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Google Pixel 8 Pro review: Five months later, still the AI phone to beat in 2024

The latest Pixel phones continue to leave me delighted, dazed, and scratching my head in the best way possible.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor

Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro

4 / 5
Very good

pros and cons

  • Brilliantly bright and buttery smooth displays
  • Laundry list of fun, often useful AI features
  • Still the most forgiving cameras on the market
  • Seven years of OS upgrades
  • $100 price bump for both models
  • Feature exclusivity on the Pro is disappointing

This review was originally published on October 11, 2023, and was updated on February 22, 2024.

ZDNET's buying advice

With the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, Google's approach to making a smartphone remains, pushing the envelope little by little through algorithms and machine learning -- and this time, it's leveraging AI in all the places: Search, Photos, the Phone and Camera apps, et cetera. That means more than ever, you'll be asking yourself, "Do I need AI to help me?" from when you're capturing photos to communicating with those around you.

Google's given its latest flagship phones enough upgrades to justify the $100 upcharge. In fact, even at its new starting price of $699, I'd argue that the standard Pixel 8 is the best phone you can buy in the sub-premium market, especially with the improved 120Hz display. As for the $999 Pixel 8 Pro, it ultimately stands out from the competition with the most forgiving camera system on the market -- if you don't like a photo you captured, fix it in post. The Pixel 8 Pro also supports all the Gemini Nano-powered AI features mentioned in this review, which, for many, should offer some useful assistance to everyday tasks.


Google Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8 Pro




Display6.2 inches6.7 inches
Resolution2,400 x 1,080 pixels, 20:9 ratio, 424 PPI
3,120 x 1,440 pixels, 20:9 ratio, 513 PPI


Rear: 50MP main + 12MP ultrawide, Front: 10.5MP 

Rear: 50MP main + 64MP ultrawide + 48MP telephoto, Front: 10.5MP




RAM/Storage8GB/12GB with 128GB/256GB12GB/16GB with 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB
Water and dust resistanceIP68  

How I tested the Google Pixel 8 Pro

I've spent five months with the Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, with my primary SIM (T-Mobile) in the Pro model and an eSIM (Mint Mobile) in the non-Pro model. While I took a short break in the middle of January to test the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, I also spent that time doing camera comparisons and AI tests between it and the Pixel phones. 

My daily usage included listening to podcasts in the morning and night, using Android Auto/GPS navigation during my commutes, frequently communicating via text message, emails, and Slack, taking the occasional food/scenic photo because #newyorkcity, and spending a good two hours on Reddit and YouTube. I also captured plenty of photos and videos with the Pixel 8 Pro during Chinese New Year, with fireworks and lion dances that put the phone's audio recording to the ultimate test.

What are the Pixel 8 Pro's best features?

A curvier design makes all the difference: Google made some subtle design shifts with this year's Pixel phones, and you really have to hold the two alongside the Pixel 7 series to grasp the differences. Both models now feature more rounded corners that are less likely to dig into your palms when held firmly, and it certainly helps that the back glass curves into the edges for a pebble-like hand feel.

Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro

The Pixel 8 in Rose (left) and the Pixel 8 Pro in Bay (right).

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

I'm particularly fond of Google's material choices for the Pixel 8 Pro, opting for a satin/matte finish versus last year's glossy. This change drastically reduces fingerprint smudges, especially on the Obsidian (black) colorway. In fact, my matte black envy was real when I saw a fellow journalist unbox their review unit soon after we picked them up on the first day.

Also: Google's newest color for the Pixel 8 series surprised me in the best way

Fortunately, the Bay (blue) color has grown on me; you'd be doing the vibrant hue a disservice if you put anything but a clear case over it. It's also rare to find a Pro/Ultra/Max handset with such playful finishes nowadays (read: Apple's iPhone 15 Pro colors are boring).

Bright and ultra-smooth Actua displays: The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro feature Actua and Super Actua displays, respectively, with the main advantage being screen brightness. This is one of the most significant upgrades with the latest Pixels, given how much more reliant I've become on smartphones when outdoors. From ensuring the proper framing of subjects in photos to scanning Google Maps while I scurry between meetings, a brighter, more visible display goes a long way.

Google Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8 in hand

I'm still blown away by how effortless it is to design home screens with Android's Material You.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

The Pixel 8 Pro (2,400 nits) gets brighter than the Pixel 8 (2,000 nits), but I've had no problems using the latter in direct sunlight, which I couldn't say about the previous generations of Pixels, not even the $1,800 one. Pixel 8 also gets a bump-up in refresh rate, moving it further away from the cheaper Pixel 7a's 90Hz and in line with the Pro model's 120Hz. That's especially worth noting because Google is charging $100 more for this newest Pixels, so you'll want all the upgrades you can get.

Subtle camera improvements that matter: The Google Pixel has always been a camera-first handset, and the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro can certainly go head to head with competing flagships. On the hardware front, Google improved the light sensitivity of every sensor, giving the 50MP main camera an f/1.7 aperture, the 48MP ultra-wide an f/1.9 aperture, and the 48MP telephoto lens -- exclusive to the Pro model -- an f/2.8 aperture. Basically, expect more detail and true-to-life colors, especially in low-light environments. 

Also: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Google Pixel 8 Pro: Which phone should you buy?

