Google Pixel 8 Pro Review: An AI powerhouse, but there is much more at stake here | Mobile Reviews

Google Pixel 8 Pro Review: An AI powerhouse, but there is much more at stake here

The Google Pixel 8 Pro features excellent cameras, while also offering a one-of-a-kind AI experience. But are these features enough to sway buyers away? Know it all in our review.

By: SHAURYA TOMER
| Updated on: Dec 12 2023, 16:06 IST
Google Pixel 8 Pro gets Gemini Nano AI update: Here are the benefits you will get now
Google Pixel 8 Pro
1/6 The Google Pixel 8 Pro, recognised as one of the first smartphones with AI capabilities, is now undergoing a significant makeover. Google has rolled out a software update to introduce Gemini Nano AI, a variant of Google's latest Large Language Model (LLM), to enhance the flagship device. Nano AI is the lightest version.  (Google)
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2/6 Gemini Nano Unveiled: Gemini Nano is part of the Google Gemini 1.0 family, tailored specifically for mobile devices. The higher versions of Gemini AI are Gemini Pro and the upcoming Gemini Ultra. Nano supports Google's scalability initiative is evident in their new model lineup. (Google)
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3/6 Pixel Feature Drops: The software update not only introduces Gemini Nano but also brings forth a series of Pixel enhancements, improving the functionality and user experience of the Google Pixel 8 Pro. (Pexels)
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4/6 Summarise In Recorder: Google Pixel 8 Pro users now benefit from the Summarise feature in the Recorder app. This innovative function allows users to obtain summaries of recorded conversations, interviews, and presentations without the need for a network connection. (Google )
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5/6 Smart Reply in Gboard: Gemini Nano brings Smart Reply to Gboard for Pixel 8 Pro users, currently available in developer preview. Initially applicable in apps like WhatsApp, this feature provides high-quality response suggestions. It's important to note that this functionality is exclusively accessible to English language users. (HT Tech)
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6/6 Enhanced Video Capabilities and Photo Unblur: Beyond Gemini AI features, Pixel 8 Pro introduces the 'Video Boost' feature, utilising computational photography models to enhance normal-looking videos. This includes adjustments to colour, lighting, stabilisation, and grain, along with the addition of Night Sight for low-light videos. Furthermore, Photo Unblur receives an update, enabling users to sharpen images of pets, ensuring clearer and more vibrant photos of dogs and cats. (HT Tech)
Google Pixel 8 Pro
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The Google Pixel 8 Pro is priced at Rs. 1,06,999 in India. (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)

Google is one of the world's biggest technology companies and while it initially became famous as a search engine, it has become a household name in various other tech sectors, including smartphones. The Sundar Pichai-led firm has been riding the artificial intelligence (AI) wave, unveiling a vast range of AI services including its popular chatbot Bard. However, it's not just software that has benefitted from the adoption of this technology. Google's smartphone, the Pixel series, has also gained AI features over the years that have helped it stand out from the crowd. The plethora of magic editing features on the Pixel devices has made it one of the best camera-centric smartphones around the world.

To further bolster its ambitions in the consumer technology segment, Google launched its Pixel 8 series in October, mere months after unveiling its first-ever foldable smartphone, the Pixel Fold. The series debuted with two smartphones - the Pixel 8 and the Pixel 8 Pro. While the Pixel 8 promises great specifications at a somewhat affordable price, the Pixel 8 Pro offers all the bells and whistles without any compromise. But are the AI features and the camera, enough to help the Pixel 8 Pro stand out from the crowd or does disappear in the ocean of Android smartphones out there in the world?

I've spent a considerable amount of time with the Google Pixel 8 Pro and it is the best camera smartphone of the year. Having said that, its hardware isn't impressive enough to make it stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of the iPhone 15 Pro Max or the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. Here's why.

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Google Pixel 8 Pro: Design and Display

Google Pixel 8 Pro
The Pixel 8 Pro features a 6.7-inch LTPO OLED panel which Google calls a Super Actua display. (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)
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The Pixel 8 Pro features a 6.7-inch LTPO OLED panel which Google calls a Super Actua display. (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)

The Google Pixel 8 Pro features a tried and tested design similar to last year's Pixel 7 Pro. however this time around, Google has gotten rid of the curved edges, and that's a good thing simply because they did not fulfill any purpose apart from making the device's display more prone to damage when dropped. The same metal visor runs through the back and houses the camera unit, as well as the new temperature sensor. Despite the visor protruding quite a bit, it is comfortable to rest your fingers while holding the Pixel 8 Pro with one hand and increases the grip on the device. However, the same visor does get stuck sometimes while putting the phone in my pocket. The back of the Pixel 8 Pro now features a soft matte texture which replaces the glossy surface from its predecessor. While it has massively reduced the amount of fingerprints it collects, it also makes it a somewhat slippery affair.

