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Google Pixel 8 review: A justified price rise?

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £699
inc VAT

The Google Pixel 8 doubles down on AI and makes tweaks in several key areas – but these improvements come at a price


  • Tremendous AI camera tricks
  • Big battery life boost
  • Lengthy software support


  • £100 price increase
  • Only minor design changes
  • Camera hardware is similar to last year

Whenever people ask me for advice on which Android phone to buy, my default response is to say that you can’t go wrong with a Pixel. Camera performance has always been top-notch, and you’re guaranteed Android updates first, so what’s not to like?

Well, with the Pixel 8, what’s not to like is the price rise. It’s jumped up by £100, going from £599 to £699, which makes it a slightly tougher endorsement – especially with the excellent Google Pixel 7a still dazzling at £449.

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Google Pixel 8 review: What you need to know

At first glance, the 6.2in Pixel 8 doesn’t look too far removed from the Pixel 7 or the even older Pixel 6. The familiar rear camera visor is still there, with a satin metal frame and polished glass back. It’s available in Obsidian, Hazel or Rose colours, with IP68 protection to deal with dust and water.

But on the inside is the Google Tensor G3 processor, which Google is painting as a big step forward for the chip, especially in terms of artificial intelligence. The company says that the machine learning model is ten times more complex than that used on the original Tensor chip in the Pixel 6.

Back of black Google Pixel 8 held in hand against bookcaseHistorically, in terms of raw speed, Google’s Tensor chips have been a bit behind their Apple and Qualcomm-made counterparts, but we’ll see if that gap has been closed in the benchmarks section of this review.

The camera hardware has received a slight change, with a wider aperture (f/1.7 vs f/1.9) on the main 50MP camera and a broader field of view (126 vs 114 degrees) on the 12MP ultrawide. The selfie camera is a 10.5MP (f/2.2) unit. 

The Pixel 8, like the Pixel 8 Pro, is one of the first phones to launch with the latest version of Google’s mobile OS: Android 14. Not only that, but Google is also promising a generous seven years of core Android upgrades and security patches which, if true, should bring the phone up to Android 21 in 2030.

Google Pixel 8 review: Price and competition

I already moaned about this at the beginning of this review, but the Pixel 8 has received a £100 price increase this year. The base 128GB model costs £699 (up from £599) and the 256GB version costs £759. That’s not a great look for Google, especially when the Pixel 7a still exists and offers tremendous value for money at just £449.

However, the Pixel 8 is still a bit cheaper than its rivals. The iPhone 15, which is the Pixel 8’s main challenger, starts at £799, and the Samsung Galaxy S23 costs even more at £849. So, the Pixel 8 costs less than its flagship counterparts, but that gap is closing with every new release. 

Google Pixel 8 review: Design and key features

The Pixel 8’s overall design hasn’t changed much for 2023, but there are several small tweaks if you look closer. The aluminium horizontal camera strip on the back of the phone remains in place, which again features a pill-shaped camera housing sitting next to the LED flash module. A reflective glass layer covers the rest of the phone’s rear and this can be configured in a choice of three colours: Hazel (grey), Obsidian (black) and Rose (light pink).

The most obvious change, however, is with the Pixel 8’s dimensions, which have been reduced slightly. The phone’s width has been narrowed by 3mm, it’s shorter by roughly 6mm and it weighs 10g less at 187g. I also prefer the more rounded corners of this year’s model which, when you combine all of these changes, makes for a phone that’s much more comfortable to hold and easier to slip into your pocket.  

Right side of black Google Pixel 8 held in hand against bookcase showing power button and vlume rocker

Google has sensibly added a layer of Gorilla Glass Victus on top of the phone’s display and, like last year, the Pixel 8 is IP68 certified for dust and water protection. The base storage is 128GB, but you can pay extra for 256GB of space. There’s no microSD card support, unfortunately, so what you buy is what you get – unless you pay for Google One cloud storage.

You’ll find a 1m USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, as well as a USB-C to USB-A adaptor, but Google has again decided against including a wall charger, so you’ll have to buy one of those separately if you don’t already own one. The Pixel 8 supports charging speeds of up to 27W (up from 20W), taking around 25 minutes to go from flat to 50% during testing. 

Google Pixel 8 review: Display

The Pixel 8’s display has also received a couple of quality-of-life changes. It’s slightly smaller across the diagonal (6.2in vs 6.3in) and gets a bit brighter, but crucially, it now has a refresh rate of 120Hz, up from the maximum 90Hz of the previous generation. 

However, unlike the Pro model, this isn’t an LTPO display, so it doesn’t automatically adjust the refresh rate between 1Hz and 120Hz – instead, you have to toggle between 60Hz and 120Hz in the phone’s settings.

Front of black Google Pixel 8 held in hand against bookcase with the camera application displayed on the screenThe rest of the Pixel 8’s screen is unchanged. It’s another OLED panel, with a resolution of 2,400 x 1,080 and support for HDR10+ playback and it’s a joy to use. There are two display modes on offer, with the Natural setting delivering terrific colour performance across the board. 

I recorded an average Delta E of 0.75 when tested against sRGB, with gamut coverage of 96% and a total volume of 97%. Screen brightness is hugely improved, too, with a measured maximum luminance of 996cd/m2 in auto mode, and 1,336cd/m2 when displaying HDR content – that’s an increase of 55% compared to last year.

