8. Assuming that they are the same as the ones on Pixel 7, we should get an audio profile that’s clear and loud, but lacking when it comes to richness and bass. That’s a general issue that most phones have though, so nothing to worry about here.

Haptics, on the other hand, felt stronger than with the Pixel 7, but we will have to confirm that during our final review.

When it comes to call quality, however, the Pixel 8 comes with an improved Clear Calling feature. Yes, more of those AI smarts! As the name suggests, this feature makes it easier for the person on the other end to hear you clearly, especially when you are in a noisy environment. It does that by singling out your voice while reducing all other noises.

We weren’t too impressed by Clear Calling during the demo Google showcased to us, but this could have easily been affected by lack of a good signal, so we’ll keep you posted with the results we get during our own testing.

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

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. In fact, some of that older Google glory is coming back in the form of increased software support, making this year’s generation stand out from the last few.

The camera on the Pixel 8 might not have received any new hardware, but it can capture 25% more light and it is the gateway to some mindboggling software features that make you question what a photo/video is. We can’t wait to test all of the “magic” Google spoke of, so stay tuned for our official review of the new vanilla Pixel!



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