While Google has only been in the smartphone market for less than a decade, we’re already used to top-quality products from the consistently expanding company. The Google Pixel 7a represents a mid-range offering from the Pixel series, with much of the functionality of the more expensive devices and enough features to still feel like part of the smartphone family.
Google’s Pixel-a line has always targeted affordability in the same vein as the iPhone SE family. But compared to Apple, Google crams a lot more in its budget phone. So much so that the vanilla Pixel 7 becomes an afterthought after having used the Pixel 7a. It’s got the looks of a premium, offers stellar performance, and includes a pair of reliable cameras, all earning it a spot on our list of the best Google Pixel phones.
- Feature-rich vanilla Android experience
- Great cameras with software support
- Impressive performance for the price
- Satisfying punchy 90Hz OLED display
- Finicky fingerprint sensor
- 128GB storage without scope for expansion
- No power brick and charging speeds are still average
- Gets hot pretty quickly
You can pick up the Google Pixel 7a through multiple retailers, including Amazon and Google’s online storefront. The retail price varies between $450-$500, depending on your network provider or if you need an unblocked device. In terms of color, you can pick up the Google Pixel 7a in either Charcoal, Snow, Sea, or Coral.
|Battery||Li-Po 4385 mAh|
|Display||6.1-inch 90Hz OLED (1080 x 2400)|
|CPU||Google Tensor G2|
|Front camera||13 MP|
|Back cameras||64 MP wide and 13 MP ultrawide|
|Dimensions||152mm x 72.9mm x 9mm|
|Colors||Charcoal, Snow, Sea, and Coral|
Tricks like real-time speech translation, call screening, background noise reduction during voice calls, and voice message transcription are some exclusive features that lift Pixel phones above the competition, including the 7a model. I particularly love Hold For Me, which makes the phone wait for you when the person on the other end of the call puts you on hold, and the phone alerts you as soon as a person is back on the line.
Text-to-speech and translation are dramatically faster on the Pixel 7a than most flagship non-Google devices, and so is the experience of interacting with the Google Assistant. That’s because Google manages most of these tasks with advanced hardware resources, or to be more specific, the TPU AI accelerator, which significantly speeds up the response times.
It’s no surprise that the Google Assistant’s conversational capabilities are at their best on a Pixel. Google also uses these AI chops to deliver tricks like unblurring photos and erasing items with surprisingly solid results in the Photos app. Considering you’re not paying the full price for the Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro, it’s a boon to get features such as Magic Eraser for a device under $500.
For authentication, the Pixel 7a employs an under-display fingerprint scanner. It functions as intended but appears to have inherited the woes of its predecessors. It occasionally struggles to register the fingerprint, especially if you have a screen protector applied. I thought I was alone suffering the undesirable fingerprint shenanigans, but a quick search on Reddit revealed multiple user complaints.
To overcome the issue, I simply registered multiple instances of the same thumbprint and increased the touch sensitivity from within the Settings app. This trick increases the recognition speed. It’s worth pointing out that the optical fingerprint sensors, the kind fitted inside the Pixel 7a, tend to be slower and less accurate compared to the more advanced ultrasonic-type fingerprint sensors. That issue isn’t exclusive to Google’s mid-range device.
One of the reasons to pick up a Pixel phone is the signature camera experience, with Google’s mid-range devices often outperforming other Android models in terms of still images and video recording. Google arms its A-series budget phone with a powerful 64-megapixel primary camera and a 13-megapixel ultrawide with a wider field of view than its predecessor. The 13-megapixel front camera handles selfies.
As far as picture quality goes, the distinct Pixel color science is on full display here. You get close to natural colors with adequate depth, sound exposure control, and rich dynamic range. Under harsh external light, the Pixel 7a performs admirably, retaining a healthy amount of detail in photos. However, there is occasionally a touch of over-exposure from bright skies in a subject’s background.
The upgraded 64-megapixel main camera and its pixel-binning capabilities shine at one crucial aspect. Compared to the Pixel 6a, the Pixel 7a offers much better noise control, and as a result, even indoor shots tend to retain their natural color profile and surface details. HDR performance has been a reliable area for Pixel phones, and the Pixel 7a is no exception.
