Google Pixel 8 Pro is ahead of its launch, and the new premium flagship is impressive, though very similar to last year’s model.
Google Pixel 8 Pro is ahead of its launch, and the new premium flagship is impressive, though very similar to last year’s model. The back glass is matte a first for the Pixel Pro lineup, but the phone otherwise resembles its predecessor on the outside almost exactly. There are some meaningful upgrades, however — including to Pixel’s industry-leading camera system.
It’s hard to properly test out camera upgrades within the confines of a hands-on testing area, and this one in particular had complicated lighting with a heady mix of bright warm artificial, and ample natural lighting competing to throw off any efforts at decent white balance. Even so, the pictures I was able to take with the new cameras, which include a much-improved new 48-megapixel ultrawide lens, a 50-megapixel main wide (24mm equivalent) lens, and a 48-megapixel 5x telephoto, looked great on the device and seem to represent a decent bump, even if you’re already using last year’s model.
Upgrades on the software side this year include a slew of new manual “Pro” controls for those who want to tweak capture particulars in more specific ways, as well as improvements to skin tone accuracy, and the new “Best Take” feature that lets you swap out individual faces in a group photo so you can, for example, make sure everyone is looking at the camera or smiling even if you don’t have a single frame where that’s true for everyone at once. This looks like a very neat feature, but I wasn’t able to properly test it in the demo environment, so it’ll have to wait for the full review for more details on how well that works. Magic Eraser, which lets you automatically remove elements of the photo, did work great in my brief testing, though that’s been true for a while now on Pixel phones.
Another curious new feature that you’ll find the hardware for around the back of the camera bump is a built-in temperature sensor. It works with an included thermometer app, and its purpose is… to take the temperature of things. It’s a bit of a wild swing for a smartphone since it’s not tied to any particular health or photographic system application. In the onboarding flow when you open the app, it points out that accuracy may vary that it works best within two inches of whatever surface you’re looking to measure, and that it works only for surface temps and not for internal. There’s also a material selection prompt to help improve accuracy.
I tried it out on a few different surfaces, including another person’s forehead (it’s explicitly not designed for body temp readings, note) and it seemed to be within a rough range of what I’d expect. It’s hard to gauge since I don’t know the temperature of most things, but for a forehead for instance, it read 88.5 degrees F which is shy of the average healthy body temp, but quite close.
One suggested use Google had for this was checking the temp of your baby formula if you’re a new parent, but tellingly there were not any “or…” added examples. It could be a neat party trick, but an odd choice for a hardware add-on unless it’s setting up something I can’t foresee down the road.
The 6.7-inch OLED display on the device now goes all the way from 1 to 120 Hz (last year’s model was capped at 10 Hz on the low end) in terms of refresh speed, and it’s a “Super Actua” display, which is Google’s branding for a screen that gets bright. It can handle up to 1,600 nits in HDR mode, and up to 2,400 nits outdoors in direct sun, which beats last year’s max brightness by 600 nits for HDR and by 900 nits for outdoor use. That’s also hard to test out in the demo room, but we’ll be looking at it closely for our full review.
Google has also upgraded the glass covering the screen to Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2, a second-generation version of the glass that protected the first and should offer enhanced durability. I did not drop or attempt to scratch the glass in the demo space.
Overall, the Google Pixel 8 Pro feels like a premium-quality smartphone that’s pleasant to hold because of the rounded edges. The polished aluminum sides feel grippy, and the new matte glass back looks great in all colorways and also feels good in the hand.
First impressions are that Google has taken a very iterative approach to this year’s model, but the upgraded camera specs and the new Tensor G3 processor that powers the Google Pixel 8 Pro look to be where a lot of the benefits of upgrading lie, so we’re eager to find out what those are capable of in writing the full review.
Table of Contents
- +Tons of new camera features
- +Convincing Google Assistant conversation with screen calls
- +7 years of Android & security updates
- +Matte finish looks clean
- –Higher $100 price
- –Stuck at 128GB starting storage
There’s one reason why I’ve opted to pass on Google’s Pixel phones for the last several years: they’ve never been big on pro features with photos or video. That’s why I’ve continually gravitated towards the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ulta as my backup to my mirrorless camera. Well, things appear to be changing because the Google Pixel 8 Pro introduces even more features around its camera that could finally make me a #TeamPixel follower.
Even though the Pixel 7 Pro was a decent upgrade over its predecessor, a strong contender in our best phones and best camera phones lists, it still underperformed in many areas against its main rivals. Google’s gambling big on features more so than the hardware with the Google Pixel 8 Pro, evident in its latest Google AI wizardry that intelligently screens calls and makes voices clearer on phone calls — all powered by its new Tensor G3 chip.