The Google Pixel 8 Pro has an IP68 water and dust resistance rating which is at par with the best smartphones in the market, so no complaints there.

Moving on to the Pixel 8 Pro's display, it is a 6.7-inch LTPO OLED panel which Google calls a Super Actua display. It comes with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and goes up to a staggering 2400 nits, becoming Google's brightest-ever display. Moving to the Pixel 8 Pro from the iPhone 15 Plus felt like a world-changing experience majorly due to the high 120Hz refresh rate. As expected, the display is great to look at, even during bright outdoor conditions. It produces accurate colours when set to the Natural colour mode, but you can give it a vivid look by switching to the other modes. While the Pixel 8 Pro's display is now flat, it is tapered towards the edges, giving it a more premium look. To sum up, the Pixel 8 Pro is a great-looking device that provides a premium feel, paired with a crisp and bright display.

Google Pixel 8 Pro: Camera

 Google Pixel 8 Pro
The Google Pixel 8 Pro gives users full control over the camera, allowing them to capture RAW shots in full 50MP resolution. (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)
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The Google Pixel 8 Pro gives users full control over the camera, allowing them to capture RAW shots in full 50MP resolution. (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)

The highlight of using the Pixel 8 Pro for the last couple of weeks has been its camera performance. It features upgraded sensors from its predecessor, which promise to let in more light, potentially resulting in more detailed photos in a wider range of conditions. But does that translate to real-world usage? Absolutely. The Pixel 8 Pro is the best camera smartphone I've used this year, a list which includes devices such as the iPhone 15 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5, and Google's own Pixel 7a. Users can choose between 12MP and 50MP resolutions, and you won't be able to tell major differences between the two in most cases on the device. All three lenses capture stunning images, even the ultra-wide! Unlike iPhones, the snapshots taken with the Pixel 8 Pro have spot-on exposure. The 5X telephoto lens also produces great-looking shots, and the Pixel 8 Pro uses all its might to provide 30X digital zoom. While it isn't as impressive as perhaps the Galaxy S23 Ultra's super zoom, I still managed to capture an actual image of the Moon with a handful of craters visible on the lunar surface. The Night Sight on the Pixel 8 Pro has also improved by leaps and bounds, and taking snapshots in the dark has never looked better.

For the first time ever, the Pixel 8 Pro gives users full control over the camera, allowing them to capture RAW shots in full 50MP resolution. If you're a professional photographer who avidly captures photos with your smartphone, the pictures captured in the normal mode on the Pixel 8 Pro won't be as fun to play around with due to the heavy post-processing done by the smartphone. All in all, the Pixel 8 Pro is a great point-and-shoot camera, producing Instagram-ready pictures with just a snap.

Having said that, I ran into a weird glitch that first became synonymous with the Pixel 7 series. While taking quick snapshots in the Night Sight mode, most of them do not get saved, meaning you lose most of the pictures you take. This issue only occurred in one capture mode, but a quick Google Search revealed that it also plagued the previous Pixel generation of smartphones. Apparently, it is yet to be fixed.

Check out the camera samples below.

Image Samples

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Google Pixel 8 Pro: Performance

While the Pixel 8 Pro offers an out-of-this-world camera experience, the same cannot be said for its performance. It is powered by the new Google Tensor G3 chip under the hood, which is paired with 12GB RAM. For the first time ever, Google has brought the 256GB storage variant to India, meaning you won't have to worry about running out of space in comparison to the measly 128GB storage offered by its predecessor. Despite being a flagship device from Google and getting a bump in price, the Pixel 8 Pro does not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The device still gets hot at times, although the issue is not as severe as it was with the G2 SoC. The Pixel 8 Pro's benchmark numbers aren't great, and while numbers on paper aren't everything, unfortunately, this does show in its performance.

While it handles games such as Battlegrounds Mobile India and Asphalt 9 with ease, playing Genshin Impact and Call of Duty at the highest settings isn't a pleasing experience.

In terms of security, the Pixel 8 Pro's face unlock feature now allows you to verify payments. However, it still isn't as impressive as the Face ID on my iPhone 15 Plus, which feels just a bit snappier.

But not everything is bad. In fact, the Pixel 8 Pro is the first-ever smartphone to launch with Android 14 out of the box. To add the cherry on top, Google has promised up to 7 years of software updates, a feat that is yet to be matched by other players in the smartphone industry.

The battery performance is identical to its predecessor, and I found myself looking for my charger nearly every evening, despite using the device moderately with a schedule that included calls, messaging, hopping on Google Meet occasionally, and blasting songs while connected to my car's Bluetooth both to and from work.

