Watch CBS News

Essentials Shopping

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 Pro: Is the new budget phone worth it?

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 Pro comparison: Is the new budget 8a phone worth it?
Google

The Pixel 8 Pro is Google's flagship smartphone (and one of our top picks for best Android phones in 2024 and seven best cell phones of 2024). For a bit less money than the competition, this popular phone offers high-end features that take advantage of the Android OS. It also has an advanced AI system (called Google Gemini Nano), an enhanced camera setup, plus an impressive microphone and speaker array -- along with a stunning, 6.7-inch Super Actua OLED display. 

Buy what if you don't need all of the latest tech built into the Google Pixel 8 Pro? If you still want a cutting-edge smartphone from Google that plays well with Android, there's the Google Pixel 8, which has a starting price of $699.

But for even less money, there's the brand-new Google Pixel 8a -- the most affordable in the Pixel 8 lineup -- with a starting price of just $499.

One reason why the Pixel 8a is less expensive is that it offers just 128GB or 256GB of internal storage and is a bit scaled down in terms of features. Google recently sent me the Pixel 8 Pro with 128GB of storage and the Pixel 8a with 128GB of storage, so I could see how these two phones compare. 

Is the new Google Pixel 8a worth it, or are you better off spending a bit more for the Google Pixel 8 or Google Pixel 8 Pro smartphone? Keep reading to see which version of the Pixel 8 smartphone is better for you, and discover how the new and affordable Pixel 8a performs.


Google Pixel 8a: At a glance

Google Pixel 8a Smartphone
Amazon

Operating system: Android 14 | Display size: 6.1 inches | Display type: Actua OLED | Display resolution: 1,080 x 2,400 pixels | Refresh rate: Up to 120Hz | Processor: Google Tensor G3 (Titan M2 security coprocessor) | RAM: 8GB | Storage options: 128GB or 256GB | Battery: 4,492 mAh | Dimensions: 6 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches | Weight: 6.6 ounces | Charging options: Wired or wireless | Front camera: 13MP | Rear camera: 64MP (wide), 13MP (ultra-Wide) | Water resistant rating: IP67 | Max. screen brightness: 2,000 nits | Port: USB Type-C | Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3 | Price range: $499 to $559

Right out of the box, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Google took all of the most commonly used features found in it's most advanced smartphone and made them accessible in this less expensive model. The Pixel 8a is easy to use and offers a sleek design that's the perfect size to hold in your hands.

The phone comes with preinstalled apps that give it the core capabilities that average user needs, without needing additional apps (although plenty of options are available from the Google Play Store). This phone is highly customizable, durable and secure. 

Out of all the Android phones on the market -- at any price -- the Pixel 8a offers incredible value and provides the communication, productivity and entertainment features most people want from a smartphone. This is the perfect Android phone for someone making the switch from an iPhone, or who wants more advanced capabilities than what their existing Android phone offers, without having to pay a high price for a premium phone.


Google Pixel 8 Pro: At a glance

Google Pixel 8 Pro
Amazon

Operating system: Android | Display size: 6.7 inches | Display type: Super Actua OLED | Display resolution: 1,344 x 2,992 pixels | Refresh rate: Up to 120Hz | Processor: Google Tensor G3 (Titan M2 security coprocessor) | RAM: 12GB | Storage options: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB | Battery: 5,050 mAh | Dimensions: 6.4 x 3 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 7.5 ounces | Charging options: Wired or wireless | Front camera: 10.5MP | Rear camera: 50MP (wide), 48MP (ultra-Wide), 48MP (Telephoto) | Water resistant rating: IP68 | Max. screen brightness: 2,400 nits | Port: USB Type-C | Wireless connectivity: Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.3 | Price range: $899 to $1,399

For anyone who wants maximum power and advanced capabilities from a smartphone, the Google Pixel 8 Pro offers this and much more. It's a souped-up phone with a powerful camera system and one of the most advanced AI systems (Google Gemini Nano) that you'll find in any phone. This makes the phone easier to use, while providing seriously impressive features.

The Pixel 8 Pro is perfect for someone who relies on a smartphone for content creation, shooting high-resolution still images, or capturing stunning 8K video. While the camera system itself is advanced, its the editing and enhancement tools in the Google Photos app that set this phone apart.

