Google Pixel 8 Pro phone review

Google Pixel 8 Pro review: photo finish

8.9

With all eyes on the camera, the flagship Google Pixel 8 Pro brings the tech giant’s generative AI ambitions to life.

It feels like we’ve come full circle when it comes to flagship mobile phones. Before modern smartphones emerged as jack-of-all-trades devices, flagship handsets focused their efforts on the camera. The term “camera phone” has fallen out of fashion, but we might need to revive it as flagship smartphones once again do battle in the photography arena.

Of course, the big difference is that modern camera phones aren’t just competing on the quality of their sensors and lenses. Capturing a great photo is only the beginning, the real magic is how the phone lets you improve and manipulate that photo in new and interesting ways.

Enter the Pixel 8 Pro, packing Google’s new Tensor G3 chip to run generative AI models on-device rather than in the cloud, in an effort to take photo wizardry to the next level.

Google Pixel 8 Pro first impressions

When it comes to design, the Google Pixel 8 Pro continues to hone the Pixel look and feel rather than strike out in a bold new direction. The key subtle change is that it has foregone the 7 Pro’s curved screen in favour of a flat screen, while adding slightly more rounded corners.

Out of the box, the 6.7-inch display fits comfortably in your hand thanks to a narrow 20:9 aspect ratio. The phone is a tad heavy at 213 gm although, to be fair, that’s about what you’d expect from a flagship handset of this size packing high-end optics.

The phone has a premium look and feel, thanks to a polished aluminium frame and matte glass back. While it looks nice and shiny, thankfully it’s not too slippery in your hand. 

That visor-style rear camera array still looks a bit chunky, but if you’re a big Pixel fan, then it’s probably grown on you by now. Google has done a great job of balancing the handset to ensure the camera array doesn’t make it top-heavy – which is important when there’s always a risk of a tall phone toppling backwards out of your hand.

That rear array is packed with goodness – featuring a 50 MP wide lens, 48 MP ultrawide, and 48 MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom. Around the front, you’ll find a 10.5 MP selfie camera with a 95-degree field of view for getting everyone in the shot.

Holding the handset, you’ve still got the power and volume buttons on the right, near the middle to ensure you don’t need to reach too far. The handset supports Face Unlock and an in-display fingerprint reader, which is placed a little higher than on some Android handsets to help keep it within reach. Depending on the size of your hands, you still might find it easier to unlock the phone with a digit on the other hand.

Fire up the handset and you’re presented with a gorgeous 1344 x 2992 “Super Actua” OLED display. Bumping up the brightness is a welcome improvement. It’s now blessed with up to 1600 nits brightness, peaking at 2400 nits, to make the most of High Dynamic Range and ensure it’s easy to see in direct sunlight. Meanwhile, the 120 Hz refresh rate offers silky smooth scrolling, and it can drop as low as 1 Hz to save power when nothing interesting is happening on the screen.

It’s frustrating that the adaptive brightness is a little too aggressive, making it harder to make the most of that improved brightness. While you’re at it, you might also switch from adaptive to natural screen colours.

As for multimedia, the handset offers stereo sound by relying on the earpiece, rather than adding an extra speaker on the top of the handset. There’s no old-school 3.5 mm headphone jack. There are also three microphones, with noise suppression, plus the phone can perform AI tricks to reduce background noise when you capture videos.

Google Pixel 8 Pro specifications

Display size6.7-inch, 20:9 aspect ratio
Display resolution3G, 4G, 5G sub-6 and mm-wave
Display technologyLTPO OLED, 120 Hz refresh rate, HDR, 24-bit depth for 16 million colours
Bands3G, 4G, 5G sub-6 and mm wave
ChipsetGoogle Tensor G3
Rear cameras50 MP Octa PD wide camera
1.2 μm pixel width
ƒ/1.68 aperture
82° field of view
1/1.31″ image sensor size
48 MP Quad PD ultrawide camera with autofocus
0.8 μm pixel width
ƒ/1.95 aperture
125.5° field of view13
Lens correction
48 MP Quad PD telephoto camera
0.7 μm pixel width
ƒ/2.8 aperture
21.8° field of view
5x optical zoom
Super Res Zoom up to 30×13
Front camera10.5 MP Dual PD selfie camera
1.22 μm pixel width
ƒ/2.2 aperture
Autofocus
95° ultrawide field of view
RAM12 GB LPDDR5X
Onboard storage128 GB / 256 GB / 512 GB UFS 3.1 
SIMDual SIM (Single Nano SIM and eSIM19)
ChargingFast charging – up to 50% charge in about 30 minutes – using Google 30W USB-C Charger with USB-PD 3.0 (PPS) sold separately23 W wireless fast charging via the Google Pixel Stand (2nd gen), or 12 W via a Qi-certified wireless charger.
Battery5050 mAh
Wi-FiWi-Fi 7 (802.11be) with 2.4GHz+5GHz+6GHz,2×2+2×2 MIMO
BluetoothBluetooth v5.3 with dual antennas
Operating systemAndroid 14
SecurityTitan M2 security chip, Face Unlock, fingerprint reader
RuggednessP68 dust and water resistance
Dimensions162.6 height x 76.5 width x 8.8 depth mm
Weight213 gm
ColoursObsidian, Porcelain, Bay
Pricefrom $1699 RRP
Warranty2 years
Official websiteGoogle Australia

Features

The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro are the first handsets to launch running Android 14 out of the box. With that, Google promises an unprecedented seven years of Android OS updates and security fixes.

