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Google Pixel 8a review: Decent performer with feature-rich AI camera

Google is offering the Pixel 8a in two variants--128GB and 256GB-- with prices starting at Rs 52,999 in India.
Last Updated : 17 June 2024, 16:23 IST

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Google's latest Pixel 8a is an affordable version of the premium Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. It has a smaller display and watered-down battery capacity but boasts top-class camera hardware.

The company is offering the device in two variants--128GB and 256GB-- with prices starting at Rs 52,999 in India. Here are my thoughts on Google's latest Pixel device.

Design, build quality and display

The new Pixel 8a retains several design elements of the premium Pixel 8 and 8 Pro. It sports the trademark dual-camera visor on the back with smooth curved corners. However, the cover panel is made of polycarbonate-based material. It has a matte finish and does a wonderful job of repelling the fingerprint smudges on the back.

Our review unit is an obsidian black model. It looks fantastic in the sunlight. Google offers the device in three other colours-- aloe (green), porcelain (white) and bay (blue). The latter is said to be the best-looking among the lot.

Google Pixel 8a.

Google Pixel 8a.

Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Google has used a premium aluminium frame in the Pixel 8a, a first for the Pixel A series. It looks way better than the predecessor Pixel 7a (review), which had a glass-like plastic cover panel.

The display panel has Corning's Gorilla Glass 3 shield, to protect against scratches. And, the device comes with the IP67 rating. It can survive accidental drop in the water body for up to 1 metre (approx. three feet) depth for close to 30 minutes.

On the front, it flaunts a 6.1-inch full HD+(2400 x 1080p) OLED HDR screen. The display quality is good for its asking price.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

With a 120Hz refresh rate, it delivers a good smooth browsing experience. With support of up to 2,000 nits peak brightness, it is good for watching movies on OTT apps and binge-watching reels on Instagram.

The display has a uniform bezel around the sides (right, left and top) with a thick chin at the base. Further down, it has a type-c port and two speakers.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

On the left side of the frame, you will find a lone SIM tray slot and on the other side, there is the volume rocker and a power button.

The fingerprint sensor works fine; but, the user has to ensure the finger is dry and clean to reduce false rejection by the phone.

Google Pixel 8a's in-display fingerprint sensor.

Google Pixel 8a's in-display fingerprint sensor.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Google's new Pixel 8a is touted to be the most eco-friendly Pixel A series phone to date. Almost 26 per cent of the device (in terms of weight) is made of recycled materials such as glass, plastics and metal including the tin used in the printed circuit board.

Also, the device's back panel is made of 76 per cent recycled plastic. And, the retail box is 100 per cent plastic free.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Performance

Like the premium Pixel 8 and 8 Pro, the latest Pixel 8a houses Google's proprietary Tensor G3 processor paired with Titan M2 security chip.

The company is offering the device in two storages (UFS 3.1) --- 128GB and 256GB-- with 8GB LPDDR5X RAM. There is no microSD card option to expand the storage. The base variant is enough to store thousands of images and install all popular apps, but if you are an avid photographer, then you have to keep a tab on photos you take in the long run.

For any additional space, one has to subscribe to the Google One cloud storage plan. It starts with 100GB (Rs 130/month) and there are a couple of premium plans with prices starting at Rs 650 per month (2TB).

Currently, Pixel 8a runs on vanilla Android 14 with just core Google apps including the newly announced Wallet app, Fitbit fitness apps and utility tools such as an audio recorder.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The Tensor G3 powers the Gemini AI chatbot, circle-to-search feature, live translations, real-time audio transcription and several other generative Artificial Intelligence (gen AI) features.

The new recorder app of Pixel 8a can auto transcribe on on-device without the need for internet connectivity. It works amazingly well.

With the latest June Pixel Feature drop update, the Pixel 8a can summarise any of the recorded conversations, interviews, presentations and other formats of audio files without an internet connection.

Also, it can detect and include the names of speakers so conversational transcripts can offer context to the topic.

Google Pixel 8a's CPU and GPU performance score on Geekbench 6.0 app.

