After a monumental year of AI innovation and upgrades, it was inevitable that we would start to see it filtering into how we use our smartphones. Enter the Pixel 8 Pro; Google’s most advanced smartphone to date with some seriously impressive AI capabilities that are sure to position it as the ‘smartest’ smartphone on the market.
Does the upgraded hardware perfectly pair with the spectacle of the Pixel 8 Pro’s software tricks, has the new Tensor G3 processor solved all of Pixel’s battery woes? Read on in our full review of the Google Pixel 8 Pro.
Since the Pixel 6 Pro, Google really has settled into a new design aesthetic that helps to make their Pixel devices instantly recognisable in a sea of similarity among modern day slab-form smartphones. The Pixel 8 Pro is the latest iteration of this design approach and they’ve really honed in on a style that’s both practical yet stylish.
The Pixel 8 Pro now sports a flat display with even more-rounded corners to help make it more manageable in the hand. The new satin-like finish on the rear glass adds a premium feel to the device along with making it that bit more grippy, which is a good thing for those of you who aren’t fans of popping your new handset in a case. We were sent the new Porcelain (beige) colour option for the 8 Pro and we’re big fans of its off-white hue and light gold metallic trim around the exterior of the phone and camera bar.
Up front, as mentioned, Google has decided to go with a flat AMOLED panel, capable of 1-120hz refresh rate and this new panel, which Google is calling a ‘Super Actua’ display, is capable of 2,400 nits peak brightness, which is one of the brightest displays available on any smartphone today. Its colour reproduction is absolutely fantastic and viewing HDR content is a joy, especially looking back at the new Ultra HDR images the handset it able to capture and display in Google Photos (more on that later)
While not explicitly highlighted in the launch event, the Pixel 8 Pro’s stereo speaker arrangement definitely sounds more full-bodied and deeper when compared to the Pixel 7 Pro so, overall, as a media consumption device, the Pixel 8 Pro delivers.
Interestingly, Google decided to include an ‘Object Temperature Sensor’ on the rear of the device, built into the camera bar, directly below the flash. This new addition allows you to quickly check the temperature of an object by simply pointing your phone at it when in the Thermometer app.
Google did say they were awaiting FDA approval in the US for the ability to use the device to take your own temperature but, even still, we’re not exactly sure why they included this sensor in the first place and who’ll even use it frequently enough to get the benefit. We’ll just have to wait and see.
As previously mentioned, the Pixel 8 Pro packs Google’s latest Tensor G3 custom processor and it’s thanks to this new chip that Google can pull off some of its extremely impressive AI functionality. As announced at the launch event, the Pixel 8 Pro is the first phone to run Google’s foundation (AI) models directly on-device, meaning a lot of these AI features can be carried out without having to send and receive data or information to and from Google’s servers, theoretically speeding the whole process up.
All of these features run on top of Android 14, the latest version of Google’s own OS along with being powered by 12GB RAM under the hood. Having moved from the Pixel 7 Pro and played with the Pixel 8 Pro for the last week or so, we can definitely notice the speed gains generated by the new processor and the increased RAM. The overall UI feels that bit snappier with apps loading faster and staying awake in the ‘Recents’ section for longer, making it easier to jump between a number of different apps without having to wait for them to reload.
Other software benefits, run via the in-built Google Assistant, are things like ‘Read Aloud’ and ‘Translate’ which allows you to call up Google Assistant as you’re reading an article on Chrome and have it read it back to you. You also have the ability to have it translate and read the text back in a different language.
Another Assistant-powered feature which we find very handy, and is also available on other Pixel devices is ‘Call Screen’ which allows you to use an automated response for callers you’re not sure of. The Assistant is even able to instantly detect and filter out spam calls. The new Tensor chip will soon allow even more conversational sounding responses when you do decide to screen a call with the ability to tap AI generated, context-sensitive responses, when dealing with an unknown caller. Very clever.
As always with a Pixel device, the cameras are the star of the show. With fully upgraded sensors across the board, Google definitely wants to hold on to their position as one of the best camera phones available today.
Around back, there’s a new 50MP main sensor that’s said to have 21% more light sensitivity. The 48MP telephoto, which supports up to 5x optical zoom, has 56% more light sensitivity and finally, the 48MP ultrawide sees the biggest improvement of all with an astonishing 105% greater light sensitivity. What all this means is that the Pixel 8 Pro is more competent than ever in all sorts of lighting conditions, but especially low light scenarios.
The front facing camera also got an upgrade with autofocus now added to allow for greater versatility when taken selfies at different lengths. On that, the Selfie camera is now even more secure, enabling the ability to use your face to unlock more secure apps such as banking apps etc. We’re loving the fact we can now log into our Revolut account by just looking at the device, something we know iPhone users have been used to for quite some time!
Now, back to the cameras and their new and improved AI powered functionality. Google showcased a lot of different updates to both the cameras themselves along with AI editing features that can be done to your images and videos after the fact in the Google Photos app. One of the more significant reveals was their new ‘Best Take’ feature which, when taking a group shot, allows you to go in afterwards and select the best headshot for each individual to create a sort of ‘mash up’ of everyone’s best smiles. We actually didn’t get the chance to test this feature fully on our device just yet but you can see it in action below – we’ll be sure to update this section once we have done a bit more testing:
Next up is their brand new ‘Magic Editor’ feature which can be seen as their Magic Eraser feature turned up to 11. Housed in its own dedicated glowing button in the ‘Edit’ section of any photo in the Google Photos app, when you have an image you want to not only remove people/objects out of but also reposition things inside the image, this is where Google’s new AI prowess comes into play.
