A week in Mumbai with Google’s brand-new Pixel 8 Pro was more than enough. It took just a week for me to conclude that this is Google’s best-ever Pixel smartphone. It isn’t without its shortcomings. A few evenings with my quizzing group at various places in Delhi can also sum up just how good the AI-tuned camera is.
The Pixel 8 Pro is a jack-of-all-trades smartphone with a far superior camera (for stills) than many of the current crop of competitors. For 2023, Google has focused on improving every aspect of the smartphone, while maintaining its lead in the photography department. The downside is that the Pixel 8 Pro now comes at a hefty starting price, and when that is factored in, the smartphone doesn’t become an instant recommendation anymore.
At Rs 1,06,999 (for the 12GB+128GB variant), the Pixel 8 Pro has firmly entered the iPhone 15 and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra territory. That’s a lot to ask for a smartphone that heavily relies on its camera chops.
Yes, the Pixel 8 Pro is worth the extra money over the Pixel 8, but that’s for another day. Right now, let’s dive into what the Pixel 8 Pro is and what it has to offer.
Not much has changed on the outside
Yes, the Pixel 8 Pro looks eerily similar to the Pixel 7 Pro. Lots of consumers have been able to fit in their 7 Pro cases on the new phone (though not a perfect match). The main difference is in the display. While the 7 Pro had curved sides, Google has opted for a flat display this time around. Flat displays may not look as good but they do have a better in-hand feel and are easier to use. Another change, though unnoticeable, is the resolution. It’s got the slightest of downgrades. The Pixel 8 Pro has a 6.7-inch OLED display (with a 1,344x2,992 resolution).
The display comes with a 120Hz refresh rate (buttery smooth) and can scale down to 1Hz! This translates into a lot of energy savings, and theoretically, being able to offer a longer battery life. The peak brightness has been cranked up to 1,600 nits, which is more than comfortable for outdoor legibility. The display on the Pixel 8 Pro is my favourite thing about this smartphone apart from the camera. It’s crisp and comes with punchy colours, and the animations are smooth.
Let’s talk about that camera
The camera. That’s the only thing anyone and everyone wants to talk about when they spot a Pixel in the wild or have one in their hands.
There’s the 50MP main camera (f/1.68 aperture allowing in 21 per cent more light and has 2x optical zoom). The 48MP ultrawide camera (comes with f/1.95 aperture and a 105 per cent increase in light sensitivity). There’s an improved macro mode (you can now get as close as 2cm from your subject) that has an f/2.8 aperture and 5x optical zoom. Finally, to round out the cameras is the 10.5MP selfie camera on the front.
If you’re surprised when someone effortlessly takes an outstanding photo with the main camera on their Pixel device, you've been living under a rock. The Pixel 8 Pro is no different. I’ve been out with a group of friends multiple times and also spent a week in Mumbai clicking photos. And barring a couple of blurry photos or ones with closed eyes, people have been raving about the photos I took of them.
Just take out your Pixel 8 Pro, open the camera, point it to any subject, tap the shutter button, and voila. Your crisp photo is ready for the world to see. I’m happy to report that even the 5x telephoto camera is a success. It isn’t perfect, and it’s far behind what Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra has to offer, but the quality of the resulting photos is marvellous. Even at 30x digital zoom, the Pixel 8 Pro doesn’t slack. Yes, it won’t be perfect, far from it. But
The Pixel 8 Pro’s 5x telephoto camera is one of its strengths. No, it’s not a 10x optical zoom like you get on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, but the quality of the sensor is mighty good. It delivers excellent details at 5x range, with very similar colours to the main camera. And even if you punch into 30x digital zoom, the Pixel 8 Pro still churns out very usable images.
Selfies this time get an upgrade as there is the addition of autofocus, something which we all welcome. On the other hand, portrait mode, as incredible as it is, can sometimes be better. Maybe Google does need to work on that algorithm after all.
It’s mostly in the software, but I feel the hardware has helped give Google a competitive edge in the photography race.
All in all, I’m mighty impressed, year after year, with the cameras (and resulting photos) that Google churns out via its Pixel smartphones. I’m a fan of the Pixel 8 Pro and it is evident.
I’m not going to dive deep into Android 14 and all the goodness it has to offer because that’ll require many more words and deserves a story on its own. I’m going to talk about two Pixel-exclusive features for its camera. There’s the new Magic Editor and Best Take Tools, while the Magic Editor is still there.
I’ll briefly explain them. Google’s AI-powered Magic Editor is here to save the day. You can move and resize subjects at will. Just like Photoshop. It isn’t perfect and doesn’t live up to what was shown in Google’s presentation at the time of launch, but it helps a lot with edits, and it’s only going to get better. It also fills in background details fairly well.
Then there is Best Take. This lets you swap faces between the multiple camera shots you’ve taken of the same group. If someone’s eyes are closed, or their smile is out of place, then you can seamlessly swap their face for another one. It works like a charm. It’s a quick tool that lives up to its hype.
Where does the Pixel 8 trip up?
Battery life and slow charging. Those are the two areas I wish Google had focused on. What’s a smartphone in 2023 if it can’t last a full day on a single charge? Sadly, during my week-long trip to Mumbai, I was reaching home with barely any charge left. The Pixel 8 Pro comes with a 5,050mAh battery.
There’s also the gimmicky thermometer sensor. It’s a total hit or miss. There’s a sensor, found on the camera back, just below the flash. Yes, that’s the temperature sensor. It can read random objects’ temperatures There’s a button, at the bottom, wherein you can select from one of the 11 (including default) categories for a more accurate reading. As much as it is fun to play around with, just don’t rely on it for accurate readings. It’ll get better with time (and software updates) but for now, don’t use it to check whether you have a temperature.
Should you buy the Pixel 8 Pro?
Absolutely. If you’ve decided you don’t want an iPhone and are sticking to an Android smartphone, then the Pixel 8 Pro is in the top 5 smartphones currently available on the market. Just don’t make the mistake of buying it from India. If you are buying it in India, then do wait for the inevitable discount.
The Pixel 8 Pro is about Rs 20,000 cheaper, if not more, in other regions. The Pixel 8 Pro leads in the photography department (still photography, and especially nighttime photos) and has some excellent hardware to back it up. The Pixel 8 Pro is for someone who wants a dependable smartphone with an outstanding camera but doesn’t game a lot.
The Pixel 8 Pro has got a great in-hand feel, a good design, and a brighter display. If you’re coming from the Pixel 7 Pro, then there is no reason to upgrade. For everyone else, do keep this at the top of your shopping list.