Google Pixel 8a Review | A compact AI driver for Pixel fans but pricing exceeds practicality

If you’re a Pixel loyalist who prioritises Google’s software experience and photography skills, the Pixel 8a is an excellent choice

Updated - May 20, 2024 02:57 pm IST

Published - May 20, 2024 02:47 pm IST

Google Pixel 8a Review | A compact AI driver for Pixel fans but pricing exceeds practicality

Google Pixel 8a Review | A compact AI driver for Pixel fans but pricing exceeds practicality | Photo Credit: Haider Ali Khan

Google is here with its latest launch - Pixel 8a. As we all are aware, the addition of the “a” means the phone is a cheaper variant of the main Pixel 8 series. But the new Pixel 8a is packed with features that were in the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, and yes, it also has the AI features seen in the flagship variant.

Starting at ₹52,999 (8GB/128GB), the new Pixel 8a with its overall features, may not excite many of the users unless they are fans of Pixel phones. So, let’s find out what all the new Pixel 8a has to offer.

Design

The design factor remains the same as that of the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro but in a more compact size. The Pixel 8a fits the hand perfectly and is easy to use. The phone is light and has a plastic build, which is unexpected for a phone in this price segment. We have usually seen mid-range phones offering a glass body.

Pixel 8a

Pixel 8a | Photo Credit: Haider Ali Khan

The phone offers a minimal and aesthetic look. We got the blue variant to review. Like other Pixel phones, the new Pixel 8a has a standard button and port placement. The volume rockers are situated below the power button on the right side. A single SIM card tray is located on the left side. At the bottom, you’ll find a USB Type-C 3.2 port for charging and data transfer. The phone also has an in-display fingerprint scanner for biometric authentication.

(For top technology news of the day, subscribe to our tech newsletter Today’s Cache)

While the Pixel 8a is IP67 certified, offering respectable protection from dust and water, utilising an IP68 rating would have been nice as per its price range. Google could have also considered enhancing the durability by opting for a higher-generation Corning Gorilla Glass, as it currently uses Gorilla Glass 3 for display protection.

Display

The Pixel 8a features a 6.1-inch 120Hz OLED display with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1,080x2,400 pixels, resulting in a sharp 430 pixels per inch. The OLED panel offers deep blacks, vivid colors with 24-bit depth, and an impressive contrast ratio of over 1,000,000:1. Google has also included HDR support, which enhances the viewing experience for compatible content.

The display gets reasonably bright, with a claimed peak brightness of up to 2,000 nits, though real-world performance may vary. The Always-on display functionality is a handy addition, providing at-a-glance information without needing to wake the screen fully.

OS

Out of the box, the Pixel 8a runs Android 14 with the May 2024 security patch. The Pixel 8a promises seven years of operating system updates, security patches, and feature drops. As for the software experience itself, being a Pixel device, users can expect a range of AI-driven features and enhancements.

Processor

Powering the Pixel 8a is Google’s custom Tensor G3 system-on-chip (SoC), the same chipset found in the more expensive Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro models. Accompanying the Tensor G3 is Google’s in-house Titan M2 co-processor, which handles security and machine learning tasks. The device is available in two storage configurations – 8GB RAM with 128GB storage or 8GB RAM with 256GB storage, though our review unit was the former. It’s worth noting that both variants use LPDDR5X RAM, a modest upgrade over the previous generation.

In day-to-day use, the Pixel 8a felt reasonably smooth when multitasking and handling demanding workloads. Gaming performance was also satisfactory, with titles like BGMI and Pokemon Go running well, thanks to the Mali-G715 GPU. However, the lack of support for cloning apps like WhatsApp is something we personally don’t like in the Pixel phones.

The Pixel 8a puts up decent numbers in synthetic benchmarks like Geekbench 6. In the single-core test, it scored 1595, while the multi-core score came in at 2717. The phone also fared well in the GPU department, with a graphics score of 5538, suggesting it can handle moderate gaming and graphically intensive apps.

