Six questions I have about Google's new Pixel hardware
Meet the Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel 8, and Pixel Watch 2
Google just announced its flagship Pixel smartphones for 2023, as well as the first successor to the Pixel Watch. Multicore was briefed on the new Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, and Pixel Watch 2 ahead of today’s launch event, and I should have hardware in hand imminently.
Until then, I thought it’d be useful to give a rundown of what I’ll be looking out for. For context, I use my personal Pixel 7 most days — when my SIM card isn’t in the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, basically — and I pair it with the first-gen Pixel Watch.
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How will the Pixel 8’s Tensor G3 perform?
The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro run on a Tensor G3 system-on-chip, Google’s third-generation in-house smartphone silicon. My experience of the G2 in the Pixel 7 was that it definitely ran hotter than you’d expect from phones in the same category with SoCs from Qualcomm or MediaTek, and while performance was fine in general use, you’d see issues in more intensive tasks like graphics-intensive games. (I’ve noticed this a lot when playing Monster Hunter Now over the past few weeks.)
At least as far as I’ve seen so far, Google isn’t really pushing the Tensor G3 as a performance powerhouse. The main claims around the chip are related to its AI capabilities; Google says it can run machine learning models that are ten times more complex than the original Tensor, and this improves how it handles things like processing photos, audio, and video.
It makes sense for the Pixel phones, which have best-in-class software and absolutely do pull off AI-related tasks that other phones don’t. The unanswerable question is how badly would those phones do if they were running Google’s software — and how will the Pixel 8 Pro perform compared to a hypothetical version with a high-end Qualcomm chip.
How will the Pixel Watch 2’s SW5100 perform?
Yep, another chip question.
I thought last year’s Pixel Watch was a great first attempt at a smartwatch from Google, and it helped reboot Wear OS into a credible platform. I really do like the hardware design, and while the software is slightly barebones in places and a little derivative of the Apple Watch’s in others, it was a big step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the internal hardware didn’t keep up. The first-gen Pixel Watch ran on a 10nm Samsung Exynos 9110 chip, which made its debut in the original Galaxy Watch from 2018. It’s a 10nm chip with two ARM Cortex-A53 cores. The result was frequently stuttery performance and a battery that you’d be lucky to see last all day with the always-on screen enabled.
The Pixel Watch 2 uses a much newer Qualcomm SW5100 processor. It’s still built around Cortex-A53 cores, but there are four of them and it’s manufactured on a 4nm process, which should bring performance and efficiency gains. There’s also a Cortex-M33 coprocessor to handle low-power tasks.
Google now claims 24-hour battery life with the always-on display enabled. If the Pixel Watch 2 can live up to that, it’ll be a big improvement.
Where are the camera improvements coming from?
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