The Google Pixel 8 feels like a bridge between the past and future of the smartphone series. It features the same classic qualities that have come to define previous Pixels, namely a set of high-quality cameras and a first-class software experience, but now packs a host of AI smarts, too. While little has changed on the hardware side, some welcome improvements can make the Pixel 8 a worthwhile upgrade even for owners of the Pixel 7.
Despite launching with a higher starting price, the Pixel 8 offers potentially incredible value to those who don’t want to feel pressured to upgrade every three years. However, this all depends on Google’s ability to stick to its promises when it comes to the best Google Pixel phones and how well the new Tensor G3 chipset can keep up with the ever-changing demands of the smartphone market.
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- Actua Display is bright, responsive, and punchy
- Seven years of security and software updates
- Fantastic cameras and software features
- Google Tensor G3 lags behind competition in gaming
- Camera array is almost identical to Pixel 7
- Oddly lacks support for some features found on the Pixel 8 Pro
Price and availability
The Pixel 8 price starts from $699 / £699 with 128GB of storage, with 256B costing an additional $60 / £60, for a total of $759 / £759. This RRP makes it $100 / £100 more expensive than the Pixel 7 and 6 were at launch, and in direct competition with the likes of Apple, right down to the last penny.
Unlike the Pixel 8 Pro, the Pixel 8 doesn’t have as many upgrades to point to that differentiate itself from its predecessor. While the new display is a welcome improvement, the camera array remains largely unchanged from the Pixel 7. This leaves the Pixel 8 in a position where it needs to lean heavily on its software to justify its higher MSRP.
Thankfully, there’s enough here for the Pixel 8 to support itself. Using the same Google Tensor G3 Chipset found in the Pixel 8 Pro, the Pixel 8 shares much of what makes its more expensive sibling such a powerful device for smartphone photographers, such as Magic Editor. There are some odd exemptions in its software suite, which we touch on later, but what is available is undoubtedly compelling.
Compounding its long-term value is the pledge of seven years of software and security updates. Although given Google’s tendency to terminate projects unceremoniously, you’d be right to be a little skeptical. Still, the prospect of a $700 smartphone lasting you seven years, effectively $100 a year rather than $200 if we apply the same metric to the Pixel 7 and 6, is an enticing one.
|Display||6.2-inch 120Hz OLED (1080 x 2400 pixels)|
|CPU||Google Tensor G3|
|Storage||128GB / 256GB|
|Front camera||10.5MP (f/2.2)|
|Back cameras||50MP main (f/1.68), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.20)|
|Dimensions||5.9 x 2.8 x 0.4 in (150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9 mm)|
|Colors||Hazel, Obsidian, and Rose|
Looking under the hood of the Pixel 8, it packs all the traditional spec upgrades that have similarly characterized the last two generations of Pixel smartphones. Specifically, it features the latest Google chipset, Tensor G3, and has 8GB of RAM. However, the Pixel 8 does enjoy minor bragging rights for having the fastest memory type ever featured in a Pixel to date, LPDDR5X.
Comparing the internals of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, the only differences are the battery and RAM capacities. The latter is a plus on paper for the Pixel 8 Pro, yet this rarely (if ever) translates into any measurable advantage in real-world usage. As such, the Pixel 8 is practically as performant and considerably less expensive.
The Google Tensor G3 chipset also grants the Pixel 8 the same efficiency improvements as its bigger brother, in addition to deep learning smarts that claim to improve video recording in multiple ways, such as higher detail retention, better color accuracy, and more.
With the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, Google is pushing the boundaries of what you can accomplish with photo and video editing applications on a smartphone. Features like ‘Best Take’ can help you and your friends all look your best in group photographs, pulling expressions from similar shots and replacing your faces entirely. This development, in effect, creates the ideal image but also captures a moment that never existed in the first place.
As awesome as Best Take is, Magic Editor undoubtedly steals the limelight. It’s through this feature that Tensor G3 shines best, working in combination with Google servers to offer an AI-enhanced photo editing suite that’s unlike anything else you’ll find on other smartphones. Through it, you can erase objects and people in a photo, resize them, move them, and even stylize them. The quality is, more often than not, shockingly impressive, but we’re still a ways off from replacing the likes of Photoshop.