Camera

Google has long been lauded for the impressive camera performance of its Pixel smartphones, and the Pixel 8a aims to continue that legacy. The device features a dual rear camera setup, headlined by a 64MP quad-pixel wide camera with an f/1.89 aperture and 0.8μm pixel size. This primary shooter is accompanied by a 13MP ultra-wide camera with a 120-degree field of view, offering versatility in capturing different perspectives.

Pixel 8a sample image

Pixel 8a sample image | Photo Credit: Haider Ali Khan

While testing, the device’s camera setup excelled at capturing vivid, detail-rich images during the day. The 64MP primary camera, combined with Google’s computational photography algorithms, produced shots with excellent dynamic range, accurate colors, and sharp details, even in challenging lighting conditions. The images had a brilliant, almost lifelike quality that truly impressed.

Pixel 8a sample image

Pixel 8a sample image | Photo Credit: Haider Ali Khan

Low-light and night photography of the Pixel 8a also shines. Google’s Night mode works wonders in dimly lit environments, capturing bright, noise-free images with impressive detail and color accuracy. The camera’s processing prowess is particularly evident here, as it can quickly capture and combine multiple exposures to create a well-lit, natural-looking night shot in just a few seconds. This level of night photography performance is typically reserved for flagship devices, making the Pixel 8a’s capabilities all the more impressive for its price point.

Pixel 8a low light sample image

Pixel 8a low light sample image | Photo Credit: Haider Ali Khan

For selfies, the Pixel 8a packs a 13MP front-facing camera with an ultra-wide 96.5-degree field of view, ideal for fitting more people or backgrounds into your shots. While the selfie camera lacks autofocus, Google’s computational photography algorithms should help ensure sharp, well-exposed self-portraits in most scenarios.

While megapixel counts don’t tell the full story, Google’s computational photography capabilities, combined with the solid hardware, translates to excellent real-world performance. In our testing, the Pixel 8a consistently captured brilliant, detail-rich images in both well-lit and low-light scenarios, be it with the rear or front cameras. Google’s software processing algorithms, such as HDR+ and Night Sight, work their magic to enhance dynamic range, reduce noise, and capture impressive night-time shots.

The camera experience is further enhanced by Google’s suite of AI-driven features, including Magic Eraser for removing unwanted objects, Face Unblur for sharper facial details, and Real Tone for accurate skin tone rendering across different lighting conditions.

Battery

The Pixel 8a packs a 4,492mAh battery, which is on par with what you’d find in more expensive flagships like the Pixel 8. In the real-world, the battery life lasts a full day of moderate to heavy usage.

However, where the Pixel 8a disappoints is in its charging speed. Despite its premium price tag, the device only supports 18W wired charging, which is frankly subpar for a modern smartphone in this segment.

Topping up the battery from empty takes well over an hour, which can be frustrating if you need a quick charge. The Pixel 8a does support wireless charging, which is a welcome addition, but the glacial charging speeds remain a notable drawback. Google’s decision to not include a charger in the box only adds to the inconvenience.

Verdict

The Pixel 8a is for those who are deeply invested in Google’s ecosystem and the Pixel experience. It brings flagship-level camera performance, capable hardware with the custom Tensor G3 chip, and an array of AI-powered features that have become synonymous with Pixel devices in a compact design.

However, when viewed objectively against the competition, the Pixel 8a’s pricing may not make it as compelling. Several rivals in this segment offer more powerful processors, faster charging speeds, and potentially better value for money. Google’s decision to stick with 18W wired charging, in particular, feels like a significant oversight in an otherwise well-rounded package.

Ultimately, if you’re a Pixel loyalist who prioritises Google’s software experience and photography skills, the Pixel 8a is an excellent choice. But for those seeking raw performance or cutting-edge hardware, there are alternatives worth considering that may better meet your expectations in this price range.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.