Just a great camera with a bit of phone attached? 4 Weeks with the Google Pixel 8

Sven Krumrey

When battery life starts to wane and security updates stop coming, a phone enters its twilight years—time for something new! My requirements were clear: I didn't want a phone that felt like a brick in my pocket, I wanted an exceptionally good camera, and I wanted a clean operating system without bloatware! This ruled out 90% of phones, which now aim for the size of a chocolate bar or, like many Chinese phones, bug you with ads or unwanted software. So, I checked out the Google Pixel 8, which has dropped to a more reasonable price a few months after its launch. Will it shine where it matters to me?

Highs and lows of the Google Pixel 8

Where’s the charger?

The Google Pixel 8 comes in a compact cardboard box with few contents. Inside is a charging cable, a barely readable booklet, a SIM tray opener, and of course, the phone itself—nothing more! If you're used to getting a transparent case to start with, looking for extensive documentation, or at least expecting a power supply, you'll be disappointed! This is a double letdown since the Pixel 8 can be charged to 50% in half an hour with 30 watts, and not every charger (or USB port on a PC) supports this power output. The phone itself initially feels very foreign. Compared to my old Poco X3, it seems wonderfully light, small, and slim. Anyone looking to impress others with a massive phone should definitely look elsewhere. For me, the first carry test in my pants pocket and inside pocket of my jacket put it over the top: Finally a phone that fits again!

Almost sheer poetry

The first startup already has me feeling positive! I march out onto the balcony and, lo and behold–even in the bright sunshine, the 6.2-inch display is stunning. With a resolution of 2400 x 1080 pixels and brilliant colors, there’s nothing left to be desired. Rich in contrast and flawless from practically any angle, videos, photos, and apps look perfect. Of course, not everyone will want to watch Netflix or YouTube on a relatively small screen for long, but the display quality is flawless. It offers a wonderful 120 Hz refresh rate for buttery smooth scrolling. And even in standby, the always-on display can show the date, time, and weather–a nice bonus! A less glorious part of the screen is the integrated fingerprint sensor, which can be frustrating! Often, it recognizes prints only on the second or third try, sometimes not at all. Some $200 phones do this better! Naturally, the phone can also be unlocked conveniently with its (excellent) face recognition, but not everyone will like this feature, and it doesn’t work in very low light. If I had to name one thing that raises my blood pressure about the Pixel 8, this would be it!

Small, round, and compact - the Google Pixel 8 fits comfortably in the hand Small, round, and compact - the Google Pixel 8 fits comfortably in the hand

An operating system as solid as a Swiss bank

Android 14 is not just the latest in its line, but is also considered particularly well-wrought. Anyone who has previously used a Xiaomi with MIUI, for example, will be surprised at how logical, organized, yet comprehensive a mobile operating system can suddenly feel. While you can set practically every detail (and get lost in endless configuration options) with most Chinese phones, stock Android focuses on the essentials. It really guides users, but doesn't limit their options as much as, say, Apple does. I’ve spent hours tinkering with Android, changing its look and behavior as much as possible, and I'm impressed. In four weeks, I haven't encountered an Android issue that I can recall. There may never be a perfect operating system, but this one is very solid. A standout feature with the phone is the software update guarantee that lasts until 2030! For seven years, it will not only receive security patches but also the latest Android with all its features! Even Apple doesn't offer this; it's a reason to buy for many and can definitely be seen as a statement against the throwaway mentality.

An enigmatic processor

Google is doing things differently from countless other manufacturers by producing its own CPUs with Samsung's help, in this case, the Tensor G3–and I wonder why! Even though Android and its apps run smoothly and without stutter, this nine-core chip doesn't fully convince me. It often lags behind the widely used Snapdragons in benchmarks and isn't particularly energy-efficient. Google knows this, which is why Android is perfectly optimized for the Tensor chip. So, 99% of the time, the phone is fast, gliding effortlessly through apps and offering a premium feel. But when full CPU power is needed, such as for certain games or demanding image editing, the processor hits its limits. Google claims this processor is particularly suited for numerous AI applications. That may be true, but why does it often take so long for these AI tasks to finish? Don’t get me wrong, most people will be fully satisfied with the Tensor G3, but for the self-proclaimed premium feel, it’s simply not enough.

