Google Pixel 8 review: Too many tricks, too little refinement

Google Pixel 8 review: Too many tricks, too little refinement
Digit Rating 7.4
Overall
7.2
Performance
6.3
Build and Design
8.1
Features and Specs
8.1
Value for Money
7.2
PROS:
  • Outstanding display
  • Brilliant camera
  • Appealing design
CONS:
  • Buggy software
  • Underpowered
  • Battery drain
VERDICT:

The Google Pixel 8’s lack of power, heating issues and the plethora of bugs don’t give me enough confidence to call this a good upgrade. On top of all this, is Google’s unreliable after sales service support in the country. All of this combined, does not make me want to recommend the smartphone for new buyers since Rs 75,999 is a lot of money to spend on something that lacks refinement and after sale service.

So the Google Pixel 8 series is finally here. With the stage set for Google after the iPhone 15 launch less than a month earlier, the Google Pixel 8 series was launched with a lot of promising AI chops. The Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro come with Google’s trademark design with the camera visor, a new Google Tensor G3 chip, and a lot of new and interesting AI-based features.

So yes, the Google Pixel 8 series is more of an incremental upgrade for the Google Pixel series. There isn’t much that’s new from the face of it, but there are improvements. I have been using the vanilla Google Pixel 8 as my primary device for the past week or so, and the smartphone has a lot going on for it. In this review, I will cover what I like about the Google Pixel 8, what I don’t like about the smartphone, and finally, if you should spend your Rs 75,999 on the new Google Pixel 8.

Google Pixel 8 review: Design

In terms of design, there isn’t a lot of new stuff going on with the Google Pixel 8. The smartphone practically looks the same as its predecessor, but with minor nips and tucks here and there. For example, the pixel feels a bit more handy as compared to the last year’s model. This could be due to the slightly more curved corners of the smartphone, and the marginally smaller 6.2-inch OLED display as compared to the 6.3-inch panel in the Google Pixel 7 from last year.

Google Pixel 8 back design

Apart from this, the back panel also looks largely the same, but this time we get new colours! The camera visor is even thicker on this smartphone, which isn’t the best design element on this smartphone. Yes, the camera visor looks cool and gives the Google Pixel series its own distinctive look, but it is also the most inconvenient thing with this design.

You can’t place your phone flat anywhere, and if you use wireless chargers, you have to place the smartphone in a way that the camera visor doesn’t touch the charger, since that tilts the phone upwards, leading to a gap between the wireless charger and the back panel of the Pixel 8. Not well thought of. The saving grace here is that unlike the Pixel 8 Pro, the vanilla Pixel 8 has a brushed aluminium finish on the visor, so it doesn’t scratch as easily, but remains equally inconvenient.

Google Pixel 8 front design

Up front, things are plain and simple. There is a hole-punch display which curves slightly around the extreme ends. The best thing about this year’s design is the premium look and feel (no matter how inconvenient), and the size. I absolutely love this size, since it is super easy to use with one hand and fits anywhere in every pocket. Before this, I was using the Google Pixel 7 Pro as my primary phone and this size just feels much more convenient. Furthermore, having a glass back with Corning Gorilla Glass protection and IP68 water and dust resistance is always great.

Google Pixel 8 review: Display

Coming to display, this is where the Google Pixel 8 sees one of the biggest improvements, and this is also where this smartphone impressed me the most. The smartphone’s display is one of the most colour accurate panels that I have tested on any smartphone so far. Apart from that, we also get a super bright OLED panel with up to 2000 nits of peak brightness in high brightness mode.

This time around, the vanilla Pixel 8 also gets a 120Hz refresh rate, up from the 90Hz on last year’s vanilla Pixel 7, which is always great since that leads to a more smooth scrolling and swiping experience. Here, we also get adaptive refresh rate, which adjusts the responsiveness based on the content on screen.

Google pixel 8 display review

The brightness is also brilliant. The Google Pixel 8 has one of the brightest displays on any Android smartphone out there with a claimed peak brightness of 2000 nits, which we only get in the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max apart from the Pixel 8 series. I tested this using a Lux Meter under bright sunlight, and the Google Pixel 8 showed a maximum luminance of 1863 nits, which is again, one of the highest I have tested on any smartphone so far, only coming behind the iPhone 15 Pro (review).

Google Pixel 8 brightness test

Apart from having one of the brightest displays, the Google Pixel 8 also comes with one of the most colour accurate displays that I have tested on any smartphone. I put this display through a colour checker test and was pleasantly blown away with the results. The Google Pixel 8 in the sRGB colour space showed extremely accurate colours. With an average DeltaE of 0.9, the Google Pixel 8 has one of the most accurate displays out there.

Google Pixel 8 color analysis

A lower DeltaE is considered better. The lower the DeltaE, the more accurate the colours are according to what we see in real life. On smartphones, in the sRGB colour space, an average DeltaE of under 3 is considered good, so an average DeltaE of 0.9 is almost perfect. Let alone average, the Google Pixel 8 showed a maximum DeltaE of 2.8, which again is outstanding.

So yes, the improved display of the Google Pixel 8 is actually one of the biggest leap ahead for this year’s Google Pixel 8 series. This 6.2-inch OLED panel is the hidden gem this year around. It looks brilliant and is right up there with the biggest flagships this year, like the Apple iPhone 15 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. In some cases, the Google Pixel 8 also beats the other two biggest competitors so it is safe to say that this is one of the best displays on any smartphone currently.

Google Pixel 8 review: Performance

While the display is good, the performance on the Pixel 8 is underwhelming. The smartphone’s Tensor G3 chip isn’t a big step up from last year’s Tensor G2. The smartphone’s performance numbers aren’t on the same level as the other flagships from this year, and the smartphone has other issues like heating and software-based problems.

Google Pixel 8 performance review

First and foremost, let’s get the performance numbers out of the way. In synthetic benchmarks, the Google Pixel 8 fell behind its toughest competitors like the iPhone 15 and the Samsung Galaxy S23. I ran both CPU and GPU-based benchmarks on the Google Pixel 8, and the smartphone showed numbers that seem very low as compared to other flagships from this year. Here is how the smartphone compares with some of its biggest competitors:

Google Pixel 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 vs Apple iPhone 15
Google Pixel 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S23 vs Apple iPhone 15 comparison

With benchmarks out of the way, let us talk about some other issues with the Google Pixel 8. Like every year’s Pixel launch, the software isn’t seamless. While there aren’t any major bugs with the software, it’s not as refined as one would like. At times, even things like making calls leads to a rather unpleasant experience, if you switch from earpiece to speaker often. Furthermore, I experienced a lot of call drops during my time with the Google Pixel 8, which is very surprising given that calling is probably the most basic feature on any mobile device.

I also found issues with the smartphone’s Bluetooth connectivity. For example, with Bluetooth earphones connected to my smartphone, switching from the headset to the phone in between calls results in a bit of a lag, which gets a bit annoying if you’re on an important call. Even connecting to Android Auto wirelessly isn’t very seamless and the smartphone keeps losing connection every now and then. Though a rare phenomenon, it shouldn’t happen in a Rs 75,999 smartphone.

Further, at times apps take a while to open, the Google Pixel 8 takes a while to boot from shut down, and I have also experienced the screen going berserk while simply scrolling through social media. Furthermore, the standby time on the Google Pixel 8 is horrible.

To make things worse, there is the heating issue. When I got the Google Pixel 8, the talk in town was about the heating issues with the iPhone 15 Pro models. But after using the Pixel 8 for a few days, the iPhone’s heating issues didn’t seem that bad.

The AI features on the Pixel 8 are also confusing. Many times, the Pixel 8 unnecessarily asks me if I want to turn on the live transcribe or live translate feature and even after clicking the cancel button, it turns on. Again, a rare phenomenon but super annoying.

So overall, in terms of performance I didn’t find anything substantial in the Google Pixel 8. Be it how powerful the smartphone is, or how seamlessly the AI tools and features work. There are issues with some of the most basic features like Bluetooth connectivity or calling. The smartphone has major heating issues, and the standby time is not good.

Google Pixel 8 review: Camera

Where the Pixel 8 lacks in terms of the performance, the smartphone more than makes up in the camera game. Now, I was using the Google Pixel 7 Pro before getting my hands on the Pixel 8 and while the change is not very significant, there is still enough going on with the Google Pixel 8 that makes it trump last year’s “Pro” model. This year, we get a dual rear camera setup with a 50-megapixel wide angle lens paired to a 12-megapixel wide angle shooter.

This year, we get a slightly improved camera with a larger f/1.7 aperture as compared to the f/1.9 aperture on the Pixel 7’s primary 50-megapixel shooter. The images out of this camera, as you’d expect from a Google Pixel are amazing. The details are sharp, the photos are accurate and of course, look super vibrant.