The Pixel 7a lacks a dedicated telephoto camera, but with some clever AI upscaling and digital cropping, you can get decent 2x zoom and 8x Super Res Zoom images. If the lighting isn’t intrusive, the AI does a great job at pixel-upscaling and delivers photos with coherent subject separation, clarity, and saturation, but at the cost of digital noise.
Another impressive camera feature of the Pixel 7a is the Real Tone system, which as the name suggests, captures true-to-life skin color without any aggressive brightening or smoothening. This feature particularly shines when capturing portrait shots. However, despite impressively accurate edge detection, the Pixel 7a applies a very subtle bokeh effect by default.
If you have the patience and a tripod that lets the camera lens face the night sky, the dedicated Astrophotography mode can capture some truly stunning shots. Ultrawide shots also turn out sharp with fantastic contrast levels and dynamic range. However, low-light ultrawide shots are comparatively underwhelming.
On the video capture side, it’s great to see that optical image stabilization is part of the parcel. The Pixel 7a’s main camera allows video capture at up to 4K resolution while capping slo-mo video capture at 240fps. Overall, compared to the Pixel 6a, the Pixel 7a cameras offer a massive leap in camera output and go toe-to-toe with the pricier Pixel 7.
For the Pixel 7a’s design, Google sticks with the familiar Pixel line aesthetics. The surrounding frame is aluminum with a color-matched polished profile, while the rear shell is plastic with a glossy finish. Over at the front is Gorilla Glass to protect the OLED screen. It’s not the latest iteration of Corning’s protective solution, nor is it as sturdy as the Victus option, but Google appears to have made a bit of a compromise to cut down on the retail price.
The build quality is solid, and despite commanding a slightly larger profile than the iPhone 14 Pro, the Pixel 7a feels great to hold. That’s primarily because of the round side rails and the fact no sharp edges are digging into the palm of your hands. I wouldn’t call it a small phone, but comparing it to behemoths like the iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Galaxy S23 Ultra, the Pixel 7a feels refreshingly compact and light.
The Pixel 7a comes in Sea, Snow, Coral, and Charcoal shades, but the light-blue hues on the Sea option attract me the most. In a crowded market of dull-looking phones marrying chrome with greyscale colors, the Pixel 7a is a breath of fresh air. The Coral option is another standout from this range, with a palette sure to raise a few eyebrows from those using less evocative devices.
However, if you’re thinking of picking up a Pixel 7a, it’s also worth grabbing a protective case to apply as soon as you unbox the product, as scuff marks and scratches quickly show up on the rear panel. On the positive side, the thermoformed composite plastic material Google uses is high quality, and it’s hard to discern it from glass materials.
Another benefit of the manufacturer using plastic is that it doesn’t shatter like glass, so you can save the cost of expensive repairs and the concern of treating your phone like something worth thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. The build is also IP67-certified, so you don’t have to worry about occasional liquid splashes or a brief dunk in the pool.
The Pixel 7a utilizes a 6.1-inch HDR-certified OLED display with a potential refresh rate of up to 90Hz. With the adaptive brightness feature enabled or by setting the manual brightness slider to its maximum, the screen reaches up to 1,000 nits. Thanks to these settings, there are no issues with screen legibility while using the phone outdoors.
Color reproduction is as solid as expected from an OLED panel, but the natural profile seems slightly muted. I often found myself using the vivid color profile to get the best video-watching experience on streaming services. The bezels are still very much there, especially alongside the bottom edge, but at that price point, you can hardly complain.
Enabling the 90Hz mode, or Smooth Display, takes a hit on the battery, but I would trade battery life in favor of smoother transitions any given day. If you’re coming from a phone with a 60Hz screen, like the recently released iPhone 15, you can instantly feel the difference between the two. Thankfully, the minimalist look with a tiny centered camera cutout at the top makes the screen aesthetics more palatable compared to a notch.
Google has armed the Pixel 7a with the Tensor G2 chip, the same processor powering the flagship Pixel 7 Pro. Sure, it’s not as fast as Apple’s A16 or Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, but if you’re not concerned about the numbers on synthetic tests, you won’t find this phone lagging.
The second-gen Tensor silicon ticks alongside 8GB of RAM and 128GB storage. Unfortunately, there’s no higher storage configuration on offer, and there isn’t a microSD slot either to facilitate storage expansion. That’s a bit disappointing, as many Pixel enthusiasts flock to Google phones for their solid camera output, so it would make sense to offer more storage to keep more high-resolution images on the device without resorting to the cloud.
