Google Pixel 8 / Pixel 8 Pro Review – Is this the future of phoning?

Reviewed on November 9, 2023

Google’s latest generation of phones have arrived with the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Positioning themselves as a casual photographer and selfie-enthusiast’s best new companion, the Pixel 8 phones boast a sleek design, powerful camera, user-friendly Android software, and some innovative new technology powered by AI. But with a potentially hefty price point for your average consumer, will the Pixel 8 find a home amongst the masses?

A Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro were supplied to Checkpoint Gaming for the purpose of this review.

Whether you use your phone for communication/connection, photography, video capture, work, or a myriad of other daily tasks—you’ll likely find the Google Pixel 8 an ample companion. The suite of technology and software powering this range doesn’t just satisfy, but it often goes above and beyond, ensuring you have the tools you need for the task at hand.

As a gamer, it does have to be noted that the Pixel 8 isn’t targeting my specific market. Whilst the device does a largely satisfying job of running most popular games smoothly, it won’t be leading the pack when it comes to supporting more power-intensive releases such as Wild Rift or Call of Duty Mobile. It’s simply just not Google’s focus, and though it may not be noticeable enough to make a serious impact, dedicated gamers may choose to look elsewhere for their mobile gaming needs. For those like me who tend to engage in mobile gaming more casually, the devices are more than adequate for the job.

The power of Artificial Intelligence

Google is far from the market leader in mobile phone manufacturing, yet their Android operating system is. Cleverly, Google is banking on their software expertise to bring in new customers with tools like Magic Eraser and Best Take, providing easy-to-use and impactful tools that your average phone user would benefit from on the regular.

“…providing easy to use and impactful tools that your average phone user would benefit from on the regular.”

This use of AI technology is a compelling one as Google looks to create solutions to potentially everyday problems. They are far from the only software manufacturer who is chasing these goals and developing this technology, though they are certainly well positioned to package them all up together and build them into one of their flagship devices. With that in mind, the Pixel 8 range looks to be one of the best, if not the best, devices to use when it comes to in-built AI functionality. But what exactly is this AI functionality and how well does it work?

Best Take is perhaps the best of the batch and proves incredible for group photos in particular. Take a range of snaps and you can literally tailor and swap everybody’s face for their ‘best take’. No longer is a photo ruined by a single person blinking, instead, everybody is perfectly captured and the technology almost imperceptibly and elegantly can be used to swap out faces. Everybody has an opinion on which photo has their best take, and the Pixel 8 understands and facilitates that desire. We all know people like to tailor and adjust their photos before they go live on socials, and Best Take is simply the next evolution of that concept. It gives more control to the user and allows for tinkering and tweaking to all new heights.

The Magic Eraser tool is a little more hit-or-miss. By circling something within a photo, you can quickly and easily remove an unwanted element from your latest snap. The blank space is then filled in using AI technology to best match the background. Unfortunately, Magic Eraser doesn’t work as flawlessly as the advertisements show. Not quite as magical as you may hope, the tool appropriately removes the unwanted element but replaces it with a perceptible backdrop that wouldn’t pass the Turing test. Professional Photoshoppers needn’t fear, Magic Eraser isn’t likely to take your job any time soon. Similarly, Audio Magic Eraser is a built-in tool that’s pitched as completely removing unwanted background music. It works! But nowhere near as imperceptibly as advertised.

Google Lens does certainly work as intended, allowing you to photograph objects and search for them on the internet. The Live Translate and Live Caption functionality also works about as well as you’d expect. They are fantastic and accessible tools available to support your needs, but can’t be relied on for pinpoint accuracy.

Altogether, Google’s AI tools are helpful, user-friendly, and fun to engage with. They are showpieces that easily impress but often do not work to their full potential. Still, what can’t be denied is the convenience of having them all pre-built into the system and available with a quick swipe, tap, or voice command.

Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro?

At AU $1,199 for the Pixel 8 and AU $1,699 for the Pixel 8 Pro, the choice of which phone is best for you is an important—and potentially costly—decision to make.

Ultimately both phones function as expected. I’m impressed by the lack of bloatware and how smooth and easy the devices are to use. The Android software is familiar and the integration of Google’s systems and software makes for a perfect pairing. Both phones are slim and absolutely look the business, with the Pro featuring a larger display at 6.7 inches compared to the Pixel 8’s 6.2-inch screen. But that’s not likely to be the reason you’d want to fork out the extra dosh.

“…the choice of which phone is best for you is an important—and potentially costly—decision to make.”

The reason for the healthy price increase is appropriately backed by the specs powering these devices. The Pro’s OLED screen uses an LTPO display, improving its power efficiency. It contains 12GB of RAM when compared to the Pixel 8’s 8GB, has more storage capacity options, a telephoto camera, extra battery capacity, and a few other little tweaks and benefits. That telephoto lens will really help seal the deal with certain Pro purchasers. The Pixel range really does feel like a photographer’s friend, and having that extra device power and better clarity over longer distances will be a selling point. After testing the camera, I was certainly impressed by the zoom on offer on the Pixel 8 Pro. Though both devices feel great for casual photography. A big step up from the outdated phone cameras I had been using in the past.

The final verdict

The Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro are straight-up enjoyable devices to use. There’s an element of the ‘wow factor’ when tooling around with the phone’s detailed functionality, and it’s hard to ignore the user-friendliness of the device and how cohesive it all feels as a package. Your average phone user will find more than enough within the Google Pixel 8 ecosystem as mobile phone technology moves closer and closer to that life companion we all rely on to support us with everyday tasks.

Despite all of the high praise Google deserves for this range of phones, there’s an undeniable feeling that it all feels somewhat gimmicky and casual when compared to its premium price point. Don’t get me wrong, selling a phone for casual users is not a bad thing. It’s exactly what I would want for myself. But you have to go in knowing that the software that is being showcased in promotional material is not as flawless as Google would want you to believe. The device does many things and many things well, but it does not do these things perfectly. The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro will not replace dedicated devices or software that already exists.

With all that said, once your expectations are set accordingly, you’re going to find a phone that slides into your life naturally and effortlessly. Powered by emerging technology and packaged beautifully and cohesively, the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro bring the goods in so many exciting and varied ways, so long as you’re comfortable with the somewhat hefty price point.