True depth of field and natural colors right from the first attempt True depth of field and natural colors right from the first attempt

At the end of the day (or the battery)

The battery life of the 4575 mAh battery is quite controversial, which seems okay on paper given the size and weight of the phone. Some heavy users report struggling to get to dinner time or losing 30% of battery per hour when using two SIM cards on the go. Others report enthusiastically about 2 days of usage and a call it big improvement over the somewhat lackluster Pixel 7. To get a proper picture, you must use the device for at least two weeks, as Android learns your individual usage patterns and tries maximize its power efficiency. The regular updates also affect battery life. For me, the Pixel 8 performs better than expected, needing a power bank only in extreme vacation mode with poor network and extensive photo, video, and navigation tasks. During everyday use, I typically have 20% of battery power left by the evening, which I can easily live with. This may be to little for power users, but good enough for the rest.

Cameras so good it's almost uncanny

The cameras have always been the highlight of the Pixel series, and the main reason I considered this device. On the back, there are two cameras: a 50-megapixel main camera and a 12-MP ultra-wide-angle camera, with the former being a dream come true. Unlike many phones from Samsung and Chinese manufacturers, colors are represented realistically, not artificially enhanced for Instagram or similar platforms–a rare feat nowadays. Even in tricky lighting or with macro shots, you can practically trust the auto mode blindly—just press the shutter, and the result is usually top-notch. In a test in my deliberately super dark living room, it even gets a bit spooky, since only a little light from the hallway comes in, and I can barely see anything. The phone switches to night mode, takes 5 seconds of exposure time, and a surprisingly bright, decent photo appears on the display. The ultra-wide-angle camera isn't quite at the same level, but still very impressive. However, the actual image is only half the story with the Pixel. You take a photo, it's already good, and then the magic of Google's algorithms kicks in! Two or three seconds later, the final image looks fantastic, something I hadn't seen with my other phones, and it continues to amaze me. The downside: If you insist on taking 30 photos in rapid succession, the phone may become unresponsive as too many photos are being processed simultaneously.

A quick macro shot at my desk A quick macro shot at my desk

The selfie camera and face unlock feature work reliably, and for the first time on Android, the Pixel 8 is classified as a strong biometric device usable for payments and other actions. Naturally, the camera takes classic Pixel-quality photos instantly ready for social media posts. The Pixel 8 doesn't have an optical zoom, but it can zoom digitally to 2x clearly and 4x decently. Can this phone replace a DSLR completely? Not quite (due to the lack of manual settings), but the photos do meet higher standards! And when you think about how poorly many handle their DSLR marvels, they'd be better off with a Pixel. The same goes for videos, which can be recorded in 4K at 60 frames per second. The stabilization works well, and the camera adapts quickly to changing lighting and focuses reliably. My verdict: I'll leave the camera bag at home on my next vacation!

Useful features and fun add-ons

Of course, Google rolls out updates to its own devices first and various features are more or less exclusive. Whether you want to generate a background with AI, minimize background noise in calls and videos, swap faces for the perfect group photo, or make the wicked mother-in-law disappear from a photo altogether, Google has a solution for you. It's not at Photoshop level, but usable by everyone. You can circle anything on-screen with your finger and search for it, translate languages live, summarize or read out websites–the possibilities are colorful and varied. However, these features aren't forced upon users but can be used at will. Google don't fill the menu with their own apps, unlike other brands. If you just want a working phone for calling, browsing, and (exceptionally good) photography, the Pixel 8 will make you happy–and fun lovers like me too!

Playing with AI effects: This sky was previously gray and dull Playing with AI effects: This sky was previously gray and dull


I'll keep the Pixel 8, even though it's not perfect and some of Google's decisions (especially the processor and fingerprint sensor) seem odd. The Pixel 8 is much more than just a good camera: The overall concept is convincing, and I wouldn't want to be without it. If you're looking for a feature powerhouse with massive specs or 4-day battery life, this won't make you happy, but it does make for as a versatile everyday companion. It's refreshing not to be bugged by deeply nested bloatware and the display and camera are flawless. Android 14 truly satisfies both enthusiasts and casual users. Many things go, but nothing is forced–that's how an OS should be. I'd only recommend buying it if it drops below $600, though. The processor and battery are just upper mid-range. The rest, along with the "eternal" update promise and solid build quality, fits the bill well!

PS: Of course, I bought this phone myself, no money or favors exchanged hands, and Google isn't giving my boss a new Benz either. I just found this unique phone really interesting!

Picture 2: Google

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