Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (2024)

This article is part of our seriesBattle of the Brands, in which we compare category-leading products to their counterparts to determine which are actually worth your money.

The Google Pixel 8a is one of the best smartphones you can get if you’re shopping on a budget, but it’s not free of competition. In fact, one of its most aggressive competitors is from Google itself: the Pixel 8.

What makes the Pixel 8 and 8a such rivals? For one, their specs are shockingly similar, as are their designs and software. But what’s most interesting is the pricing: the 8a starts at $499 while the regular 8 starts at $699. But you can regularly find the latter on sale for around $550, and sometimes even less during certain holidays.

With so many parallels between the Pixel 8 and 8a, it’s difficult to decide which to buy. Lucky for you, we’re breaking down what makes each phone special in their own right below.

Google Pixel 8 vs. Pixel 8a at a glance

The Pixel 8 is a great compact flagship smartphone with Google’s latest camera innovations, good battery life, a great screen and all the AI features you could ask for. Spring for this model if you want the best possible display, photo quality and charging speeds of the two.

Read our review

At $499, the Pixel 8a is one of the best values in the smartphone market. With a fast and bright screen, flagship-level performance, good cameras and all-day battery life, it’s a no-brainer for budget shoppers.

Read our review

Quick specs comparison


6.2-in. Actua OLED 1080 x 2400 display (up to 120Hz, 2,000 nits)

6.1-in. Actua OLED 1080 x 2400 display (up to 120Hz, 2,000 nits)


Google Tensor G3

Google Tensor G3


128GB / 256GB

128GB / 256GB





50-megapixel main camera, 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, 10.5-megapixel front-facing camera

64-megapixel main camera, 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera, 13-megapixel front-facing camera

Size and weight

5.93 x 2.79 x 0.35 in., 6.6 oz

5.93 x 2.79 x 0.35 in., 6.63 oz


Obsidian, Mint, Hazel, Rose

Obsidian, Porcelain, Bay, Aloe

Design comes down to a tenth of an inch

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (5)

That’s how big a difference there is between the Pixel 8 and 8a’s displays. The regular Pixel 8 sports a 6.2-inch OLED panel while the 8a has a 6.1-inch OLED screen. Given how small a difference it is, you’d be hard pressed to notice, even with both phones sitting next to each other. I kid you not, the 8a just looks a bit rounder to me, not necessarily smaller.

Both of these phones look like Pixel phones, so if you’ve ever seen a Pixel phone from the past two years, you’ll know what to expect. A big camera bar, glass and aluminum, flashy colors and flat screens are in tow, and they remain extremely well built with IP ratings for water and dust resistance. The Pixel 8 has an IP68 rating while the 8a gets IP67 — that means the 8 can survive in a meter and a half of water for up to 30 minutes, whereas the 8a can last for 30 minutes under a single meter of water. It’s not a huge difference, but worth pointing out nonetheless.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (6)

Personally, I like how vibrant Google made the Pixel 8a’s green color. It’s called Aloe, and it looks a lot like a neon-infused sea foam. The Pixel 8’s green colorways, Mint and Hazel, aren’t as pungent or flashy, but they’re nice nonetheless. You can also get both phones in Obsidian. The 8a also comes in Porcelain and a blue Bay, while the 8 has an optional Rose color that’s quite pretty.

The biggest difference between these phones (besides their colors) is the material Google uses on the back. The 8 comes with Gorilla Glass Victus on the front and back, while the 8a has Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and a plastic back. Honestly, you can’t tell the difference by holding them; the frosted finish on the 8a feels exactly the same as the 8, and both are fully compatible with wireless charging. Google cut a slight corner to save some money with the 8a, and I’m not mad about it whatsoever.

In the end, these phones have basically the same design. Yes, one is a bit rounder than the other, but they look basically the same. The best part? You can use either of them with one hand thanks to their smaller screens, which I’ll forever be grateful for.

TL;DR: With minor differences here and there, the Pixel 8 and 8a share a fundamentally similar design, and that’s completely fine–they’re well built, offer water and dust protection, and look as premium as ever.

The Pixel 8’s screen is slightly better, but it’s hard to notice

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (7)

The Pixel 8 and 8a share a lot of the same display specs. From their OLED panels and Full HD+ resolutions to the 120Hz refresh rates, on paper, you’d think these screens would look identical in the real world. They even have the same 2,000 nits of peak brightness, which is incredible for a Pixel A-series phone.

It’s only when you get them side-by-side that you notice a difference. Google is using a higher-quality OLED panel on the Pixel 8 that has better viewing angles, color reproduction and clarity than the Pixel 8a. Granted, the 8a has a great-looking screen (as we noted in our review), but there’s a clear difference between its quality and that of the 8.

It’s also worth stressing that the Pixel 8a’s screen is really good despite falling behind the 8. I love the faster refresh rate and how it helps the phone feel more responsive, and the extra brightness is terrific when walking down the sunny streets of New York City. But if you’re a sucker for the best screen you can get, you’ll find that in the Pixel 8.

TL;DR: You wouldn’t know it on paper, but the Pixel 8’s display is a bit higher-quality than the Pixel 8a’s. That being said, you won’t be disappointed by the 8a, especially given the price.

Performance and battery life are basically the same

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (8)

The Pixel 8 and 8a share the same Tensor G3 processor, and in day to day usage, that translates to practically identical performance. When we reviewed the Pixel 8 last year, we noted how it was close to delivering flagship-level speeds, with benchmarks inching closer to what you’d get from Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon chips. While that’s great for the Pixel 8, it’s even better for the 8a since it means you can get flagship performance at a fraction of the price.