Magic Editor and its suite of tools should naturally improve over time, as is the nature of machine learning, but some areas need fine-tuning more immediately. For example, it takes an almost annoying amount of time for each edit to pass through Google’s servers, leaving you spending considerably more time waiting for the results of your editing to come through than you spend making them.
Night Sight Video and Video Boost aren’t coming to the Pixel 8, though we’re not sure exactly why not. The reason surely isn’t anything to do with the smartphone itself, as it’s just as capable of supporting the features as the Pixel 8 Pro is, at least on paper. Hopefully, these features are more timed exclusives than perpetual ones.
Finally, there are no new hardware features baked into the Pixel 8, with the same optical fingerprint sensor returning from previous Pixels to the same tolerable effect. After three generations with this solution, Google’s smartphones are practically crying out for the ultrasonic alternatives available on Samsung smartphones and other competitors.
Photos and videos taken with the Pixel 8 cameras strongly resemble those shot with the Pixel 7 but with a few subtle improvements. The lenses are almost identical across the two phones, but the 50MP main sensor on the Pixel 8 now has a slightly wider ƒ/1.68 aperture, while the 12MP ultrawide gains support for autofocus.
Eyeing shots taken on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 8, images on the newer smartphone retain more detail across the board and contain fewer noise artifacts. This improvement is undoubtedly the Google Tensor G3 chipset at work, and keen-eyed photographers will appreciate the uplift in quality it brings (particularly in challenging scenes).
While the Pixel 8 Pro mostly keeps pace with the Pixel 8 Pro in regards to the main sensor, it’s unable to toggle between 12MP and 50MP resolution despite having equally capable hardware. Like Night Sight Video and Video Boost, this software lock is an annoying and almost distasteful move by Google that it can and should rectify in a future update.
In place of a telephoto lens, Google has at least given the Pixel 8 the ability to use macro focus, which makes taking close-ups of small subjects miles better than on the Pixel 7. Super Res Zoom also makes a return, providing a high-quality 2x zoom.
Unfortunately, the same annoyances and problems that plague the viewport on the Pixel 8 Pro also affect the Pixel 8. For instance, swapping between the main and ultrawide lens is unpleasant, particularly when recording videos, to the point that you’re likely to put off doing so altogether. Then there’s the arbitrarily forced zoom in Portrait Mode, which prevents you from taking 1.0x shots, starting the floor at 1.5x, and capping you at 3.0x.
These issues aside, however, the Pixel 8 is undeniably great for shooting photos and video. It’s just not that much more impressive than the Pixel 7 is, with the selfie camera also feeling somewhat stagnant but nonetheless solid.
Google has once again reduced the size of its mainline Pixel smartphone, with the Pixel 8 shaving off around 5mm of height, 2mm of width, and 0.2mm of thickness, compared to the Pixel 7. These sound like small changes, but their effect is greater than the sum of their parts, giving the Pixel 8 a decidedly more semi-compact form factor.
Combined with its rounded edges and matte glass back, this easily ranks among the best-feeling smartphones to hold. Better still, it’s perfectly usable with just one hand, a perk that’s become something of a novelty as phones have typically grown larger in recent years.
Side by side against the Pixel 8 Pro, the Pixel 8 arguably comes out on top in terms of style. This win is due mainly to the Pixel 8’s matte aluminum finish versus the glossy look found on the Pixel 8 Pro, but its dinky qualities are also alluring by comparison.
The Pixel 8 is available in three colorways: Hazel, Obsidian, and Rose. Both Hazel and Obsidian previously appeared on the Pixel 7 Pro, with Rose standing apart from the other two with a brighter, less saturated tone.
The display on the Pixel 8, dubbed ‘Actua’ by Google, is one of the most significant and impressive generational improvements from the Pixel 7. It’s practically better in every way, most notably in terms of brightness, with full-screen brightness clocking at 1,400 nits in HDR and peak brightness similarly impressing at 2,000 nits.
The refresh rate finally jumps from 90Hz to 120Hz on the Pixel 8, further widening the gap between the Pixel series and their iPhone competition, which are still stuck at 60Hz on everything but the Pro models. Sadly, the Pixel 8 lacks the LTPO OLED panel found on the Pixel 8 Pro, meaning it can only dynamically shift in a 60-120Hz range. This decision is an unfortunate but understandable one that undoubtedly helps Google to lower costs.
