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Article updated on May 21, 2024 at 6:19 AM PDT

Google Pixel 8A Review: A Clear Choice Over the Pixel 8

At $500, the Pixel 8A overshadows Google's pricier phone.

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Lisa Eadicicco
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Lisa Eadicicco Senior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
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Google Pixel 8A

$499 at Google

Pros

  • Great camera
  • 7 years of software updates
  • Many of the same features as the Pixel 8
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • 256GB storage not available on all models
  • Zoomed and low light shots aren't as clear as the Pixel 8's

After using Google's new $500 (£499, AU$849) Pixel 8A, I have one big question: Why would anyone pay $200 more for the $700 Pixel 8? While there are a couple of notable differences between the two, the Pixel 8A hits all the important notes, which makes Google's pricier phone feel lost in the Pixel lineup. 

At a time when tech giants are stuffing their products with flashy new AI features, the Pixel 8A feels delightfully simple. It inherits some of Pixel 8's AI tools and tricks, like Circle to Search and Best Take, but doesn't bring anything new to the table. 

Read more: Best Phone to Buy in 2024

And that's not a bad thing. The Pixel 8A shines because it nails the basics at a price that feels relatively affordable and accessible. Given Google's track record of updating Pixel phones with new features over time, we can expect it to gain even more smarts, too. It's hard to pinpoint what I enjoyed most about using the Pixel 8A because it's not about one particular improvement, but rather how everything comes together. 

Of course, there's one big caveat that would make the Pixel 8 worth buying instead: sales and discounts. Carriers and retailers sometimes discount the Pixel 8, bringing it down to around the same price as the Pixel 8A. Some wireless service providers also offer promotions that make the Pixel 8 essentially free. 

However, those deals typically require you to meet specific circumstances, such as opening a new line on a particular plan or trading in an eligible device. And deals expire, meaning you may not always be able to get the Pixel 8 for a lower price. Google usually discounts its A-series phones too, meaning we may see the Pixel 8A at a lower price eventually as well. 

Unless you can get the Pixel 8 for $500 or less at a discount, the Pixel 8A is probably the best choice for Android fans that want to stay well below the $1,000 mark. 

Read more: Google Pixel 8A vs. Samsung Galaxy A35 5G

Watch this: Google's Pixel 8A Is Here: What's New and Different

Pixel 8A vs. Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8

The Pixel 8

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 8A and Pixel 8 have a lot in common, but there are quite a few differences between the two devices as well. Google's cheaper phone has a slightly lower capacity battery and a screen that's just a hair smaller (6.1 inches versus 6.2). You won't get Battery Share, the feature that lets you use your phone as a wireless charger for other compatible accessories, on the Pixel 8A. 

The Pixel 8 also supports faster wired charging and is rated for IP68 water resistance instead of the Pixel 8A's IP67 rating. That may be important to consider if you spend a lot of time outdoors and prefer not to use a case. The difference in the ratings means that the Pixel 8 can be submerged under more water (1.5 meters versus 1 meter) than the Pixel 8A.

The cameras also differ, although you'll get a wide and ultrawide rear camera on both models. The Pixel 8A's camera has a higher resolution, but the pixels aren't as wide and the camera lacks laser detect autofocus and a macro focus mode. You also won't get spatial audio, which creates a surround sound-like effect, with the Pixel 8A.

That may sound like a lot. But for this price, they're sensible compromises that likely won't make a difference to most people. 

Pixel 8A design and display

The Pixel 8A being held in someone's hand

The Pixel 8A has a 6.1-inch display, making it slightly smaller than the Pixel 8's.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 8A's design strongly resembles the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Google rounded out the edges, giving it a softer feel compared with the Pixel 7A. The back also has a nice matte finish that feels more premium and is also likely less prone to fingerprint smudges compared with the glossy Pixel 7A and Pixel 8. 

You have four color options to choose from: Aloe (green), Bay (light blue), Obsidian (black) and Porcelain (white). I've been using the Aloe green color, and I'm really enjoying it so far. It's like a slightly bolder and brighter mint shade of green. 

