Friday, May 24, 2024
Smart Phones

Google Pixel 8 vs Pixel 7: evolution or rerun?


Intro

Google has just released its brand-new Pixel 8 phones. As is tradition, there are the non-Pro and Pro version — this has been Google’s strategy since the Pixel 6 series. And this year, a ton of the upgrades were reserved for the Pixel 8 Pro model. 
Despite missing out on the exciting new camera features of the Pro, the Pixel 8 still comes with a noticeable $100 price increase. And, if history is something to go by, the Pixel 7 will probably drop by $200 down to $400 now that its successor is out. So, will it be better to buy a Pixel 7 or go for the new-and-shiny Pixel 8? Or… if you have a Pixel 7, should you even be worried about upgrading this year?
Well, let’s explore what we know so far and try to figure this out
Google Pixel 8 vs Pixel 7 expectations:

  • Pixel 8 is slightly smaller
  • Same camera hardware, but Pixel 8 has new software tricks
  • Tensor G3 vs Tensor G2 – meaningful upgrade?
  • Pixel 8 gets 7 years of software updates

Table of Contents:

Design and Size

The Pixel is leaning more towards the compact side

The regular Pixel 7 model is smaller than the Pro variant, but it’s not exactly “compact”. It still has a 6.32″ screen, which is still a bit on the “don’t use with one hand” side. The Pixel 8 has shrunk down by a bit down to a 6.2″ display and a smaller body overall. This should be enough to get it closer to that “easy to pocket” format, but we wouldn’t say it’s a massive difference.

Otherwise, we find the same camera module on the back, all on top of a metal-and-glass sandwich construction. In fact, the Pixel 8 may be even closer in appearance to the Pixel 7 than the Pixel 7 was to the 6.

On the front, the screens are completely flat — no curved glass shenanigans on the non-Pro models.

Display Differences

Aside from having a slightly smaller panel, the Pixel 8‘s screen is overall better — it reaches 2,000 nits of peak brightness and it has a 120 Hz refresh rate. The Pixel 7 has 1,400 nits peak brightness and a 90 Hz refresh rate.

That new panel on the Pixel 8 is called the Actua Display and Google is exceptionally proud of how it can play HDR footage even under direct sunlight. The other specs are shared — Full HD, 20:9 aspect ratio, AMOLED technology. It’s very possible that the screens will look identical when it comes to colors and contrast, though Google does say that the new Actua screens have a better color calibration — we will be testing that.

Performance and Software

When will the Tensor get tense?

Google’s Tensor chips aren’t really workhorses — they are not here to crush benchmark specs. Instead, they have cores dedicated to photo processing and AI works for the Google Assistant and the new Bard AI. Supposedly, this is what unlocks the exclusive features of the Google Photos app, Google’s excellent HDR processing, and the exclusive Assistant features like call screening, “direct my call”, voice transcribe, and many others.

And no, it doesn’t look like the Tensor G3 is a huge leap in performance. Google was quick to announce it and then brush it aside, instead talking about all the cool AI features that it makes possible. So, we don’t foresee the Tensor G3 being an Apple A17 Pro competitor this year.

As for software, man do we have good news! The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro will get 7 years of OS updates. That means that these phones will get Android 21 in 2030. The Pixel 7, if nothing is changed in Google’s policy there, should probably get Android 16 in 2025 and then call it quits.

That aside, both phones will be running Android 14 — the Pixel 8 launches with it, the Pixel 7 should be getting it via an update. With quality of life improvements like lockscreen shortcut editing, homescreen customization, improved sharing menu, among others.

Camera

It’s all in the Photos app

On the specs sheet, the Pixel 8 has a 50 MP main camera, just like last year’s model. Then, a 12 MP ultra-wide one and a 10.5 MP selfie camera instead of the 10.8 MP on the Pixel 7. But, of course, when we are talking about Google products — the hardware is less than half the story. It’s all about the software.

Main Camera – Daytime Photos

Curiously enough, some Pixel 8 photos here look like they took a slight step back — the skintone in the very first sample is more pinkish than even the Pixel 7. Then, the dynamics on sample 11 lean more towards burnout than the next shot, which was taken with Pixel 7.

But, in general, very much identical performance by both phones and we can assume that there’s further tuning to be done via software updates.

