Google Pixel 8a hands-on: Flagship AI and a 120Hz OLED screen for $499


A new Pixel A-series phone typically gets announced at Google I/O. Unfortunately, that means the affordable handset sometimes gets buried amongst all the other news during the company’s annual developer conference. So for 2024, Google moved things up a touch to give the new Pixel 8a extra attention. And after checking it out in person, I can see why. It combines pretty much everything I like about the regular Pixel 8 but with a lower price of $499.

Right away, you’ll see a very familiar design. Compared to the standard Pixel 8, which has a 6.2-inch screen, the 8a features a slightly smaller 6.1-inch OLED display with noticeably larger bezels. But aside from that, the Pixel 8 and 8a are almost the exact same size. Google says the material covering the display should be pretty durable as it’s made out of Gorilla Glass, though it hasn’t specified an exact type (e.g. Gorilla Glass 6, Victus or something else).

Some other changes include a higher 120Hz refresh rate (up from 90Hz on the previous model), a more streamlined camera bar and a new matte finish on its plastic back that Google claims mimics the texture of cashmere. Now, I don’t think I’d go that far, but it did feel surprisingly luxurious. The 8a still offers decent water resistance thanks to an IP67 rating, though that is slightly worse than the IP68 certification on a regular Pixel 8. Its battery is a bit smaller too at 4,492 mAh (instead of 4,575 mAh). That said, Google says thanks to some power efficiency improvements, the new model should run longer than the previous model.

As for brand new features, the most important addition is that alongside the base model with 128GB of storage, Google is offering a version with 256GB. That’s a first for any A-series Pixel. And, following in the footsteps of last year’s flagships, the Pixel 8a is also getting 7 years of software and security updates, which is a big jump from the three years of Android patches and five years of security on last year’s 7a. Finally, the Pixel 8a is getting a partially refreshed selection of colors including bay, porcelain, obsidian and a brand new aloe hue, which is similar to the mint variant of the Pixel 8 earlier this year but even brighter and more saturated. I must say, even though I’ve only played around with it for a bit, it’s definitely the best-looking of the bunch.

The Pixel 8a will be available in four colors: Bay, Obsidian, Porcelain and Aloe. The Pixel 8a will be available in four colors: Bay, Obsidian, Porcelain and Aloe.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the Pixel 8a’s photography hardware. It uses the same 64-megapixel and 13MP sensors for its main and ultra-wide cameras. However, as the Pixel 7a offered the best image quality of any phone in its price range, it’s hard to get too mad about that. And because this thing is powered by a Tensor G3 chip, it supports pretty much all the AI features Google introduced on the regular Pixel 8 last fall, including Best Take, Audio Magic Eraser, Circle to Search, Live Translate and more. Furthermore, while Google is giving everyone access to its Magic Editor inside Google Photos later this month, free users are limited to 10 saves per month, whereas there’s no cap for people with Pixel 8s and now the 8a.

However, there are a few features available on the flagship Pixels that you don’t get on the 8a. The biggest omission is a lack of pro camera controls, so you can’t manually adjust photo settings like shutter speed, ISO, white balance and more. Google also hasn’t upgraded the 8a’s Qi wireless charging speed, which means you’re limited to just 7.5 watts instead of up to 18 watts. Finally, while the phone does offer a digital zoom, there’s no dedicated telephoto lens like on the Pixel 8 Pro.



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