For example, I captured this photo on a moving (and shockingly empty) New York City express bus as it drove through a dimly lit tunnel. What impresses me is how the Pixel 8 Pro was able to capture the finer details, like the texture of the seats from the front row to the back and the text on the window stickers. Keep in mind that the bus was shaking in all directions as I was taking the picture, so the camera stabilization and HDR capabilities are on full display here.

An image of the rows of seats on an MTA express bus.

Captured with the Google Pixel 8 Pro with its 50MP main lens

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

Here's another shot that I took but with the 48MP ultrawide lens. The new Pixel phones support Macro mode, meaning you can capture subjects as close as just two centimeters away. In the image below of a potted planet, I like the detail and center focus and how the ultrawide lens creates a warping effect on the edges. It really gives an otherwise dull image some added flare.

A macro photo of a potted planet, captured on the Google Pixel 8 Pro

Captured with the Google Pixel 8 Pro with its 48MP ultrawide lens in Macro mode.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

And for something even more fun, check out this image from a bird outing at my local park. Isn't it adorable? The image to the right is not a zoomed-in photo, by the way, but instead is the aftermath of repositioning and resizing subjects with the new AI-powered Magic Editor, turning the little birdy into a creature who's clearly had enough of...everything.

Magic Editor showing a bird go from normal sized to extra large.

Before Magic Editor (left) and after Magic Editor (right)

Kerry Wan/ZDNET

My suggestion to Google is to automatically give subjects a touch of sharpness when enlarged. That way, the bird in the modified photo, for example, will appear more realistic with the surroundings.

Google Tensor G3: Features like Magic Editor are made possible by the Google Tensor G3 chip, which powers standard tasks like app browsing, multitasking, and watching videos, and AI-enabled services like Google Assistant and Google Photos. At a performance level, I've yet to experience any major hiccups on both Pixel 8 devices, even when I tried to push the Pro model to its limits by editing 360-degree footage while playing a YouTube video in the background. 

Also: Your Pixel phone may automatically adapt its display for rain and other conditions soon

In fact, that was the only time when the Pixel got warm to the touch. I haven't experienced any overheating when charging the phones or using the cameras for a prolonged period of time, which may be a relief for more recent phone buyers. The phones have also lasted me comfortably throughout my days, and I consider myself a heavy user.

Google Assistant and AI

There's a lot to talk about with the new Google Assistant; what it's capable of doing today and in the near future. Starting with the Pixel 8 series, Google positioned its Android devices much like how Microsoft had done with Windows PCs, putting its AI-powered virtual assistant front and center. 

Also: The best Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro cases of 2024

Naturally, you'll come across several AI features on the Pixel as you go about your day. To keep things tidy, I've listed below the best new AI features, along with my grading, based on ease of use and practicality.

  • Summarize (6/10): Google Assistant can now summarize webpages and articles in seconds. This feature was especially handy when FEMA ran its nationwide emergency alert test last week, and I wanted a snapshot summary of what it was, why it was important, and how I could stop the blaring notifications. The problem that I have with Summarize is consistency (or lack thereof). At times, the bullet-point summaries were too vague and would miss out on the actual key points of an article, which defeats the purpose of it all.
  • Read Aloud (10/10): Read Aloud is another Google Assistant feature that scans the on-screen text and dictates it with a natural-sounding voice. When I tested the feature on a ZDNET article, I was very impressed with how human-like the Assistant sounded, and more so by how it knew to pronounce the publication as "ZEE-DEE-NET" and not "ZDUH-NET" or "ZEE-DEE-NEE-EE-TEE".
Google Pixel 8 Assistant Summarize

Google Assistant can now summarize articles and documents, discerning key text from ad copy and logos.

Kerry Wan/ZDNET
  • Call Screening (8/10): The new and improved Call Screening on Pixel features a more context-aware chatbot that listens for the caller's reason and presents you with quick responses. For example, when I pretended to be a delivery driver in a mock call, the Pixel gave me response options such as "Give me a moment", "You can leave it with the neighbor", and "Tell me more". Like Read Aloud, the Assistant responds on your behalf in a natural tone, even if it uses what seems to be a preset voice response for each prompt instead of generating new lines every time.

Also: Tired of waiting on hold? One of the Pixel's best features is coming to Google Search users

  • Audio Magic Eraser (9/10): The same noise-cancellation technology plays a role in the new Audio Magic Eraser feature, which distinguishes voices, music, and other noises in a video clip and lets you lower or raise the volume levels of each. I tested the Google Photos tool with a video of someone playing piano on the street, and the way the Pixel discerned the performer from the bustling sounds of NYC was quite remarkable.
  • Best Take (7/10): Lastly, Best Take lets you select alternative facial expressions in group photos, so long as you have several similar-looking shots backed up to your Google Photos app. While the feature worked as described for me, I came across two problems: 1) Users who aren't subscribed to Google Cloud may run into storage problems when backing up multiple photos to use the feature, and 2) Best Take only appears when it detects enough alternative photos to parse through, meaning unless you're the type to snap multiple shots at a time, you won't always get the option to remix things in post.

Final thought  

After five months with both Pixel models, my buying advice remains the same: Buy the Pro model if you're after Google's best, most fool-proof camera system and the latest AI features, including Video Boost and Summarize in Recorder. If the general software experience of a Pixel phone is at the top of your priority list, the Pixel 8, at $699, will serve you just as well and for $300 less. Both models are frequently discounted by $100 to $200, so keep an eye out for those deals too.  

Alternatives to consider 

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