Google Pixel 8a's CPU and GPU performance score on Geekbench 6.0 app.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Furthermore, the Gboard keyboard app received the Smart Reply feature. The latter will get conversational awareness of what the user and receiver are texting about and deliver high-quality smart responses and this feature significantly reduces the time to reply to the message.

It should be noted the aforementioned Gemini Nano-powered features are in beta and can be activated by following the procedure below:

Step 1: Go to Settings >> About Phone >> scroll down to find the Build number and tap it 7 times. Immediately after that, it shows a message that the user has become a developer.

Step 2: Then, go to Settings >> System >> Developer Options >> scroll down to find AICore >> Enable on-device GenAI Features

The Titan M2 security chipset ensures full security to credentials of online accounts (username and passwords), banking apps and other sensitive information stored in the device. It

Add to that, Google will roll out monthly security patches to Pixel 8a to protect it from emerging cyber threats.

Also, the company will be releasing Pixel feature drops every quarterly to bring new value-added features to Pixel 8a. And, also Pixel 8a is guaranteed to get Android OS updates up to May 31.

In terms of day-to-day functions, the Pixel 8a works smoothly without any pressing issues to complain about. But, the device is not made for gaming. It supports several graphics-rich games such as Asphalt 9: Legends, but it's heated up pretty quickly, particularly when outdoors.

It also exhibited similar behaviour when streaming content via cellular data while commuting on a bus. And, while recording 4K videos during the daylight. However, it is common for devices with metal-based frames or back panels to get warmed up when used outdoors. During the testing, the heating didn't go out of control and was forced to power off the device. If the device is protected with a thick cover case, the heating is less noticeable.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Google Pixel 8a series.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The Pixel 8a houses a 4,492mAh battery with 18W wired fast charging and wireless charging capabilities. With a full charge, the device can easily last a full day under normal usage.

With an 18W charger, it can reach from zero to 100 per cent mark in a little over two hours. The device also supports 7.5W wireless charging.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Photography

The new Pixel 8a houses a feature-rich dual-camera module— 64MP rear camera (with Quad Phase Detection Auto Focus, f/1.89 aperture, OIS: Optical Image Stabilisation)+ 13MP 120-degree ultra-wide camera ( f/2.2 aperture, PDAF: Phase Detection Auto Focus) with LED flash.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It does a fantastic job in capturing photos in all lighting conditions. Be it a sunny afternoon or in controlled conditions indoors, It manages to capture the best possible photos. The user just has to point and capture the picture.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 1X normal view.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 1X normal view.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with ultra-wide angle mode.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with ultra-wide angle mode.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It has an ultra-wide angle photo mode. As you can see the photo sample, has managed to capture the vast barren agricultural land with the Nandi hills distant far in the background. It doesn't artificially bend any structures such as trees and electricity poles in the field.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 2X zoom.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 2X zoom.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It supports 2X optical zoom and digital zoom up to 8X. It does a nice job of capturing the landscape with less noise up to 5X zoom.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 5X zoom.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 5X zoom.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 8X zoom.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 8X zoom.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

But, beyond it, the images become grainy. It should be noted that the photos don't show much noise on the compact screen of the phone, but it is visibly noticeable when viewed on a big computer screen.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with night sight mode on.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with night sight mode on. 

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

In night sight mode, it again aces the test. It perfectly captures the photo with the right balance of light from LED-based street lamps and darkness, the true essence of the night sky in the background.

Portrait mode photo taken with Google Pixel 8a.

Portrait mode photo taken with Google Pixel 8a.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Portrait mode photo taken with Google Pixel 8a.

