Google Pixel 8a review: It follows predecessors by removing unnecessary features while still being useful

There are other sacrifices. The camera is less advanced on the 8a, although the differences are not a dealbreaker

Google PIxel 8a
    
Price: €559
Where To Buy: Google Store

It used to be the case that you had a choice between a good smartphone and a budget one. Not being able to shell out for the more high-end phones meant some serious sacrifices on screen quality, memory and capacity, not to mention some of the nicer features such as wireless charging.

But times have thankfully changed. There is a lot of competition out there for the middle of the market, for those customers that don’t feel like spending out a mortgage payment on a phone, even if it feels like they are getting it for less since it is spread over the lifetime of a contract with the network. That competition can only be a good thing, since it forces the mobile makers to do better. Forget about sub standard screens and small capacities. These days, you can get a lot for your money.

When it comes to doing budget-friendly smartphones, Google has a good track record. The company’s Pixel line, while not perfect in the past, has been honed over the years to make it a decent alternative to some of the expensive Android flagship smartphones out there.

The newest addition, the Pixel 8a, follows the same path as its predecessors, removing a few features that aren’t critical to shave the necessary euro off the price, but keeping the ones that you really need to make this phone useful. The additional AI features for example, such as circle to search, photo editing and the smart audio recording are all there, as is the security offered by Google’s Titan M2 chip. The phone is powered by the company’s latest Tensor G3 chip. And RAM and storage is the same too, at 8GB of the former and a choice of 128GB and 256GB for the latter.

On the face of it, the phones look quite similar, with the rounded edges of the Pixel 8 and the camera barpresent on the 8a. But there are minor differences. The Gorilla Glass on the front is Glass 3 rather than Victus, which is supposed to be tougher, and the back cover on the 8a is composite rather than metal and glass. The screen is also slightly smaller, at 6.1 inches versus the 8′s 6.2 inches, but it’s something you barely notice.

There are other sacrifices. The camera is less advanced on the 8a, although the differences are not a dealbreaker. It is less able to deal with lower light scenarios than its siblings, with smaller pixels and a smaller aperture than the 8 and 8 Pro. There is no laser autofocus or macro focus on the 8a, for example, but unless you have a real yearning for super close up shots, you won’t miss it. It falls firmly under the heading of “nice to have” rather than essential.

But in tests, the 8a did well in still images and video. A sunrise at the beach was detailed, with vivid colours. And while the wind noise would have been reduced by the phone’s software, any residual interference was dealt with by Google’s AI-powered audio eraser.

Battery life on the 8a was also impressive, lasting more than a day consistently, even when the camera was used quite a bit. There are some things that will reduce the battery life, including the adaptive refresh rate on the display, but if you need something that will charge quickly and last a while, the Pixel 8a will do well.

But all that leaves Google with a small problem. The Pixel 8 Pro stands at the top end of the market, the 8a and the budget end, and in the middle, you have the Pixel 8. At more than €200 more expensive, it is getting harder to see why you would go for that one over the 8a if you want a budget-friendly device, or shell out a little more and get the extra features offered by the Pro.

Good

The camera on the Pixel 8a does a good job of capturing light and detail, despite the smaller pixel size. It did an excellent job of capturing both images and video of a sunrise, for example,

The screen also supports up to 120Hz refresh rate for some apps, though it’s an automatic setting rather than one you can manually control.

Bad

The back panel on the phone is still plastic, although it is now textured so it is not immediately obvious. The IP rating is also slightly lower than the 8 at IP67 – but it will still cope with a shallow dip.

Everything else

Wireless charging is included, as is fast charging.

Extending the seven years support Google now offers for the flagship smartphones to the lower-cost A series is a great move, giving the phone longevity. The phone may struggle with some of the more advanced features towards the end of that period, but at least you won’t be ditching a perfectly good phone in two years’ time simply because of a software update.

Verdict

Google keeps improving on the Pixel A series phones – and the 8a is a solid addition to its line-up. So why pay more for features you’ll barely use? 4 stars

Read More

Recommended