Under the bonnet, the Google 8 Pro packs the new Tensor G3 chip, accompanied by a generous 12 GB of RAM. Not only a performance powerhouse, the Tensor G3 is also optimised for AI and allows generative AI models to run on the device.

All that grunt is backed by a 5050 mAh battery with support for fast wired and wireless charging. As for connectors, you’ve USB-C 3.2 for 30 W charging fast-charging. If you’re not a fan of cables you can take advantage of 23 W wireless fast charging via the Google Pixel Stand (2nd gen), or 12 W via a Qi-certified wireless charger.

Keep in mind you’ll need to shell out extra for a charger because, as is the trend these days, Google only includes a USB-C cable in the box.

As you’d expect it’s a 5G handset but, unlike most handsets, it supports both sub-6 5G and the faster millimetre wave 5G networks – if you’re lucky enough to stumble across millimetre wave coverage.

To be honest, there’s not that much excitement on the Pixel 8 Pro spec sheet. Most of the sizzle is reserved for the upgraded cameras and AI photography features.  

Even the camera’s new ability to check the temperature of an object such as a frying pan – taking advantage of a dedicated temperature sensor in the rear array – even gets a prominent mention in an attempt to pad out the phone’s new features.

The fact that Google has “submitted an application to the FDA, to enable Pixel’s Thermometer App to take your temperature and save it to Fitbit” indicates that it has bigger plans for this feature.

Google Pixel 8 Pro photography

The Google Pixel 8 Pro’s camera and photography features get top billing as generative AI finds new and interesting ways to help you capture and shape the perfect shot.

In terms of hardware, the Pixel 8 Pro has a similar 50 MP wide camera to its predecessor, but offers a slightly lower aperture for improved low-light performance. It retains optical and electronic image stabilisation. Likewise, the telephoto lens remains at 48 MP with 5x optical zoom, while also lowering the aperture.

The bigger change comes with the ultrawide camera, leaping from 12 MP to 48 MP while also offering a slightly lower aperture. On the front, the selfie camera has a negligible megapixel downgrade from 10.8 to 10.5 MP, but also comes with lower aperture and gains autofocus.

Shooting during the day you get crisp results with great natural colours. They might look a tad muted if you’re used to something with a bit more punch, but that’s the Pixel style. You thankfully also escape the overly aggressive beautification portrait features enabled on many Android phones by default.

Bumping up the ultrawide camera, leaping from 12 MP to 48 MP helps eliminate that frustrating drop in picture quality that you often see when jumping between lenses on smartphones.

For serious photographers, there is a greater degree of manual control.  In addition to white balance, exposure and shadow brightness controls, you can manually adjust focus, shutter speed and ISO. 

After dark, that improved low-light performance shines through with noticeably improved colours and less noise. It also makes its presence felt on a gloomy day, although you lose a little detail in the cloud compared to an iPhone’s efforts.

AI photo enhancements

Of course, the Pixel 8 Pro’s key strength is what you can do in the Google Photos app after you capture a photo, especially if you’re not completely happy with the shot. The Pixel lineup basically aims to be a photography time machine, attempting to improve your photos as if you’d gone back to that moment and retaken them.

Frustratingly a lot of these features are “coming soon”, so you won’t be able to enjoy them all straight out of the box.

Google has clearly put a lot of thought into how AI can help with real-life scenarios, such as the new Best Take feature which comes to your aid when photographing a group of people. 

It’s always difficult to get everyone looking at the camera at the same time with a decent smile on their face, especially when you’re working with kids. You end up with a bunch of photos which are all disappointing for one reason or another.

Best Take basically lets you fake the perfect group shot. It sifts through all those photos and grabs the best shots of everyone’s face. You can pick and choose to find the perfect combination, then Best Take magically stitches them together to create a single perfect photo. The results are surprisingly good and it’s the kind of trick that once required a fair bit of Photoshop kung fu.

Meanwhile, Zoom Enhance will let you go back and reframe a shot. Traditionally, zooming in on a photo and cropping comes at the expense of picture quality, but Zoom Enhance adds detail to sharpen the shot after you crop it. As you’d expect, the quality of the scene varies depending on the complexity of the scene.

Building on features like Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur in previous Pixels, Google is also adding the admittedly experimental Magic Editor to Google Photos. It lets you enhance photos and even move objects. Just as Photo Unblur lets you go back in time and fix the focus, Magic Editor lets you go back in time and re-compose the shot.

AI is also working its magic in video. Video Boost captures two images — one optimised for low-light and the other for high dynamic range – to make low-light videos sharper with improved colours and less grain. Meanwhile, Audio Magic Eraser lets you remove background noise in video clips.

Who is the Google Pixel 8 Pro for?

As the price of the Pixel range keeps creeping up, it becomes harder to justify stretching your budget from the standard model to the Pro. The Pixel 8 Pro offers a bigger screen compared to the standard Pixel 8, but its real selling point is the improved cameras and extra lens – especially if you need good photos from a distance. 

If this all sounds like overkill to you, the standard Pixel 8 lets you save $500 dollars while still enjoying all of the high-end Pixel magic. But if you’re after a killer camera phone that can handle anything you throw at it, the Google Pixel 8 Pro is the way to go.

Google Pixel 8 Pro
With impressive cameras and AI's ability to hone the perfect shot, the Google Pixel 8 Pro is one for serious photographers.
Features
9
Value for money
8.5
Performance
9
Ease of use
9
Design
9
Positives
Great OLED screen
Impressive cameras
AI photography tricks
Negatives
More expensive than last year's Pro
Some AI features "coming soon"
8.9