Google Pixel 8 gets a free update gamers will love

The big December update for Pixel devices brings lots of new features and significantly improved gaming performance too

Google Pixel 8 Pro lifestyle
(Image credit: Google)

The Google Pixel 8 and Google Pixel 8 Pro have been out for a few weeks now, and the reviews haven't all been positive: gamers have found that the Tensor chips inside them don't deliver the raw power they'd like to have in mobile gaming, and as a result the flagships can struggle somewhat with more demanding games. A new free update from Google may change that.

The update is the December 2023 update for Google Pixel devices, and that update includes an improved driver for the ARM Mali GPU kernel. That driver replaces the existing one, dated August 2022, with a new one from October. And from what we're seeing from users, it delivers some much-needed improvements to gaming performance. It's not going to make a Tensor outperform a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 or 3, which has an Adreno GPU, but the improvements do appear to be significant.

What to expect from the Google Pixel December drop

According to 9to5google, gamers have noticed significant improvements in two particularly demanding games: Fortnite and Genshin Impact: instead of delivering similar performance to the Pixel 7 phones, the updated 8s were noticeably faster and smoother. 91mobiles has followed other gamers and notes that frame rates in Genshin Impact were up from around 20-25fps to more than 45fps, with Fortnite running at 60fps on the highest settings. 

The update for the GPU will be relevant to all Tensor-based Pixel phones, not just the 8 and 8 Pro, but of course you shouldn't expect similar performance levels from older devices. 

The December update isn't just about gaming performance. It also delivers new AI features to the Pixel 8 Pro including the Gemini Nano AI assistant, Night Sight video and Video Boost, and it has improvements for Pixel Fold, Pixel Tablet and Pixel Watch users too. You can find out more about the Pixel 8 Pro AI updates on the official Google blog here.

The Google December update is unusually large, with lots of new features as well as the usual optimisations and bug fixes. The update is free and is rolling out to Pixel users now.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (