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4 things I love about the Pixel 7a (and 3 things I hate)

Pixel 7a lying on leaves.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Google’s new Pixel 7a might be $150 more than its predecessor, but it packs plenty of upgrades for that price. The Pixel 7a has a better camera sensor compared to the Pixel 6a, a 90Hz refresh rate, and the Tensor G2.

This marks the first time I’ve used a Pixel full-time since the Pixel 3, and as you might expect, I have some thoughts about the Pixel 7a. Here are the four things I like about the Pixel 7a … plus three things I really can’t stand.

Flagship camera in a compact form factor

Pixel 7a camera module.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 7a is one of the rare small phones left in the sea of slab smartphones. The only other small phones with a 6.1-inch screen size are the Samsung Galaxy S23 and the iPhone 14 – both of which cost upwards of $600. If you need a small phone with a flagship primary camera, the Pixel 7a is the only choice.

I like the in-hand feel of the new Google smartphone. It is easy to use, and the cured sides mean I’m not struggling to hold it for long durations. The Pixel 7a also has an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance — meaning you don’t have to sacrifice durability just because of the compact footprint.

Same great camera features

Pixel 7a camera UI.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

I like the fact that Google isn’t limiting certain camera features to the flagship lineup. Powerful camera modes from the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro, like Long Exposure, are part of the Pixel 7a as well. You also get other flagship features like Real Tone for better skin tones, Face Unblur, and Photo Unblur. I appreciate Google for giving me its flagship camera features on a sub-$500 phone.

The Pixel 7a sports a 72% bigger primary camera sensor than the Pixel 6a. As a result, it is able to let in more light and click more detailed shots. I especially like the skin tones that I get from taking photos on this device.

Now Playing feels like magic

google-pixel-3a-xl-now-playing
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

This might seem like a minor feature, but I’ve loved it since my Pixel 3 days. No other smartphone lets me see what song is being played in the café I’m at without me consciously putting in the effort to search for it. This is made possible on the Pixel 7a thanks to the excellent Now Playing feature.

I love getting new song recommendations and expanding my library, so just glancing at my screen to know what music is being played is a big win for me.

Google’s software interface is outstanding

Pixel 7a notification shade.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

I like my smartphone interface to be customizable, which is why I prefer Samsung’s One UI. But it looks like the Pixel software has come a long way since the Pixel 3 days.

I can now personalize it to my liking even more. While other Android skins have implemented the Material You design, none of them offer the slick look and feel of the Material You running on a Pixel.

Tensor G2 isn’t the best processor

Pixel 7a back.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

While there’s a lot I like about the Pixel 7a, there are some annoyances that I can’t get over. Here are a few things that are getting under my skin.

Google’s in-house Tensor G2 chip isn’t the flagship-grade processor that that company wants you to believe it is. In my brief usage of the Pixel 7 Pro last year, I noticed that it takes a good 2 seconds to process portrait shots. That processing time also applies to every photo you capture on the Pixel 7a – no matter if it’s a portrait shot or a normal 1x photo. I can live with it, but it’s annoying when I can’t look at the result in an instant to frame the image better in the next shot.

That’s not the only downside of Tensor G2. The Pixel 7a gets a bit warm when I’m clicking a lot of photos or pushing the processor to its limits by gaming. It has an effect on the battery life as well. The Pixel 7a won’t last you a day if you are a heavy user. Plus, it doesn’t feature over-the-top fast charging to let you go from 0-100% within 45 minutes. The 18-watt charging is dated and absolutely shouldn’t be marketed as “fast charging.” And, as we’ve seen before, Tensor G2 can cause other issues that make you regret your Pixel 7 purchase.

The annoying, persistent Search bar

Pixe 7a home screen.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

K, another “it’s just you” thing here – I don’t like the perpetual presence of the Google Search Bar at the bottom of my home screen.

Let me choose if I want to keep it or not. It’s of no use to me. I don’t want it at my fingertips as soon as I unlock my phone. It isn’t solving anything for me. If you personally love it, great! But at least give us the option to remove it, Google.

We have to talk about those bezels

Pixel 7a display.
Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 7a isn’t the best-looking phone from the front. It features some of the thickest — if not the thickest — bezels in the segment. As a result, the display isn’t as immersive as it should be. It isn’t a deal breaker, but rather a minor annoyance that most people might not be bothered by.

Overall, the Pixel 7a is a good phone at $499. But the Google Pixel 7 is just $100 more, which gets you better Gorilla Glass protection, a brighter display, a superior build, and slightly faster charging.

In my opinion, you should wait for a discount to buy the Pixel 7a. A $399 or even $449 price tag would be much more tempting and make more sense when compared to the Pixel 7. Or, if you need a cheap Pixel right now, maybe just get the $349 Pixel 6a instead. The Pixel 7a is a solid phone — it’s just the price holding it back.

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Prakhar Khanna
Prakhar writes news, reviews and features for Digital Trends. He is an independent tech journalist who has been a part of the…
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