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Google Pixel 8a review: Trickle-down AI-conomics

Our Rating :
£499.00 from
Price when reviewed : £499
inc VAT

The new AI features look fun, but the real strength of the Pixel 8a lies in its hardware improvements and fantastic software support


  • Exceptional cameras
  • Flawless 120Hz display
  • Seven years of software support


  • Another £50 price bump
  • No improvements to charging speeds

The Google Pixel 8a is one of the most anticipated mid-range smartphone releases of the year, and with good reason. Having already launched the Gemini Nano AI model with the Samsung Galaxy S24 series and the Pixel 8 Pro, Google is now bringing on-device AI to its most affordable platform yet.

Of course, these kinds of advancements rarely come without caveats, and the rub here is that the Pixel 8a starts £50 higher than last year’s Pixel 7a – pushing it deeper into the shadow of the Pixel 8 and further away from the kind of affordability for which the brand was originally intended.

Thankfully, the Pixel 8a has more to offer than a couple of AI gimmicks, with improvements to the display and software support being particular highlights, alongside the expected new processor and camera tweaks. It’s a shame to see the price go up, but there’s no denying the Pixel 8a is one of the most fully featured mid-range phones around.

Google Pixel 8a review: What you need to know

The big addition here is of course the AI – which I’ll get into a little further down – but the Pixel 8a has a few other new tricks to offer, as well. The Tensor G3 chip carries over from the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, joined by 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or, for the first time on an a-series Pixel, 256GB of storage. The battery is a little bigger than the Pixel 7a’s, at 4,492mAh, but charging speeds remain at 18W wired and 7.5W wireless.

The cameras are identical to the Pixel 7a, as well, with a 64MP main lens and 13MP ultrawide shooter on the rear, and a 13MP selfie snapper nestled beneath the 6.1in display. The screen is once again an OLED panel with a 2,400 x 1,080 resolution, though it’s now a brighter “Actua” display and the refresh rate has been bumped up to a slick 120Hz.

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Google Pixel 8a review: Price and competition

After last year’s hat-trick of price increases with the Pixel 7a, Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, it comes as little surprise that the Pixel 8a is keeping the trend going. The 128GB version is now £499, £50 more than its predecessor, and the new 256GB variant is priced at £559.

This price increase nudges the Pixel 8a uncomfortably close to the full-fat Pixel 8 – the 128GB model of which is currently down from its £699 RRP to just £629. The Pixel 7a, meanwhile, is looking very affordable by comparison. At the time of writing it was at just £393, so if you aren’t fussed by AI and are happy with fewer years of software support, that could be the way to go.

There aren’t many direct competitors at this price, but we have a couple of strong rivals in the ballpark. The Nothing Phone (2) is £507 at time of writing and has a unique design and phenomenal stamina, but only middling cameras, while the iPhone SE 3 (2022) is currently down to £429 and is a nippy little performer but struggles to keep up in the battery life race.

Google Pixel 8a review: Design and key features

The Pixel 8a is roughly the same size as its predecessor, measuring 73 x 8.9 x 152mm, but it’s a little lighter (188g versus 194g). The corners are more rounded than than even the Pixel 8, looking a world away from the more squared-off Pixel 7a.

It’s already petite but these more accentuated curves make it feel even more comfortable in the hand and the curves continue on the rear, with a slightly rounded, wonderfully soft matte plastic backplate.

The 128GB model is available in Obsidian (black), Aloe (green), Bay (blue) and the white Porcelain style reviewed here, while the 256GB comes only in Obsidian. Cutting across the plastic is the now-iconic horizontal camera bar, wrought in the same matte aluminium as the frame.

The right edge is home to the power and volume buttons, with the USB-C port on the bottom and the SIM-tray on the left. The latter has no space for a microSD card, and there’s no 3.5mm headphone jack, but we do see the return of the under-screen optical fingerprint reader and support for face unlocking with the selfie camera. The IP67 rating also returns from the Pixel 7a, so dust and water resistance is just as comprehensive.

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Google Pixel 8a review: Display

For the most part, the display is a dead ringer for the panel used on the Pixel 7a. It’s a 6.1in OLED screen with a crisp 2,400 x 1,080 resolution and a layer of Gorilla Glass 3 over the top for protection. This time around, however, the refresh rate goes up to 120Hz, and the panel uses Actua technology, which Google claims allows it to go brighter than its predecessor.

That certainly tracks with my testing. At peak brightness, I measured a luminance of 772cd/m2, while switching to adaptive and shining a torch on the light sensor pushed it up to an outstanding 1,255cd/m2. HDR content proved even better, reaching 1,360cd/m2.

The colours on this display are exquisite, too. The Adaptive colour profile is punchy and vibrant, perfect for making the most of HDR content, while the Natural profile has the better accuracy. On the latter, I recorded an sRGB exceptional Delta E colour variance of just 0.63 – that’s one of the best results I’ve ever seen.

