Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 6: Major fixes and unresolved issues

How much of an upgrade is the Pixel 8 compared to the Pixel 6? Did Google make enough changes to justify a switch? This Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 6 guide will answer that question. 

The Pixel 6 excited everyone when it launched thanks to its striking design, camera AI tricks, and Material You customization. In hindsight, though, Google cut corners on certain intangibles like the fingerprint sensor and connectivity that left Pixel 6 owners frustrated and ready for a change, well before its five-year support ran out. 

Last November, the Pixel 8 arrived with the upgrades you'd expect to performance, cameras, and AI tricks, plus a shocking promise that it would receive support through the end of 2030. Still, with all the issues the Pixel 6 dealt with after launch, it's fair to wonder if the Pixel 8 will have similar issues after seven years (or fewer).

So, does the Pixel 8 bring enough to the table, or should you wait for the Pixel 9? The answer depends on how much you care about AI, but even so, it's a much more polished product in the ways that matter.

Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 6: Design and display

Google Pixel 8 review

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 6 use a glossy glass back and a matte aluminum frame on the sides, meaning they're both prone to fingerprints without a case. You also get the trademark "G" logo and three similar color options — black, green, and light red/pink — though they're slightly different in names and styles.

The Pixel 6 introduced the trademark rear camera bar with a uniform glass strip covering the phone's width and exposing the camera sensors and LED in a line. Starting with the Pixel 7, Google switched to an aluminum camera bar with cutouts for the sensors that merge seamlessly into the phone's aluminum sides. 

The Pixel 8 cutout is slightly wider than the Pixel 7's, which our reviewer called "striking." Compared to the Pixel 6, we much prefer the 8's design, both because aluminum is more durable for falls than glass and it gives the Pixel 8 a slightly more premium, metallic look.

The Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Both phones have an IP68 dust and water resistance rating, so you can trust either Pixel's durability to an extent without a case. While both phones have Gorilla Glass Victus protection for the display, the Pixel 6 used a slightly inferior Gorilla Glass 6 for the rear glass panel, while the Pixel 8 employs Victus there, too.

Built into each respective display is an optical fingerprint sensor. The Pixel 6's fingerprint sensor was notoriously unreliable for months after launch. Google did eventually patch in some fixes, but it's a continuing frustration for Pixel fans. Unfortunately, the Pixel 8 uses the same sensor technology, instead of the more reliable ultrasonic fingerprint system with the Galaxy S24.

One thing Google did change was to shrink the Pixel 8 display compared to the Pixel 6, making it more comfortable to use one-handed at the expense of extra display space. Both measure 8.9mm thick, but the Pixel 6's extra 4mm of width make a slight difference in how well you can grip it.

Google Pixel 8 review

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Both phones have the same FHD resolution, although the drop from 6.4 to 6.2 inches means that the Pixel 8 has a slightly higher pixels-per-inch ratio (428ppi vs. 411ppi). They both use flat displays, which we prefer to the curved displays of the Pro models for a firm grip. Of the two, the Pixel 8 has extremely narrow bezels, while the Pixel 6 has noticeable top and bottom bezels that you'd expect on a cheaper phone.

More importantly, the Pixel 8 hits a 120Hz refresh rate instead of 90Hz, a noticeable step up in smoothness over the Pixel 6 and 7. 

It even hits up to 2,000 nits at peak brightness, compared to the Pixel 6's 800 nits. It dips to a respectable 1,400 nits for standard HDR, while the Pixel 6 only hits up to 500 with no HDR support. It's thanks to Google's new "Actua" display, meant to preserve color and contrast while at high brightness settings. 

Only the Pixel 8 Pro has a "Super Actua" display, but the Pixel 8 does quite well for itself, with the same 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 16 million colors. Google doesn't list the Pixel 6's contrast ratio and color depth, so we can only assume it's lower. Generally speaking, it feels more like a mid-range or budget display, while the Pixel 8 matches the industry standard for high-end Android phones. 

Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 6: Hardware, performance, and battery

Magic Eraser on the Pixel 6

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

The Pixel 8, like the Pixel 6, uses the latest Tensor hardware with a Titan M2 security chip, 8GB of RAM, and up to 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage. The Pixel 8 does use LPDDR5X instead of LPDDR5, offering better performance and efficiency with the same memory; unfortunately, it doesn't have the faster read/write speeds of the Galaxy S24's UFS 4.0 storage, an upgrade we'd have liked to see. 

