The enhanced AI performance is the main feature upgrade of the Tensor G3 chip in the Pixel 8. Source: AFP

The enhanced AI performance is the main feature upgrade of the Tensor G3 chip in the Pixel 8. Source: AFP

Google is accelerating AI on the Pixel 8 with its Tensor G3 chip

  • The main feature upgrade of the Tensor G3 chip in the Pixel 8 is its enhanced AI performance.
  • Google had promised that this would be the most powerful Pixel chip to date.
  • Google also emphasized that Tensor’s focus isn’t on traditional performance metrics, but on enhancing the mobile computing experience.

This week, Google unveiled the Tensor G3 chip at the heart of its new Pixel 8 smartphone. A significant element contributing to the Google Pixel experience is the Tensor chipset, which has been a vital component of the smartphone series since the introduction of the Pixel 6. Although the chipset has never been touted as the fastest in terms of sheer processing power, Google claims it has always been capable enough to drive fluid UI operation and Google’s “super-cool AI- and machine learning-powered tricks.” So what has the Tensor G3 – touted as “the most powerful Pixel chip to date” – got to offer?

The Tensor G3 chip is at the heart of the Pixel 8's technological advances.

The Tensor G3 chip is at the heart of the Pixel 8’s technological advances.

A primary factor behind the gradual increase in processor performance is chip manufacturers’ ability to reduce the process node size, allowing for more transistors. With each flagship smartphone release from 2021’s Pixel 6 series, Google has debuted a new Tensor processor. 

“Our third-generation Google Tensor G3 chip continues to push the boundaries of on-device machine learning, bringing the latest in Google AI research directly to our newest phones: Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro,” the company announced. The main selling point of the latest mobile processor is that it has more AI and machine learning capabilities, letting users crunch more data on the device itself and in the cloud. 

“Compared to the first generation of Tensor on the Pixel 6, our latest phones run more than twice as many machine learning models on-device. The models themselves are also more sophisticated. That’s a massive jump in a short time, and it means that machine learning models now enhance just about every aspect of a Pixel’s user experience. And that’s just the beginning,” Google announced in a blog post.

Various media reports indicated that Google has upgraded to a 4nm process node for the Tensor G3, making it smaller and more efficient than the 5nm node on the Tensor G2. The upgrade, if proven true, would explain the performance gains Google is claiming.

Google's third-generation Google Tensor G3 chip brings the latest in AI to the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

Google’s third-generation Google Tensor G3 chip brings the latest in AI to the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

Tensor G3 and generative AI

Google sayss that on-device generative AI is complex: “150 times more complex than the most complex model on Pixel 7 just a year ago.” To overcome that, Google’s latest custom chip was made. “Tensor G3 is up for the task, with its efficient architecture co-designed with Google Research. With our partnership with Google DeepMind, we have a unique opportunity to bring some of those generative AI capabilities to Pixel,” the search engine behemoth noted.

Google also asserts that the Tensor G3 significantly enhances Pixel’s speech and natural language understanding. That would mean more effortless conversations with Google Assistant. “You can speak at your own pace — it even understands pauses and ‘ums.’ We combined Google’s state-of-the-art speech recognition with server-quality natural language understanding,” it added.

Features to help you save time and get things done. Source: Google

Features to help you save time and get things done. Source: Google

In short, the Pixel 8 is the first phone to use the same text-to-speech model that Google employs in its data centers. This allows users to use Pixel to read web pages aloud and even translate them into a different language. With improved AI, Google said its ‘Call Screen’ feature helps users receive 50% fewer spam calls on average.

“It will silently answer calls from unknown numbers with a more natural-sounding voice to engage the caller. It’s also smart enough to separate the calls you want from those you don’t. And soon, Call Screen will suggest contextual replies for you to tap to quickly respond to simple calls, like appointment confirmations, without having to answer the phone,” Google added.

The rise and rise of Pixel’s camera quality

More camera improvements. Source: Google

More camera improvements. Source: Google

For many years, Google’s smartphones have been renowned for their camera quality. Many believe that this feature is the primary reason they sell so well. The magic has always been in the algorithms. Google always addresses the physical limitations of its cameras with better image processing.

While most smartphones in the market feature a second or third lens, Google has instead focused on training machine learning/deep learning (ML/DL) algorithms. With the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, the camera pipeline was optimized, and Google built ML algorithms directly into the silicon, making Live-HDR capable of capturing greater detail with improved colors, contrast, and dynamic range.

“Recording a video is a perfect example of this, where every part of our system on a chip (SOC) is used, and every part benefits from the chip-wide revamp. Combining this with new camera sensors, machine learning models, and new camera software gives you the best video experience ever on a Pixel — all while using less power,” Google said.

Titan M2 security chip for the latest Pixels

Google initiated the development of its proprietary Tensor SoC with the Pixel 6 series. However, that wasn’t the search giant’s initial foray into custom smartphone silicon. The first instance was the Pixel 2’s Pixel Visual Core. The subsequent generation saw the introduction of the Titan M hardware security module in Pixel 3 devices. 

Then came 2021, when Google introduced the Titan M2. That security chip has since become a notable feature in Google phones, including the Pixel 7 series and Pixel 7a, often serving as a selling point. In the latest series of Pixel 8 smartphones, Google said Tensor G3 has the Tensor security core built-in, and it works with the Titan M2 security chip, making Pixel even more resilient to sophisticated attacks. 

Google opted for in-house development of the Titan M2 to have complete control over its functionalities. The Titan M2 serves as a specialized security chip integrated into both Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series smartphones. It’s also in other Google devices, such as the Pixel Tablet. This chip is built upon the RISC-V CPU architecture and includes its independent memory, RAM, and cryptographic accelerator components.

Google emphasized that the Tensor G3 continues the company’s tradition of prioritizing phone privacy and security. Thanks to new machine learning advancements, Face Unlock on Pixel 8 now meets the requirements of the strongest Android biometric class and can be used for banking app sign-in and payment apps like Google Wallet.