The G3 is the most well-optimized chip I’ve used in a Pixel phone to date. It can still get pretty warm under heavy usage, but for multitasking or taking lots of pictures, the processor can keep up without issue. Using the Pixel 8 and 8a, you couldn’t tell which one cost more money to own — they’re that close.

Like the processors, Google also includes identical accompanying specs. The phones ship with 8GB of RAM and your choice of 128GB or 256GB of storage, the latter of which is a first for the Pixel A series.

Even the battery life is basically the same. The Pixel 8 ships with a 4,575mAh battery whereas the 8a’s is slightly smaller at 4,492mAh. Those extra 83mAh mean basically nothing, mind you; these phones can last a full day on a charge without issue, and that’s with mixed to heavy usage with high screen brightness. Both phones survived an impressive 16-plus hours on our battery test, which consists of looping 4K video at 50% brightness.

Where they differ is in charging speed: the Pixel 8 supports up to 27W wired charging and 23W wireless, while the 8a only comes with 18W wired charging and 7.5W wireless charging. It takes a considerable amount of time to recharge the 8a as a result, so if you like being able to juice up quickly, the Pixel 8 is your best bet.

TL;DR: The Pixel 8 and 8a share the same performance and battery life, and they only differ when it comes to recharging since the Pixel 8 is slightly faster.

The cameras are good on both, but best on the Pixel 8

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (9)

Whether you use the Pixel 8 or 8a as your main smartphone, you’ll be satisfied with the camera quality. Both phones can capture great-looking photos and videos thanks to Google’s advanced image processing algorithms, which have helped the Pixel line dominate other phones in various price ranges for years.

It’s only when you get down to the nitty gritty that you can declare a winner between the two, and that winner is the Pixel 8.

The 8a’s camera hardware is nothing to shake a stick at, mind you. You get a 64-megapixel main camera that delivers solid results in any lighting condition. The phone uses pixel binning to boil down 64-megapixel photos to more manageable sizes, all while maintaining extra detail and clarity. Meanwhile, the 13-megapixel ultra-wide is nice for capturing large landscapes and subjects too big for a standard frame. I was also impressed with video quality; it’s not as good as an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, but it gets the job done.

The Pixel 8’s rear camera system is a bit different, with a 50-megapixel main lens and a 12-megapixel ultra-wide with autofocus. While there are less megapixels to play with, the quality of your photos will see a boost since the main camera comes with a wider aperture and field of view. This allows the sensor to collect even more light information to produce even better photos after hitting the shutter button. And with autofocus on the ultra-wide lens, your wide-angle photos will look sharper and clearer.

The Pixel 8 is also better equipped for capturing more detail. When you use Super Res Zoom (a.k.a. digital zoom) on the Pixel 8, you’ll notice that subjects are better defined and less blurry than with the 8a. This is thanks to the higher-quality image sensor that Google uses on its flagship phone, whereas the 8a has one that’s been reused a number of times on Pixel phones of the past.

Oh, and video quality is better, too. It isn’t a night and day difference, but there’s less artifacting and clearer detail in low-light with the Pixel 8.

Of course, these are both Pixel phones which means you’ll get all the same software-based camera features as you’ve come to know. Everything from Magic Eraser and Best Take to astrophotography and Real Tone are here. Some exclusive features to the Pixel 8 include Ultra HDR for capturing more light and detail in your shots, Macro Focus for getting super close to your subject, and Motion Mode which lets you take action pans and long exposures of what’s in front of you.

TL;DR: While the Pixel 8a is far from a bad camera, those who want the best will want to pick up the Pixel 8.

Seven years of updates and plenty of AI features

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (10)

Both the Pixel 8 and 8a come with Android 15 out of the box, and in case you were wondering whether the experience is the same on both phones, it totally is.

And it should be. I’ve said it hundreds of times before, but Google continues to deliver one of the best software experiences you can get on any smartphone with the Pixel series. From the clean interface and responsive animations to the lack of bloatware and annoying advertisem*nts you get from other Android systems like Samsung’s One UI, the Pixel experience is pleasant, refreshing and inviting.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (11)

You also get a lot of the AI features Google has been touting lately like its new chatbot assistant, Gemini, Circle to Search and Magic Compose for coming up with the perfect text message. That’s on top of fan favorites like Now Playing, Call Screen and AI-generated wallpapers.

The best part? Both of these phones will get seven years’ worth of software updates, which means they’ll at least be supported until Android 22 comes out. Not only is this a great software policy for a flagship like the Pixel 8, it’s even better for a mid-ranger like the 8a. You’ll be able to use either phone for years on end without worrying about missing out on new features.

TL;DR: With advanced AI features and seven years of software updates, the Pixel 8 and 8a continue Google’s legacy of producing one of the best smartphone software experiences you can get.

Bottom line

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (12)

I’m gonna make this very simple: you will be happy whether you buy the Pixel 8 or the Pixel 8a. While the 8a has a few features that don’t quite live up to the quality of the 8, there’s no question that both are excellent smartphones that deserve a place in your pocket for years to come.

If you can’t decide which one to buy, either get the one that’s cheapest or wait until the Pixel 8 dips to around $500 to $550 (like it is as of this writing) to maximize your value. The Pixel 8a is in an awkward position because of Google’s constant discounts, but it at least makes the decision easier when it’s deal season.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 8: What’s the difference? | CNN Underscored (2024)


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