The Pixel 8 Pro is refined inside and out
Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Neat, if slightly dystopian
The Pixel 8 Pro represents some big leaps forward on the inside, and some nice refinements on the outside.
Pixel has carved out a nice little niche for itself as the plucky smartphone (from the corporate monolith) with a great camera for a low price. The Pixel 8 Pro continues the tradition, though the price gap between the phone and its flagship competitors seems to be closing.
Still, after a week with the Pixel 8 Pro, I can report that it's everything you expect a Pixel phone to be. It's sleek, speedy and takes stunning photos, with a few neat new machine learning tricks thrown into the mix.
How much does the Pixel 8 Pro cost in Australia?
The Pixel 8 Pro is a pretty substantial price bump from last year’s model, but it still stacks up well to the iPhone 15 Pro Max.
The Pro starts at $1,699 for the 128GB model, and goes up to $1,999 for the 512GB. It’s a pretty substantial price increase on last year, when the phone started at $1,299 and went up to $1,599. One of the core propositions of the Pixel brand has always been how cheap it is compared to other flagship phones, so it’s a bit disappointing to see so steep a price increase over last year.
While it does come in cheaper than the entry-level iPhone 15 Pro Max model, which goes for $2,199, it’s worth considering that the Pro Max starts at 256GB of storage and goes all the way up to 1TB.
Pixel 8 Pro design and features
I’ve been a sucker for the Pixel’s design since they introduced the raised camera bar on the Pixel 6. The 8 Pro is a refinement on last year’s design, with a matte finish on the back and a slightly lower profile on the camera bar.
The big change is the screen. In addition to introducing its bright, Super Actua display with up to 2400 nits of peak brightness, Google has ditched the curved display and gone for a flat screen.
The 8 series also ups the game on last year’s facial recognition feature. While the Pixel 7 reintroduced facial recognition to the lineup, it didn’t pass security muster for anything more than unlocking your phone. The 8 series leverages machine learning to allow you to use facial recognition for more practical purposes like app logins and online payments.
Another interesting addition to the Pixel 8 Pro is the temperature sensor on the back. Presently, Google is touting this for measuring the temperature of objects like beverages or cookware, but the company says it’s seeking FDA approval in the U.S. for use as an actual thermometer. You know, for humans. If this comes through, it’d be an incredibly handy feature.
There’s also an upgraded chip powering the Pixel 8 series. The Tensor G3 chip ensures the phone is fast and responsive, but, as is ever the case for Pixel phones, photography is where the G3 really shines.
Pixel 8 Pro camera
Google has staked its Pixel brand reputation on the strength of its cameras, and the Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t disappoint. It sports the same 50MP main lens and 48MP telephoto lens with 5x optical zoom as last year, but the ultrawide lens has seen a huge leap from 12MP to 48MP.
But Pixel’s photography prowess has never just been about the lenses. The machine learning and AI powering its camera are the real stars, and the Pixel 8 Pro has introduced some new features that are pretty incredible, if slightly dystopian.
All the features introduced in the 7 Pro are still here, such as Face Unblur and Night Sight. But Google has also unveiled a new feature called Best Take. This enables you to swap out someone’s face in a photo with a different take where you like their facial expression better. In group shots, you can mix and match, using the best take for each person to composite together the platonic ideal of your friends and family. It’s both super neat and existentially terrifying.
Pixel’s Magic Eraser tool, which removes unwanted people or objects from photos, now gets and audio counterpart with Audio Magic Eraser. It allows you to remove background noise from your videos.
Google has also promised a slew of features dropping in the future, such as Night Sight Video and a video version of Magic Editor.
In practice, the Pixel 8 Pro produces the sort of shots you’ve come to expect from the Pixel lineup, with beautiful, crisp colours. It’s the best point and shoot smartphone camera I’ve ever used. Google has also introduced a pro mode, allowing you to set things like the aperture and shutter speed manually, but for regular dumdums like me, you can expect stunning photos with very little effort.
Pixel 8 Pro battery life
Pixels have traditionally been let down by battery life. Like the 7 Pro, 8 Pro claims “beyond 24 hours” battery life, and up to 72 hours with Extreme Battery Saver mode enabled.
In practice, I found that the Pixel 8 Pro does outperform its predecessor. With normal use, I did manage get around the promised 24 hours or a little more. With heavier use, such as streaming video, gaming or mindlessly scrolling Reddit, I got around 12 hours. Not bad, but still not up to iPhone standards.
Is the Pixel 8 Pro worth buying?
I’m an unabashed fan of the Pixel lineup, and this year’s represents some big leaps forward for features, and some nice refinements for aesthetics. The Pixel 8 Pro continues to make a good case for being the industry leader in smartphone photography, and even if there are some disagreements around the margins with that argument, it’s certainly the best smartphone camera for the money.
To sweeten the proposition, Google has promised seven years of security, OS and feature updates for the Pixel 8 range. It makes the Pixel 8 Pro not just a great phone, but a great phone you could have for a long time.