At $850 Less, the ‘Budget’ Google Pixel 7a Is Almost as Good as the 7 Pro

At $850 Less, the ‘Budget’ Google Pixel 7a Is Almost as Good as the 7 Pro

The Pixel 7a is Google’s answer to the iPhone SE or Samsung ‘A’ series. It sits around the same price, under $1,000, and just like its competitors, offers many perks of its flagship siblings. It’s genuinely hard to call the Pixel 7a a budget handset, though.

The ‘a’ series of phones from Google have always taken a space in the heart of Gizmodo Australia writers. The 3a we were so impressed with, likewise with the 4a. If the 5a came to Australia, no doubt we would have continued the gag (click those links if you want to see what this ‘gag’ is). But the 6a was worthy of a little more than potty mouth – it was a new era for Google, one that was a little more democratising in that it gave users who didn’t have over $1,000 to spend on a phone access to the cool shit the search giant was doing with software. In 2023, they’ve gone and trumped every effort they’ve made before.

The 7a is impressive. The 7a fuccs so hard.

Google Pixel 7a

The Google Pixel 7a was announced merely minutes ago during the company’s I/O developer conference and Gizmodo Australia was lucky enough to have a few days to play around with the new phone before it hits shelves.

Specs at a glance:

  • Display: 6.1-inch FHD+ OLED (90Hz refresh rate)
  • Processor: Google Tensor G2 (same brains as the Pixel 7 Pro)
  • Storage: 128GB (8GB RAM)
  • Camera system: 64MP (wide), 13MP (ultrawide), 8MP (selfie)
  • Battery: all-day battery, Pixel’s Adaptive Battery can last over 24 hours.
  • Connectivity: 5G
  • Colours: Charcoal, Sea, Snow.

While the phone looks a little different to the 6a, it’s still very obvious that this phone is a Pixel. Like with the 7 and 7 Pro, the search giant has made the camera on the 7a something to accentuate, rather than tuck away. The Camera Bar is a lot neater in the Pixel 7a than in the 6a, but a lot of that probably has to do with the 7a I have been reviewing being a single tone in black, rather than the aesthetically unpleasing green/olive colour. That last remark was a very subjective one – you may like a two-tone colour choice – but for me, simplifying the phone to make it just one colour was a brilliant design choice. Not to mention the finish on the phone feels a little more premium than last year’s model.

google Pixel 7a
Pixel 6a (left), 7a (middle), 7 Pro (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

After making it this far through the review, you no doubt already have the vibe that I love the Google Pixel 7a. It can’t be understated that for $750, you basically get a $1,000 phone. It lacks in size when we compare it to the 7 Pro, but the 7 isn’t too much bigger. While I find the phone gorgeous and easy to look at, the UI is as perfect as I could imagine Android getting (more on that in a sec), but the best feature of the Google Pixel 7a is that the camera rivals the 7 Pro.

A very decent camera system

The camera system has this year been bumped up substantially from the 6a. The rear system is comprised a 64MP wide and 13 ultrawide, which is great, but the biggest takeaway here is that the 7 Pro has a 50MP wide. The camera on the 7a is better than its most expensive brother. Of course, it’s the camera lens, mixed with hardware, mixed with software that equals a good photo, but it’s hard to deny the results.

Starting with 0.5/0.6x zoom on the Pixel 6a, 7a, and 7 Pro.

Pixel 6a 0.6x zoom (left), Pixel 7a 0.5x zoom (middle), Pixel 7 Pro 0.5x zoom (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

1x zoom (the setting the camera will open up at automatically).

Pixel 6a 1x zoom (left), Pixel 7a 1x zoom (middle), Pixel 7 Pro 1x zoom (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Now 2x zoom for all three phones.

google pixel 7a
Pixel 6a 2x zoom (left), Pixel 7a 2x zoom (middle), Pixel 7 Pro 2x zoom (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

And pushing all Pixel phones to their limits with zoom.

google Pixel 7a
Pixel 6a 7x zoom/max (left), Pixel 7a 8x zoom/max (2nd from left), Pixel 7 Pro 5x zoom (3rd from left), Pixel 7 Pro 30x zoom/max (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

I didn’t do the 7 Pro justice here sliding it all the way up to 30x zoom – there was still a lot of clarity at even 20x.

Moving into Portrait Mode, the improvement is very noticeable over last year’s phone.

google Pixel 7a
Pixel 6a (left), Pixel 7a (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Macro is where the Pixel 7a is let down by the quality of the Pixel 7 Pro.

google Pixel 7a
Pixel 7a (left), Pixel 7 Pro (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Night Mode is nothing to scoff at.

