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Everything unveiled at the Made by Google event this week: Pixel 8 Pro, Watch 2, Assistant, more

Recap: The Pixel 8 series and Pixel Watch 2 usher in Google's new wave of consumer hardware. And there are plenty of AI features to power them both.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Made by Google Pixel 8 Event Stage
June Wan/ZDNET

It's been a week for Google; not only did the company launch its latest flagship Pixel phones and watches, but it also unveiled the next phase of its AI expansion agenda, with a smarter, more capable Google Assistant.

Also: How to preorder the Google Pixel 8, Pixel Watch 2, and Pixel Buds Pro

With the AI gold rush that is the tech industry this past year, Google clearly wants its name to be at the top of your mind when holiday shopping season comes around -- and you're in search of devices that can help you do it all.

ZDNET reported from the presentation floor on Wednesday, and if you're just catching up on what went down in New York City, we've got hands-on demos of the latest Pixel hardware, expert commentary and analysis, and this roundup below of everything that the search giant announced.

1. Pixel 8 and 8 Pro

Google Pixel 8 Pro in Bay Blue
June Wan/ZDNET

At a glance, the design of the Pixel 8 series looks very similar to last year's models. Both the non-Pro and the Pro models sport rounder form factors, with curved edges and corners on both devices. The camera bar is just as polarizing as the last, with the Pixel 8 Pro fielding a triple-lens setup and the standard Pixel 8 having just the two: A wide-angle sensor and an ultra-wide.

Also: Google Pixel 8 vs. Google Pixel 8 Pro: Which one is right for you?

The bezels of the new Pixel devices are thinner than ever, too, providing more screen real estate for users to interact with. That will be especially appreciated on the non-Pro Pixel because it features a notable refresh rate upgrade this year, going from 90Hz to 120Hz. The display sizes remain unchanged at 6.2 inches and 6.7 inches for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, respectively.

To no one's surprise, AI is at the center of its Pixel 8 devices. The newest photo and video features coming to the Pixel 8 series include Video Boost, which leverages its Night Sight technology to better record videos in low-light environments; Audio Magic Eraser, which removes unwanted background noise from a video; and even a Best Take tool, exclusive to the Pro model, that lets you swap out "not ideal" faces in a group photo with ones that are.

Also: Google Pixel 8 Pro hands-on: Five features that have me excited

All of this, and some other Google Assistant enhancements to voice dictation and phone calls, is made possible by a new Tensor G3 chipset. Google claims that the Tensor G3 features a machine learning model that's 10x more complex compared to the Pixel 6 from two years ago.

Both devices feature 50-megapixel wide cameras with 2x optical zoom and 10.5MP selfie cameras, but the Pro ups the ante with dual 48MP ultrawide and telephoto lenses on the rear for better far-distance capturing. If close-up shots are more of your thing, you'll be glad to know that macro photos and videos are improved on both Pixel 8 camera systems.

Also: Google Assistant is finally getting the AI upgrades it deserves. Here's what's new

In terms of endurance, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro will be equipped with 4,575mAh and 5,050mAh batteries, respectively. There are no significant charging speed gains this time around as the maximum wattage is still capped at 30W. That's still better than the latest iPhones though.

What has significantly changed is Google's commitment to software updates. Starting with the Pixel 8 series, the company will offer seven years of software, security, and feature updates, the most any major company has promised. 

For pricing, the Pixel 8 starts at $699 and the Pixel 8 Pro starts at $999, with both models at a base storage of 128GB. There's a 1TB option on the Pro model should you need more internal storage. You can preorder the latest Pixels today, with wide availability on Oct. 12.  

2. Pixel Watch 2

pixel-watch-2-hands-on-3
Matthew Miller/ZDNET

Last year's Google Pixel Watch was the company's first attempt at creating a mainstream smartwatch from scratch, hardware included. Naturally, it had its first-gen woes, such as middling battery life, buggy software, and a lack of polish compared to Apple and Samsung's best.

Also: Google Pixel Watch 2 hands-on: The biggest changes are hidden in plain sight

With this year's Pixel Watch 2, Google is sticking to the roots with design, opting for a similar pebble-inspired look and feel, with a circular watch face and push-out watch bands to accommodate.

The big changes with the Pixel Watch this year are centered around fitness and health. 

  • An improved multi-path heart rate sensor allows for faster and more accurate tracking. This carries over to other aspects like sleep tracking, high and low heart rate notifications, and a much-desired feature, Active Zone Minutes/Heart Zone Training during workouts.
  • A stress management system that's powered by Fitbit and is partly based on sweat detection, heart rate variability, and skin temperature
  • Greater variety of activity tracking, including cycling and running, with automatic workout detection
  • "Safety Check" is a new feature that lets users set a timer for when they're moving from one place to another. If the user doesn't respond to the watch prompt by the end of the timer, an SOS message will be sent to their list of emergency contacts.

The Pixel Watch 2 also gets a bump-up in battery life, with the company touting 24-hour endurance even with an always-on display active. That's nearly double the estimation of last year's model.

Also: Google Pixel Watch 2 vs. Pixel Watch: Is it time to upgrade?

You can preorder the Pixel Watch 2 today at a starting price of $349, with an LTE model going on sale for $399. Customers who preorder the wearable will receive a free six-month subscription to Fitbit Premium and a one-month trial of YouTube Music Premium.  

3. Pixel Buds Pro

Google Pixel Buds Pro All colors
June Wan/ZDNET

The Pixel Buds Pro are not new, but Google is launching two fresh colorways, Bay and Porcelain, to go alongside the earbuds' latest software update. 

Also: Your Pixel Buds Pro are getting a major software upgrade, and it's totally free

The update features improved call quality, a low-latency mode for gaming, a dedicated app for Chromebooks, and more. The same features will roll out to both new and existing Pixel Buds Pro, so keep an eye out if you already own a pair.

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