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Google Pixel 8a Review: Reliable performance, questionable pricing

2 weeks ago 13

Google Pixel 8a Review: Google's Pixel 8 series was well received for its hardware and software combo. The Tensor G3 has improved significantly over its predecessors, the camera remains top-notch, and the addition of AI smarts, including Gemini, has transformed the Android experience. However, Pixel smartphones do command a premium in India—the Pixel 8 launched at 75,999 and the Pixel 8 Pro at 1,06,999. Now, with the latest Pixel 8a, you don't have to spend as much to enjoy Google's software magic and a decent set of cameras. Starting at 52,999, the Pixel 8a offers a similar experience but does come with some shortcomings.

In this review, I will try to answer whether you should buy the Pixel 8a when the Pixel 8 can be bought for around 60,000 in deals, and how the phone fares overall.

Also Read: Motorola Edge 50 Ultra review: A premium smartphone at 59,999- Is it worth it?

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Google Pixel 8a's Design and Build Screams Premium

First, the Google Pixel 8a is made of polycarbonate and metal; it doesn't have the same glass back as the more expensive Pixel 8 series. Despite this, the Pixel 8a feels premium in hand thanks to the aluminium side frame and the matte finish polycarbonate back. In fact, if you handed it to me without prior information, I would assume it's glass. I also prefer the matte texture, which feels much better than the matte finish of the iPhone 15 Pro that I'm also using.

However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows because the front bezel surrounding the screen is inexcusably large for today's standards, especially for a device that costs upwards of 50,000. With the screen being 6.1 inches, Google had the opportunity to make the phone even smaller, which would have been appreciated by those who want a solid small device. That said, once you start using the phone, the bezels sort of disappear into the background and won't trouble you.

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I'm also a big fan of the Bay (Blue) finish offered with the Pixel 8a; it almost looks lavender in some lighting conditions. It is a refreshing colour in a sea of phones sporting glittery backs. It stays true to Google's Material You and minimal design and is overall very easy on the eyes. Great job here!

Google Pixel 8a Display: A Step In the Right Direction for Pixel a Devices

Last year, the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro stepped up their display game with Actua and Super Actua panels. They are significantly better panels compared to previous generations based on our testing. This naturally built expectations for the Pixel 8a, especially since it's more closely priced to the mainline Pixel 8 series. Based on my testing, the Actua display is great—it is bright outdoors in the Indian summer and also gets a 120Hz refresh rate, which the previous generation Pixel A models missed out on.

What's even better is that the device can consistently maintain the super bright 2000 nits of peak brightness for long periods. I remember using the device in Jaipur's peak sun around 2 PM for almost 20 minutes; not once did the Pixel 8a drop the brightness levels to maintain the temperature. This is also good news for those worried about the device's thermals.

When it comes to colour accuracy and content consumption, it doesn't disappoint either. The colours are natural, especially in the natural colour mode. This means you can edit your images taken with the rather decent camera without overdoing it. The peak HDR brightness in apps such as Amazon Prime and Netflix is also fantastic. Having used an iPhone 15 Pro and Xiaomi 14, I really can't say that the panel is inferior.

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Pixel 8a Performance, Cellular Reception, and Software: Reliable, but Not for Gamers

Let me say this first: If you want the best possible gaming performance in games such as Fortnite, Genshin Impact, or BGMI, the Pixel 8a may not be for you. After a while, the Tensor G3 tends to throttle while gaming, which has been characteristic of Tensor chips since the first generation debuted with the Pixel 6 series. That said, if you are a light gamer or want to use the Pixel 8a for creative purposes—such as recording video using the Blackmagic Camera app (only available for the Pixels and Samsung Galaxy phones for now) or capturing a lot of images out in the sun—the Pixel 8a won't disappoint. I did notice that the device frequently switched to 60Hz after using the camera app for a long time, but it isn't a dealbreaker by any means.

Regarding battery performance, the Pixel 8a does a good job using its 4492 mAh battery, which is slightly smaller than the Pixel 8's 4575 mAh unit. It is easily a full-day phone; I consistently ended the day with around 20% left after using it for WhatsApp all day, camera testing, and using the Chrome browser. It can return a screen time of around 6-7 hours, a respectable number for a phone of this size.

Cellular reception has been an area where past Tensor-powered Pixels have struggled, especially in India. However, with the Pixel 8a, I faced no such issues on Jio 5G. My secondary Jio 5G SIM, which was in the iPhone 15 Pro, maintained the same 5G reception similar to the Pixel. Plus, it hardly switched to 4G LTE, even in dense areas such as Jaipur's C-Scheme. This is a problem that Google seems to have fixed with the Pixel 8a, which is certainly good news.

In usual UI operation, the Pixel 8a remains buttery smooth. There is just something about Google's devices—the animations, the subtle haptic feedback when you interact with various UI elements—it just works without skipping a beat.

The Pixel UI has matured over the years, and now, it is not a barebones experience. You get the essentials without any extra fluff—no duplicate apps, just pure Google apps, which translates into a premium experience. You also get features like call recording built-in, which announces to the other party, which is how it should be for privacy's sake.

Another fun part is the generative emoji wallpaper, which animates whenever you unlock and move around—this is a fun addition to the already great collection of live and still wallpapers you get with the device.

Overall, I don't think you can get a better experience than this regarding Android, but if you have grown accustomed to several extras and announcement-less voice recording you get with software like OneUI and HyperOS, this may not be for you.

Also Read: Motorola Edge 50 to launch in India soon as phone appears on BIS certification site

Pixel 8a Camera: A Reliable Shooter but Pixel's Edge is Fading

When you buy a Pixel device, you know what you are getting—a reliable camera experience that gets you consistent results. Here, with the Pixel 8a's 64MP primary sensor and 13MP ultrawide, the results are no different. It produces beautiful, natural-looking images that stand out thanks to the Pixel's unique high-contrast look. If you were to compare the stills to the Pixel 8, I doubt you'd be able to tell the difference despite the Pixel 8 offering a bigger sensor.

The stills are sharp and highly detailed in any lighting condition,  but I can't say the same for the front camera, which feels outdated compared to rivals. It just doesn't have the details and has some noise in mixed lighting. That said, it gets the job done but isn't the best in the segment.

For videos, the Pixel 8a doesn't disappoint either. They come out sharp in the daytime, but the footage isn't the best in extreme low light. This is where the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro fare better. That said, it can record in 4K60 only from the main 64MP sensor. For the ultra-wide and the front-facing camera, the video tops out at 4K30, which is disappointing to me and a missed opportunity by Google to make the camera system competent for video from all focal ranges.

Overall, it remains a solid camera experience with natural shots, but don't expect the best-looking video.

Pixel 8a Verdict: An All-Rounder Device That Could Have Been Priced More Fairly

If you are looking for a solid Android phone that does everything well without compromising on support and software, the Pixel 8a is a solid phone that will last you a long time. However, it does this at a premium price. At 52,999, the Pixel 8a is a tough sell, but we have seen how Pixel prices come down a few months after launch. This year, it seems there will be no exception. So, if you can buy the Pixel 8a for around 35,000-40,000, it can be a solid deal, and I'm sure you will be able to score one at this price during festive sales in India. If you can wait, please do; otherwise, consider the Pixel 8, which can be bought for 60,000 in sales nowadays.

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