For someone who has the budget for a higher-end Android phone, your choice can easily be narrowed down to the Google Pixel 8 Pro or Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, although the Google phone is less expensive and takes full advantage of what Android has to offer.


How the Google Pixel 8a and Google Pixel 8 Pro compare

While the higher-end model is designed more for a power user, the Pixel 8a offers affordability, versatility and personalization options that are more than adequate for the average user.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 Pro comparison: Is the new budget 8a phone worth it?
The Google Pixel 8 Pro (top) is a bit larger, but a tad skinnier than the Google Pixel 8a. Jason R. Rich

Who is the Google Pixel 8a best for?

The Pixel 8 Pro is ideal for someone who wants and needs the most power and advanced capabilities a smartphone can offer, and who is willing to pay extra for the technology. The Pixel 8a, however, is a wonderfully versatile and highly capable smartphone for the average user (or for kids and teens), who want an Android phone that's surprisingly affordable considering the technology and functionality that's built into it.

Google Pixel 8a
The Google Pixel 8a has just two rear-facing cameras that are lower resolution than the three rear-facing cameras built into the Google Pixel 8 Pro. Jason R. Rich

The Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 Pro: Taking photo and video

When it comes to producing the absolute best photos and video, we recommend the Pixel 8 Pro or the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. Both offer the most advanced cameras and AI-based shooting and editing tools you can find in any smartphone (including the Apple iPhone).

While the Pixel 8a offers slightly lower-resolution cameras and lacks some of the advanced features in the Pixel 8 Pro, it's easy for the average user to capture high-quality images or video and edit and share from a phone. The Pixel 8a seamlessly integrates with Google Photos, so all content can automatically be backed up in the cloud and synced. 

Google has managed to incorporate advanced editing tools into the Pixel 8a -- like Best Take, Photo Unblur, Night Sight, Portrait Mode, Motion Auto Focus, Super Res Zoom, Live HDR+, Magic Eraser, Magic Editor and Astrophotography. These tools allow anyone to unleash their creativity when taking pictures or shooting video (at up to 4K, 60 fps resolution).

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 Pro comparison: Is the new budget 8a phone worth it?
On the left is the original photo with an unsightly tank to the side of the horse. Using Magic Eraser and a few other tools, this photo was dramatically enhanced in less than one minute. Jason R. Rich
Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8 Pro comparison: Is the new budget 8a phone worth it?
The large board on the ground next to the tractor was easily removed using Magic Eraser. Then, some of Google Photos' Adjust editing tools were used to further enhance the photo. Jason R. Rich

AI in the Google Pixel 8 Pro vs. the Pixel 8a

The Google Pixel 8 Pro was the first smartphone to have the Gemini Nano artificial intelligence system built into it. And now, many (but not all) of these features have been integrated into the Pixel 8a. 

One of the debut features of Gemini Nano was the record and summarize feature, which is now part of the phone's Recorder app. Using the Pixel 8 Pro, a user can record a meeting, lecture, interview, or class and then have the phone create a detailed, text-based transcription and text-based synopsis of the recording. Google AI can also take a text-based document from Google Docs or an email from within Gmail and create accurate summaries in seconds.

When it comes to texting, the phone uses AI to suggest responses. And while you're recording video or shooting photos, Gemini Nano works behind the scenes to adjust color, lighting, image stabilization and more, so you get consistently pro-quality results. When you want to edit your content, AI offers up features like Photo Unblur and Magic Editor -- giving you more creative control.

When scanning paper documents AI removes smudges, stains and creases, plus improves readability. The AI even improves audio quality during phone calls and video calls; helps eliminate spam calls, translates languages in real-time, manages passwords, protects your privacy and much more.

I've been particularly impressed with how the Google Pixel Pro and Pixel 8a use the Circle to Search feature. Circle almost any object on the screen and watch Google perform a search on that item, location or object. 

But what about AI in the Pixel 8a? With the Pixel 8a, you still get AI assistance when shooting and editing photos or videos, and can take advantage of the Circle to Search feature. AI can also summarize Google Docs documents and emails from Gmail. You get real-time language translation and spam call filtering, as well as enhanced privacy and security. 


