Google's Pixel lineup of smartphones has been steadily gaining traction in certain markets in terms of sales. While it may not be a complete success just yet, the Pixel team has been consistently making significant improvements with each annual update. With the release of the new Pixel 8 series, the pricing has increased. The Google Pixel 8 is now priced at Rs. 75,999, while the Pixel 8 Pro is priced at Rs. 106,999. Let's explore the advancements it brings and determine whether it justifies the higher price tag.
Design: The Pixel 8 very much carries the familiar Pixel look that we have been seen from google – with a camera bar at the back, Google logo in the middle and a somewhat industrial feel to the package with its aluminium frames. What's changed, though, is it's now a bit more curved from the sides and definitely more comfortable to carry around. The back and front glass are a little glossy but they don't catch on fingerprints and smudges that quickly that you would need to clean them up every few hours. The right side houses the Power and volume buttons - both require a little more pressure than what we usually see on a smartphone, but it's not too much to be a worry in any way. The left side has the SIM card tray towards the bottom. The top only has the secondary mic; while the bottom carries the primary mic, one outlet of loudspeakers and USB type C port in the middle. Bezels around the display are nearly all symmetrical and give a nice look to the phone from the front, despite that camera notch on the top of the 6.2-inch display (20:9 aspect ratio) is under Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus, with the ear-speaker grille hidden subtly near the top. The Pixel 8 comes in Hazel, Obsidian and Rose colour options, Hazel being the one I tried, which looks more grey-ish than green-ish in colour. Also, it's an IP68 certified dust and water resistant device.
Display: Sporting a 6.2-inch full HD+ (1080x2400) OLED display with refresh rates of up to 120Hz supported. It's a bright display that's usable outdoors under direct sunlight and is also able to handle HDR content a little better than before in terms of contrast and shadow scenes in general. There's also better output for ultra HDR photos, something that's added to the OA as well. Seeing 90 to 120Hz rates in certain apps is nice and you can tell the difference if you're more used to using a 60Hz display previously when scrolling between those apps.
Camera: The Pixel 8 sports a dual camera system on the back – 50MP (f/1.68) main camera and a 12MP ultra-wide (f/2.2) camera. The camera shots here seem to be really well stitched even in harsh lighting conditions. Night mode can take a little more time to take a shot but otherwise there's very little shutter lag to be seen here. Google highlighted the best take and auto eraser mode, which allows you to take one best shot in, say, a group of photos you took with some people. So you can "alter" and take a shot where everybody is smiling or everybody is looking at the camera in one shot, which may not have actually happened, but with Google's AI and camera capabilities combined, it can be achieved and quite quickly too.
There's an audio magic eraser feature that allows you to basically cut out some noises and sounds in a video that's not required leaving you to your subject and necessary background sound. Again, a feature dependent on Google's AI and cloud. On the front, you get a 10.5MP (f/2.2) camera that's quick to take shots and able to handle portrait shots producing decent details and colours without too much highlight boosting.
Performance and software experience: Running on the latest Android 14 OS with October security patch installed, the Pixel 8 is Google's first device that comes with promised 7 years of OS and security updates. This is a significant deal since even Google hasn't provided updates for its Pixel devices for anywhere close to this long a period. Though Android's updates situation has been improving the past two years or so, this should help it a little further, highlighting which companies actually care about providing updates and bug fixes well after a device has been released.
Some of the added features in Android 14 include voice typing in multiple laguages with the Google Assistant, Generative AI wallpapers allow wallpapers generated from a set of themes. One improvement made is that face unlock is a little faster and more secure and can be used for unlocking more third party apps. The OS now handles HDR photos in a much better way – giving more details and highlights as intended in an HDR shot.
The phone boasts of Google's Tensor G3 chipset (up to 2.9GHz octa core processor, Mali-G715 GPU) along with Titan M2 security coprocessor, 8GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 128GB UFS 3.1 storage (alse comes in 256GB). I found the phone to handle day to day tasks of watching videos, taking and receiving calls, playing music in the background while messaging without much issues. You can expect to get decent gaming playback for games such as League of Legends and Genshin Impact at medium to high settings but the phone tends to heat up quite a bit. Even without any gaming done, the phone can heat up under regular tasks and it happened repeatedly during my usage. This is my biggest worry with the device, how quickly and frequently it could heat up when you're not using it for playing games or editing any videos either. That's certainly a place where Google needs to improve its G3 chipset for various use cases applicable for almost all users.
Battery life: There's a 4,545mAh battery unit that supports PD 3.0 for charging. I found the phone to last me about a day a little more regularly than its predecessor, such that heavy battery drainage isn't any issue. The phone charges from 1% to full in nearly 2 hours, which is something we have been seeing from Pixel devices.
Other bits: I found call quality and WiFi reception on the Pixel 8 yo be top notch, but what is a little less impressive is its 5G connectivity, which pales in comparison to flagship devices from the likes of Samsung, OnePlus and Apple. A lot of times 5G would hop on to 4G/LTE sitting at the same place for 10-15 minutes while another device would still be on 5G using the same network operator services. It's certainly better than the Pixel 7 and 7a at launch, but hopefully there are some updates and software patches made to further improve it for 5G reception.
Verdict: The Pixel 8 clearly has a lot of things going for it – an excellent set of cameras that can take on any other smartphone camera when it comes to still shots, great display and a decent battery life experience. Its chipset performs well for tasks and even gaming for most users, but it does have heating issues as of now, and, while 5G connectivity is something that has been improved from the previous Pixel phones, is something that still has a clear room for improvement. If you're somebody who likes camera AI enhancements, cares about software updates and don't mind the odd heating issue with the chipset for now, the Pixel 8 is a pretty good package to consider.