When it comes to gaming phones, something we’re keen on here at Pocket Tactics, the Pixel 7a is surprisingly competent. Playing titles like Call of Duty: Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends is a smooth experience, even with high graphics settings, and there’s no problem with overheating either. But if you plan to run titles like Genshin Impact, prepare to experience lower frame rates and a device running hot after a short play session.
In terms of raw performance, you won’t find this phone struggling with any of the essential smartphone functions you expect from a modern device. The chipset and RAM combo on offer is enough to run multiple apps in the background without any apparent stutters or aggressive background task management.
Despite coping decently with gaming, the Tensor G2 is a slightly peculiar processor. It doesn’t exactly set the benchmark charts on fire with raw CPU performance. It is more comparable to Qualcomm’s mid-tier Snapdragon 7 Gen 2 SoC. If I were to slot it somewhere in the big-name class, think of a generation-old Qualcomm Snapdragon or a slightly outdated Apple A-series chipset.
However, there is one glaring issue with the performance of the Pixel 7a that I’ve already touched on in this review. Soon after the launch, users started to complain about heating issues. Unfortunately, Google hasn’t fully resolved those issues yet. The phone even pushed the “device is too hot” warning notification while capturing 4K videos during the daytime in testing.
I downgraded from the Android 14 beta to the stable Android 13 build with the latest security patch, but the heating woes persist. Overheating is rarely an issue with basic smartphone functions like internet browsing and messaging. If you enjoy playing performance-intensive games for hours at a time, you may need to opt for throttling measures like lowering the brightness or visual quality for thermal management.
For some reason, Google arms the Pixel 7a with a slightly sub-par 4,385mAh battery compared to its predecessor. The device caps wired charging at 18W, which isn’t too shabby by Apple and Samsung standards but is sub-standard compared to phones from Chinese brands like OnePlus and Xiaomi.
Google claims 24 hours of battery on a single charge, but that is a bit of an overstatement. With a screen time of around four and a half hours, a generous dose of music streaming via Bluetooth earbuds, a handful of cellular calls, and social media surfing, I had to plug the phone into a charging outlet by the end of the day.
I wouldn’t call it a standout performance, but I count myself as a perpetually online digital citizen who likes to push phones to their limits. So, a full day of battery longevity with demanding usage is still a win. If your smartphone habits aren’t as demanding, you won’t face any battery nightmares with the Pixel 7a.
Should you buy the Google Pixel 7a?
The Pixel 7a goes for £449, and at that hit on the wallet, it gets a lot of things right. The IP67-rated build is solid, married to a sufficiently fast OLED screen. The raw performance firepower on the table is also impressive for the asking price, but the extensive list of exclusive Pixel features lifts this phone above the rest.
Camera performance is one of the best in the price range, even though the videography aspect isn’t as impressive as still image photography. The battery provides enough juice to last a full day of usage, and wireless charging is a welcome bonus.
Overall, there is little that the Pixel 7a struggles with, overheating and high-end gaming experiences aside. If only Google could wave a magic wand and solve the fingerprint and heating issues, the Pixel 7a would be easily the best mid-range smartphone from the company to date.
If you don’t think the Google Pixel 7a is the one for you, check out some alternatives below.
Nothing Phone (1)
The sub-£500 category is a hotly contested one. If brand heritage isn’t your primary concern, the Nothing Phone (1) stands out with a unique light-up design, powerful cameras, sharp display, and clean software.
Samsung Galaxy S22
If you are into discount hunting, check out the Samsung Galaxy S22, which received a discount soon after the launch of the Galaxy S23. On the other side of the mobile ecosystem, the iPhone SE is a safe option, but it comes at the cost of a criminally outdated design.
Xiaomi Poco F5
If you look at Chinese brands, the Xiaomi Poco F5 offers great performance and specs for its asking price. However, it’s not quite as flexible as the Pixel 7a, and the cameras aren’t nearly as impressive.
The Google Pixel 7a is one of the better mid-range handsets on the market, offering quality cameras, a vivid display, and most of Google’s best smartphone features. Still, it’s not perfect, with overheating issues when pushed too hard, an average battery life, and mediocre storage.