Below you’ll see a selection of screenshots from our time playing with this new feature. With the hot air balloon image, we not only repositioned it to the left of the image, with AI Editor, thanks to its ‘Sky’ section, you can have Google’s AI models generate alternative representations of the sky in any image if you want something more impactful or moody, for example. There is also a ‘Golden Hour’ option to generate an AI sunset of sorts but this one we found had varying degrees of success.
Similarly, while impressive, the ability to reposition objects in images and replace where they were with AI filling in the gaps isn’t perfect as you’ll see a faint outline of the air balloon below, when it used to be to the right of the tower.
When asking the AI Editor to generate its interpretation of the new image, like other text and image based AI models we’ve seen as of late, it actually generates three various options to choose from (that’s why there are images off to the right in the below screenshots) which sometimes offers better results then the first one shown.
As I previously mentioned, the new ‘Magic Editor’ does feel like Google’s previously impressive ‘Magic Eraser’ on steroids with its more intense computational processing of editing requests usually delivering better results compared to simply using the dedicated ‘Magic Eraser’ feature in the main suite of editing tools.
Below is an image (far right on desktop – bottom on mobile) I specifically used the ‘Magic Editor’ section to remove individuals from, which produced a more ‘believable’ result with less AI editing anomalies and smudges, when compared to just the Magic Eraser tool alone (middle).
Other new AI powered features include their new ‘Audio Magic Eraser’ which, as the name implies, uses AI to help drown out or even fully remove unwanted sounds in any of your videos. The use cases for this are admittedly slightly more niche but still a clever feature to have if you really need to make that memorable moment even more perfect.
While the new and improved AI capabilities are great to have when you want to tweak an image to your liking, they’re not much use if the original image isn’t all that great to begin with. Thankfully, the new camera sensors on the Pixel 8 Pro are fantastic.
The improved light sensitivity of the ultrawide angle lens helps to ensure even lower levels of noise in low light settings, especially near the edges of the image. Here are some sample shots captured across the three newly upgraded lens, including an ultra-low light shot captured with the main lens.
Something which was also introduced with the introduction of Android 14 was the ability to capture and display ‘Ultra HDR’ images also and now, with the Pixel 8 Pro’s improved camera sensors and super bright HDR display, capturing and viewing images back on the handset is stunning, especially when you see the HDR effect coming to life.
Unfortunately, this new feature is in its infancy so there’s no real way to showcase these new HDR images on your display (unless you have a device running Android 14 or a Pixel 8/Pixel 8 Pro) but take our word for it when we say images truly comes to life in all their HDR glory when viewing them back on the Pixel 8 Pro’s display.
Thanks to the new ‘Pro’ controls available exclusively on the Pixel 8 Pro, users now have even more flexibility and versatility in how they capture photos. You can now even capture full 50MP resolution images in RAW format for greater editing options. You can view a sample ‘Full Res’ 50MP Pixel 8 Pro here.
Macro Focus mode makes a return with the improved Ultrawide on the Pixel 8 Pro allowing you to get even closer, up to 2cm, to capture even the smallest object in even great detail. Below is a close up of a flower bud captured using the upgraded Macro Focus mode.
Video capabilities also received a nice upgrade with Google showing off a new feature called ‘Video Boost’ which uses both the processing power of the Pixel 8 Pro along with Google’s AI-powered data centres once the video has been uploaded to the cloud to fully enhance your captured videos to offer greater HDR reproduction and even ‘Video Night Sight’ functionality, thanks to the combined processing approach.
Unfortunately, this new video-specific feature isn’t ready just yet with Google stating it should become available by December. Admittedly, it’s not ideal to showcase such an impressive new feature and not have it ready for launch but we’ve seen other brands do something similar in the past. Hopefully it delivers results as impressive as the ones showcased in the reveal event when it launches later this year. You can see the feature being discussed at the 44 minute mark below:
The Pixel 8 Pro includes an ever-so-slightly increased battery capacity of 5050mAh along with improved 30W wired (when using a 30W+ adaptor) and 23W wireless charging speeds (when using the 2nd Gen Pixel Stand wireless charging dock.) Having been putting the device through its paces over the last week or so, we probably have been pushing it more than the average user and the battery reflects this with us needing to charge by 11pm at the end of each day.
As with previous Pixels though, and their ‘Adaptive Battery’ feature, it might take another couple of weeks for the device to learn our usage habits and better optimise the battery usage overall. Apps are also being constantly updated with the arrival of Android 14 so this too should help the overall battery life of the device but only time will tell.
So, while clocking in as one of our longest phone reviews to date, we still feel there is so much more to talk about with the Pixel 8 Pro. Google really are coming into their own with a unique combination of top-end hardware paired with cutting edge AI-empowered software. The Pixel 8 Pro is brimming with potential, even on top of its already impressive capabilities and, with Google’s promise of 7 years of OS and security updates, along with a steady stream of new feature drops (like the ‘Video Boost’ mentioned above) things can only get better.
Pixel 8 Pro Pricing & Availability
The Pixel 8 Pro is available for pre-order now from the the official Google Store and will start shipping from Friday, Oct. 13th.
The new Pixel 8 series will also be available through Three Ireland for the first time.
It’s priced at €1099 for the 128GB model, €1159 for the 256GB version and €1299 for the 512GB version.
It comes in three colour options, Obsidian (black with dark grey encasing) Porcelain (Soft beige with light gold encasing) and Bay (light blue with light blue encasing.)
REVIEW: Google Pixel 8 Pro
- Design & Build Quality
Google really are coming into their own with a unique combination of top-end hardware paired with cutting edge AI-empowered software.
The Pixel 8 Pro is brimming with potential, even on top of its already impressive capabilities and, with Google’s promise of 7 years of OS and security updates, along with a steady stream of new feature drops (like the ‘Video Boost’ mentioned above) things can only get better.