Monday, June 24, 2024
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Google Pixel 7a vs. Pixel 7: don’t buy the wrong Pixel

Google’s A-series smartphones have been a bright spark in the mid-range market for a few years now, and the Google Pixel 7a is the latest of that line. This newest update supercharges the Pixel A, adding the Google Tensor Gen 2 processor, a 90Hz refresh rate, and the highest megapixel size ever seen on a Pixel A smartphone. But those upgrades come at a price, and that’s translated into a slightly higher cost for the new Pixel 7a, increasing to $499.

It’s a relatively modest increase for the specs boost on offer — but it does mean the Pixel 7a has moved to just $100 away from its bigger sibling, the Pixel 7. Priced at $599, the Pixel 7’s flagship specs mean it’s a tough competitor for the new Pixel 7a to beat. It also means you’re presented with a difficult choice when it comes to buying a reasonably priced Pixel. Should you buy the Google Pixel 7a or spend $100 more to grab the flagship Pixel 7? We compared the two phones so you can make the decision that’s best for you.

Pixel 7a vs. Pixel 7: specs

Google Pixel 7a Google Pixel 7
Size 152 x 72.9 x 9mm

(6 x 2.8 x 0.4 inches)

155.6 x 73.2 x 8.7mm (6.13 x 2.88 x 0.34 inches)
Weight 193.5 grams (6.8 ounces) 197 grams (6.9 ounces)
Screen size 6.1-inch OLED 6.3-inch AMOLED
Screen resolution 2400 x 1080 pixels (429 pixels per inch), 90Hz 2400 x 1080 pixels (416 pixels per inch), 90Hz
Operating system Android 13 Android 13
Storage 128GB 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Processor Google Tensor Gen 2 Google Tensor Gen 2
Camera Dual lens 64MP wide, 13MP ultrawide rear, 13MP front Dual lens 50MP wide, 12MP ultrawide rear, 10.8MP front
Video Up to 4K at 60 frames per second (fps) Up to 4K at 60 frames per second (fps)
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.3 Bluetooth 5.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display Yes, in-display
Water resistance IP67 IP68
Battery 4,385mAh

18W wired charging (no charger included in the box)

Wireless charging


20W wired charging (no charger included in the box)

Wireless charging

Reverse wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support Most major carriers Most major carriers

Charcoal, Snow, Sea, Coral

Obsidian, Snow, Lemongrass
Price Starting at $499 Starting at $599
Buy from Google Google
Review News Pixel 7 review

Pixel 7a vs. Pixel 7: design, display, and durability

Gone are the days of boring Pixels — Google’s smartphones now have a unique design and identity, and the Pixel 7 range has continued that. The camera bar at the back of the phone is the highlight, with the camera’s dual lenses peeking out from a contrasted metal visor. It may look a little like a Ninja Turtle headband, but it’s unique and looks fabulous. Around the front, slim bezels surround the 1080p display, interrupted only by a hole-punch for the selfie lens.

You might have noticed we didn’t really contrast the two phones in that paragraph, and that’s largely because the two phones’ designs are identical. That’s a good thing, but there are small differences between the two. For instance, the Pixel 7a only has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance and sports an “all-new midrange architecture” that boosts the phone’s durability but sets it apart from the Pixel 7’s glass and aluminum build.

There are more differences in the display tech. The resolutions and refresh rates are the same between the two phones, and the 90Hz refresh rate is an overdue boon for the Pixel 7a in particular, but the similarities end there. The Pixel 7’s display is slightly larger, but it’s also an AMOLED panel rather than the OLED panel on the Pixel 7a. The Pixel 7’s AMOLED tech is slightly higher quality than the Pixel 7a’s OLED, but it’s a very small bonus, all things considered.

This is an extremely tight category, and while we’re awarding the win to the Pixel 7’s better IP rating and screen, it’s definitely not the category to base your purchase on.

Winner: Google Pixel 7

Pixel 7a vs. Pixel 7: performance, battery life, and charging

Google's Tensor G2 chip.

As these are both Google-built phones, they benefit from Google’s processor, the Tensor Gen 2. This flagship chip has some downsides, but it still delivers strong performance and is more than capable of tackling all the latest apps and 3D games. The Pixel 7a benefits from this, as it gives it flagship potential at a lower price — which isn’t something we generally expect from anyone other than Apple. Both of these phones use the Tensor Gen 2, have 8GB of RAM available, and have 128GB of storage as standard. The Pixel 7 does have a 256GB variant, which may be something for media lovers to consider, as neither phone comes with expandable storage via a microSD card.

What about battery life? Neither phone is a battery champ, though in our testing, the regular Pixel 7 tends to have longer endurance. Both are about one-day phones, but the 7a tends to die a bit quicker than the 7. The Pixel 7 also has a charging advantage, offering 20W wired charging compared to 18W on the Pixel 7a. And while both phones have wireless charging, only the Pixel 7 offers reverse wireless charging.

