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The new Google Pixel 8a announced last week brought Google’s latest AI powered handset, with a focus of being the best possible Pixel Experience for the best possible price.

Priced at €559, the latest Pixel includes the updated Tensor Gen 3 processor designed by Google from the Pixel 8 series, as well as an Actua Display, an updated battery for longer life and of course, loads of AI.

The Pixel A-series phones have always held a slightly strange place in the product line-up, with the Pixel 7a effectively replacing the Pixel 7 in their lineup. It certainly has similar, though slightly downgraded specs to the Pixel 8, so at the outset, it’s potentially going to eat into those sales.

After a briefing call, Google sent over the Bay (Blue) coloured Pixel 8a for us to check out so here’s our full review.

Design & Build Quality

The Pixel 8a is undeniably a Pixel, following the same design language as the last three generations by including that camera bar across the rear of the phone.

The rear of the phone has a new matte satin feel to it, with an aluminium frame and camera bar. The matte back feels fantastic, with the added benefit of not showing fingerprints.

Google Pixel 8a Review | TheEffect.NetThe design has some refinements from the Pixel 8/Pixel 8 Pro release, with slightly more rounded corners. It feels great in the hand and despite it being the ‘cheaper’ Pixel, the aluminium frame feels great in the hand.

The Pixel 8a comes in all four of the colour choices in Ireland, Obsidian (Black), Porcelain (White) and Bay (Blue) and Aloe (Green) with Google sending over the Bay Blue Pixel 8a for review, which we’re a big fan off, purely for its uniqueness.

There’s the usual setup for ports and buttons, with the Volume Rocker and Power button on the right which both have a pleasant and satisfying clicky feel, and there’s a SIM card tray on the left – though the Pixel 8a also supports eSIM.

Google Pixel 8a Review | TheEffect.NetOverall it’s a very Pixel design, meaning that camera bar is almost instantly recognisable. It’s fairly lightweight, though slightly thick so it has some heft to it, but it feels great in the hand and I’m a huge fan of the new satin matte finish.

Display

The Pixel 8a includes a 6.1” OLED display, with a FHD+ (2400×1080) resolution in 20:9 aspect ratio, making it slightly smaller than the Pixel 8, though with a slightly higher pixel density.

This is also the first A-series Pixel to use the Actua display which Google announced for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. The display is fantastic, with the main feature being the impressively bright 2,000 nits peak brightness, which makes it a fantastic phone to use in bright sunlight, with the screen still easy to read.

Google Pixel 8a Review | TheEffect.NetThere’s fairly significant bezels around the display similar to the Pixel 7a last year. It does afford some protection from accidental touches, but it also looks fairly clunky when compared to the main-line Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro.

The phone supports up to 120Hz refresh, though it’s not an LTPO display so it intelligently scales up and down between 60-120Hz depending on what’s on the display. You can force the display to 120Hz or 60Hz if you like, but the auto works fairly well.

Google has again used an under-display fingerprint scanner on the Pixel 8a for biometrics, it works fairly well but if you have issues you can also use the face unlock feature which is now secured by level 3 biometrics and is lightning fast.

It’s a good display and the inclusion of the super bright Actua display makes for a phone which is a pleasure to use outdoors even in the brightest lights, and it has great colour representation. The bezels are disappointing, though understandable in the mid-range pricing.

Performance

Powering the Pixel 8a is the Tensor G3 launched with the Pixel 8 series last year, with 8GB of DDR5 RAM. For storage, Google is, for the first time, offering the Pixel 8a with either 128GB (€559) or 256GB (€619) of on-board storage.

The Tensor G3 has been tested out with 8GB of RAM fairly thoroughly in the Pixel 8 and it’s quite a capable processor. It’s a little more power efficient than the Tensor G2 which is a pleasant surprise after the Pixel 7a.

Software

The Pixel 8a comes with Android 14 on-board, with the Pixel experience and of course the best of Google AI and it’s also the only phone in its price range with Gemini Nano on board.

The Pixel experience is a clean, smooth version of Android with the bonus of no third-party apps installed. You get features like the At-a-Glance widget, which can show a heap of valuable information right when you need it, including travel updates, your Nest Doorbell feed, Weather info and severe weather warnings, access to your event tickets, and more.

You also get the Pixel Recorder app, which offers some of the best AI assisted transcriptions I’ve used. Google has been steadily updating the app with functionality and it’s one of the best tools for recording meetings and more.

While the Pixel 8a launched with Android 14, we should be seeing an update to Android 15 around September/October this year. It’s the first of many updates though, with Google offering 7 years of OS and monthly Security & Pixel Drop updates on the Pixel 8a.

The updates are coming, though out of the box, the Pixel 8a includes the March 5th update, though we should be seeing the updates begin flowing in the coming weeks once the device gets into more and more hands.

