Google Pixel 8a review: AI goodness in a compact form factor

Review Summary

Expert Rating
7.5/10

Design
★  
8.0
/10
Display
★  
7.5
/10
Software
★  
9.0
/10
Camera
★  
8.5
/10
Performance
★  
7.5
/10
Battery
★  
7.5
/10

Pros

  • Compact build
  • Reliable cameras and AI tools
  • All-day battery
  • Stock Android experience

Cons

  • Very slow charging
  • Heating issues
  • Pricing

The new Google Pixel 8a maintains a similar design to last year’s Pixel 7a (review), but internally, it has been beefed up in terms of power and performance. In fact, it shares many similarities with the more expensive Pixel 8 (review) and may even outshine the elder sibling when you consider the on-paper camera megapixels.

Does this make the Rs 52,999-worth Pixel 8a better than the flagship Pixel 8? Or should you consider options such as iQOO 12 for the same Rs 52,999? Let’s find out.

Verdict

The Pixel 8a ticks almost all the boxes you’d expect from a smartphone in this range. It offers a snappy performance with a new chipset onboard. Cameras are reliable as always. The battery backup is also respectable, though the charging speed needs an upgrade. And there’s the magic of AI and soon-to-be-available native Gen AI features. However, Google needs to be considerate of the Indian smartphone market and price its devices more thoughtfully to gain an edge.

Design and display

If you’re a fan of smartphones with a compact display and build, the Pixel 8a is sure to impress. It’s one of the few phones of 2024 to feature a 6.1-inch display. The colour options are also quite trendy and refreshing. I am reviewing the green variant (Aloe), which I am enjoying. There are some standard options as well, including blue, white, and black.

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However, despite a compact form, the Pixel 8a measures 8.9mm in thickness and weighs 188 grams – slightly above modern-day standards. The in-hand grip is good, and you can navigate almost all corners with your thumb, but a slimmer profile would’ve sweetened the deal.

Other buttons and ports remain standard. The volume rockers sit below the power button on the right side, and their placement could have been more ergonomic for better accessibility. The single SIM card tray is located on the left side. At the bottom, you’ll find the USB Type-C 3.2 port for charging and data transfer. The Pixel 8a also supports wireless charging and is Qi-certified for compatibility with Qi wireless chargers. The back of the device has a velvety smooth finish, while the sides are made of metal.

Google has again opted for an in-display fingerprint scanner for biometric security, which is snappy in performance. Most users will be satisfied with its speed provided their fingers are dry and clean. There’s no headphone jack, a common practice among most new smartphones in this range. The box includes a Type-C to Type-A adapter to help users transfer data to a pen drive or HDD on the go.

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Since the Pixel 8a utilises a 6.1-inch flat display, things may feel slightly strange initially, especially if you’re moving from a large-screen smartphone. In my case, I switched from a 6.7-inch display on the iPhone 14 Plus. But you will be used to the size after a few days of usage.

Its display offers full-HD resolution (2,400 x 1,080 pixels) with 120Hz refresh rate. The smartphone meets most expectations in terms of audio and video quality. I can vouch for this after watching several videos in high-res on YouTube and shows/live matches on Disney+ Hotstar. However, the thick bezels don’t look great, especially at this price range.

Google could have also considered enhancing the durability by opting for a higher-generation Corning Gorilla Glass (currently using Gorilla Glass 3). Although it is IP67 certified, offering respectable protection from dust and water, an IP68 rating would have met the industry standard for smartphones priced above Rs 50,000.

Cameras

In terms of camera megapixels, Pixel 8a’s specifications outrank Pixel 8. But numbers here can be deceiving as the latter packs a bigger sensor to capture more light. That does not mean that the Pixel 8a fares poorly. Generally, its photos try to mimic real-life colours with a touch of vibrancy and contrast, but all in a good way.

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The 64MP wide and 13MP ultra-wide cameras excel at capturing great details in various lighting conditions. The Pixel 8a’s software does an even better job of keeping noise levels minimal in low-light situations. Additionally, both cameras maintain consistency in terms of colour treatment. As mentioned, most photos can exhibit high contrast and shadows, resulting in a dramatic output that makes images directly social media-ready.

The primary camera also gets utilised for portraits, and Google’s Real Tone does an impressive job at detecting skin tones, including Indian skin tones. The bokeh effect in the portrait mode could’ve been richer, but the edge detection around the subject mostly remains on-point.

