The new 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 $849, 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, Google sent over the Bay (Blue) coloured Pixel 8a for us to check out and after almost two weeks with the phone, here’s how it went. 

Hardware 

Design

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.

Pixel 8a, Pixel 8 & Pixel 8 Pro

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. 

The 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 three colour choices in Australia, Obsidian (Black), Porcelain (White) and Bay (Blue), with Google sending over the Bay Blue Pixel 8a for review, which frankly looks just as stunning on the Pixel 8a as it did on the Pixel 8 Pro. 

Google did announce the Pixel 8a in Aloe (Green), however they won’t be bringing that here to Australia (yes, I’m dirty about it) – but if you like it as much as I do, there is a case available from the Google Store

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.

The base of the phone has a bottom firing speaker that pairs with the earpiece for stereo sound and a centre-aligned USB-C (ver 3.2) port. 

Overall 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 and Audio

The Pixel 8a includes a 6.1-inch 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 gorgeous, 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. 

There’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 ($849) or 256GB ($949) 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. 

Now, in terms of benchmarks, Google has apparently arranged something in Google Play because the Pixel 8a is unable to install the most common benchmark apps. It’s not a Tensor G3 thing, it’s a Pixel 8a thing as the apps can be readily installed on the Pixel 8 and Pixel  8 Pro. 

Battery and Charging

When I reviewed the Pixel 7a, it struggled with a 4,300mAh battery, Google has ever so slightly bumped the Pixel 8a battery up to 4,492mAh with the same 18W wired charging and 7.5W wireless charging support. 

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.

  • 5 Minutes – 7%
  • 15 Minutes – 22%
  • 30 Minutes – 43%
  • 60 Minutes – 78%
  • 90 Minutes – 95%
  • 110 Minutes – 100%

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. 

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.

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 this shot was  me trying to capture an almost non-existent Aurora during the recent solar storm, what I got was an excellent Astrophotography shot.

Software and AI

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.

Android and Updates

While the Pixel 8a launched with Android 14, we should be seeing an update to Android15 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 after the phone goes on-sale. 

The delivery of 7 years of updates is part of Google’s strategy of longevity for their devices, and part of this has been supplying parts and repair support for their phones. Through a partnership with iFixit, you can already see technical manuals for the Pixel 8a and we should see a hardware teardown before long as well, and hopefully parts added to iFixit’s Google Phone availability list.

A phone that lasts for 7 years with support for software and parts availability? That’s a decent option in my opinion.

AI

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, as well as Gemini Assistant which is now live in Australia. There’s also Call Assist to auto-detect 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. 

Gemini

A large part of Google’s recent AI ventures have been centred around Gemini – their AI powered assistant. Don’t get it confused with the Google Assistant, as the Assistant is more suited to handling 

You’ll need to install Gemini from Google Play to start using it, then once installed you’ll be given an option to use it over Google Assistant. Google presents the real key differences between the two during the setup:

As well as offering help with prompts including just chatting, Gemini is also very good at generating content, images, step by step instructions for planning events or trips, SMS or Emails, or even an itinerary with links to Maps for suggestions. You can even have it summarise emails, text messages and pictures.

Where it falls down is performing functions you would normally ask from the Assistant, though you can still have the Assistant handle your day-to-day queries by simply saying ‘Hey/Ok Google’ and the Gemini app invokes the Assistant to complete the task.

It does get a little confusing, and sometimes fails, but it has promise, if you have a use for the generative AI functions. 

AI Powered Face Unlock

One of the most convenient ways the new Google AI implementation will make your life easier is the AI powered Face Unlock. Google has classed the Pixel 8a front camera as supporting their Class 3 Biometric security, so you can unlock the phone, as well as your password safes and banking apps with just your face now. 

I loved this new level of ease when dealing with secure apps on the Pixel 8 Pro last year, and it works just as well on the Pixel 8a.

Let’s just get it out of the way. I’m a shifty cheat, and Google is helping me do it with Circle to Search.

I play daily games with my wife and son, Wordle, as well as others including Framed, which has you guess the movie from a single frame. With Circle to Search, I’m getting very good results ;).

It’s easy to use, tap the flat bar at the bottom of your screen and then circle whatever is showing that you want to search for. It works for clothes, gadgets…and daily word games ;).

Magic Erase

Magic Erase has been around since the launch of the Pixel 6, and it’s just as impressive as always. The tech lets you select parts of the photo you want to remove and the AI does the rest. It’s simple and just works, which is what we always want with new features. 

Magic Editor

Introduced on the Pixel 8 series last year, Magic Editor brings AI to the camera app with the ability to change entire chunks of a photo, generating filler as required. It worked pretty well on the Pixel 8 Pro, and works just as well on the Pixel 8a.

Once you load an image in Google Photos you can tap the the “Magic Editor” button to start the process and then using simple gestures like Tap, Pinch to Zoom etc. you can edit your image. 

There’s a lot to unpack in the continuing conversation of AI generated editing of images. While editing of photos in apps such as Photoshop to achieve similar results has been common, the option to change swathes of your captured memories is now at your fingertips. It’s a powerful tool, and works surprisingly well. 

Audio Magic Erase 

The video capture on Pixel phones has always needed improvement, and Google began addressing this with the Pixel 8 last year, introducing a new feature called Audio Magic Eraser. 

With Audio Magic Eraser, the AI can split the audio on a recorded video and select, and then mute, different layers of noise including Wind or Crowd noise and even Music. 

Should you buy it?

As a standalone phone, the Pixel 8a is great. It offers a bright display, snappy, responsive software platform that’s been optimised to run super smoothly, an excellent camera system and of course a heap of AI options to help you day-to-day.

While it’s a great phone, the only real issue I have with the Pixel 8a comes down to the pricing. At $849 it’s $100 more expensive than last years Pixel 7a – which has the same camera system, and the only real question is if the Tensor 3 CPU in the Pixel 8a offers more in terms of power, and battery life.  We’ve also seen the Pixel 8 being sold at less than the price the Pixel 8a is being sold for, with the Pixel 8 offering more hardware. 

That said, it’s hard to go past the Pixel 8a as an option when you’re checking out new phones.  The 7-years of support including updates is a hard thing to go past, and with the new design it’s a great little phone you should get hands on. You can check out the Pixel 8a on the Google Store now.