The Pixel 8 Pro features a new temperature sensor at the back which can be used with an app called Thermometer. While it can measure the temperature of objects such as ice, your morning coffee, or your favourite food fairly accurately, it does not officially measure the human body temperature. But that doesn't mean that I didn't try it out!

Google Pixel 8 Pro: The AI experience

Google Pixel 8 Pro
Fan-favourite features such as Magic Editor, Photo Unblur, and Live Translation return on the Google Pixel 8 Pro. (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)
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Fan-favourite features such as Magic Editor, Photo Unblur, and Live Translation return on the Google Pixel 8 Pro. (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)

This is where the Google Pixel 8 Pro shines, and Google's AI prowess comes to the fore. The Pixel 8 Pro is loaded with AI features that help take the photography experience to the next level. Fan-favourite features such as Magic Editor, Photo Unblur, and Live Translation return, but we've already talked about them extensively in our Pixel 7 Pro review. Meanwhile, the Pixel 8 Pro now gets a feature called Best Take. It uses AI to mix and match expressions from different photos to create the perfect group photo. So, you can take 5 different shots where different members of the group look good, and then combine them all. It works extremely well in real life but requires you to take similar-looking photos. You can swap expressions of each person, and the snapshot looks natural without any visible editing.

The other AI feature onboard the Pixel 8 Pro is known as Live Transcribe. It automatically recognizes the speech and transcribes it in real-time, complete with proper punctuation. While many smartphones offer speech-to-text capabilities, none work better than the Pixel 8 Pro. We tried it out in a live setting and it performed virtual miracles. At the Google for India 2023 event, live reporting the event became an easy task as my Pixel 8 Pro was able to transcribe all the announcements perfectly.

The Pixel 8 Pro also features the Summarize tool which can automatically summarize web pages and articles for you. Unfortunately, this feature is only available in the US so I wasn't able to test it.

Audio Magic Eraser feature allows users to remove unwanted sounds from videos and it is similar to the feature that was introduced on the Pixel 6, but it is designed to work with sound instead of images. I tested this feature extensively at the Audio Magic Eraser booth at the Google for India 2023 event, and it actually manages to almost get rid of all the unwanted noise in your video clips.

The new Zoom Enhance feature on the Pixel 8 Pro also lets you zoom in on any photo after the fact and crop to what you want the focus of your photo to be. Using generative AI, Zoom Enhance intelligently fills in the gaps between pixels and predicts fine details, opening up more possibilities when it comes to framing and flexibility to focus on the most important part of your photo.

The AI features on the Pixel 8 Pro work great, although a handful of them aren't available in India. So, if you were looking to take full advantage of the Pixel 8 Pro's AI prowess, you'd be a bit disappointed.

Google Pixel 8 Pro: Verdict

Google Pixel 8 Pro
Should you buy the Google Pixel 8 Pro? (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)
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Should you buy the Google Pixel 8 Pro? (Shaurya Tomer/HT Tech)

Should you buy the Google Pixel 8 Pro? Yes and no. The Tensor G3 SoC under the hood of the Pixel 8 Pro isn't as impressive as its competition and is even inferior to them in terms of processing power. Therefore, if you're expecting iPhone 15 Pro Max-esque performance from your smartphone, then you shouldn't go for the Pixel 8 Pro, especially at the price tag that it flaunts - Rs. 1,06,999. The battery life on the device isn't anything special either, with the Pixel 8 Pro requiring you to plug it in almost every night.

On the other hand, the Google Pixel 8 Pro is the best camera smartphone of 2023 and is definitely the one to go for if you're a social media buff who likes to take and post pictures. The images are well-detailed, have great colour balance, and the exposure is spot-on. The device is also an AI powerhouse with a wide variety of features that enhance the out-of-the-box Android 14 experience, which means you can use it to enhance your productivity immensely.

So, go for the Pixel 8 Pro if you're looking to experience now what smartphones will look like in the future, courtesy AI.

Rating
4 out of 5
Price
INR 106,999/-
Product Name
Google Pixel 8 Pro
Brand Name
Google
Pros
  • Great display
  • Stellar cameras
  • Tons of AI features
Cons
  • Heats up sometimes
  • Chipset not as powerful as competitors
Specifications
  • Display
    6.7-inch, LTPO OLED
  • Refresh rate
    120Hz
  • Processor
    Tensor G3
  • RAM
    12GB
  • Rear camera
    50MP + 48MP + 48MP
  • Front camera
    10.5MP
  • OS
    PixelOS based on Android 14

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First Published Date: 08 Dec, 18:24 IST
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