Google’s Tensor G3, the newest version of the company’s silicon set to power the upcoming Pixel 8 series, and from the looks of it, Tensor G3 will be an upgrade over G2 in some key ways. Detailed by Android Authority, the new chip’s spec sheet certainly promises better overall performance, a more-modern core layout, advanced storage support, a new GPU, and more; but performance alone isn’t what the new Tensor needs to truly shine.
Let’s talk about those specs
Before we get into what really needs to change with Tensor G3, let’s talk about what is likely coming. First, Tensor G3 should deviate from the 2+2+4 layouts found in Tensor and Tensor G2, and instead adopt a 1+4+4 core layout. This new arrangement will likely see a single big Cortex-X3 core clocked at 3.0GHz, flanked by four mid-cores utilizing the Cortex-A715 and clocked at 2.45GHz. This alone represents a pretty nice step up from the Cortex-A78 found in the Tensor G2. The ‘little’ cores include four Cortex-A510 cores clocked at 2.15GHz, and are also an upgrade from the Cortex-A55 cores used in previous Tensor generations.
This change in core layout should result in improved CPU performance and efficiency, despite the G3 being somewhat behind the latest SoCs from Qualcomm. It also brings support for ARMv9, which provides security upgrades like Memory Tagging Extensions (MTE) to help prevent memory-based attacks.
Additionally Tensor G3 will support the faster and more efficient UFS 4.0 storage, bringing it in line with devices like the Galaxy S23 Ultra and OnePlus 11. And the GPU is also set to receive a substantial boost, with Tensor G3 integrating Arm’s new Immortalis GPU: the Mali-G715. While not the most recent iteration, this 10-core GPU should provide a considerable upgrade over Tensor G2 and will also support ray tracing.
Along with these enhancements, Tensor G3 will also provide upgrades in video decoding/encoding with the “BigWave” block. It retains AV1 decoding from Tensor G2 but adds AV1 encoding for up to 4k30 support. Although it’s not yet confirmed if Google will ship this feature, the Pixel 8’s chip could support up to 8k30 encoding, too.
What really needs attention with Tensor G3
Not everything is changing, though. The Tensor G3 chip won’t bring any alterations to the modem, given the major upgrade that came with the Exynos 5300 modem in Tensor G2. And this is a bit of a concern as anecdotal evidence shows Pixel phones as inferior when it comes to general wireless connectivity, even with the second iteration of Google’s own silicon.
And then there are the issues with overheating. Again, it is noted across the internet that Pixel phones tend to overheat under less-than-grueling conditions, taking the already-less-than-flagship performance of the Tensor G2 down a notch to keep things cool. It’s a frustrating thing when your phone drops standard capabilities just to rein in the processor to avoid overheating.
And finally, there is battery life to talk about. With a processor that runs too hot and doesn’t always keep the most stable connections, it makes sense that we also see plenty of complaints surrounding the battery life of the Pixel series of phones with Tensor inside. Though my personal experience doesn’t showcase a problem in this area, there have been plenty of reports of sub-optimal battery life for both the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 series to make the case that Google needs to fix these issues.
At the end of the day, I’m pretty excited by the performance gains that should be had with Tensor G3. Though it won’t really rival what we expect from the new Snapdragon SoCs due out later this year, I don’t think that’s an issue. Mobile chips are getting so good so fast that even using a phone with a Snapdragon 888 inside is hardly noticeable: and that is a nearly 3-year old chip.
Tensor G2 was fast enough for most things, so G3 should be very good in the performance category. My hope is Google has tweaked things to make connectivity, battery life, and overheating less of an issue with Pixel 8. As phone cadences go, year 3 can be a big win for manufacturers (consider the iPhone 3Gs, Samsung Galaxy S3, etc.). Pixel 8 really is the third iteration of the Google-made, Tensor-powered phones. If performance increases a bit and these other issues are handled, this could be the year that Pixel phones truly take a bite out of Samsung’s market share.