Again, Google has killed it with the camera all over again this time around. The images don’t look the best when you’re clicking them in the viewfinder, but the once you’re done and Google’s algorithm does its thing, the photos are just outstanding. Compared to the Apple iPhone, the images look a bit more saturated, but that is something that many people prefer in their smartphones. I honestly like how sharp and vibrant the images on this smartphone are, and of course, the detail retention is there. This time, Google has tuned the 50-megapixel camera much better and the difference is evident.

Like always, the image quality from the primary shooter is consistent with the wide angle lens, and yes, this is a Google Pixel so of course, the portraits are epic! Like I have said been saying since the past few years, no one does portraits better than Pixel smartphones. The portraits retain details in your skin, manage skin tones very nicely, along with the best edge detection and background blur in the game.

Pair these camera chops with Google’s camera smarts and you have a winner at hand! This time, Google has gone even further with the AI implementations in the camera department. We get newer features like Best Take, which comes as a very nice and clean solution for fixing all your group photos in the future.

There is AI Noise reduction which cancels out the outside noise in your video, so you don’t need to worry about ambient noise while recording videos in which someone is speaking, and the best (or most controversial) of all, Magic Editor, which basically allows you to move and change things in a photo as per your wish.

There are other features. For example, we get Google’s “Bokeh Video” which is the cinematic video feature on the Pixel 8. We also get the option of not only adjusting the exposure while clicking photos, we can also change the colour tone and white balance in the photos while clicking them.

Google Pixel 8 review: Battery

Coming to battery, here again the Google Pixel 8 is underwhelming. The smartphone comes with a 4,575mAh battery with support for 27W fast charging. Now, while I was able to pull more than five hours of on-screen time on the Google Pixel 8 easily, the battery still doesn’t feel very reliable.

I’ll come to the worst part first, the standby time. The Google Pixel 8 has one of the worse stand-by times on any flagship. There are times when I go to sleep at more than 10 percent battery after putting my phone down, and I still wake up to a dead smartphone. Not good. I have, in the past said similar stuff about the horrible stand-by times on Samsung smartphones, but the Google Pixel 8 is at the same level as some of the Samsung phones that I have tested this year (barring the yet-to-be-reviewed S23 FE).

Apart from this, while playing games, the Google Pixel 8 does a good job in sustaining the battery. While playing Call of Duty Mobile on the highest graphics, the smartphone lost about 4 percent battery in 15 minutes and about 10 percent battery in a 30-minute gaming session. This is decent for a smartphone with a 4,575mAh battery.

However, there are times when the device drains battery too fast. GPS navigation, i’ve realised guzzles the battery. The Google Pixel 8 lost close to 10 percent of the battery while using GPS navigation for an hour, and I noticed the smartphone draining battery at an even faster rate once things start to heat up. And yes, GPS navigation also heats up the phone quite a bit.

The charging is also slow. Here we get 27W fast charging which took about 2 hours and 20 minutes to charge the 4,575mAh battery from 0 to 100 percent. So overall, the battery on the Google Pixel 8 is underwhelming to say the least. The heating issues with the phone also lead to a lot of battery drain, but there is also the Google AI which understands the user’s behaviour to optimise the battery and maybe using the smartphone for a couple of weeks is not enough for that to kick in, but until now, I’m not impressed with the battery performance.

Google Pixel 8 review: Verdict

So that was my review of the Google Pixel 8. One of the launches that I was most excited about has turned out to be a bit of a disappointment if I’m being honest. Yes, we get new AI tools and features and the Google Pixel’s camera remains as good as we know it with new AI-based features that make things extra sweet and lucrative. Plus, this year we are also getting one of the best displays that we have seen on any Pixel smartphone.

However, the lack of power, the heating issues and the plethora of bugs in this smartphone don’t give me enough confidence to call this a good upgrade. On top of all this, is Google’s unreliable after sales service support in the country. All of this combined, does not make me want to recommend the smartphone for new buyers since Rs 75,999 is a lot of money to spend on something that lacks refinement and after sale service.

Google Pixel 8 Key Specs, Price and Launch Date

Rs. 59,999
Rs. 99,999
in stock
as of 13-Jul-2024 05:56
Amazon.in
Release Date:
Market Status: Launched

Key Specifications

  • Specs

    Storage

    128 GB

  • Specs

    Rear Camera Megapixel

    12

  • Specs

    Screen size (in inches)

    6.2

Darab Mansoor Ali
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