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It's Saturday, and I've got Pixel on my mind
I reviewed two of Google's new Pixel devices, and I've got some early thoughts on a third.
My week feels like it’s consisted of one long binge-writing session and some strange sensation of writer’s block purgatory. That’s how Google Pixel Week goes every year: I get the phones, I have a week to review them, I frantically test everything, I write two full-length reviews over the course of 48 hours (at varying times of day), and I hope to God I didn’t miss any important points. Then, afterward, my brain decides it’s had enough and shuts down for the remainder of the week.
This year, I repeated this process for the Pixel 8 and Pixel Watch 2, two devices I was very excited to review. After being handed both devices (plus a few other goodies) at Google’s event, I set up the phone and watch and got to work, diving into all their new features to see if Google would have two winners, losers, or something in the middle.
I’m happy to report that both of these devices are tried-and-true winners. The Pixel 8, by every account, may be the best $700 phone of the entire year. Meanwhile, the Pixel Watch 2 might look the same (and still doesn’t come in more than one size), but the upgraded internals improve the experience so much that it feels like an entirely new watch.
I have full reviews of both devices up on CNN Underscored, but for those who just want the highlights, I broke them down (admittedly briefly) below. I’d also like to give you a glimpse into what I’m paying attention to with the Pixel 8 Pro, which I’ll review exclusively for you, my loyal subscribers.
Brief reflections on the Pixel 8 and Pixel Watch 2
Okay, let’s start with the Pixel 8.
This whole phone comes off as much friendlier and inviting than the Pixel 7, which already had a certain “welcome home” vibe. The rounder corners, flat screen, and slim bezels help it feel premium and high-end, while the matte aluminum sides and camera bar remind you that Google didn’t intend for this to be the shiny one (that’s reserved for the oh-so-glossy Pixel 8 Pro).
The screen is damn near perfect. 6.2 inches is a great size for a phone, and combined with the 120Hz refresh rate and 2,000 nits of peak brightness, the Pixel 8 has one of my favorite screens of the years. It’s just as good as what Apple and Samsung are putting out, which isn’t a common thing to say in regards to Pixel phones.
Yes, the cameras are excellent, as you’d expect from a Pixel phone. And no, I’m not going to sit here and ask “what is a photo?”. I’m aware that the AI camera stuff calls into question whether you want to capture reality or a preferred reality, but that’s a very subjective opinion to have. Here’s what I’ll say: Magic Editor works surprisingly well in most situations (and falls apart in others), Audio Magic Eraser is a nice convenience for cleaning up your video’s sound, and Best Take will undoubtedly be the most popular AI feature on this entire phone.
The Tensor G3 feels speedy and fast, at least in my testing. I’m sure gamers and serious multitaskers might not appreciate the somewhat limiting clock speeds and unusual warmth from the chipset, but everyone else will be just fine. It’s paired with 8GB of RAM and keeps everything fast and responsive.
Battery life can last all day, although if you’re a particularly heavy user, you might run into a dead phone before you go to sleep.
Seven years of software updates is crazy. That’s longer than any smartphone that’s ever come out (including iPhones). We’ll obviously have to see if Google keeps this promise, so I guess I’ll check back in with you all in 2030.
If you want to read all my thoughts and opinions on the Pixel 8 (including some details on a weird camera focusing bug), check out my review.
Alright, time for the Pixel Watch 2.
This thing is so much faster than the original. Like, it’s night and day. Using the Pixel Watch 2 feels like using an Apple Watch, which is to say menus scroll quickly, apps open fast, and workouts can be tracked automatically. It’s a massive, massive improvement.
Speaking of workouts, fitness tracking has gotten a big upgrade, too. Heart rate readings are more accurate thanks to a new multi-path heart rate sensor and algorithm, calorie counts are more precise, and Active Zone Minutes are more accurately represented. You also get stress management tools, temperature tracking when you sleep, and a lot more in the redesigned Fitbit app.
The new safety features are nice to have in case of an emergency or you just want to ensure your close friends and family know you’re okay.
Would you believe me if I said the battery life actually lasts a full day? Because it does. Google conjured some serious voodoo to get this thing to last a full day on a charge, and I’m here for it. Plus, it charges quicker and the charging puck won’t pop off as easily as before.
Wear OS 4 is a fine operating system. I’m not the biggest fan of it, but if Google wants the Pixel Watch to be the Apple Watch of the Android world, they’re certainly on the right path.
I want a bigger one. The 41mm case size is a fine middle ground for most people, but I’m used to wearing larger watches with bigger screens, and every time I use the Pixel Watch 2, I’m annoyed at its petite size. Plus, the bezels are still freaking massive.
For all my thoughts on Google’s latest smartwatch, here’s my review.
Pixel 8 Pro is up next
Next to my keyboard on my desk is the Pixel 8 Pro, which I’ve inserted my data-only T-Mobile SIM into. I’ll be spending a week or two getting to know it better, after which I’ll share my thoughts here.
To give you a peak into what’s going through my mind heading into this review, here’s a breakdown of the areas I’ll be focusing on the most.
The display has 2,400 nits of peak brightness. That’s insane. I’m gonna use it every single sunny day I can to see how well you can see things in direct sunlight.
I’m a sucker for a good camera, and I want to see if there are any huge differences between it and the iPhone 15 Pro (y’know, beyond the 5x telephoto, which my normal 15 Pro doesn’t have). I’ll also be looking closely at video quality, which I wasn’t a huge fan of on the regular Pixel 8. People are saying it’s really good on the 8 Pro, but I haven’t recorded enough to tell just yet.
Battery life is said to be some of the best in town on the Pixel 8 Pro. But with such a huge (and bright) screen, I’m not so sure how long it can last on a full charge. Stay tuned.
I’m assuming performance will feel just as good (if not better) than it is on the Pixel 8 since they share the same Tensor G3 processor. Still, I’ll be looking at that long-term to see if the Pixel 8 Pro suffers from the same bugs and performance hiccups of previous Pixels.
I really want to see if I can latch onto all the AI craziness of these phones. Will I leave photos as-is, or will I bend each one I take to my every will? We shall see.
More reviews are coming
I have so many gadgets to get to before the end of the year, so you can bet that I’ll be churning out reviews left and right until the holidays. If you enjoy reading my stuff, be sure to share it with a friend and ask them to subscribe. Look, I even have a handy subscribe button below!
Okay, back to writing…