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Google has also provided more features, including Astrophotography, to capture stunning stars and light trails. While it adds versatility to the camera, star gazing can be almost impossible in cities like Delhi. That way, the Pixel 8a can be your ideal smartphone if you’re in a hill station. Increasing the shutter can also do wonders for images in low light. You can see the difference between normal mode and night mode below.

When it comes to videos, the Pixel 8a supports 4K recording with both the front and rear cameras. While it excels in capturing audio and maintaining stability, the high contrast in the final output can sometimes appear unnatural. In comparison, I still find my old iPhone 14 Plus doing a relatively better job of balancing between colours and contrast.

But what makes the Pixel 8a exciting, even at this price point, are AI-backed editing features onboard. You can enjoy Magic Eraser to get rid of unwanted objects in photos, which works more efficiently than ever. There’s Best Take for the best group shots, though it can be a hit-and-miss. My favourite remains “Magic Editor”, which is capable of rearranging the subject’s position in a photo.

Performance and software

The Pixel 8a comes with the custom Tensor G3 SoC along with an in-house M2 chip for improved security – the same chips powering the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. The phone also gets a 256GB variant this year, costing Rs 59,999. The phone uses LPDDR5X RAM and USF 3.1 storage standards, the former being a modest upgrade. Both storage variants include 8GB of RAM.

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The biggest advantage of using Google’s in-house devices has to be getting the latest Android version. The phone runs on Android 14 out-of-the-box with the latest May 2024 security patch. The Pixel 8a also commits to an ambitious seven-year Android update cycle. You can expect a plethora of AI features, including “Circle to Search,” down the line.

Based on numbers, Pixel phones look modest, which even applies to Pixel 8a. You can see how the phone fares against some of its immediate peers (image below). However, real-life experiences can be significantly different, and safe to say, that you can expect a smooth performance. Additionally, the stock Android interface can be a joy to operate. Don’t forget the existing AI features (for wallpaper and Photos) Google has started offering.

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At the time of writing the review, Google’s Gemini gen-AI app does not come pre-bundled. Perhaps that will change following this year’s Google IO. The gaming experience on the Pixel 8a is decent at best. The biggest issue still lingering on Pixel phones is the abrupt heating problem, which needs an immediate fix. To be clear, it did not affect my usage, though some users may find it alarming and get unhappy with their purchase in a short time.

Battery and charging speed

The battery capacity has also been upgraded from 4,300mAh to 4,492mAh. The Pixel 8 stands above with a 4,575mAh unit. While you can expect an all-day battery with the highest settings enabled (AOD and 120Hz refresh rate enabled), the charging speed remains underwhelming. It only supports 18W charging, and Google continues to skip the charger in the box.

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Even with a 67W charger, the phone took over an hour to charge. Wireless charging support is available at 7.5W, but don’t expect too much.

Final verdict

There’s no denying that Pixel 8a is a capable smartphone, and can be a joy to operate if you’re an Android OS lover. While its cameras are reliable, they don’t break any ground compared to last year’s Pixel 7a. However, you can expect a snappier performance with the new chipset and RAM tech onboard. Plus, the Pixel 8a is committed to seven years of Android updates – a big upgrade. Also, it is the rarest smartphone in the market with a compact build, which automatically puts it in a niche class.

It offers a modest gaming experience, and therefore, the iQOO 12 remains the performance champion in the segment. Some more affordable options, like the OnePlus 12R or Nothing Phone 2, can be also considered if you prioritise performance and a big screen.

However, no smartphone in the segment does it better than the Pixel 8a when it comes to AI enhancements. Considering the price, the Pixel 7a may seem like a compelling option, but if your budget allows it, the Pixel 8a is worth considering.

Editor’s rating: 7.5 / 10

Reasons to buy:

  • The Pixel 8a could be the ideal size for users who prefer compact smartphones.
  • Its cameras mostly offer a natural output. Plus, AI-backed editing features make the experience more fun.
  • You can expect all-day battery life even with the highest settings enabled.
  • Users can expect the best Android experience. Moreover, Google commits to seven-year updates.

Reasons to not buy:

  • Google needs to improve the charging speed. The current speed is too slow.
  • The Pixel 8a tends to heat up occasionally.
  • The Pixel 8a could’ve been priced more competitively.

Key Specs

Google Pixel 8A
RAM8 GB
ProcessorGoogle Tensor G3
Rear Camera64 MP + 13 MP
Front Camera13 MP
Battery4492 mAh
Display6.1 inches (15.49 cm)
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Google Pixel 8A Price
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Rs. 52,999.00
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