Of course, if you compare the Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 6, you must ask how the Tensor G3 chip compares to the Tensor G1. Looking strictly at cores, the Tensor G3 has nine to the G1's 8, with one fewer flagship core but two extra mid-range productivity cores, and all clocked higher. You can see the specifics in the table below.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryGoogle Pixel 8Google Pixel 6
OSAndroid 14 (up to Android 21)Android 14 (up to Android 15)
Display6.2-inch Actua AMOLED, 120Hz AMOLED (2400x1080), HDR10+, 2000 nits, Gorilla Glass Victus 6.4-inch OLED, 90Hz (2400x1080), 800 nits, Gorilla Glass Victus
ChipsetGoogle Tensor G3 (4nm), Titan M2 security moduleGoogle Tensor G1 (5nm), Titan M2 security module
Row 3 - Cell 0 1x Cortex-X3 (2.91GHz), 4x Cortex-A715 (2.37GHz), 4x Cortex-A510 (1.7GHz)1x Cortex-X1 (2.8GHz), 2x Cortex A76 (2.25GHz), 4x Cortex A55 (1.8GHz)
Storage128GB/256GB UFS 3.1128GB/256GB UFS 3.1
Rear camera 150MP f/1.68, 1.2μm, PDAF, OIS, 4K at 60fps50MP f/1.85, 1.2 μm, PDAF, OIS, 4K at 60fps
Rear camera 212MP f/2.2, 1.25μm, 125-degree wide-angle12MP f/2.2, 1.25μm, 114-degree wide-angle
Front camera10.5MP f/2.2, 1.22μm, 95-degree8MP f/2.0, 1.12 μm, 84-degree
Connectivity (US, CA, UK, AU)Wi-Fi 7 (or Wi-Fi 6 only in some territories), Sub-6 5G (mmWave in US), Bluetooth 5.3, NFC, USB-C 3.2Wi-Fi 6E (or 6 only in some territories), Sub-6 5G (mmWave in US), Bluetooth 5.2, NFC, AptX HD, USB-C 3.1
Ingress ProtectionIP68 dust and water resistanceIP68 dust and water resistance
SecurityIn-screen fingerprint moduleIn-screen fingerprint module
AudioStereo sound, 3 mics, spatial audioStereo sound, 3 mics
Charging30W wired (27W actual), 20W wireless charging, 5W reverse wireless charging30W wired (21W actual), 12-23W Wireless, 5W Reverse Wireless
Dimensions150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9mm, 187g158.6 x 74.8 x 8.9mm, 207g
MaterialsMatte aluminum frame, Victus glass backTactile alloy frame, Gorilla Glass 6 glass back
ColorsObsidian, Hazel, RoseStormy Black, Kinda Coral, Sorta Seafoam

The fact is, the Tensor G3's greatest strength is in AI performance. Strictly looking at a standard Geekbench benchmark test by our parent company's Future Labs, the Pixel 6 averaged 1,158/2,862 in single- and multi-core performance, while the Pixel 8 averaged 1,029/2,696 for Geekbench 5 or 1,538/3,530 for Geekbench 6. 

In plainer terms, the Pixel 8 is faster than the Pixel 6, but it doesn't have the performance gap you'd want to see after two years, and most of the best Android phones have much higher speeds backed by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, including the Galaxy S24. 

Of course, the current rumor is that Google will stick with a Samsung-made Tensor G9 chip for the Pixel 9, so you shouldn't expect a major performance boost next year, either. 

Google Pixel 8 review

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

In practice, our Pixel 8 reviewer found that it tends to "throttle early, leading to noticeable jitter" while playing demanding Android games. It does perform very well for "on-device machine learning models" and camera processing that relies on AI, thanks to the revamped neural processing unit (NPU). But he isn't certain whether the Tensor G3 will "stand the test of time" long enough for the Pixel 8 to last for seven years, as Google's software support promises. 

Our Pixel 6 reviewer was quite satisfied with the performance quality at the time, but it's fair to say that it has slowed down with age. It, too, offered a solid NPU with the Tensor G1, but only by 2021 standards. Now, it doesn't have as much AI leeway to compensate for its shortcomings as the Tensor G3 does.

Google Pixel 8 review

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Moving on to battery life, the Pixel 6 has slightly more capacity, a shorter refresh rate, and lower nits of brightness, which helps it last longer than most phones. The Pixel 8's display improvements in those areas are offset by its slightly smaller display, which demands less power, and its more efficient Tensor chip. In other words, it's mostly a wash.