While some may see the 6.1-inch screen size as a downgrade compared to the Pixel 7’s 6.2-inch display, this reduction has some benefits. Since resolution remains unchanged at 1080p, pixels per inch increase slightly from 416 to 428, giving the Pixel 8 a subtly sharper quality. Its screen-to-body ratio is also better, albeit only by 0.6%.
Moving away from technical differences, all-in-all, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better display than the one on the Pixel 8 for less than $700. SDR and HDR content pops in both bright and dim environments, making for a wholly pleasurable viewing experience for videos, photos, and general use.
The Pixel 8 battery is larger than the Pixel 7, with an additional 220mAh, bringing its total capacity up to 4,575mAh. This boost, combined with the efficiency gains provided by the Tensor G3 chipset, helps make the Pixel 8 last longer on a single charge than its predecessor.
Generally speaking, the Pixel 8 is more than capable of lasting an entire day on a single charge, with around 20-30% battery life left over. Naturally, your mileage varies depending on your typical use case, but most should be happy enough with what’s on offer here.
Wired charging rates remain the same on the Pixel 8 compared to the Pixel 7, at 27W, and the phone retains the ability to reach 50% charge in around 30 minutes if connected to a 30W charger. Strangely, however, wireless charging rates have fallen to 18W, but this only really matters if you’re using the Google Pixel Stand (2nd Gen). Support for Qi2 is sadly missing on the Pixel 8, leaving you with much slower wireless charging rates from third-party chargers.
Gaming performance doesn’t see much improvement compared to the Pixel 8 versus the Pixel 7, despite the smartphone sporting the newer, more powerful, more efficient Tensor G3 chipset. Still, it’s solid enough to run the likes of Call of Duty: Mobile and PUBG Mobile maxed out at a mostly stable 60fps.
Thermals are thankfully better on the Pixel 8, though, with the chassis getting acceptably warm under load as opposed to noticeably hot, as was the case on the Pixel 7. We’d still like it to be a little cooler, but at least it doesn’t feel like you can cook an egg on it.
The experience of playing games on the Pixel 8 Pro is the exact same, making the Pixel 8 more worthwhile from a value perspective. Even so, in its third iteration, the Tensor chipset seemingly can’t keep up with the power offered by Apple A series and Qualcomm Snapdragon chips. So if gaming performance is high on your list of priorities, you may need to look elsewhere.
Should you buy the Google Pixel 8?
- Yes: If AI features like Magic Editor are of use to you.
- Yes: If you want the best smartphone screen for under $700.
- Yes: If long-term software and security updates matter to you.
- No: If you need top-tier gaming specs and performance.
- No: If you prefer bigger phones.
The Pixel 8 hasn’t received the same amount of attention and love as the Pixel 8 Pro, but it does hold its own against its more expensive counterpart in every way that matters most. It’s the cheapest way to gain access to tools like Best Take and the Magic Editor suite, with both its main and ultrawide lenses providing a fantastic palette for you to paint with your AI canvas.
While much of its DNA clearly stems from the Pixel 7, upgrades such as the Acuta display and refined design help elevate the Pixel 8 above its predecessor. It’s just unfortunate that Tensor G3 isn’t equally capable of playing games as it is, powering the phone’s feature set.
Taken as a whole, the Pixel 8 is an undeniably great smartphone that falls just short of excellence. Should Google follow through with its pledge to support it for seven years, it’s practically impossible to find a smartphone that offers the same value for less than $700 / £700.
If, after all, you decide the Pixel 8 isn’t the smartphone for you, here are a couple of suggestions for alternatives below.
Apple iPhone 14
With its successor now on the market, you can often find the iPhone 14 for around the same $699 / £699 asking price as the Pixel 8. Switching to iOS and Thunderbolt from Android and USB Type-C can be a bit of a culture shock, but the two phones are very comparable otherwise.
Google Pixel 7
The Pixel 7 is still a fantastic option, even at its normal asking price of £599 / $599. The main differences between the predecessor and the Pixel 8 lie mainly in software features and length of support, with both devices sporting the same great dual rear camera setup.
Google Pixel 8 doesn’t rock the boat in terms of camera quality or gaming performance, much as its Actua display helps showcase both brilliantly. Its greatest strengths lie in its potential value, both as a cheaper way to access features like ‘Magic Editor’ and its potential to serve your smartphone needs for the next seven years.