Google Pixel 8
128 GB, Rose, 6.20", SIM + eSIM, 50 Mpx, 5G
All my smartphones in recent years have had a Max, Pro or Ultra in their name. How will I fare with the standard Google Pixel 8? Much better than I’d feared.
The phones I most recently used over a longer period of time are the iPhone 14 Pro Max, Google Pixel 7 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra – all top devices costing upwards of 1,000 francs.
Now I’m supposed to downgrade and test the simple Google Pixel 8 in everyday life – no Max, Pro or Ultra. It’s available for just over 700 francs or euros and is a classic example of the upper mid-range. A month ago, at the start of the test, I had my qualms: would the battery be too weak, the screen too small, the processor too feeble? Would I miss the zoom and other Pro features – and be counting down the seconds until I could go back to the top league?
Google Pixel 8
128 GB, Rose, 6.20", SIM + eSIM, 50 Mpx, 5G
Google Pixel 8
128 GB, Hazel, 6.20", SIM + eSIM, 50 Mpx, 5G
Google Pixel 8
128 GB, Obsidian, 6.20", SIM + eSIM, 50 Mpx, 5G
Taking photos, shooting videos, watching Netflix and YouTube, streaming music, checking social media, checking e-mails, messages and chats... Suffice it to say I’m a heavy smartphone user. And that’s both personally and professionally. Android’s Digital Wellbeing tool proves as much, registering around 300 to 400 notifications per day and five to seven hours of screen time.
With heavy use like that, even an average battery like the one in the Pixel 7 Pro reaches its limits. This doesn’t bode well for the Pixel 8, despite having a slightly larger battery (4,575 mAh) than its predecessor (4,355 mAh).
But the system has become much more efficient. In my five weeks or so of testing, I never once reached the battery’s limit. Even heavy users who get up at 6 a.m. and go to bed at 11 p.m. can go on a single charge. As I primarily charged the Pixel 8 at night, its mediocre charging capacity – 27 watts by cable, 18 watts wirelessly – doesn’t really matter.
In the endurance test with YouTube streaming via Wi-Fi, the Pixel 8 lasted around 18 hours. That’s better than the Honor 90, for example, which gave up after 15 hours despite its 5,000 mAh battery. But it’s not quite as good as the Nokia G42 with 20 hours.
The lowdown: The battery life is much better than expected. It’s not outstanding, but it is good. And, unlike its predecessor, it’s no longer a weak point compared to the competition.
I really felt the downsizing when I first set aside my 6.7-inch smartphone and picked up the Pixel 8 with its small 6.2-inch screen. My first reaction? This ain’t it.
But I got used to the smaller screen surprisingly quickly, just as you adapt to a larger screen when switching back. After just a few days, I appreciate the positive things about it. Namely, that the Pixel 8 has a compact design and that at just under 190 grammes, it’s significantly lighter than the big guys.
Most of the weight lies directly within your hand, so there’s a much lower risk of dropping the phone. Though the slippery back isn’t ideal. The Pixel 8 is wieldy in general. You can reach all areas of the touchscreen with your fingers and the phone fits even into small pants pockets.
You compromise on size, but not on quality. The high-resolution OLED screen can switch between 60 and 120 hertz, displays very natural colours and is very bright. For everyday use, it offers 1,400 nits, which can be increased to a maximum of 2,000 nits. With that, the Pixel 8 is one of the best devices on the market in this respect, especially in this price range.
The lowdown: The screen’s quality is a highlight, and the Pixel 8’s wieldy design is a great strength. For the most part, the screen size doesn’t bother me anymore, except when streaming the Marvel series Loki on Disney+. In those moments, I find myself wishing I could see the many scenes on foreign planets and in special settings on a larger screen.
Here are all the technical details of the Pixel 8 compared to the Pixel 8 Pro:
The benchmarks do, in fact, seem to confirm all my concerns. The Tensor G3, which is also used in the Pixel 8 Pro, is better than its predecessor. But the values are worse than those of models with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, such as the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. The Snapdragon is also already a year old and will be replaced by the latest generation in the coming weeks or months.
Android is outpacing Google in the benchmarks. Even the cheaper Nothing Phone (2) with an even older processor manages to overtake the Pixel 8.