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Google Pixel 8 review: Performance and battery life

Google’s Tensor G3 chipset leads the way this year and is backed by the same 8GB of RAM as before. Architecturally, this new processor consists of a total of nine CPU cores, with a single 3GHz Cortex-X3 core, four 2.45GHz Cortex-A715 cores and a further four 2.15GHz Cortex-A510 cores. It’s also built on a 4nm fabrication process, unlike the slightly less efficient 5nm die of last year’s Tensor G2. 

READ NEXT: Best phone battery life

Generally speaking, performance has improved, but the gains aren’t as dramatic as I’d hoped. The Pixel 8 scored 1,547 in the Geekbench 6 single-core test and 4,408 in multi-core, making for a total improvement of just over 5%. That leaves the Pixel 8 as the weakest-performing phone among its flagship contemporaries, so there’s a lot of improvement still to be made here.

Google Pixel 8 Geekbench 6 performance graphGaming speeds paint a similar picture. The GFXBench on-screen Car Chase test jumped from an average frame rate of 62fps to 73fps, which is still a long way behind the Galaxy S23’s 111fps average. 

Google Pixel 8 GFXBench gaming graphBigger gains are seen in the battery life department, with the Pixel 8 lasting for 25hrs 16mins in our continuous video rundown test. That’s close to three hours longer than last year’s Pixel 7 and a better score than the Pixel 8’s main rivals. Even on a day of heavy use, snapping test shots around London and using Google Maps, I had plenty of juice left over as the evening drew to a close – and enough for the following day as well. 

Google Pixel 8 battery life graph

Google Pixel 8 review: Software

The Pixel 8 is the first phone to launch with Android 14. However, if you were hoping for any dramatic changes to Google’s mobile OS with this latest version, you might have to wait a little while longer.

The headline features for 2023 include a smattering of new accessibility options, including larger font toggles and more efficient text scaling – as well as separating hearing aids from other Bluetooth devices in the phone’s settings. That’s mostly it, however, with just a few minor UI tweaks and quality-of-life changes dotted throughout.

One thing that Google is trumpeting is some of the neat AI-tinged party tricks that are possible with the Tensor G3. Google Assistant can now quickly summarise, read aloud and translate web pages, for example.

Front of black Google Pixel 8 held in hand against bookcaseMore interesting AI advances are happening with the camera. Building on the solid foundations of Magic Eraser, which lets you remove unwanted photobombers and scenery from photos, there are two exciting new features: Best Take and Audio Magic Eraser. The former lets you choose the best faces from a selection of similar shots to make the perfect (if not exactly representative) photo, while the latter lets you filter out unwanted background noise on captured video.

The Pixel 8 seems to be in it for the long haul, too. Google is guaranteeing the latest versions of Android and security updates for seven years. It’s certainly nice to know that you could still safely be using your Pixel 8 with Android 21 in 2030, even if most people will be snapping pictures on the Pixel 15 (or whatever it’s called) by then.

Google Pixel 8 review: Cameras

Speaking of the camera, while the Pixel 8 doesn’t get quite as many exciting upgrades as its £999 Pro sibling, there are a few improvements worth noting. Google says the updated rear camera has “advanced image processing to reveal vivid colours and striking details in almost any light”, and there’s a new Macro Focus mode for highlighting smaller subjects.

READ NEXT: Best phone camera

I was impressed with the Pixel 8’s cameras in my testing, but I wasn’t left with the impression that things had improved greatly over last year’s Pixel 7. Sure, the aforementioned AI tricks in the camera app are a welcome addition, but there’s little else that’s new, and that’s a bit of a shame.

There’s no pressing need to upgrade from a Pixel 7, then, but if you don’t already own a Pixel and you’re after one of the best Android cameras around, then the Pixel 8 will serve you well. Pictures are taken with wonderful clarity, especially in otherwise tricky low-light conditions. I was indoors at London’s Natural History Museum one evening, and this is just one example of the sort of picture I was able to capture:

Google Pixel 8 camera sample London Natural History Museum stepsPortrait imagery is again top-notch. Facial details are captured beautifully, with accurate skin tone representation and effective separation between my subject and the blurred background. 

Google Pixel 8 camera sample selfie portrait imageUltrawide pictures are the weakest aspect, with visual noise evident in harsher lighting, but there’s still a lot to like here: images have a nice amount of detail and there’s minimal distortion at the far corners of the frame. Video quality is excellent, however, with the Pixel 8 recording at up to 4K resolution at 60fps, fully stabilised. 

Google pixel 8 camera sample ultrawide image taken at night inside London's Natural History Museum's great hall

Google Pixel 8 review: Verdict

For Android enthusiasts, the Pixel 7 was already one of the best smartphones you can buy, and the Pixel 8 is undoubtedly a solid improvement. The generational differences may be minor, but with Google continuing to refine its premium handset with every iteration, the Pixel 8 is quite obviously the best it currently gets.

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That said, this year’s £100 price increase does stick in the craw. For plenty of people, buying a discounted Pixel 7 – or even a Pixel 7a – may be the smarter choice. However, if you’ve got the money and you aren’t fussed about this inflationary price jump, or you don’t mind waiting for future sales, the Pixel 8 is a distinguished choice.

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