A launch date has been set for Google’s upcoming Pixel. On October 6, the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro will be unveiled, and they will include the Tensor G2 chip. Although the original generation of Tensors had a lot of opportunity for development, this time around, the focus should be on energy efficiency and heat generation.
As Google’s first mobile processor, the original Tensor chipset initially put on a rather impressive performance. Although Google’s design was mostly inspired by Samsung’s Exynos platform, the company’s decision to prioritize AI strength above raw performance didn’t seem to have a negative impact on the finished product.
But it has become increasingly obvious that Google’s chip struggles to stay up with the competition over time.
In my own experience, Tensor hasn’t really given me much cause for complaint, at least not until I updated to the Galaxy Z Fold 4 , which really brought the issues with Tensor to light. When compared to the Snapdragon 888 in the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 in the Pixel 6 Pro, I could hardly discern the difference in day-to-day use. There are a few hitches here and there, but overall, I was really pleased.
But the two things I’ve truly noticed are heat and battery life.
Since we reviewed the Pixel 6 Pro, I’ve found that battery life has been significantly reduced. The Pixel 6 Pro feels like it frequently requires a charge by dinnertime, especially if I spend a lot of time using a cellular network as opposed to only Wi-Fi, where I could survive a full day back at launch. The modem is a major contributor to battery depletion because it has been shown to lag behind competitors and need more power to maintain its signal.
Heat is another negative side effect of Tensors deficiency. The summer heat really exposed how much the Pixel 6 Pro struggles to keep cool, even if the autumn, winter, and spring in my hometown of North Carolina weren’t too bad. It was always harder for me to stay cool when outside than it was to keep the phone cool. When playing disc golf, I would frequently place the phone in my bag next to a bottle of water to prevent it from getting too hot. And far too often I observed the Pixel getting hot to the touch, to the extent that I could feel the heat through my pockets as I went around on a hot day.
Compared to every other phone I’ve used this summer, that heat definitely stood out. Even my Fold 3 from last year managed to never become nearly as hot as the Pixel did over the past several months, as did the OnePlus 10T and Samsung’s most recent foldables.
Tensor appears to be the main offender in this case because, typically, the CPU is the component of a phone that produces the most heat. The secret to keeping a phone cool is dissipation, but other chips have increased their overall efficiency to reduce the initial generation of that heat.
Of course, Google can only do so much to address these issues. The Samsung foundry, which created the initial Tensor chip and will continue to create the Tensor G2, bears a large portion of responsibility.
We can check in a few areas for evidence of it. Exynos chips, for example, have already been connected to heat problems. Numerous overheating issues with the Galaxy S20 Ultras Exynos edition and other devices from the time even prompted fans to lobby Samsung to cease using the CPUs.
Qualcomm also demonstrated the significant differences between chips made by Samsung and those created by the second major manufacturer, TSMC. Under Samsung’s direction, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 was created, and overall, it was a rather reliable chip. But only a few months later, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 appeared, and although though it was essentially the same chip in terms of appearance, it was a vast upgrade all around. The main benefit came from longer battery life, which Qualcomm claimed could increase total endurance by almost 30%. Based on our experience with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, which has a nearly identical battery and display to the Fold 3, all indications point to Qualcomm’s chip as the main improvement for the foldables endurance. However, the switch to TSMC’s much more efficient build was ultimately what made the difference.
In truth, Google will likely take years to achieve anything close to what Qualcomm has done. Even MediaTek, which still manufactures on the same TSMC line as Qualcomm, cannot fully compete with a top-tier Snapdragon. Additionally, Tensor G3 is said to already be under development with Samsung still serving as the foundation.
But even so, it’s obvious to us that Google has a lot of ground to make up in this area. In terms of general performance, the Pixel 6 series pretty nearly matched up with Snapdragon-powered flagships, but ongoing issues with heat and battery life really bring the experience down a notch. The initial step in Google’s attempt to narrow the gap is Tensor G2.