AI Features

As with the Pixel 8 series last year, the Pixel 8a is very much an AI focused device for Google, with a majority of the features announced arriving on the Pixel 8a.

The Pixel 8a is the most affordable phone with Google’s Gemini Nano on-device AI model on-board, bringing with it a number of AI features.

AI features include the previously announced Circle to Search, but we’ve yet to see the rollout of Google’s new Gemini Assistant here in Ireland, due to some additional EU regulations around data processing etc.

There’s also Call Assist which is handy for screening unwanted spam calls, Live Translate to help you communicate with anyone, including sending SMS in multiple languages and one of my favourite features, the exceptionally good Assistant Voice Typing.

Camera

Google has included the same rear sensor setup on the Pixel 8a as last years Pixel 7a, with a 64MP main sensor and a 13MP Ultra-Wide sensor offering up to a 120° FoV.

On the front you get a 13MP sensor with a slightly wider 96.5° FoV embedded in a punch hole notch in the centre of the display.

The Pixel 8a camera is, like the Pixel 7a before it, a great camera platform. The images are great no matter the lighting conditions, including taking some wonderful Night Sight images in extremely low-light.

Google Pixel 8a Review | TheEffect.Net

A sample photo from the main camera sensor in the Pixel 8a | TheEffect.Net

A sample photo from the ultra-wide camera sensor in the Pixel 8a | TheEffect.Net

 

An ultra-low light main sensor shot from the Pixel 8a showing some nice detail and brightness if a little vignette effect around the edges | TheEffect.Net

Here is what was visible on the phone’s viewfinder whilst trying to capture the above ultra low light ‘Night Sight’ shot. | TheEffect.Net

The Selfie camera’s impressively wide FoV also helps with capturing more in your shot, especially when shooting at arms length, which is more than likely the case, when capturing selfies.

A ‘1x’ Selfie shot from the Pixel 8a with its new expanded 95 degree field of view | TheEffect.Net

There are some issues with a slightly mushy looking result when up close, and the lack of macro mode on the Pixel 8a is the main reason. While there’s no optical zoom on the Pixel 8a, there is a 2x Digital Zoom option in the Pixel camera app which you can ramp up to 8x and it works quite well, so that’s an alternative.

An 8x digital zoom shot taken with the Pixel 8a showing an impressive amount of detail and sharpness | TheEffect.Net

Camera AI is obviously a big part of Google’s Pixel strategy, and the Pixel 8a supports all the big features including Best Take, letting you mix and match faces to get a perfect image, Audio Magic Eraser which can strip all the annoying noises from your videos, Magic Editor which lets you give re-shape an image more to your liking and an upgraded favourite: Magic Eraser, which can remove unwanted people and things from your photos.

A big feature for me on Pixel phones is the option for Astrophotography. While unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to take any shots of the Aurora Borealis over the weekend, what I got was still an impressive low light shot with other reviewers capturing some admittedly more impressive star-filled photos during their time reviewing the 8a.

Google Pixel 8a Review | TheEffect.NetA ‘Night Sight’ sample shot taken with the Pixel 8a | TheEffect.Net

Battery Life

The battery life on the Pixel 8a is a marked improvement on last year’s model, easily lasting a full day with pretty decent use.

Google lists ‘24+ hour battery life’ for the Pixel 8a on their store and it’s definitely able to achieve that, even without the battery saving options which can stretch out usage to 72 hours though at a massive cost to functionality.

As with most phones these days, the Pixel 8a does not come with a charger, just a USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable. Google sells both wired and wireless charging options, but if you have a Power Delivery compatible charger capable of 18W output you should be fine.

I used the 30W Google USB-C Charger to check the speeds and found the fast charging speeds are ok, but really make me long for a faster charging option on all Pixel phones – especially the A-series.

Conclusion

The Pixel 8a shines as an entry level offering in Google’s smartphone line up. Its vibrant display, swift and responsive OS all add up to a pretty seamless experience. Throw in a stellar camera system, and a plethora of AI features and the Pixel 8a really does become an easy recommendation.

Google Pixel 8a Pricing & Availability

The Google Pixel 8a is available now, starting at €559 for the 128GB model with the 256GB Obsidian black model raising the price to €619. It’s available directly from Google’s own online store, or on Three bill pay, starting from free for either the 128GB Obsidian or Bay colour options.

REVIEW: Google Pixel 8a - Rounding Up
  • Design & Build Quality
  • Display
  • Software
  • Cameras
  • Battery Life
4.4

Summary

The Pixel 8a shines as an entry level offering in Google’s smartphone line up. Its vibrant display, swift and responsive OS all add up to a pretty seamless experience. Throw in a stellar camera system, and a plethora of AI features and the Pixel 8a really does become an easy recommendation.

John Reilly

John is Founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheEffect.Net. His favourite gaming series is Uncharted and his favourite film is Interstellar. He is also known to quote 'Father Ted' and Keith Lemon more than is normal. John@theeffect.net