Winner: Google Pixel 7

Pixel 7a vs. Pixel 7: cameras

Google Pixel 7a in Snow leaning on garden post
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

With so many of these phones’ specs being similar, it’s here the battle will be won or lost. The camera has traditionally been the Pixel’s strongest element, and both of these phones are sure to have strong cameras. But which is better? That may be a tough question to answer, at least until we’ve had a chance to play with the Pixel 7a.

The Pixel 7 sports a dual-lens 50-megapixel wide main lens, paired with a 12MP ultra-wide lens on the back, and a 10.8MP selfie lens around the front. It is, in a word, excellent. Thanks to a combination of the hardware and Google’s exceptional software, stills somehow look better than real life. It’s one of the few phones that takes an exceptional picture every time, without the need for tweaks in an editing app. Google is the king of point-and-shoot phone cameras, and that comes to the fore here. The lack of a dedicated zoom lens means it loses out where zoom is concerned, but the 8x digital zoom is still good, and the excellent Night Sight mode continues to lead the way for low-light shots.

How does the Pixel 7a stack up? It’s hard to say at this stage, but the specs are very promising. The star of the show is the 64MP main lens, the largest ever seen on a Pixel A-range phone. It’s joined by a 13MP ultra-wide lens and a 13MP selfie lens around the front. It’s very likely the Pixel 7a will produce excellent shots on par with the Pixel 7, and versatility is likely to be similar, due to the similar hardware used. The 13MP selfie lens has the chance to cause something of an upset too, as the Pixel 7’s selfie capabilities weren’t anywhere near as good as the phone’s rear cameras.

One element to note is a difference in pixel size. The Pixel 7a has a smaller pixel size than the Pixel 7, which means the Pixel 7 is able to gather more light in the same amount of time. More light generally means better pictures in camera terms, so this does give the Pixel 7 a small advantage.

We won’t know how this category shakes down for sure until we’ve had a chance to properly review the Pixel 7a — however, with a larger pixel size, and a proven record, we’re going to give this for the Pixel 7 for now. But we expect the final result to be extremely close.

Winner: Google Pixel 7

Pixel 7a vs. Pixel 7: software and features

Quick Settings on the Google Pixel 7.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both phones run Android 13, and it’s one of the cleanest versions of Android you’re likely to find anywhere. It’s not pure, “stock” Android due to a few small additions, but it is close — and one of the best options for Android purists. This pair also benefit from having the fastest update speeds in the Android space since Google owns and operates Android, giving it an advantage no other Android manufacturer can match. Both phones come with a commitment to three years of major Android version updates and five years of security updates as well. Both are excellent promises and mean each can potentially last for years after purchase.

But it’s worth quickly mentioning the elephant in the room: Bugs. The latest Pixel range has been beset by a number of software issues, ranging from small to large, and they’ve affected a number of handsets. Worst of all, they’re not consistent, so you could end up with a bug-free handset or a buggy one, and there’s no way to tell. These can be fixed, though, and it’s possible Google has ironed them out in time for the Pixel 7a.

You’ll find the same special features on both phones. Those include excellent AI-powered features like Call Screen, which answers calls for you and provides a transcript of the call, and Now Playing, which intelligently identifies songs playing near you. There are a number of features tied into the camera and Google Photos as well, like Photo Unblur, Night Sight, Long Exposure, and the excellent Magic Eraser, which can remove unwanted elements from a picture for you.

You’ll find the same software and features on both phones. This is a definite tie.

Winner: Tie

Pixel 7a vs. Pixel 7: price and availability

The Google Pixel 7a is now available, having released immediately upon announcement. It costs $499, and while it has 5G support, keep in mind that only the Verizon-sold model will have access to mmWave 5G bands.

The Google Pixel 7 is currently available, and prices start from $599. It’s available from a number of stores, and it often catches good discounts during sales, so it’s often worth waiting if there’s a sale period on the horizon. It works with several U.S. carriers, but remember that like the Pixel 7a, you won’t get mmWave access on every model.

Overall winner: Google Pixel 7

Pixel 7's camera module.
Pixel 7 Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Taking three categories out of four, it’s clear the Google Pixel 7 is the technical winner here. However, it’s certainly not a dominant win, as the Google Pixel 7a put up a very strong fight indeed. While the Pixel 7 won many of the rounds, it wasn’t by a long shot by any means, and most could easily have swung back towards the cheaper smartphone with some small changes. This verdict also comes before our review of the Pixel 7a, so expect some of this to change once we’ve been able to spend some time with the newest Pixel in the stable.

But where does this leave you in wanting to buy a new phone? On first impressions, it’s hard to justify spending the extra $100 on the Pixel 7. That extra money gets you a camera with a slightly bigger pixel size, a faster charging rate, and a marginally better display and water resistance. That’s not a lot, and it makes the Pixel 7 a harder sell.

Of course, as we keep saying, these impressions are pre-review and are subject to change. But at the moment? It’s looking as if the Pixel 7a may be the savvier purchase here, despite the Pixel 7 being the stronger phone of the two.

Editors’ Recommendations


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