As many of you know, I’ve been back and forth with Pixel phones since the Pixel 6 Pro. For general users, I think Pixels are 100% the Android phone they should buy and for myself, 80% of me is always happy to return to the comfy, colorful, animated world of Pixel. I love these phones – I truly do – but I’m also a tech nerd deep down that envies the latest, greatest SoC from Qualcomm and what that means for the stuff I like to do on my phone 15-20% of the time.
And that 15-20% activity is gaming. I’m not a huge gamer, but I do enjoy a few rounds of Call of Duty: Mobile, PUBG, Fortnite, and Farlight 84 when I have the chance to play them. While not the main thing I do with my phone, gaming is definitely part of what I want to be able to do with it, and Pixel phones have been a bit behind in this regard since the introduction of the Tensor SoC.
Tensor 2 was better and Tensor 3 even more so, but the performance gap can be felt when I go from my Galaxy S23 Ultra to the Pixel 8 Pro, and it just bugs me. I don’t need something wild like an ASUS ROG Phone to be happy, but I don’t want to have to adjust down the graphic settings in the games I play to avoid jumps and jankiness. I just want my games to look good and run smoothly.
And the main culprit with the Pixel 8 Pro for me was Fortnite. While it’s not a game I play that often on my own, both my kids play and I like to try and knock the rust off from time to time with them when I can. I prefer to play on my phone with touch and gyro controls and, frankly, on the Pixel 8 Pro, it was not a good experience. The graphics looks bad, the frame rates were all over the place, and it made the game nearly unplayable. PUBG ran decently and CODM was pretty good, but those little issues were enough to send me back to the S23 Ultra in late October.
An update to the GPU drivers for Tensor
Thankfully (spotted by @techdroider on X and reported by 9to5 Google), there’s a big GPU update already live in the QPR2 Beta 1.1. When showing off Fortnite runnning on the Pixel 8 Pro in the latest stable version of Android (not the new December update beginning to roll out now) versus the Android 14 QPR2 Beta 1.1 running on the Pixel 8, the differences are startling. There are more settings to choose from and the game itself looks night-and-day better.
On top of this, Mishaal Rahman found that the December 2023 update for Pixel devices contains an update to the GPU drivers for Tensor that should make things far different moving forward. This new driver – rp441 – was just released in October of 2023 and replaces the older driver that’s been in use since August of 2022.
The good news is this upgrade should have a positive impact on all Tensor-powered Pixel phones, so even the Pixel 6 and Pixel 7 should benefit from this GPU driver update. We’ve known the hardware in Tensor SoCs was decent from a GPU perspective, and this driver update might finally let them push closer to their full potential.
And assuming this all plays out, I can definitely see myself heading back to the Pixel 8 Pro. With all the new stuff arriving in the December Pixel Feature Drop, I was already planning a return to test things out. Now that this news has arrived, I’m ready to roll. Just waiting on my update to show up.