Google Pixel 8a Review: Superb hardware, painful Australian pricing

Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

The Google Pixel 8a is a worthy hardware successor to the excellent Pixel 7a, but local Australian price hikes reduce my enthusiasm for it.

Pros Cons
Nicely powerful, with the same specs as the Pixel 8 Google’s Australian Pixel 8a pricing choices are… a choice. Not a good choice.
Generally good camera capability AI driven camera features are still hit-and-miss
7 years of OS upgrades No included charger

Score: 4/5


In this review

Pixel 8a Specifications
Pixel 8a Design
Pixel 8a Camera Tests
Pixel 8a Performance Tests
Pixel 8a Battery Tests
Pixel 8a Conclusion

Google’s Pixel A series phones have, in the past few years, been my dead set favourites when it comes to mid-range phone recommendations. They’ve been powerhouses under the hood, highly capable in the camera arena and above all affordable and good value prospects.

Most of that is true for the Google Pixel 8a… except for in one sense, the affordability part. Google’s decision to up the price of the Pixel 8a to a position where it’s much closer to true premium pricing – and especially as it’s an Australian-only price hike – makes it a slightly harder phone to recommend.

It’s still very good in most fundamental aspects, but skipping upwards in price for the local market does lessen my enthusiasm for it notably.

Also read:
Google Pixel 7a review


Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Google’s Pixel A lines all follow a familiar pattern of coming out about six months or so after the flagship Pixel phone series they’re part of, with slightly smaller frames and somewhat reduced design specifications.

That’s 100% what Google’s done with the Pixel 8a. It’s a smaller Pixel 8, basically, though it is interesting to see which features make the cut down to the Pixel 8a and which ones don’t.

Take the screen for example. It’s a 6.1 inch OLED with a resolution of 1080x2400, marginally smaller than the 6.2 screen on the Pixel 8.

Where the Pixel 8a jumps up from the Pixel 7a is in the fact that it gets the full 120Hz (variable) refresh rate of the Pixel 8, rather than the 90Hz of its predecessor. What that adds up to is a pleasant screen that’s technically sharper than its bigger sibling, because it’s packing in more pixels in a smaller frame. Without a microscope (or unless Clark Kent is reading this) you won’t really spot that, however.

The Pixel 8a’s display is protected with Corning Gorilla Glass 3, slightly down from the Gorilla Glass Victus on the Pixel 8 in straight line durability terms. Again you’d really only pick that with proper scientific drop tests; the practical side here is that any drop can damage a phone screen if you’re unlucky, which is why I favour the use of phone cases and screen protectors.

They’re cheaper than new screens, you see, though I will again caution that a lot of the “drop tests” that you see on the Internet trend more towards destruction porn than actual scientific tests.

In colour terms, Google’s producing the Pixel 8a in Obsidian (Black), Porcelain (White), Bay (Blue) or Aloe (Green) hues, though the Aloe version won’t officially go on sale here in Australia.

The Obsidian model Google Australia’s loaned me is 100% your basic black phone, fine in just about every situation without being particularly noticeable.

If I was spending my own money, I’d go for the Bay all day long, but then I do love me a blue phone.

As is the style for Pixels of late, there’s a prominent camera bar at the rear of the phone that ensure the Pixel 8a can never sit flat and level on any surface unless you pop a case on it. See, cases are good for more than just protection!


Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

The hardware specifications for the Pixel 8a feel familiar, and that’s because they are. Put the Pixel 8a side by side with the Pixel 7a in camera terms, and there’s no difference at all.

That means you’re playing with a phone with dual rear cameras – 64MP f/1.89 wide and 13MP f/2.2 ultra-wide – and a front-facing 13MP f/2.2 selfie camera. I can’t be the only one who misses the Pixel 3’s dual selfie cameras, can I?

Sigh. You’re getting old, Alex, because that’s a seriously dated camera reference, and Google was never likely to particularly innovate for its A-Series phones.

Instead, predictably, they’re sold largely on the promise of the AI-led features they include and what those can do for your eventual shots.