Our Pixel 6 reviewer found she could get 5.5 hours of screen time consistently with 25% battery remaining; our Pixel 8 reviewer similarly noted that it would "consistently deliver a day's worth of use, averaging just under six hours of screen time." Since most people don't actually use their phones actively that much per day, they certainly have the longevity most people need. 

Once your battery is dead, the Pixel 8 will charge to 50% in 30 minutes and 100% in 75 minutes. The Pixel 6 hits the same 50% mark in 30 minutes and 80% in an hour, but will take slightly longer than the Pixel 8 to reach 100%. Still, we wish the Pixel 8 had made greater improvements in charging speed, since other recent phones like the OnePlus 12 offer 100W charging. 

Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 6: Cameras, AI, and software

Changing the sky with Pixel Magic Editor

Magic Editor on the Pixel 8 (Image credit: Nicholas Sutrich / Android Central)

Google makes the best smartphone cameras on the market, and its evolution began with the Pixel 6. That phone was the first to introduce Magic Eraser, Real Tone, Action Pan, and other tools that made it excellent for point-and-shoot photography, with post-processing enhancing the quality to excellent levels. 

That being said, Google didn't sit on its hands in the two years since then. The Pixel 8 brings new tricks to the table like Best Take, Magic Editor, Photo Unblur, and Macro Focus that the Pixel 6 can't access. It also can take 2X optical-zoom photos, which the Pixel 6 can't do, and hits 8X Super Zoom to the Pixel 6's 7X.

In practice, our Pixel 8 reviewer said that "photos taken in daylight have plenty of detail and accurate color rendition," while the night mode "evens out highlights and shadows while still retaining the same level of detail." He also praised the portrait mode as "among the best in the industry."

Looking specifically at the camera sensors, the Pixel 8 and 6 both offer 50MP main sensors, but the 8's aperture can capture more light for better detail. The 12MP UW cameras are largely the same, but the Pixel 8 does capture a slightly wider area in its photos. And you have a clear advantage for selfies with the newer phone thanks to the increased megapixels. 

Magic Eraser camera feature on a Google Pixel 6

(Image credit: Alex Dobie / Android Central)

On the software front, both the Pixel 8 and Pixel 6 share the same Android 14 software at the moment, and will leap to Android 15 this fall simultaneously. After that, however, the Pixel 6 will only receive security updates until late 2026, with no more OS updates. 

The Pixel 8 will receive software and security updates through 2030, as promised by Google. That means it should eventually receive Android 21 if Google holds to its word. Although most people won't actually use the Pixel 8 for that long, it should give the phone better resale value when you trade it in for your next smartphone. 

You can also assume that any future tricks involving Google's Gemini AI will work much better on the Pixel 8, thanks to its enhanced NPU power. That could include, for example, live translation or image generation. 

Lastly, we'll point out that the Pixel 6 had notorious issues with connectivity, both in terms of Wi-Fi and 5G cellular data. Thankfully, whatever antenna issues the Pixel 6 had were resolved by the time the Pixel 8 launched: It consistently delivers solid 5G connectivity and data speeds, both in our own tests and according to users in general. 

Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 6: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 8 review

(Image credit: Apoorva Bhardwaj / Android Central)

Without a doubt, the Pixel 8 gives you a better phone experience across the board. Its display is brighter, smoother, and more colorful. It gives you two more generations of Google's AI camera tricks and the promise of better Gemini support. It also takes better photos, looks more stylish, weighs 20g less, and isn't plagued by the Pixel 6's connectivity woes.

The only question is whether that's enough for you. So far, the Pixel 9 rumors suggest that we won't see a drastic performance boost, but could see a telephoto lens on a non-Pro Pixel for the first time; perhaps we'll see other long-overdue boosts to charging or storage speed, but we can't count on that.

There's also the unavoidable fact that most recent Pixels have had hardware quality control issues pop up after launch. The list includes volume rockers falling off, USB-C ports coming loose, and the aforementioned satellite problems in the Pixel 6. The Pixel 8 is better than the Pixel 6, but we can't predict what issues will arise. 

If you've grown sick of your Pixel 6, then you can buy the Pixel 8 knowing it makes enough significant upgrades to justify the purchase. But you may also want to look into other Android phone brands that have made greater strides in performance, if that matters to you more than the Pixel 8's fantastic cameras. And keep in mind that Google still has something to prove when it comes to its phones' longevity. 

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.