Google Pixel 8a vs. 8 – Which Should You Buy?

Is the Pixel 8 actually the better deal? Or does the 8a have more advantages besides its price?

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Google Pixel 8 (Affiliate Link)

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Pixel 8a vs. 8 – Which Should You Buy?

by Josh Teder

I’ve spent over six months with a Pixel 8, and now that the Pixel 8a is out, I’m going to tell you which of these two phones is the better buy. The answer is more complicated than just looking at their spec sheets.

Pixel 8 Overview

Let’s start with the Pixel 8. The third advantage I’d give the Pixel 8 is spatial audio, which the 8a doesn’t have, according to its spec sheet. I can confirm that pairing my Pixel Buds Pro to the phone doesn’t have the head-tracking setting you do on the Pixel 8. Now, both of these phones have the exact same Tensor G3 processor, so this isn’t a limitation on the processor side. I’m not sure if this is just intentional nerfing by Google or if there’s another part missing that this feature needs.

Build Quality

The Pixel 8’s second advantage is build quality. You get slightly better glass with Gorilla Glass Victus on the front than the Gorilla Glass 3 cover on the 8a. The Pixel 8 also has IP68 dust and water resistance, which means it can survive immersion in water for long periods of time and beyond 1 meter in depth. The 8a has IP67, meaning it’s dust and water-resistant but only up to 1 meter submerged and for no more than 30 minutes.

Design and Battery Sharing

The Pixel 8’s design also includes battery sharing, allowing you to charge things like your Pixel Buds Pro by placing them on the back of the device. You also get slimmer bezels, giving the front of the phone a more modern feel.

Screen Quality

The number one reason why I think you would pick the Pixel 8 over the 8a is the screen quality. On paper, both of these screens look pretty much identical, but when you look at them in person, the Pixel 8 is clearly better because it doesn’t have the purple and green refractions that you see on the 8a display panel. This is common in a lot of cheaper OLED phone panels and what I’ve experienced with previous A-series Pixels.

Pixel 8a Overview

Alright, so that’s the Pixel 8. Now, let’s look at the 8a. Does this thing have anything over the Pixel 8 besides a lower retail price? Surprisingly, yes.

Material and Feel

The number three advantage, which is a tiny one, is the matte material on the back of the 8a compared to the glossy material on the 8. It feels a bit nicer.

Camera System

The number two and most surprising advantage of the Pixel 8a is its camera system. While both are pretty good, the 8a has been slightly better in my testing so far in many scenarios. It produces slightly warmer, brighter photos with less dull colors and better saturation. My selfies looked better, skin tones were more natural, and fewer shadows were under my eyes. The only camera feature the 8a doesn’t have compared to the 8 is macro focus, which the 8a can’t do. However, one weird thing I noticed was the 8a did a better job keeping the subject in focus than the Pixel 8 did.

Camera Testing and Performance

Because I didn’t trust the initial results, I retested these two phones on a different day at dusk in a different location. The 8a performed well, if not slightly better, in certain scenarios like Night Sight. The only downside I found with the 8a’s camera hardware is video, which in low light looked noticeably worse than the Pixel 8’s.

Camera Spec Differences

So why did the 8a perform better than the Pixel 8 in certain scenarios? I looked at the spec sheets and found a few differences that might explain the performance. Google bumped the megapixel count for the cameras on the 8a compared to the 8. The 8a has a 13-megapixel front-facing camera, and its quad-core wide camera also has a higher megapixel count. Now, megapixels aren’t everything. A higher megapixel count doesn’t necessarily mean a better image. Other factors like pixel size on the image sensor, the sensor size, and lens architecture play significant roles.

Pricing and Conclusion

That being said, it appears that the Pixel 8a benefits from Google’s megapixel spec bump. Of course, the 8a’s number one benefit is its price. It retails for $499, compared to $699 for the Pixel 8. I’ve left purchase links in the description if you want to check out the current prices and see if either phone is on sale.

Which of these phones would I recommend buying? When I started writing this video, I thought it would be easy—the Pixel 8 would be the answer, especially if you can get it on sale. That’s true, particularly if you care about a better screen. But I didn’t expect the 8a to have such a good camera system. So, if you can’t find the Pixel 8 on sale and don’t mind a lower-quality OLED screen, the 8a is the obvious choice. If you’re more particular about screen quality, like I am, your only choice is the Pixel 8.

Additional Recommendations

If you want the Pixel 8 but don’t mind a larger screen size, there are some benefits to going with the Pixel 8 Pro over the Pixel 8, which I cover in my comparison video. You can get to that video by clicking here: 

For other videos on Pixel products and accessories like the Pixel Watch 2 and the Pixel Tablet, you can click here:

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