As a videographer who frequently uses phones for professional work, I’m stoked that the Pixel 8 Pro finally introduces proper manual controls, along with new editing tools for both photo and video capture. I honestly feel like the phone’s becoming a reliable photo and video editor because it packages in features I love using in Adobe Photoshop and Premiere.
The Google Pixel 8 Pro is poised to be a powerhouse, which it certainly needs to be if it intends to beat flagships like the iPhone 15 Pro Max and Galaxy S23 Ultra. While I feel it’s doing a lot around the software and features, I find some of the hardware decisions a bit odd — like its new temperature sensor.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
This one hurts, mainly because Google’s raising the price of its flagship. Now you’ll have to pay $999 for the Google Pixel 8 Pro, versus the $899/ Rs 75,00 cost of last year’s Pixel 7 Pro. That’s $100 more you’re paying to get the best Pixel phone, but I’m also disappointed that its starting storage remains at a laughable 128GB. By comparison, Apple upgraded the iPhone 15 Pro Max to a 256GB starting storage, albeit for a much higher $1,199/ Rs.1,00,000.
Preorders for the Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro are available starting October 4, with general availability in stores and online starting on October 12. If you need more storage, the Pixel 8 Pro will also be available in 256GB, 512GB, and 1TB storage options — costing $1,059, $1,119, and $1,219 respectively.
What’s even sweeter about the Pixel 8 Pro is that a preorder will snag you a free Pixel Watch 2, which makes this offer even harder to pass up.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: SPECIFICATIONS
|Pixel 8 Pro|
|Display||6.7-inch Super Actua Display (OLED)|
|Display resolution||1,344 x 2,992|
|Refresh rate||1 – 120Hz adaptive|
|Rear cameras||50MP main + 48MP ultrawide + 48MP telephoto (5x zoom)|
|Front camera||10.5MP selfie|
|Chipset||Google Tensor G3|
|Charging||30W (wired), 23W (wireless with Pixel Stand), 12W (Qi wireless)|
|Size||6.4 x 3.0 x 0.3-inches|
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: DESIGN AND COLORS
I’m drawn instantly to two changes with the Google Pixel 8 Pro’s design. First and foremost is its new matte finish, which makes it more grippy in the hand. It’s a stark change over the slick feel of the glass meets metal construction of the last couple of generations of Pixel phones, but I’m delighted by this new change.
What I’m skeptical about the design is Google’s decision to revert to a single piece of glass with its triple camera arrangement. I’ve shattered a similar one on the Pixel 6 Pro, so needless to say I was thrilled to see Google addressing it by having two separate pieces of glass with the Pixel 7 Pro. This controversial decision to go back to a single piece of glass does make me leery because it leaves the cameras vulnerable, so I would suggest investing in a camera cover case.
Beyond that, the Pixel 8 Pro’s design doesn’t look radically different. It feels good in the hand, is solidly constructed, and features the same IP68 rating — all of the qualities I expect in a premium, flagship phone. I just wish there were more color options to choose from, but the bay option is the most charming out of the bunch.
There are three color options to choose from: Obsidian, Porcelain, and Bay.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: TEMPERATURE SENSOR
After seeing it in action, I feel like the new temperature sensor with the Pixel 8 Pro is a novel addition. It’s positioned on the back of the phone, just underneath the camera’s LED flash. At first, I thought it would function similarly to how the Apple Watch Ultra and other best smartwatches measure body temperature, but the one here on the Google Pixel 8 Pro is different.
That’s because it’s not meant to measure your body temperature. Well, not at this time. Instead, it’s used to measure the temperature of objects. What I find strange is that you have to select what type of object you’re trying to measure — like wood, glass, or metal material — but it’s meant to get a more accurate reading.
Another strange thing about the temperature sensor is that it’s only effective when it’s 2 inches away from what you’re trying to measure. I just can’t see the practicality of this, especially when there are laser temperature guns, thermal cameras, and other thermometers that could effectively do the same thing.
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My guess is as good as yours why it’s been included. But I suppose it could come in handy for situations when you need to walk the dog and make sure the ground it’s walking on isn’t scalding. Or if you’re baking and need to hit a specific temperature. As for my body temperature? Google is still waiting for FDA approval before making the claim it could be effectively used for that purpose, which I imagine would probably be leveraged somehow with Google Fit.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: DISPLAY
One of the biggest shortcomings of the Pixel 7 Pro was its display; it simply wasn’t as bright as other screens. Fortunately, Google’s looking to change that with the 6.7-inch 1,344 x 2,992 Super Actua Display of the Google Pixel 8 Pro — which is rated to reach 1,600 nits with HDR brightness and 2,400 nits peak brightness.