12 things I love about the Google Pixel 8a

Google Pixel 8a
The Google Pixel 8a offers a more compact design that's durable, lightweight and comfortable to hold. Jason R. Rich
  • The Pixel 8a's 6.1 inch Actua OLED display offers a fast refresh rate and up to 2,000 nits brightness. This allows the phone to display video and fast-action graphics extremely smoothly, with vivid colors and excellent clarity. The display can showcase more than 16 million colors and relies on a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. This is ideal for gaming, taking photos, shooting and editing video, or streaming video content.
  • Battery life is up to 24 hours, which is impressive for a smartphone. It's easy to recharge the phone using a wired or wireless option.
  • The Pixel 8a is water and dust resistant (IP67 rated). For extra durability it uses scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla Glass 3 over the touchscreen display.
  • Using Google's Family Link parental controls, it's easier than ever for an adult to set up the Pixel 8a for a child, set digital ground rules and then monitor the child's Pixel 8a from their own Android smartphone.
  • Google has promised to support the Pixel 8a with seven years worth of operating system, security and feature updates, just like it has with its Google Pixel and Pixel 8 Pro phones.
  • The Pixel 8a integrates a virtual private network (VPN by Google One) to automatically provide added protection when using the phone when doing anything online.
  • It's easy to quickly unlock the Pixel 8a using either a fingerprint scan, passcode or face scan. 
  • While the Pixel 8a's camera system is impressive, it's the AI-based photo and video editing features offered that make it very simple to enhance photos or video content and make what you capture look better using tools like Best Take, Audio Magic Eraser, Photo Unblur, Night Sight, Super Res Zoom, Motion Audio Focus, Magic Eraser, Face Unblur, Magic Editor and more.
  • The Pixel 8a runs the same version of Android 14 (or later) as the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Thus, it offers the same collection of preinstalled apps. There are also more than 3.2 million optional apps available from the Google Play Store.
  • Because Google created the Android operating system, the company has seamlessly integrated numerous ways to personalize the phone's appearance and performance.
  • Initially setting up the Pixel 8a and then transferring apps, data, documents, files, photos, videos and other content is extremely easy if you already have an established Google account. When the phone is turned on for the first time, Android walks you through the process of transferring existing content from a Pixel or Android device, or an Apple iPhone or iPad.
  • The Pixel 8a comes preinstalled with all of Google's most popular apps and services -- from Chrome and Gmail, to Google Maps, Google Photos, Contacts, Google Drive, Messages and YouTube. 

4 things I don't like about the Google Pixel 8a

  • The Pixel 8a does not come with a built in microSD memory card slot, so unless you plug a flash drive into the USB Type-C port located on the bottom of the phone or rely on cloud storage, you're limited to just 128GB or 256GB of internal storage which cannot be expanded.
  • While it's able to capture visually impressive photos and video, the camera setup and editing tools offered by this phone are not as robust as what's offered by the Pixel 8 Pro. However, it does exceed what's possible using the considerably more expensive Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max.
  • Google is doing some pretty amazing things when it comes to utilizing artificial intelligence within the Pixel 8 Pro. Some of this has been incorporated into the Pixel 8a, but not to the same extent as the more expensive phone.
  • Like all of the Pixel smartphones, the Pixel 8a relies heavily on integration with Google's online services, including Google Drive, Google Assistant and Google Photos. To use the phone, a free Google account is required.

12 comparisons between the Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8a