Portrait mode photo taken with Google Pixel 8a.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

With portrait mode, Pixel 8a does an excellent job with full focus on the subject. As you can see sample photo of our pet dog, the camera manages to get the perfect image of the hairy face and the edges around the head are captured without any noticeable smudges. The background is beautifully blurred to deliver a bokeh effect.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

With normal photo mode too, the Pixel 8a can capture the subject clearly and artfully blur the background.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 2X optical zoom.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample with 2X optical zoom.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

With close-range too, the Google phone does an amazing job of capturing minute details of the subjects.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Even after taking the photo, the user can enhance the quality of the image in terms of sharpness, bokeh effects, depth and colour boost and do more on Google Photos app.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Google Pixel 8a's camera sample.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The USP of Google Pixel phones is the Artificial Intelligence (gen AI)-powered computational photography tools such as Magic Editor, Audio Magic Eraser, Best Take, Photo Unblur, Night Sight and more.

Best take feature offers the option to pick the best photo wherein all the subjects in the group photo or solo photo are focused on the camera with eyes open and smiling.

Long Exposure feature of the Pixel 8a.

Long Exposure feature of the Pixel 8a.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Whenever we take a group photo, there is always at least one or two people, who are looking away from the camera or closed their eyes. With the Best Take feature, the device can artfully replace the person's face with the right one with the correct position and angle from another photo.

Even the Magic Eraser does a fine job of removing the unwanted objects in the frame. Users can also play with it too, like removing the riders on the two-wheelers, in this sample photo.

Google Pixel 8a's Magic Eraser and Camauflauge features.

Google Pixel 8a's Magic Eraser and Camauflauge features. 

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

Besides the Best Take and Magic Eraser features, all other photography tools work amazingly well on the new Pixel 8a. Though the Photos app takes some time to work its magic, the results are top-notch, way superior to the photo qualities of rival brands.

Google Photos app allows users to adjust blur and depth of the bokeh effect.

Google Photos app allows users to adjust blur and depth of the bokeh effect.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

It can record up to 4K video at 60fps (frames per second). It is really good quality, on par with any rival brands. But, comes one rank below the Apple iPhones.

Google Pixel 8a takes stable and sharp images even when the subjects such as cars are moving.

Google Pixel 8a takes stable and sharp images even when the subjects such as cars are moving.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

With Long Exposure feature mode, Pixel 8a can deliver a dramatic zooming effect.

With Long Exposure feature mode, Pixel 8a can deliver a dramatic zooming effect.

Photo Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

The Pixel 8a features a 13MP ultra-wide camera (with 96.5-degree Field-of-View, f/2.2). It supports up to 4K at 30fps video recording.

It takes brilliant selfies with natural skin tone and videos too, the quality is really good.

Overall, the AI-powered photography tools of Pixel 8a are more advanced and way better than most of the rival brands, but processing of the image is not the instant we expect in a premium phone.

It takes several seconds for the Pixel 8a to work its magic and when you see the end result, it is worth the wait.

Final thoughts

The Pixel 8a is a really good alternative to the premium Pixel 8. It has almost everything the premium Pixel phone offers and costs Rs 9,000 less.

During day-to-day usage, the Pixel 8a is a decent performer. However, when used outdoors, it tends to get heated quite quickly when streaming content via OTT apps, playing games or operating a camera to record high-resolution videos.

Google Pixel 8a's dual camera on the back.

Google Pixel 8a's dual camera on the back.

Credit: DH Photo/KVN Rohit

But, as noted earlier in the performance section, most phones with metal-based exterior casing (frame and back panel), exhibit similar behaviour in regions like India with tropical climates.

On the bright side, it has an amazing camera. It is way better compared to all the rival brands in its class. Also, security-wise, it has the proprietary Titan M2 chipset, which ensures protection of sensitive data such as passwords, and financial details stored in the phone against the most advanced malware. Also, Google will offer monthly security patches for emerging threats.

Add to that, Google will be bringing new AI features with quarterly Pixel feature drop updates up to May 2031. This is a good initiative by Google as it will enable Pixel 8a to be able to serve the customer for at least seven years and not have to buy new phone every two or three years.

Google is offering Pixel 8a in two storages-- 128GB and 256GB-- for Rs 52,999 and Rs 59,999, respectively in India.

Get the latest news on new launches, gadget reviews, apps, cybersecurity, and more on personal technology only on DH Tech.

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Published 17 June 2024, 16:23 IST

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