These figures are substantially better on paper than the 927 nits we recorded in our Pixel 7 Pro review, so we’re hopeful these claims turn out to be true if it stands any chance at beating the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s mark of 1,550 nits. Google’s claim of a 42% boost in brightness is hard to tell until we properly run it through Tom’s Guide’s display benchmarking test, but I’m hopeful because I’ve often had trouble seeing the Pixel 7 Pro’s display in direct sunlight.
While its 20:9 screen aspect ratio still makes it impossible for me to use one-handed, the display looked pretty sharp and bright during my hands-on time. I did manage to watch a video on this OLED display, which was accompanied by vivid colors, wide viewing angles, and that deep black look — all of the hallmark qualities of OLED-based panels. As I was scrolling through Android 14, the Super Actua Display’s up to 120Hz refresh rate gave it that buttery smooth look.
The refresh rate scales from 1 to 120Hz, which should help save on battery life.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: CAMERAS
This is where it gets exciting for the Google Pixel 8 Pro, which further differentiates itself from the standard Pixel 8. On the back, it’s rocking a triple camera arrangement — a 50MP main camera, a 48MP ultrawide camera, and a 48MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom. The biggest change here is its ultrawide camera, which jumps up to 48-megapixels from the Pixel 7 Pro’s 12-megapixel one. That, along with its 5x zoom camera, are the two main distinctions of the Google Pixel 8 Pro’s cameras versus the Pixel 8.
Of course, this would’ve been a prime opportunity for Google to extend the range of its telephoto camera, but it’s been left to the same 5x telephoto range as its predecessor. I’m a little bummed by this because the iPhone 15 Pro Max made the jump to 5x zoom as well, so to keep it at 5x means it’s no longer an advantage for Google.
As you could expect, everything about the cameras is better, with Google claiming better low-light photography, sharper selfies, and its best zoom yet. What I’m most astounded about are the new photo and video features that accompany the Google Pixel 8 Pro. While the Pixel line has always been a fantastic camera phone that just works automatically, Google’s finally embracing more “pro” features with the Pixel 8 Pro.
For starters, I am for once thrilled to see full manual controls for both photos and videos — giving me the control to adjust its ISO, shutter speed, white balance, and much more. Secondly, 24fps video capture makes its first appearance on the Pixel 8 Pro, which now offers that cinematic look you find with movies on the big screen. There’s also the option to shoot in both jpegs and RAW, giving creators such as myself even more flexibility.
These are all features that users have been asking for, so I’m stoked that Google listened and brought them to the Google Pixel 8 Pro. However, the fun doesn’t end there because more features make it feel like the phone’s like my own personal photo and video editor. Here’s all of them:
- Magic Editor: Similar to the Magic Eraser feature, Magic Editor lets you isolate a subject in a photo and move it almost anywhere in the photo seamlessly. One demo showed how a kid was trying to dunk a basketball hoop into a professional hoop that was too tall for him to reach, but with Magic Editor, he was cropped from the ground and moved closer to the hoop.
- Best Take: Another Photoshop-like feature, Best Take does exactly what it says. If you’ve ever tried snapping a family photo, you know how hard it is to get everyone to look at the camera properly. Now you won’t have to worry because Best Take lets you choose the best faces to use in your photo so that you can have the best result with happy faces all around. Using Google’s AI, Best Take essentially looks at other photos you’ve captured and offers you options to choose from by selecting each face.
- Audio Magic Eraser: No longer do you need to worry about ambient noises in the videos you record because the Pixel 8 Pro can mitigate or eliminate them with Audio Magic Eraser. This new camera feature lets the phone analyze the audio to discern unwanted sounds in the background, like an alarm going off so that it can be minimized or completely removed. The result is a video with only the sounds you want.
- Video Boost: This is a feature that’ll be coming later to the Pixel 8 Pro, which essentially lets users record RAW video and upload it to the cloud for processing. It offers enhanced color grading and helps to draw out even more detail from the video. While it’s nice, I’m surprised that all of the processing is done in the cloud as opposed to locally with the Tensor G3 chip.
These are just a few of the exciting new camera features in tow with the Pixel 8 Pro. Oddly enough, this is the first phone in the series I can confidently say is built with pro users in mind. However, it’s going to boil down to its cameras’ performance to top our list of best camera phones.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: SOFTWARE
You probably know what’s in store with Android 14, but I think it’s worth mentioning the exclusive features that the Google Pixel 8 Pro is getting. Visually, the interface is familiar if you’ve been on the Android train for the last couple of iterations of the software, but there’s a lot more focus on Google’s AI working behind the scenes.