Google Pixel 8a review: Performance and battery life

Google locked down the Pixel 8a’s ability to run our standard benchmarking software ahead of the embargo, so we don’t have exact figures for Geekbench 6 or GFXBench at the time of writing. As it uses the same 3GHz Tensor G3 chipset and 8GB of RAM as the Pixel 8, however, we can expect nearly identical performance.

As you can see below, the Pixel 8 gains around a 20% lead over the Pixel 7a in the single-core benchmarks, and around 17% in the multicore. It’s neck-and-neck with the Nothing Phone (2) in the single-core test, as well, although the latter’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chipset pulls 17% ahead in the multi-core section. And, of course, Apple’s blisteringly fast A13 Bionic chip still sets the iPhone SE 3 (2022) at the head of the pack.

google pixel 8a review geekbench 5 chart

It’s a similar story over on the gaming side of things, with the Pixel 8 hitting higher frame rates than the Pixel 7a but falling short of the offscreen results for the Nothing Phone (2) and iPhone SE 3.

Anecdotally, I was able to play Asphalt 9: Legends at a solid 60fps on the Pixel 8a without issue, so I expect it will score similar results to the Pixel 8 when I manage to run the benchmarks.

google pixel 8a review gfxbench chart

Despite the slightly larger battery, the Pixel 8a performed roughly the same as the Pixel 7a in our video battery test, lasting for just under 24 hours before giving up the ghost. That’s still great stamina for this price, and only around an hour less than the Pixel 8, but the Nothing Phone (2) still reigns supreme in this area with a total of 31hrs 28mins.

google pixel 8a review battery life chart

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Google Pixel 8a review: Software and AI

The Pixel 8a launches with Android 14 and Google has committed to a massive seven years of both software updates and security patches, matching the support offered to the flagship Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. That’s near-enough unheard of in this price range, cementing the Pixel 8a as a great investment for those who prefer not to switch phones every couple of years.

Another benefit of Google phones is that they usually get first dibs of Android feature drops. While not quite first to the queue, the Pixel 8a is the cheapest handset yet to get Circle to search, which allows users to circle anything on the screen and instantly search for it, with surprisingly accurate results.

The Pixel 8a is also the cheapest phone yet to run Google’s Gemini Nano AI model. It’s a bit of a slog to set up – you first need to enable developer options in the settings – but once that’s done you supposedly get on-device AI features like more intelligent and context-aware smart replies and transcript summaries in the Recorder app.

I say “supposedly” because I’ve thus far been unable to test these features on the Pixel 8a, as my review sample wasn’t updated to the correct version for the AI features. As with the performance wobbles, I’ll update this section when I’ve been able to complete testing.

Google Pixel 8a review: Cameras

The AI features continue to roll out with the camera software, too. Magic Eraser is joined by the new Magic Audio Eraser, which can scrub unwanted audio from videos, and Best Take, which allows you to swap faces from similar group pictures and Frankenstein together with the perfect shot – it’s weird and creepy but satisfyingly effective.

Even without these extra tools, the photos produced by the Pixel 8a are nothing short of spectacular. The 64MP (f/1.9) main lens captures images that are rich with colour and fantastically detailed; just look at the clear definition in the brickwork in the shot below, despite the sun being behind the church:

google pixel 8a review camera sample 1 church during day

For the most part, the 13MP (f/2.2) ultrawide lens effectively translated the vibrancy and dynamic range of the main lens into the wide-angle shots. There’s naturally a decrease in detail with the lower pixel count, but otherwise this is a decent shot:

google pixel 8a review ultrawide camera sample tube station in evening

Fortuitous timing had me testing the night camera just as the Northern Lights graced UK skies, and the Pixel 8a captured the auroras beautifully. Colours are bold and well-defined, detail in the foreground is solid, even in the more shadowy areas, and the sky is relatively clear of visual noise, allowing the odd star or planet to shine through.

google pixel 8a review night camera sample lights in sky

Portraits are terrific as well, with Real Tone nailing the skin tones and crisp definition around the focal subject. Part of my earring gets blended into the background blur, but this is still one of the better efforts I’ve tested.

google pixel 8a review portrait camera sample male

Video is unchanged from the Pixel 7a, shooting 4K at up to 60fps, with OIS keeping panning nice and smooth. The only addition is that Real Tone now works in video form too, so skin tones look more natural in the footage.

Google Pixel 8a review: Verdict

At the start of this review, I noted that the Pixel 8a had been priced into the shadow of the Pixel 8 but now I’m thinking that it might be the other way around. With the two phones being so similar across hardware, software support and now AI capabilities, the reasons for users to fork out more on the Pixel 8 are surprisingly few.

Whether or not it ends up cannibalising its elder sibling remains to be seen, but either way the Pixel 8a is exceptional in its own right. The display is one of the best I’ve ever tested, the cameras get a host of new and improved editing tools and the seven years of software support is outstanding for a phone of this price.

Google may have expected Gemini Nano to be the USP for this generation but even without it, the Pixel 8a would be a fantastically well-rounded mid-range phone – the AI is just a cherry on top.

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