Pixel 7a (left), Pixel 7 Pro (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Now a shrub.

google Pixel 7a
Pixel 7a (left), Pixel 7 Pro (right). Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

You also have a handful of photography features with the 7a, but you’ll get more for the extra bit of cash.

Pixel 7 Pro (left), Pixel 7a (right) Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Android, perfected

I’ve said for years my ideal phone is a Google Pixel running iOS. Google hardware is years ahead of its competition, but I’ve never been an Android gal. It just looks cheap when compared to the refined appearance of iPhone software. However, Android on a Pixel is a lot easier on the eyes than on say a Samsung. I should mention, however, that before the Pixel 6, I was Apple or nothing. I’m still warming up to this new end-to-end Google ecosystem the search giant is slowly, but surely, pulling people into and it’s hard to deny the combination of Google software and Google hardware is nothing short of incredible. But also worth mentioning Gizmodo Australia writer Zac just told me his favourite thing about the Pixel is how it looks inside, so take my comments with a grain of salt if Google software tickles your fancy.

But the software-hardware combo I keep rambling on about is exceptional. ‘Material You’ (the ability to match wallpaper with themes) and the customisation of apps is just the start. The 7a comes with all of the ‘smart’ features the 7 and 7 Pro Pixels have, mostly thanks to the Google Assistant. For me, the standouts here are the recording app, which live transcribes what someone is saying – great in my line of work where interviews take forever to transcribe, and the Google Translate features. As someone with a handful of Google Home devices in my home, the seamless integration with the Pixel is also worth mentioning.

pixel 7a
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

Swapping between playing with the 7a and the 7 Pro, the speed of both phones is comparable. That’s because the Pixel 7a is packing a Google Tensor G2, which is the same brains as the Pixel 7 Pro. But because of other hardware limitations, it’s unlikely that you’ll see the same performance advantages of the chip in the cheaper model.

Staying on the guts of the phone and the Google Pixel 7a held up pretty good in our battery test. Google promises two-day battery life when you activate low power mode. It was bizarre seeing ‘1 day and 5 hours’ battery life reported on the phone. The battery test is a very simple stream of Avengers: Endgame, which is a three-hour movie that streams in HD from Disney+. For the test, the brightness is at max, volume is at max, and we monitor how far the battery drops from 100 per cent. After the first hour, it was down to 95 per cent, dropping to 89 per cent at the second, and at the end of the movie, it still had 75 per cent left. The next day, it wasn’t until about 9 am I decided to put the phone on charge, even after taking photos for this review and using the phone how I normally would to get a good gauge of its performance.

pixel 7a
Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

It’s not all good, though. The volume on the Pixel 7a is terrible. Scrolling TikTok had me reaching for headphones when the atmosphere around me was anything but silent. Doing the above battery test, in a noisy office, I thought the speakers were broken. Nope, just super quiet. Of course, you’re not meant to listen to anything from your phone in a public place, but you at least expect the sound to be good and at a decent volume when you’re chilling on the lounge.

Phone calls are also very quiet. The idea, which I get, is to use earbuds (preferably Google ones) when talking on the phone. But I’m so rarely on a phone call and like to just get in and out without having to pop in earbuds just for the cause. I’d like to hear my mum while I’m walking to the train station after work in the Sydney CBD without having to ask her eight times to repeat herself.

Should you buy the Google Pixel 7a?

The only thing holding me back from swapping out the Google Pixel 7 Pro for the 7a as my main Android phone is its size. On an equally superficial level is the fact I prefer what the 7 Pro looks like, and I also consider it important to have on me the top-tier phone from Apple and the top-tier phone on me from Google, at all times for content reasons. It’s very likely none of this is what you’d consider.

If you have a Google Pixel 7 or 7 Pro, I’d tell you to absolutely not bother buying the 7a. It’s essentially the same phone. If you’re still in the Pixel 5 era or below, the Pixel 7a is 100 per cent worth your time and money. Likewise, if you’re in the market for a new Android phone but don’t want to spend over $800, you should really consider the Pixel 7a.

If you need an Android phone that offers brilliant battery life, a good camera, a nice software experience, beautiful graphics, and one for you to scroll social media, watch a few vids, answer emails, stream music, and make some calls – the Pixel 7a is hard to beat for $749.

Where to buy the Google Pixel 7a

The Google Pixel 7a is available for $749 from May 11 (today) from Telstra, Optus, JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman, and Officeworks.

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