Google Pixel 7a: Almost the perfect entry into the Pixel universe

It has its flaws but the new Pixel is certainly a worthy showcase for Google's vision.

by Justin Choo

Now that the Google Pixel 7a is here, the question is: is it worth putting down extra cash for a Pixel 7?

At this point, I would think that the Pixel platform is a pretty stable platform, and given our brief time with the Pixel 7a, we have reason to believe that for some people at least, this might be the better purchase over the Pixel 7; the main reason being: the differences aren’t that big, except for one noticeable thing.

It’s not the rear of the phone for sure–it didn’t occur to me at first that the Pixel 7a wasn’t using a glass back (it’s plastic) and I think most people wouldn’t care as well, I would think, so Google made a good call here. You’ll notice that the display is slightly less vibrant than the panels on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, but it is still a pretty good one. In all, that’s good news for penny-pinching Google fans, because Google manages to minimise the impact of ‘cost-cutting’ for the most part.

As a multimedia device

My first impressions alone are pretty good. The Pixel 7a is certainly a good size; 6.1″ vs 6.3″ is not much of a difference and feels nice in the hand. It’s roughly the size of a regular iPhone, and noticeably lighter.

I’m just going to say it: the 6.1″ form factor is way more comfortable than 6.3″. Fight me.

This time around, the entry-level pixel phone receives a 90 Hz display that’s relatively readable in bright sunlight. Colour accuracy and vibrancy are certainly above average and the panel certainly performs as well as you would expect from a phone at this price point. Maybe memory fails me, but Pixel 7a feels a tad quicker in picking up my brightness preferences this time around; it finds the ballpark within hours of use.

The speakers are pretty good at delivering detailed spoken voices but overall they emphasise treble a little too much, so the bass on music tracks is almost non-existent–but at least there’s clarity.

General performance and battery life

The Pixel 7a is a snappy phone that’s perfect for everyday tasks and general use. The fingerprint reader seems quick enough, and the Face Unlock helps speed up the login process.

The experience of editing photos, which probably is one of the most taxing things one does daily, always feels fast and responsive. It’s not exactly a phone that’s designed for gaming, but you certainly can get decent enough graphics for visually demanding games like Genshin–I pushed for maximum settings and it averaged around 30 fps; not too shabby.

While we generally have no complaints about the battery life, the caveat here is that heavy-duty tasks will take their toll on the battery. We left the Adaptive Battery setting on, which gives between a day and a day and a half of regular use; that is if you are a well-adjusted human being who spends more time working than on the phone.

The Pixel phones aren’t the fastest when it comes to charging (funny how that reminds us of the iPhones back then), and nothing has changed with the 7a. Google has added wireless charging as well for convenience, though it is slightly slower compared to the Pixel 7 (7.5W vs 12W). You don’t get the reverse charging feature (I don’t get it either), but given its battery life, the Pixel 7a has no business trying to charge other devices. Honestly, the reduced wireless charging speed isn’t egregious since it’s kind of like trying to pick out the fastest snail in a slug race. I’m biased though–give me really fast charging over any wireless charging feature. Just five minutes on the wire and you’re truly ‘wireless’ thereafter. But I digress.


The distinctive camera bar is certainly at home with pastel colours.

On paper, the Pixel 7a has a front and main camera that packs more megapixels on their sensors. However, it doesn’t make them any better cameras than those on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro.

The Pixel 7a also lacks some features like HDR video, for example, and its feature set feels somewhat simplistic. That said, do I miss not having HDR? Certainly not. The core of the Pixel 7a camera system is mostly solid, and that’s all it needs to be. We’ve more or less come to expect a certain level of image quality in sub-$1,000 phones, and the Pixel’s software as it is, gets a lot out of what proved to be modest sensors.

The Ultrawide lens looks decent enough to be used and more importantly, it has autofocus. The Super Res Zoom is a bit lacking, however, especially when lighting is sub-optimal. At 8x, images get a little smudgy for my liking, and I find myself rarely venturing beyond 2x if image quality is necessary for me. There’s no macro mode as well, so you have to make do by playing around with telephoto zoom to get close-ups. But for the most part, the photos taken in daylight are really good.

This is perhaps where the extra cash makes the difference; the Pixel 7a visibly struggles in low-light situations. It’s not a disaster but you will need to be mindful about what you photograph and how you go about it. If you prefer something a little more forgiving, then look at the Pixel 7 instead.

What a difference light makes. The image on the left demonstrates the worst case scenario–zoom and low light–in contrast with a photo taken in half-decent lighting. Pick your battles and you’ll be fine.

What I do like about the Pixel 7a camera is the UI: the features are clear-cut and easy to access. In that sense, the stripped-down features make this phone rather sleek when it comes to navigation and intuitively simple to use–almost iPhone-like. The post-photography features like object removal work like a point-and-shoot camera, and they get the job done well enough for casual social media. I certainly think it’s a joy to use.

Video-wise, you have the option to go 4K 60fps and the stabilisation correction is rather good. You don’t get any creative features other than slow-motion and time-lapse, but that’s fine. Functional is good and I certainly am not complaining here.

The non-camera AI stuff

The one thing you’re most likely to use is the transcription, which is snappy now. It transcribes pretty quickly and fairly accurately; I use the term fairly accurately a little loosely because it can be more accurate if you speak clearly but nobody in reality is going to speak like that consistently. But it can keep up even if you are blabbering quickly and incoherently and gets it mostly right. It’s able to differentiate speakers as well and label them for easier access in future. The transcription feature is linked to GBoard, so you can use it on other apps like Whatsapp, which is pretty handy for long texts.

Clear Calling is not a magical noise remover like ANC is, but it does mitigate noise to some extent; unless of course, someone else is yammering in the background on the other side of the phone call. In this case, a bit of verbal violence works better in addressing the source of the problem. I’m kidding, don’t verbally abuse anyone, please.

Final thoughts

More than any other Pixel phone in the series, the Pixel 7a feels like the essence of the Pixel experience. After stripping away the extraneous tech, will the core experience be enough to convert users to ‘Camp Stock Android’? Almost. If the Pixel 7a had the primary camera of the Pixel 7 to improve low-light performance, I’d dare say yes. However, you could say the same the other way around: why not shave some features off the Pixel 7? Google will have to answer that question. For the money, I think the Pixel 7a just about scrapes through on account of the user experience and overall performance of the hardware. I’d heartily recommend it if it were a little cheaper. As it is, I think it’s worth a shot if you want to get a taste of the Pixel experience.

  • 7.5/10
    Google Pixel 7a - 7.5/10

Google Pixel 7a

Price starts from $745

Value Proposition
Design & Build Quality

The Pixel 7a is a great entry-level phone for the Pixel brand. Its weaknesses aren’t fatal and the good experience far outweighs the niggles.

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