Google Pixel 8 Review: A Small And Mighty Smartphone
Last month, Google announced two new smartphones: its all-new flagship device, the Google Pixel 8 Pro, and a smaller sibling, the Pixel 8. While the Pixel 8 Pro comes with a lot of AI-driven features that distinguish it from the competition, I'm still riding that Barbie summer high and could never miss the opportunity to test anything pink. Thus, I opted to give in to my Barbie dreams and try the Google Pixel 8, finished in rose.
The Google Pixel 8 joins the Pixel lineup, but it it worth your purchase. We went hands-on with the ... [+] device to find out.Illustration: Forbes / Photo: Retailer
I spent two weeks traveling around Turkey using the Google Pixel 8, which I quickly found to be comfortably smaller and more ergonomic than the Pixel 8 Pro. For those who want a smartphone for casual web browsing and some photos, this is the device to consider. However, you'll want to make sure that you opt for more storage—and that can handle the camera's quirks. Read on for my thoughts on the Pixel 8's design, camera and more.
Display size: 6.2-inchDisplay type: 1,080 x 2,400 pixel OLED Actua display, up to 120Hz refresh rateRAM: 8GBStorage: 128GB or 256GBBattery: 4,575 mAhDimensions: 5.9 x 2.8 x 0.4 inchesWeight: 6.6 ouncesFront camera: 10.5 megapixelsRear cameras: 50 megapixels (wide), 12 megapixels (ultra-wide), up to 8x zoomProcessor: Google Tensor G3, Titan M2 security chipOS: AndroidBest for:
I'm of the mindset that a phone shouldn't feel like you're holding a brick in your hand. The Google Pixel 8 ticks this box with a smaller, 6.1-inch display and a curved, ergonomic glass casing. It feels lightweight at just over 6 ounces and is comfortable to hold in your hand. When I wandered the streets of Istanbul and had precious little real estate in my all-time favorite (but diminutive) crossbody bag, the small size of the Pixel 8 became my favorite device. I've carried around other candybar devices and many Samsung phones; some devices can leave my wrists and hands feeling sore by the end of the day, but I didn't experience that with the Pixel 8. By far, this device felt the lightest–and pretty powerful in terms of computing power, but more on that later.
The device's rear includes multiple camera lenses and a flashlight. Note that gorgeous rose color.Rebecca Isaacs for Forbes
Compared to last year's Pixel 7, the Pixel 8 looks very similar, with the same curved camera panel on the back. It's so similar to the Pixel 7 that unless you're looking closely, you won't notice the difference, especially since size-wise, the Pixel 8 loses .1 inches–not a big difference at all. I personally think that's a smart choice. After all, as the saying goes: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Google took that to heart and focused on different upgrades, which was also a smart choice.Google Pixel 8 Display Smooth And Vibrant
Because I spent about 22 hours in the air on this trip, I decided to boot up some of my favorite shows to see how the display performed while trapped in my airline seat. The Pixel 8 ups the refresh rate as high as 120Hz (from the 7's 90Hz). The result is that the display looks great.
The Google Pixel 8's security allows you to unlock your phone with your fingerprint, a pin or face ... [+] recognition.Rebecca Isaacs for Forbes
From watching my favorite shows (including Archer reruns) to playing Stardew Valley and Roller Coaster Tycoon, the Pixel felt smooth and fast–no lagging or stuttering here. Despite the 6.1-inch OLED Actua display being smaller compared to other devices, the images came off crisp and clear, and it still felt large enough to enjoy watching TV while on a plane.Pixel 8 Performance Powerful But Toasty
I have to give credit to Google where credit is due. I threw everything I could at the Pixel 8—navigating through crowded city streets, valley hikes and more. I captured video footage and ran multiple apps including Spotify, Google Maps, Uber and others simultaneously. It handled these moments with ease, and I now have an appreciation for the speedy new Google Tensor G3 chip and 8GB RAM. This phone, despite not even technically being a "flagship" device (an honor reserved for the Pixel 8 Pro), came ready to party hard, so to speak.
My only issue with its performance is that when it's running multiple apps, it gets toasty to the point I was using it as a hand warmer during a 40-degree, early morning rise. It's not a fire hazard, but it gets warm enough to be noticeable. I haven't seen any evidence in my testing that this temperature change affects performance.Google Pixel 8 Camera The Good, The Bad And The Downright Annoying
The largest changes to the Pixel 8 can be found in the camera's new AI features, but the camera itself warrants a deep dive as well. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the 50MP and 12MP ultrawide lenses performed beautifully across various conditions. Over the course of two weeks, I snapped landscapes, Turkish cats, portraits of my partner and more across various lighting types. In museums, I zoomed in on sarcophagi details. Right in the middle of the museum, I compared it with my partner's Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra to see how it performed against a flagship device.