The downside, however, is that if you need more storage, you'll have to opt for the Obsidian color since that's the only variant available in a 256GB configuration. Otherwise, you'll have to be content with 128GB since the Pixel 8A doesn't support expandable storage, like most modern phones. That's one aspect that makes the competing $400 Samsung Galaxy A35 5G unique; it's one of the few new devices to support expandable storage up to 1TB. 

The bezels framing the Pixel 8A's screen are noticeably larger than the Pixel 8's, although you're not going to be thinking about this unless you're looking at the two phones side by side. They weren't large enough to feel distracting or noticeable in everyday use, though, and they're small in comparison to the forehead and chin on Apple's similarly-priced $429 iPhone SE. 

Google says it boosted the Pixel 8A's display brightness compared with last year's Pixel 7A, which I was happy to hear considering the previous model's screen looked dim to me outdoors. I still find myself cranking the brightness up outdoors, but it doesn't feel like as big of a problem as Pixel devices I've tested in the past. 

Pixel 8A camera

The back of the Pixel 8A

The Pixel 8A's camera is essentially the same as the Pixel 7A's.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 8A essentially has the same camera as the Pixel 7A: a 64-megapixel main camera with a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera. That may sound like a step above the 50-megapixel main camera on the Pixel 8's rear camera system (which also includes a 12-megapixel ultrawide shooter), but resolution isn't everything. 

The Pixel 8A's camera has a smaller pixel width, which can be important in determining overall image quality since larger pixels can absorb more light. There's also no laser autofocus on the Pixel 8A, and you also won't get macro focus mode either. Perhaps the absence of macro mode is why I noticed some photos of food dishes taken up close lost their sharpness in certain parts of the image. That said, I don't think this is a deal-breaker for most people. Those who just want to capture photos of friends, family, pets and vacations will find the Pixel 8A's camera to be more than fit for the job. 

Overall, the Pixel 8A excelled when it came to color accuracy, providing images that felt vibrant but not exaggerated, as is sometimes the case with Samsung phones I've tested in the past. Whether I was photographing flowers, food or complicated and busy scenes like a baseball game or a bustling Queens street corner, the photos felt realistic and true to life. But on a phone like this, you shouldn't expect to get a crystal clear zoom. If you really want a device that can take sharp photos from afar at a concert or festival, splurge on a phone with a dedicated telephoto camera.

Still, the Pixel 8A has a solid camera system that closely rivals the Pixel 8's. As I reviewed more than half a dozen sets of photos taken on both phones, I found myself with one recurring thought: These photos look a lot like the ones captured with the Pixel 8. 

Google Pixel 8A

A photo of a purple flower shot on the Pixel 8A.

A photo of a purple flower shot on the Pixel 8A. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8

A photo of a purple flower taken on the Pixel 8.

A photo of a purple flower taken on the Pixel 8.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Pixel 8's images sometimes looked crisper and more detailed than the Pixel 8A's, but I often had to view them on a large screen, like a laptop or monitor, to notice. The difference between the two cameras was more obvious in challenging shooting circumstances, such as in a dim environment or when zooming in. 

Take a look at the photos below and you'll see what I mean. The Pixel 8's version of both photos is slightly sharper than the Pixel 8A's.

Google Pixel 8A (low light)

A cocktail on a table in a dim bar.

This photo was taken in a dim bar on the Pixel 8A. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 (low light)

A cocktail on a table in a dim bar.

The Pixel 8 captured a decent photo of this cocktail in a dimly lit bar. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8A (2x zoom)

A bush with pink flowers

This photo was taken at a 2x zoom on the Pixel 8A. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 (2x zoom)

A plant with pink flowers.

This was taken on the Pixel 8 at a 2x zoom. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

There is, however, a larger gap in image quality between the Pixel 8A and Galaxy A35 5G, despite there only being a $100 difference between the two. The Pixel 8A generally produced more accurate colors and lit the subject more evenly in most scenarios. In the photo of my cat below, for example, the color of his fur looks more accurate in the Pixel 8A's depiction compared to the Galaxy A35's.

Google Pixel 8A

A gray and white cat sitting on a couch.

It's a miracle that Buddy sat still long enough for this photo to be taken. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Samsung Galaxy A35 5G

A gray and white cat sitting on a couch.