Have I noticed the Pixel 8’s weakness in everyday use? To be honest, no. Android 14 runs incredibly smoothly, and videos and casual games look great and don’t stutter. What more could I ask for?
The only thing is that I have to trust Google will keep it that way for the next few years. The manufacturer promises seven years of updates, which is a strong selling point. The Pixel 8 should still run decently on Android 20 or 21.
**The lowdown: My fears have been confirmed. The Tensor G3 is fine in practice, but the competition offers more. It’s also disappointing that I get significantly worse results on my Pixel 8 with 8 GB of RAM than Pro users with 12 GB. I would have liked to have the option to upgrade **
The non-Pro Google Pixel has no optical zoom. You do get a 2x button in the camera menu and can even zoom in further, but it’s purely digital. Thanks to the main sensor’s 50 megapixels, this works without any losses to a certain extent. Two and threefold magnification is solid enough, with an acceptable loss of detail.
As you can see below, 5x zoom results in photos that you can’t even use for a low-resolution social media post. The software tries to sharpen and brighten the image, with the details getting lost in a kind of pixel mud.
The wide-angle camera is fine, as is the selfie camera. But I primarily had fun with using the main camera. It delivers true-colour photos with a beautiful depth of field completely automatically, without you having to adjust a bunch of settings. Even in poor light, it takes good pictures that can easily keep up with the results from the over-100-franc price class.
I even used the software gimmicks in the Google Photos app more often than I thought I would. For example, to dramatically colour the sky above the Lego dragon. Or to remove the annoying garbage containers in front of Greifensee Castle. It’s not always perfect down to the nitty-gritty, but it’s good enough to use.
Chances are you’ll end up using these software tricks because they’re so easy and uncomplicated and work right from your phone. They’re made for everyone, even with no professional tools. Disclaimer: the more complex editing options only work if you upload the image to Google’s cloud, which is where the computation takes place.
It’s a shame that Google has cut back on the camera software compared to the Pro model in places where it really wasn’t necessary. You can’t tweak as many manual settings on the Pixel 8, despite it having the exact same camera sensor as on the Pro, at least when it comes to the main camera. The Pixel 8 also has the computing power to handle it.
The lowdown: As I’d feared, I did miss having an optical zoom. The digital zoom is often sufficient, but not always. Still, the camera system in the Pixel 8 is so good overall that I can get over this.
To my own amazement, I’m so happy with the Pixel 8 that I’ll continue to use it as my main device for now. Sure, I have to make compromises, especially in terms of screen size and zoom.
On the other hand, I’ve realised just how convenient compact phones can be in everyday life. Not when watching videos, mind you, but in many other situations. For example, you may already have one hand full and are happy to have a phone you can easily operate with the other one. Or you may be climbing up a cliff and want to take a quick photo of the ascent. A smartphone you can hold and use at all times is worth its weight in gold.
The Pixel 8 is relatively small and doesn’t rage ahead of the competition. Nevertheless, it offers high quality in all areas. And all that at a fair price.
The lowdown: Not all my fears were unfounded. But as a complete package, the Pixel 8 has impressed even me, a die-hard fan of Max, Pro and Ultra models.
For the first time in years, my preferred setup includes a silicone case. I’m actually not a fan of silicone at all, but the cases made by Google are excellent. They fit like a glove and really stick to my hand, making the phone unlikely to slip out.
They also protect the camera bump as well as the screen with their slightly protruding edges. And the buttons on the side have a higher-quality look than those on the device itself. And even the price is fair, given it’s one of those notoriously overpriced original accessories.
What’s more, the Pixel 8 has great speakers. If you watch videos, series or movies without headphones, you’ll be pleased with the clear stereo sound. The speakers are also surprisingly loud for the size of the phone without compromising on quality.
What I’m less thrilled by is the aluminium casing. Despite using a case, I’ve already collected some small scratches. It seems very scratch-prone, similar to the cheaper Apple Watches. In my opinion, Google’s skimping on the wrong thing.
By the way, if you’re interested in the Pro version despite my song of praise for the standard Pixel 8, check out my colleague Jan’s detailed review.