Google Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

All of these are familiar – features like Magic Editor for trying to crop out details from photos through AI, Best Take for getting the “best” group shot, Photo Unblur and Super Res Zoom, Google’s fancy name for AI-assisted digital zooming at up to 8x. The one lens you don’t find on the Pixel 8a (or the Pixel 8 that it’s essentially built on the bones of) is any kind of true optical zoom.

As such, the Pixel 8a’s general camera performance was quite pleasing, delivering solid camera results across the board.

I’ll leave the AI-editing features out for the moment, largely because my experience there is that they’re super dependent on the images in question; sometimes they are truly magical at editing, and other times they produce AI-led horror shows. Magic Editor is at least non-destructive, so you can always go back to your original images.

Super Res Zoom works quite well, and compares well with what you typically see out of 8x digital zoom on competing phones.

As an example, over the weekend I was in Nundle at the rather excellent Woollen mill there (look it up if you have a crafty type person in your life, they’ll love you for it), testing out the Pixel 8a as I went.

The wool spinning machinery on display made an excellent target to put the Pixel 8a through its photographic paces.

Here’s an ultrawide shot with a bit of glass reflection in play:

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

The wide shot is good:

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

As is 2x digital zoom

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

At 8x there are some visual issues, but the point here is that this is way better for a complex shot – there’s a lot of wool fibres for its AI to mangle (pun intended) – than I’d expect from other 8x digital-only zooms.

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Video quality is likewise solid for its price range; I’ve included some video samples in quite difficult conditions in the video review above if you want to check those out.

There’s no way I’d advocate for jumping up from the Pixel 7a to the Pixel 8a on camera terms, because it is mostly just treading water rather than massively jumping up in quality – but when the quality is good, it’s still essentially a good option.

Google Pixel 8a Sample Photos


Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)


Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)


Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)


Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Pixel 8a Sample Photo (Photo: Alex Kidman)


Google Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

Google’s played a very familiar tune when it comes to what’s lurking behind the Pixel 8a’s glass frame.

Like its predecessor, you get the same basic configuration as the Pixel 8, which means it’s sporting a Tensor G3 and 8GB of RAM with either 128GB or 256GB of fixed storage. Google’s never supported microSD card expansion, and as long as it can sell you some Google Drive storage in the cloud, it seems unlikely it ever will.

The familiar tune that Google’s playing here extends to benchmarks, and it’s not a song I particularly enjoy hearing. For its own reasons, Google blocks benchmarks from running on new Pixel phones for a couple of weeks until after they launch, stating that they’re not compatible with the device.

This is, simply put, nonsense, and I’m tempted to use stronger language than that.

It’s especially true for the Pixel 8a, because that is a Pixel 8 under its skin, and the Pixel 8 is 100% compatible with popular benchmarks such as Geekbench 6 or 3DMark.

Of course, that’s compatible now. Back when it launched, the Pixel 8 had the same exact stupid benchmark blocking limitation.

The advantage here is that because they’re the same architecture, I can be confident that benchmark results from the Pixel 8 will track very closely, if not identically to the Pixel 8a.

As such, I’m going to compare the “Pixel 8a” against other phones using Pixel 8 benchmark scores until such time – I’m going to say it will probably be mid-June – that those benchmarks magically start becoming compatible.

So here’s how the comparison looks using Geekbench 6’s CPU test:

Here’s how the Pixel 8a will likely run using 3DMark’s Wild Life Extreme GPU test:

I’ve included the older Pixel A series phones in there so that you can see the pretty clear performance arc that Google’s phones are running on right now. The short and simple form here is that the Pixel 8a is a powerful phone for the mid-range phone space… with a little bit of an Australian-specific caveat that I have to throw into the mix right now.

The Pixel 7a launched in Australia at $749, but the Pixel 8a costs $849. Google Australia’s official position on this price jump is that it’s due to currency variations (i.e a weak Australian dollar)… but that doesn’t add up.

With a tip of the hat to Leigh Stark over at Pickr – because he noted it in conversation with me – the US price for the Pixel 8a has remained constant at $499… and the relative value of the Australian dollar hasn’t shifted more than a percentage point or two at most.

If the US price had gone up, then there wouldn’t be an issue here, because the translation would sit closer to reality.

What’s happened – without going too financial markets on it – is that while Australians enjoyed a slightly cheaper Pixel 7a than the US price might suggest, we’re getting slugged an additional $100 for the Pixel 8a… basically because Google likes money.