In this photo, the color of Buddy's fur has a slight tint to it. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The bottom line? The Pixel 8A's camera is adequate for most people, especially for a phone at this price. You'll get a step up with the Pixel 8, but it's not substantial enough to justify the gap in price. 

As a bonus, here's one of my favorite photos shot on the Pixel 8A. The streetlights bleed a little bit, but the contrast of the dark, cloudy night sky against the illuminated street is striking.

A photo of a bridge in the distance at night

The Pixel 8A takes decent photos at night. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The Pixel 8A also inherits some AI-powered photo and video editing features from the Pixel 8, such as Best Take, Magic Editor and Audio Magic Eraser. Those first two features, which let you swap a subject's facial expression after multiple images have been taken in a row and remove or manipulate objects in a photo, work the same way they do on the Pixel 8. Samsung's AI editing features haven't made their way to the Galaxy A35 5G, although I wouldn't be surprised if they eventually arrived through a software update. 

Pixel 8A battery, performance and software

The Pixel 8A against a yellow background

The Pixel 8A runs on Google's Tensor G3 processor like the Pixel 8.

James Martin/CNET

The Pixel 8A's battery is more than capable of getting through a full day on a single charge. On a busy day that involved leaving the house around 8:30 a.m., spending the day at the office and then going out to dinner with friends, the Pixel 8A still had 66% of its battery left at 12:43 a.m. That's roughly 16 hours of use. 

But as always, battery life will vary depending on how you're using your device. I had the brightness set to at least 50% or higher throughout the day and mostly used the phone for browsing social media and email, taking a few photos, making a brief phone call and playing mobile games for about 15 minutes. 

The Pixel 8A also performed slightly better than the Pixel 7A in CNET's 45-minute battery endurance test, which includes a mix of general purpose use cases like scrolling through social media, streaming YouTube, conducting a video call and playing games. After 45 minutes, the battery dipped down to 95% from 100%, whereas the Pixel 7A was down to 92% during the same test. 

When it comes to our longer battery test, which entails streaming video with the display at full brightness for three hours, the Pixel 8A's results were satisfactory for a phone of its price. The battery depleted to 83% at the end of three hours, putting it about on par with last year's Galaxy S23 (81%) and the Pixel 7A (85%). Surprisingly, it performed slightly better than the Pixel 8, which was down to 79% at the end of the test, despite the Pixel 8's marginally larger battery. 

The Pixel 8A has the same Tensor G3 processor found in the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, and performance seems smooth so far. Apps open quickly, the camera launches easily, and games run without issue. Benchmark tests like Geekbench 6, which measures general computing performance, and 3DMark for assessing graphics, indicate the Pixel 8A isn't as powerful as premium devices like the Galaxy S24 family but is still speedier than last year's Pixel 7A. That seems right on the mark for a phone in this price range.

Geekbench 6

Single Core 1,675 1,439 1,605 2,255Multicore 4,076 3,560 4,134 6,875
  • Pixel 8A
  • Pixel 7A
  • Pixel 8
  • Galaxy S24
Note: Higher scores are better.

3DMark Wild Life Extreme

3DMark Wild<span class="scribe-editor-marker" style="display: none;"></span> Life Extreme 2,435 1,919 2,381 4,752
  • Pixel 8A
  • Pixel 7A
  • Pixel 8
  • Galaxy S24
Note: Higher scores are better.

The Google Pixel 8A Looks Slick in All These Colors

See all photos

Hardware isn't the only similarity between the Pixel 8A and Google's pricier Pixels; they share a lot of software features in common too. You'll get features like Hold For Me, which can wait on hold for you when calling certain businesses, and Circle to Search, which lets you search for almost anything on screen by drawing or scribbling on it.

Circle to Search is a newer Android feature that debuted earlier this year, and it has a lot of potential. I still find myself going out of the way to use it rather than fitting it into my natural phone usage patterns, but I've been impressed by how it's been working so far. When I circled an image of the main character from the popular anime series Attack on Titan and asked for "shows like this," Google pulled up stories about the series, including one article recommending similar content. Google has big plans for integrating AI even more deeply into Android phones, as the company showcased during its Google I/O keynote, so I'm sure the 8A will get more new features soon enough. 