The Pixel 8 Pro features suggestions including easy-to-use filters, cropping and AI enhancements ... [+] including Magic Eraser and Best Take.Rebecca Isaacs for Forbes
Almost all of my photos came out just as well as photos taken on the S23 Ultra–a surprising discovery, but a welcome one. It proves that I don't have to spend four figures on a mobile device to get a great image. Granted, unlike the Pixel 8 Pro, you're not going to get that telephoto lens, but I didn't miss that very much.
The Google Pixel 8's camera captures low light really well, including when using wide angles in this ... [+] unedited image.Rebecca Isaacs for Forbes
In general, the camera quality is sufficient for most needs. I wanted to kick myself when I forgot my Sony A6000 camera for my visit to Topkapi Palace; ultimately, I didn't need that camera because the Pixel 8's shots came out beautifully. Throughout the rest of my trip, I found myself ditching my professional-grade camera in lieu of this small and portable device.
My main issue came from the automatic features built into the Pixel 8. The macro lens is downright annoying. Yes, I love the fact that I can take close images. They're crisp and clear, though the colors are more muted compared to the competition. That said, the macro lens always tries to register before you can take images, and that second wait time annoyed me. Turning it off only helped so much, as after a while it would randomly turn back on. You've been warned.
Up close, Magic Eraser struggles if you look at the left side. It's when you remove objects in the ... [+] distance that the software truly shines.Rebecca Isaacs for Forbes
I also had mixed-bag results with the Magic Eraser. People I wanted to erase up close gave me a blurry, colorful area in the photo that was painfully obvious was altered. This issue is something that I've seen as far back as my Pixel 6 Pro, so this isn't new. Those unwanted photobombers further away from the lens were camouflaged much smoother and successfully removed. In fact, in one shot taken at Topkapi Palace, I was left impressed with the quality of the Magic Eraser.
This is all to say: If you're seeking to get rid of the random person beside you, I still recommend using Photoshop. But for those where you are removing those a little further away, the Pixel 8 software will really shine. Personally, I don't mind having other tourists in my shots–it's part of the package deal when you travel. But it's nice to see that Google can get rid of some of them if I don't want them in my shots.Google Pixel 8 Pro Battery Life Pack Your Power Bank
If there's one major feature that I wish Google could have improved, it's the battery life. I spent my time in Turkey snapping photos, surfing on an LTE network and navigating with Google Maps. And the battery took a beating. When I unplugged around 9AM, the battery sometimes only lasted until about 3:30PM. That may not seem like a lot, but my cell phone was constantly battling international service; since coming back stateside, it's held out to 6PM or later.
You'll get all-day battery life if you're setting your phone down during the workday, but if you're constantly on the go, you may want to bring a power bank with you.Google Pixel 8 Verdict A Solid Choice For Casual Users
After testing the Pixel 8 for two weeks, it felt like a breath of fresh air to use this small, light and powerful device. I wish the battery lasted longer, but the camera, despite its quirks, makes up for the runtime. Those that tend to do light surfing and casual photography will want to invest in this device. It's also great for those that want a solid camera without the bulk of a giant flagship phone.
I recommend opting for the 256GB storage capacity, as it comes in 128 and 256GB. Even for the casual users that this device is geared toward, the 128GB will fill up quickly thanks to apps, photos and video. And, as a friendly reminder, for those who hate upgrading their devices, Google has promised seven years of software and security updates for the Pixel 8, so you can get this device and not think about getting a new phone for years.My Expertise
I've been a consumer tech & electronics writer and editor for over four years, and I've covered everything from Apple iPhone launches to full reviews of mobile devices including the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5. As the consumer and electronics editor at Forbes, I've covered major phone launches including Apple and Google for the past two years, including at other publications. My reporting on phones includes reviews in Decider, as well as major announcements at Digital Trends and most recently ZDNET.How I Tested The Google Pixel 8
I used the Google Pixel 8 as my main device for the past four weeks, taking it on a trip to Istanbul and Cappadocia to capture photos, message friends, make domestic and international calls, check weather, navigate the city and much more. I ran multiple apps across the device while capturing video for friends and family to capture my travels. I even pulled up Stardew Valley and Roller Coaster Tycoon for hours to see how the Pixel 8 handled various mobile games.
For the camera, I tested it across urban settings and natural landscapes, portrait shots, many different cat subjects and more. I used it in bright sunlit areas and night shots to see how each turned out. The camera saw action both indoors and outside to see how still life and action shots turned out under various circumstances, and the same went for video to share with friends and family. Additionally, I cross-tested it with Samsung's camera system to find out how the camera held up against the competition.Other Articles You Might Like
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The Vanishing Of The Small High-end Smartphone
The Zenfone 10 is also an excellent phone, with a great looking, high refresh screen; a roughly textured plastic finish; a powerful and brand new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor; and all the details you expect in 2023 (fingerprint reader, waterproofing, wireless charging) as well as an honest-to-goodness 3.5mm headphone jack.
