Hands on: Google Pixel 8 Pro review – fresh looks and an industry first may set it apart


Over the years there’s been conjecture that Google isn’t that committed to the smartphone space, and that maybe it just builds handsets to encourage innovation in Android partners. But since the launch of the Pixel 6, and even more so now with the new Pixel 8 Pro, it’s clear that Google is serious, and eager to compete.

The new Pixel 8 Pro, like the new Pixel 8, hews closely to its predecessor’s design aesthetic. But, as others phone makers have done this year, Google has smoothed things out a bit, evolving the design so that it’s both recognizable yet clearly different in look and feel.

Pixel phones remain an acquired taste when it comes to looks. The bold metal camera housing band is nothing if not distinct from all other smartphone brands; it cries out: “This is a Pixel! Get used to it.” Still, the newly curved corners soften the appearance and, as on Apple and Samsung devices, make even the largest handset a pleasure to hold.

However, it’s not the look of this new phone that will help the Pixel 8 Pro make its mark, it’s what’s inside: a combination of a brand-new Tensor G3 processor, AI magic, and a trio of new, more powerful cameras could set the Pixel 8 Pro apart from this year’s iPhones and Galaxys.

Added to these design and component changes is something new, if not unique among consumer phones: an onboard temperature sensor, which shares space with the trio of lenses on the camera array’s metal band.

I didn’t get a lot of time with the new phone, but it was enough to see where Google is going here, and understand the essence of its modern Pixel approach.

I didn’t like the Pixel 6 design – the two-toned back and glass camera band looked awkward. The Pixel 7 Pro remedied those issues, adopting a single color for the rear and a metal camera band, and now the Pixel 8 Pro has achieved a new level of refinement. There are more pleasing colors this year, including my favorite, Bay, which is sort of sky blue – the other options are Obsidian (black) and Porcelain (off-white). Considering the phone’s dust and water-defeating IP68 rating, ‘Bay’ may be an appropriate color name.

Covering the screen and back is Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. The polished aluminum frame is all curved around the edges, making the phone feel pleasant in the palm. Even though the sides curve, the screen is completely flat, a choice I applaud.

Button placement looks unchanged and, as usual, there’s the USB-C charge port on the bottom. While the camera supports eSIM technology, the 5G phone still has a SIM slot for traditional nano SIM cards.

The metal band houses the three cameras, a flash, and the new temperature sensor.

I’ve never seen a phone with a thermometer before, but here we are. It looks like another camera, but rather than taking pictures, you point it at something and get the surface temperature. Using it was easy enough – I pointed the sensor at something, opened the new Temp app, hit a button, and the app displayed the temperature. I could quickly take another reading by hitting the refresh button.

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