Main Camera – Low-light / Night Photos

At night, we can see some more improvement. For one, the Pixel 8 captures light sources better, with slightly less blooming around them. Secondly, night shots typically come out warmer and yellow-ish on most phones. The Pixel 8 shots more often deal with that yellow hue and provide a more balanced shot. Also, do we see less glare?

Zoom Quality

Apparently, there are better SuperRes Zoom algorithms, or the Tensor G3 is dealing with the magnification better — zooming in with the Pixel 8 gives us far less jagged detail and better, vibrant colors.

Portrait Mode

A huge improvement can be spotted when using Portrait Mode. It’s still not… great with edge detection on the Pixel 8, but is definitely usable, which is not something we can say about the Pixel 7‘s Portrait Mode, which looks dull, jagged, and basically like a low-quality edit.

Ultra-wide Camera

The ultra-wide camera shots look very, very similar but there are two consistent differences we can spot — the Pixel 7 pictures have a slightly warmer tone almost each time. Also, the Pixel 8 seems to be reigning in the software oversharpening as its ultra-wide shots have less jagged edges around the finer details.

Selfies

Overall, identical performance from the selfie cameras here, and much more accurate skin tones than what the main cameras gave us.

Then, there’s the added value of new features, which may or may not be trickling down to the Pixel 7. Google showed us some very impressive new software tricks for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro — the new Magic Editor, which can remove items or generate items where there are none. For example — if you couldn’t get a specific subject into your shot ant cropped it out a little, the Magic Editor can grab that object, move it anywhere in frame, and generate its missing parts.

We don’t see why the Pixel 7 wouldn’t be capable of utilizing them, as they are tied to the Google Photos app and service, and not necessarily the phone hardware. At least not most of them. But, for now, Google has declined to comment on which camera features will be trickling down to other Pixels.

Video Thumbnail

Audio Quality and Haptics

The non-Pro Pixels haven’t been wowing us with impressive sound so far. Yeah, they are stereo and they sound good enough for talking head videos on YouTube. But they lack base, their mids are a bit muffled, and they can sound tinny when turned up. With its smaller body, the Pixel 8 doesn’t really have much room for acoustical improvement. So, its speakers, just like with the Pixel 7, are serviceable, but not astounding.

As for haptics — Pixels have been clicky and clacky for years now and we are very happy when using them. This includes the 7 and the new 8 series.

Battery Life and Charging

The Google Pixel 7 had a 4,355 mAh battery, and the Pixel 8 offers a slight upgrade up to 4,575 mAh despite the fact that the phone is physically smaller. In theory, that could give us slightly more screen-on time, but endurance times may be evened out by the more powerful, thus more power-hungry Tensor G3.

So, how did the phones perform in our tests?

PhoneArena Battery Test Results:

With slight fluctuations — we have very similar battery endurance. In real life, that translates to a very comfortable day with both of these phones. You can browse social media, play around with the cameras, and check in with your idle RPG of choice periodically, and they will still hold a good amount of charge in the evening.

In terms of charging, we should be getting 24 W max power on the wire, a bit more than the 20 W that the Pixel 7 is rated for — but that tiny difference doesn’t change charging speeds dramatically.

PhoneArena Charging Test Results:

Specs Comparison

So, here are some of the main specs we have, you can see more in our Google Pixel 8 vs Pixel 7 specs page. As we wait to physically compare the two phones against each other, here is how their specs sheets clash:

Summary and expectations

For the most part, Google took a page off of Apple’s book this year — most notable upgrades this year are kept for the Pixel 8 Pro. In fact, the Pixel 8 feels held back for a lot of features. Why wouldn’t it be able to take full-res 50 MP shots? Why wouldn’t it be able to use Video Boost, seeing as that’s a dedicated online feature happening inside Google Photos? Why wouldn’t the Pixel 8 have a Pro Camera mode when its main sensor is the same as on the Pixel 8 Pro?

As such, it doesn’t feel like a major upgrade over the Pixel 7, which is also not receiving any of the new software toys like Best Take. Well, at least Google hasn’t confirmed nor denied that yet.
In any case, if you have a Pixel 7 — hold for now. If you are wondering whether you should buy a Pixel 7 or Pixel 8 — the 7 series regularly gets discounted to $400, and we have Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming. On the other hand, the Pixel 8 comes with a $100 increase in MSRP. Unless you really, really want a slightly smaller Pixel phone, we’d recommend grabbing the 7 at a bargain.



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