Compared with Google's Pixel 8, it's more powerful and a touch more expensive at $1300. It can't quite measure up in terms of cameras and software, but by no means does a bad job. Yet to claim that its smallness is a major distinguishing feature might be a bit of an exaggeration – it's around 4mm shorter and 2mm narrower.Why don't companies make truly smaller phones?
It's common to see people online claiming to want a smaller, high-end phone. In 2020, Apple gave it to them in the form of the iPhone 12 Mini, with its titchy 5.4-inch screen. It followed that up with an iPhone 13 Mini. But a year later it ditched the idea – and last month is stopped selling the 13 Mini entirely.
This would likely indicate that there just weren't enough people who wanted a brand new diminutive phone – at least not an Apple one – and that the company couldn't justify making them.
Essentially, all other companies are beholden to the industry trends. You can't simply call up Samsung Display and ask for a small order of OLED panels in a size nobody else is making. Besides, stuffing increasingly more powerful processors, bigger cameras and higher capacity batteries into high-end devices isn't conducive to small frames.
A group of designers calling themselves the Small Android Phone team – several of them having worked on the Pebble smartwatch, which was eventually bought by Fitbit – began talking publicly this year about making a little device. But discussing the process with followers on Discord, they've identified the display as a tricky piece of the puzzle.
Manufacturers don't make displays under 6 inches available for purchase, with special cases (such as the iPhone Mini) being made under exclusive contracts. The best lead they have so far is to try to use displays designed for the front part of a foldable phone, but they're yet to strike an agreement.What are my non-2023 options?
If you want a high-end small phone, your only course of action is to buy something from several years ago. This means accepting you may not get as many years of operating system upgrades (or battery life) as you would with something brand new, and won't get the very latest processors or features.
For Apple, the iPhone 13 Mini is the obvious choice. The A15 processor is still very snappy, the screen and cameras are great, and it's legitimately small; even shorter than the iPhone 6 Apple was selling in 2014.
Things are more difficult in Android land. I love the small and inexpensive Pixel 5, but at more than three years old now, it can be hard to find. With its recent update to Android 14, it's also at the end of its guaranteed update window. All more recent Pixels are at least half a centimetre taller, but it could be worth it for a more future-proof device.
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The Best Portable Chargers For Your Smartphone (All Under $100)
If your iPhone or Android smartphone is constantly running out of battery, all hope isn't lost. You don't need to buy a new phone yet, or even necessarily spring for a battery replacement. Instead, a portable power bank — also referred to as a "portable charger" or a "portable battery" — can be a simple, easy way to give your device extra juice while you're on the move.
Now, there are a zillion different portable power banks out there, so choosing the best option but if you want to charge your smartphone, we suggest buying one that is small enough to fit in your pocket and comes from a reputable brand, so those are the ones we've concentrated on here. (You can check out more of our tips at the bottom of this piece.)How We Tested A MagSafe compatible power bank with stick to the back of an iPhone (12 or later) and wirelessly charge it.
We've been writing about and reviewing smartphone accessories products for near-on a decade. We've had hands-on testing with the bulk of the below portable power banks, although there are a few exceptions for exceptions made by brands we trust and aim to get hands-on with in the near future.
To learn more about our testing methodology and how we evaluate products, head here.
