Google Pixel 8a review: The best midrange Android phone gets flagship AI features


The recipe for Google’s A-series Pixels is incredibly straightforward: Combine top-notch cameras with a vivid display and then cram all that in a tried and tested design for a reasonable price. But with the addition of a Tensor G3 chip, the Pixel 8a now supports the same powerful AI features as Google’s flagship phones. So when you consider that all this comes for just $499, you’re looking at not just the top midrange Android handset on the market but possibly one of the best values of any phone on sale today.

Aside from a new aloe color option – which in my opinion is the best of the bunch – the Pixel 8a is nearly identical to the standard Pixel 8. However, there are a few subtle differences that become more noticeable when the two are viewed side-by-side. The most obvious is slightly larger bezels, which also has an impact on the Pixel 8’s screen size. Instead of a 6.2-inch display like on its pricier sibling, the Pixel 8a tops out at 6.1 inches. That said, you still get a vibrant OLED panel that produces deep blacks and rich colors, plus a slightly faster 120Hz refresh rate compared to the 90Hz on last year’s Pixel 7a.

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With the addition of Google’s Tensor G3 chip, the Pixel 8a delivers handy AI features alongside a beautiful 120Hz OLED screen, excellent cameras and way above-average battery life for just $499.

Pros

  • Colorful 120Hz OLED display
  • Strong battery life
  • Excellent cameras
  • Great value
Cons

  • Slow wireless charging
  • Thick bezels

$499 at Google

The phone’s frame is still made out of aluminum, which feels great, while the metal camera bar in the back is actually a millimeter or two thinner, resulting in an ever so slightly sleeker device. Google also switched out the Pixel 8’s rear glass panel for plastic. But thanks to a new matte finish that’s supposed to mimic the texture of cashmere, it definitely doesn’t feel cheap. And while its IP67 rating for dust and water resistance is one step down from what’s on the mainline Pixel 8, that’s still enough to withstand dunks of up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. Not bad.

One of the biggest knocks against Google’s Tensor chips is that they don’t offer the same level of raw performance you get from rival Apple or Qualcomm silicon. And while that’s still true of the G3, when we’re talking about it powering a phone that costs $499, I’m much less bothered. In normal use, the Pixel 8a feels swift and snappy and even when gaming. Titles like Marvel Snap and TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge looked smooth. The only time I noticed significant hiccups or lag was when playing more demanding shooters like Call of Duty: Mobile.

While both sport very similar designs, the Pixel 8a (left) has a slightly smaller 6.1-inch screen with larger bezels than the standard Pixel 8 (right). While both sport very similar designs, the Pixel 8a (left) has a slightly smaller 6.1-inch screen with larger bezels than the standard Pixel 8 (right).

While both sport very similar designs, the Pixel 8a (left) has a slightly smaller 6.1-inch screen with larger bezels than the standard Pixel 8 (right). (Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget)

Of course, the other part of the performance equation is all the on-device AI features that the Tensor G3 unlocks such as Audio Magic Eraser, Best Take and the Magic Editor, which you can use as much as you want instead of the 10-picture cap that free users are subject to in Google Photos.

The Pixel 8a features the same 64MP main and 13MP ultra-wide sensors used in last year’s P7a. But that’s OK, because Google’s affordable phones punch way above their weight. So instead of comparing it with a similarly priced rival, I decided to really challenge the Pixel 8a by putting it up against the Samsung 24 Ultra. And even then, it still largely kept up.



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