Most importantly, Google will support the Pixel 8A with seven years of Android operating system upgrades and security updates. That matches the Pixel 8's support timeline and marks a big jump from the three-year pledge Google made with last year's Pixel 7A. It's great to see Google extending this policy to its cheaper phone, too. 

But the Pixel 8A doesn't have everything the Pixel 8 has. For example, it looks like Google's generative AI wallpapers aren't available on the Pixel 8A. 

Pixel 8A overall thoughts 

Google's Pixel 8A on a yellow background

The Pixel 8A seems like a better choice for most people compared to the Pixel 8. 

James Martin/CNET

Each year, Google improves on its A-series phones in ways that address the previous generation's criticisms and shortcomings. As such, the gap between Google's regular Pixel and A-series Pixel has gradually become narrower. And at this point, it's so small that I'm seriously questioning whether the Pixel 8 is worth it.

There's a laundry list of things you'll get with the Pixel 8 that aren't available on the Pixel 8A, such as the ability to wirelessly charge other devices on the back of the phone, a slightly larger screen, macro focus mode in the camera and a higher durability rating. But taken together, these don't feel significant enough to make the Pixel 8 a more compelling option for most people.

With the Pixel 8A, Google has once again raised the bar for what's expected of a $500 phone. But as I wrote last year, that means Google needs to try harder with its next flagship. 

Google Pixel 8A vs. Other Phones


Google Pixel 8AGoogle Pixel 7AGoogle Pixel 8Samsung Galaxy A35 5G
Display size, tech, resolution, refresh rate 6.1-inch OLED; 2,400x1,080 pixels, 60-120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.1-inch OLED; 2,400x1,080 pixels; 60/90Hz 6.2-inch OLED; 2,400x1,080 pixels; 60-120Hz adaptive refresh rate6.6-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED; 60-120Hz adaptive refresh rate
Pixel density 430 ppi429 ppi428 ppi389 ppi
Dimensions (inches) 6 x 2.9 x 0.4 in.6 x 2.9 x 0.4 in.5.9 x 2.8 x 0.4 in.6.4 x 3 x 0.3 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 152 x 74 x 10.2 mm
152 x 74 x 10.2 mm150.5 x 70.8 x 8.9 mm161.7 x 78 x 8.2 mm
Weight (grams, ounces) 193 g (6.8 oz.)193 g (6.81 oz.)187 g (6.6 oz.)209 g (7.4 oz.)
Mobile software (at launch) Android 14Android 13Android 14Android 14
Camera 64-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (ultrawide)64-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (ultrawide)50-megapixel (main), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)50-megapixel (main), 8-megapixel (ultrawide), 5-megapixel (macro)
Front-facing camera 13-megapixel13-megapixel10.5-megapixel13-megapixel
Video capture 4K at 30/60 FPS4K at 30/60 FPS4K at 24/30/60 FPSUHD at 30 FPS
Processor Google Tensor G3Google Tensor G2Google Tensor G3Samsung Exynos 1380
RAM/storage 8GB + 128GB or 256GB8GB + 128GB8GB + 128GB, 256GB6GB + 128GB
Expandable storage NoneNoneNoneup to 1TB
Battery 4,492 mAh (18W fast charging, 7.5W wireless charging)4,385 mAh (18W fast charging, 7.5W wireless charging) 4,575 mAh (27W fast charging, 18W wireless charging with Google Pixel Stand, 12W wireless charging Qi chargers)5,000 mAh (25W fast wired charging)
Fingerprint sensor Under-displayUnder-displayUnder-displayOptical fingerprint sensor
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-C
Headphone jack NoneNoneNoneNone
Special features 5G (5G sub6 / mmWave), IP67 rating, VPN by Google One, Circle to Search, 7 years Android OS updates, 7 years security updates, Best Take, Audio Magic Eraser5G (5G sub6 / mmWave), IP67 rating, VPN by Google One, Circle to Search, 3 years Android OS updates, 5 years security updates 5G (Sub 6,/mmWave); IP68 rating; VPN by Google One; 7 years of Android OS updates, 7 years of security updates; Best Take; Audio Magic Eraser; Magic Editor, 2x "optical quality" zoom; macro focus, Battery Share 5G, Samsung Knox Vault, 4 generations of Android OS updates, 5 years of security updates, expandable storage