That does sour my opinion of the Pixel 8a from a basic fairness point of view, but it also creates another problem for the Pixel 8a if you’re considering one.

The Pixel 7a at $749 was a bargain for what you’re getting, and the Pixel 8a is a little bit better… but it’s also a little bit more expensive, into price territory where it’s rather close to what you can score some past flagship phones for.

Android prices really do tend to tumble over time, which is why prior to the Pixel 8a’s announcement you could score a Pixel 7a for some really low prices, but that comparison doesn’t favour the Pixel 8a a lot at launch, when you might be able to snag something more powerful for just a touch more money.

It’s the point of shifting from sitting in the middle of mid-range pricing (~$500-$1,000) to being considerably closer to the top edge of it.

At least while the price is grumble-worthy, the rest of the package is very sound. You get plain Android, but it’s Android, so you can really do whatever you want with it launcher-wise.

Apps run very well on the Tensor G3 even into the higher end, and you’ll see updates for the OS and security patches for seven years, which simply isn’t matched by any other phone in this price space.

The Pixel 8a is 5G capable, and like every other sub-6Ghz 5G phone I’ve tested of late, you’ll typically see around 200-400Mbps down on it, at least based on my tests on the Telstra network in my area.

Mobile speeds are super variable, and the Pixel 8a sits reasonably within the 5G space for speeds based on my experiences with it in Sydney and regional New South Wales, without being a standout performer. If you want that, you’re probably more looking at the Pixel 8 Pro, the only currently “new” phone you can buy in Australia with full 5G compatibility.


Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

The Pixel 8a actually bucks the trend for just about every Android phone on the market, because it’s the rare non-folding example of an Android phone that doesn’t have a 5,000mAh battery under its hood. Instead you get a 4,492mAh battery to play with, a little lower than the competition.

However, as I’ve noted previously, battery capacity and battery performance are not the same at all. Prior Pixel A phones have had superb battery life, and I was keen to see how the Pixel 8a would compare. This at least is a benchmark I can run, because it’s not one that Google can artificially restrict.

Short answer: It’s identical. Here’s how it compares using my standard YouTube 1 hour battery life test:

97% is an excellent score for that test, and one that points resolutely at a phone that can easily last through a day’s moderate usage, and into another day if your needs aren’t quite so heavy. That’s absolutely been my experience testing out the Pixel 8a over the last week or so, and that would match up against what I’ve seen the Pixel 7a managing over time.

There’s no charger in the box with the Pixel 8a, but it will charge in both wired and wireless fashion at 18W wired or 7.5W with a Qi-compliant charger. That Qi charging speed is a touch slower than the highest rate supported by the Pixel 8 (12W with standard wireless chargers or 18W with Pixel Stand) if wireless charging matters to you.

Google Pixel 8a: Alex’s Verdict

Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

The Pixel 8a is, at a hardware level, an entirely worthy successor to the Pixel 7a.

That phone was my favourite mid-range phone of 2023, and a strong contender for being the best phone of the entire year.

Still, I’ve marked the Pixel 8a at a lower level than the Pixel 7a, and it’s not because I’m viewing it as lacking ambition.

It’s simply that price hike, partly because it’s not an entirely fair price hike, but mostly because it shifts the Pixel 8a that important bit higher up the mid-range price scale, into a territory where shopping around for flagship bargains can sometimes bear rich pickings.

If you compare the Pixel 8a only against the mid-range offerings as I could with the Pixel 7a, it’s an absolute winner. But Google Australia didn’t go down that path, and the comparison against premium phones isn’t quite so flattering.

Which is a huge pity. I’d love to be just as enthusiastic about the Pixel 8a as I was the Pixel 7a, but at this price, it’s hard to be quite as keen as I might.

Is that just a reviewer hangup? Maybe, but when it's costing you money, it's something you should consider too. At the same price as the Pixel 7a the Pixel 8a would be an automatic recommendation. As it is, it's just a choice amongst many.

Google Pixel 8a: Pricing and availability

Pixel 8a (Photo: Alex Kidman)

The Google Pixel 8a retails in Australia for $849 with 128GB of storage or $949 with 256GB of storage.

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