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The Best MagSafe Chargers for Your iPhone
The Best Wall Chargers to Fast Charge Your iPhoneThe Best Non-MagSafe Portable Power Banks Mophie Powerstation mini
AppleMophie Powerstation Mini
Mophie's Powerstation mini is an excellent portable battery for your smartphone thanks to its small size, relatively affordable price and fast charging ability. Its standout feature is its super versatile USB-C PD in/out port that supports up to 20 watts of power; it can fast charge your iPhone and you can use the same port to recharge itself quickly, too. And since it is roughly half the size of an iPhone, you'll have no problem fitting it into your pocket. The only downside is that its 5,000-mAh capacity is only enough to recharge your iPhone once.Mophie Powerstation Plus
AppleMophie Powerstation Plus 10K
The Powerstation Plus is a high capacity portable battery that comes with two integrated charging cables — one Lightning, one USB-C — which is super-convenient. These dual cables tuck into side slots when not in use so you never have to leave them awkwardly hanging out. And since there are two cables, you can actually charge two devices at the same time. Like the Powerstation Mini (above), the "Plus" has a versatile USB-C PD in/out port for fast charging your devices at up to 20 watts and then recharging itself, too.Anker Nano 30W Power Bank
AmazonAnker Nano 30W Power Bank
The Anker Nano 30W Power Bank is one of the most compact and uniquely designed portable batteries you can buy. It has a foldable USB-C connector that has the same function as an integrated cable — it flips out and sticks into your smartphone's charging port— but without the "tangle." It's a good option for iPhone 15 or Android owners who want a compact portable battery that doesn't add much bulk. It's also available in several different colors so you might be able to match your phone or its case.Anker Nano Power Bank
AmazonAnker Nano Power Bank
The Anker Nano Power Bank is one of the most compact and uniquely designed portable batteries you can buy. It has foldable USB-C connector that has the same function as an integrated cable — it flips out and sticks into your smartphone's charging port— but without the "tangle." It's a good option for iPhone 15 or Android owners who want a compact portable battery that doesn't add much bulk. It's also available in several different colors so you might be able to match your phone or its case.The Best MagSafe-Compatible Portable Power Banks Mophie Snap+ Juice Pack Mini
AmazonMophie Snap+ Juice Pack Mini
Mophie's Snap+ Juice Pack Mini has a thin design that magnetically sticks flush to the back of your iPhone. It has a textured and grippy exterior that gives it a premium feel. And it comes with a Snap Adapter that, when attached to the back of an older iPhone or an Android smartphone, allows it to support magnetic wireless charging and thus the Snap+ Juice Pack Mini will be able to charge it (provided the smartphone already supports wireless charging). The only downside is that its wireless charging speed maxes out at 7.5-watts, which isn't as fast as true MagSafe chargers (which can charge an iPhone at up to 15-watts).Moft Snap Battery Pack
MoftMoft Snap Battery Pack
Moft's Snap Battery Pack is an affordable and compact portable battery that works with MagSafe. It has a nice leather exterior and it's available in several different color finishes, including purple. The other neat thing is that it has a magnetic back that allows it to work with Moft's other accessories, like its Stand & Wallet. As for the negatives, the only downside is that it's "MagSafe compatible," meaning it'll wirelessly charge your iPhone at 7.5 watts and not the 15 watts that true MagSafe products can deliver.Mophie Powerstation 10K Stand with MagSafe
AppleMophie Powerstation 10K Stand with MagSafe
Yes, Mophie's Powerstation 10K is a bit pricey, but it's also one of the best MagSafe portable batteries you can buy. It fully supports MagSafe, meaning it can wirelessly charge any new iPhone at its max charging speed (up to 15 watts). It has a high capacity and can charge most iPhones twice over. It has a versatile USB-C in/out port that allows you to charge a second device (so long as you have a separate charging cable). And it has a built-in kickstand — as well as a tripod socket for the more creative types — which makes it easier to monitor your iPhone while it charges.What to Look For A portable power bank with an integrated cable eliminates the need to bring your own cable. It's an underrated feature.
Tucker BoweMagSafe or No?
If you have an iPhone that supports MagSafe — this is all iPhones 12 or later — it's a good idea to get a portable power bank that is compatible with MagSafe. It's just easier. The MagSafe portable power bank sticks to the back of your iPhone and can wireless charge it. There's no cables needed and it eliminates the "finding the sweet spot" problem that comes with most Qi wireless chargers. The other thing is that if it's a true MagSafe-certified portable power bank, as opposed to one that's just "MagSafe compatible," it'll wirelessly charge your iPhone faster (up to 15-watts instead of the 7.5-watts that most Qi wireless chargers deliver).Buy one that uses the same charging port as your smartphone
We recommend buying a portable power bank that uses the same charging method you already use. If you have an Android smartphone or iPhone 15, get a portable power bank that charges via USB-C. If you have an older iPhone, get one that charges via Lightning. You can buy a portable power bank that can charge wirelessly, too. Using the same cables to charge your smartphone and power bank will make your life easier. I promise.Buy a powerbank that can fast-charge
Most of today's portable power banks are integrated with fast-charging technology. Power Delivery (PD) and Qualcomm's Quick Charge are the two most popular. The two technologies are a little bit different. Power Delivery only works with a USB-C to USB-C connection and allows the power bank to control more watts better and deliver more power. They can fast-charge larger devices (if those devices support it). Qualcomm's Quick Charge allows your smartphone to charge faster than you would with a traditional power bank (it outputs at 5A rather than 3A).Buy from a reputable brand
Finally, you should buy a power bank made by a brand you trust. If you go on Amazon or another online marketplace, you'll see many cheap options made by companies you've never heard of. Stay away. Buy one from a notable brand — such as Anker, Mophie or Belkin — and it'll last longer and be more reliable.
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