  1. The physical size of the Pixel 8 Pro is 0.4 inches taller, 0.1 inches wider, but 0.1 inches thinner than the Pixel 8a. Both have four casing color options and both run the same version of Android 14 (or later).
  2. The Pixel 8 Pro offers a larger and brighter touchscreen display than the Pixel 8a. It's a 6.7 inch Super Actua OLED display with a maximum brightness of 2,400 nits and a refresh rate up to 120Hz. The Pixel 8a's display is 6.1 inches, has an Actua OLED display with a refresh rate up to 120Hz and a maximum brightness of 2,000 nits. 
  3. With the Pixel 8 Pro, you get a triple rear camera system (as opposed to just two cameras). While the Pixel 8a offers a maximum 8x zoom, the Pixel 8 Pro offers up to a 30x zoom, plus a macro shooting mode for extreme close ups.
  4. The main, rear-facing camera of the Pixel 8 Pro offers 50MP resolution, while the main rear-facing camera in the Pixel 8a is 64MP. The lower-end model does not offer a multi-zone LDAF (laser detect auto focus sensor). The other two rear-facing cameras built into the Pixel 8 Pro offer 48MP resolution, while there's only one additional rear facing camera in the Pixel 8a and it offers 13MP resolution. As for the front-facing camera, the Pixel 8 Pro uses an auto focusing, 10.5MP Dual PD selfie camera. The Pixel 8a has a 13MP fixed focus front camera.
  5. While the photo and video editing capabilities of both the Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8a are extensive and far more advanced than what even Apple's top-of-the-line iPhone 15 Pro Max offers, the Pro model offers a few additional editing features not found in the Pixel 8a, like Pro controls, a high-resolution photography option, a video boost feature, Night Sight Video and a macro shooting mode (for extreme close-up photos or video). 
  6. The Pixel 8a has 8GB of RAM, while the Pixel 8 Pro has 12GB of RAM.
  7. Internal storage options for the Pixel 8 Pro include 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB, while the Pixel 8a is limited to either 128GB or 256GB. Both models, however, integrate seamlessly with Google Drive for online storage and backups.
  8. Both the Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8a have a battery life up to 24 hours, but the Pro model has a slightly larger capacity battery (5,050 mAH versus 4,492 mAh).
  9. While both the Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8a are dust and water resistant, the more expensive model is rated IP68, while the Pixel 8a is rated IP67. For the average user, however, this small difference is inconsequential, since both phones are durable.
  10. Google has committed to providing seven years worth of operating system, security and feature updates to all models of the Pixel 8 phones.
  11. All models of the Pixel 8 phone run using the Google Tensor G3 processor and Titan M2 security co-processor. Both have an integrated VPN and can be unlocked using a fingerprint scan, passcode or face scan.
  12. Both the Pixel 8 Pro and Pixel 8a have a built in stereo speaker system with noise suppression. However, the higher-end model uses three microphones (instead of two) and offers Spatial Audio support.

Is the Pixel 8a worth it?

In a word, yes. Google has packed a lot of impressive technology into a phone that's lightweight, durable and fits comfortably in a hand. The phone's rounded edges and easy-access power and side volume buttons make it easy to work with, while the Android OS provides countless ways to personalize the phone and interact with it using taps, swipes and other gestures directly on the screen. 

Right out of the box, the Pixel 8a is ready to handle all common tasks someone typically uses their smartphone for, but this phone handles those tasks extremely efficiently thanks to Android's user interface and the precision and clarity of the touchscreen. 

The Pixel 8a does an excellent job handling phone calls, video calls and texting. The Chrome web browser makes web surfing a breeze, while the Contacts and Calendar apps will help keep you organized and productive throughout your day. Google Wallet makes digital payments a snap. The Recorder app makes recording audio from meetings, lectures or classes a breeze, while Google Docs makes it easy to create, edit and share documents.

Where the Pixel 8a really stands out is with its photo and video. The Camera app is easier to use than ever. The interface is simpler than ever, thanks to AI. And when it comes to editing, you can't beat Google Photos' editing and enhancement tools that are far more sophisticated than what's offered by almost all other smartphones on the market.

What about entertainment? Whether you're gaming, streaming video or audio or reading e-books, the Pixel 8a offers the kind of power you'd typically find in phones costing two to three times more. The security features are more advanced than most competition, too.

This phone offers a really good value for the average smartphone user. And with the ability to add parental controls, it's also an affordable phone for parents. Whether you buy the phone outright (starting at $499) or finance it for as little as $20.79 per month for 24 months, the Pixel 8a is a great buy for the money.


If you're about to nab the Google Pixel 8a or Google Pixel 8 Pro smartphone and want the perfect tablet companion for it, we recommend the Google Pixel Tablet, which we recently reviewed, since it was one of our top picks within our recent coverage of the six best Android tablets for 2024.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news