For example, Google Assistant is being leveraged in more areas — which is what makes owning a Pixel unique versus other Android phones. Here’s what I found really impressive about Google Assistant on the Pixel 8 Pro:
- Call Screen: This year’s additions include enhanced call screening that makes the Assistant sound more human when it picks up calls for you. I was impressed with the demo of this because it was almost impossible to tell it was an AI-generated voice. Not only will it screen calls, but it will also provide contextual options that let you choose a response. Think of it like having an actual assistant that picks up phone calls for you, while relaying responses to them.
- Fix It: If you use grammar check extensions in Chrome like Grammarly, then you’re in for a treat with the “Fix It” feature with Google Assistant. As you scurry to type out passages of text with the keyboard, you’ll have the option to fix the grammar with the help of the Assistant — who will proofread it for you and be smart enough to distinguish common mistakes such as their/there/they’re.
- Multiple language support with dictation: While it may not be commonly used, this new feature is especially useful for people who live in households where languages are often mixed. For example, you can dictate messages to the Assistant by mixing in words from English and Spanish — without having to change the default language of the keyboard. Just speak and it’ll dictate the rest perfectly.
- Get summaries from Google Assistant: Rather than toiling over reading long passages of text in Chrome or the Google app, the Assistant can summarize everything for you by just squeezing the phone — which initiates this summarizing feature. Google Assistant will then analyze the content, then produce a bulleted summary of the most important stuff.
These features continue to show the investment behind Google AI, but the best part about the software is one particular promise from Google. It’s how the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro are setting the benchmark for all phones with their software support. Google pledges 7 years of software and security updates, ensuring that these phones are given extended life beyond their peers. That’s remarkable and should be a reminder for everyone else of the importance of software support.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: PERFORMANCE
The Google Tensor G3 is claimed to be the most powerful chip that the company has ever created. That’s understandable, but it still has a long way of proving it’s a champ against rival chips like Apple’s A17 Pro and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.
I don’t care much about how the biggest machine learning model on the Google Pixel 8 Pro is 10X more complex compared to the Pixel 6. You could argue it’s tastefully on display in many of its Google AI-assisted features, like the natural language response with call screening or how it intelligently cuts background sound with Magic Audio Eraser.
Ultimately, though, it’ll need to show me how good it is with the everyday tasks and operations I do with my phone. Is it faster at rendering video than the Galaxy S23 Ultra? Does it play graphically intensive games as well as the iPhone 15 Pro Max? I’ll have a better idea after giving the Google Pixel 8 Pro a proper test.
Call it an Easter Egg, but Google generously fashions in Wi-Fi 7 support with the Google Pixel 8 Pro. While the average person may overlook this feature, it should have a great effect on streaming videos or downloading large files. This makes the Pixel 8 Pro a bit more futureproof. However, you’ll need to upgrade to a Wi-Fi 7 router to take advantage of it.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: BATTERY
The other area where the Pixel 7 Pro failed to make an impression on me was its underwhelming battery life. With a time of 7 hours and 55 minutes on Tom’s Guide’s battery benchmark test, it’s a far cry from the 10+ hours its contemporaries can achieve.
Google didn’t talk much about the Pixel 7 Pro, and when I consider how it’s packing a 5,050 mAh battery (up from the Pixel 7 Pro’s 5,000 mAh one), it’s going to rely largely on the power efficiency of its Tensor G3 chip and Super Actua Display to reach the extended levels I’ve seen other phones get to on our best phone battery life list.
Additionally, the Pixel 8 Pro is stuck at the same 23W wireless charging with the 2nd gen Pixel stand — while standard Qi wireless charging also remains at 12W. This could’ve been improved, but Google claims up to 50% charge in about 30 minutes using a 30W charger.
GOOGLE PIXEL 8 PRO HANDS-ON: OUTLOOK
So yeah, the hardware’s not a tremendous improvement. I’m on the fence about that because there’s always room for improvement to either catch up — or beat — the competition in all key metrics. It looks, feels, and runs like a Pixel phone I’ve used, so I have reservations about how it’ll stack up against its chief rivals.
However, if there’s one area that I applaud Google, it has to be in how it feels like a more “pro” phone with features that cater to the needs of power users. I’m also impressed by all of the magic of Google’s AI, which is light-years ahead of what Siri could do for the iPhone. And for this reason, it’s probably why there’s less emphasis on the hardware and more on the software.
Still, the $100 price increase means that the Pixel 8 Pro is a tougher sell given how the phone has historically undercut the competition. Then again, price increases seem to be unanimous across the board — but to Google’s credit, the Pixel 8 Pro is still cheaper than comparable flagships like the Galaxy S23 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max. Now the question is whether the Pixel 8 performs up to the level of its price hike.