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Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: Is it time to upgrade?

Renders of the Google Pixel 8a and Google Pixel 6a.
The Google Pixel 8a (left) and Pixel 6a Digital Trends

Ahead of Google I/O 2024, Google revealed the latest entry in the Pixel lineup: the Google Pixel 8a. This budget-friendly Pixel option is packed with plenty of new features, including a new design and colors, the Tensor G3 chip, more storage, and a crop of new AI-powered tools.

But what if you still have a Google Pixel 6a? Are all of these new features worth an upgrade? Let’s examine both phones to help you make an informed decision.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: specs

Google Pixel 8a Google Pixel 6a
Size 152.1 x 72.7 x 8.9 depth mm (6.0 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches) 152.2 x 71.8 x 8.9 mm (5.99 x 2.83 x 0.35 inches)
Weight 188 g (6.8 ounces) 178 grams (6.28 ounces)
Screen size 6.1 inch OLED 6.1-inch OLED
Screen resolution 2400 x 1080 pixels (430 pixels per inch), 120Hz. 2,000 nits peak brightness 2400 x 1080 pixels (429 pixels per inch), 60Hz, 876 nits peak brightness
Operating system and updates Android 14 w/seven years of OS, security, and Feature Drop updates Android 12 w/three years of OS updates, five years of security updates.
Storage 128GB or 256GB 128GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Processor Google Tensor G3/Titan M2 security coprocessor Google Tensor G1/Titan M2 security coprocessor
RAM 8GB 6GB
Camera 64MP main camera, 13MP ultrawide camera, 13MP front camera 12.2MP main camera, 12MP ultrawide camera, 8MP front camera
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
Ports USB-C USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display Yes, in-display
Water resistance IP67 IP67
Battery 4,492mAh

18W wired charging

7,5W wireless charging (Qi-certified)

4,410mAh

18W wired charging

No wireless charging

Colors Obsidian, Porcelain, Bay, Aloe

Chalk, Charcoal, Sage

Price From $499 $449 (at release)
Review Google Pixel 8a review Google Pixel 6a review

Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: design, display, durability

A person holding the Google Pixel 8a
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Since the Google Pixel 6 series, the Pixel lineup has retained the same overall aesthetic, with a few minor tweaks in design.

Both the Pixel 6a and Pixel 8a have the same general appearance, but when you look closer, there are definite changes in design. The Pixel 8a features much more rounded and softer corners on the chassis, whereas the Pixel 6a has more traditional square corners. The camera bar on the back of the Pixel 8a is also aluminum now, instead of plastic like on the Pixel 6a, so it looks more natural when extending into the aluminum frame.

A big difference is the finish of the back exterior. The Pixel 6a had a glossy back, which was prone to fingerprints and smudges. The Pixel 8a has a new matte finish back that won’t show fingerprints or smudges very easily, and that makes it more comfortable to hold.

The Pixel 8a also offers more color options: Aloe (green), Bay (blue), Obsidian (black), and Porcelain (white). The Pixel 6a only comes in three colors: chalk, Charcoal, and Sage.

Google Pixel 6a in hand.
Digital Trends

Both the Pixel 6a and Pixel 8a have a 6.1-inch OLED display with 1080 x 2400 pixel resolution, 430 pixels-per-inch density, and always-on capabilities.

However, the Pixel 8a has double the refresh rate at 120Hz compared to the Pixel 6a’s measly 60Hz. This means much smoother scrolling, better animations and transitions, and an overall improved app experience. In our tests with the Pixel 8a, we experienced no lag or stutter in normal use. The Pixel 8a display will also reach up to 2,000 nits of peak brightness, which is much better than the Pixel 6a’s maximum of about 876 nits. This higher peak brightness makes the Pixel 8a easier to use outdoors in sunlight.

In terms of durability, both the Pixel 6a and Pixel 8a use Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and have an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance.

Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: performance, battery life, and charging

A person playing a game on the Google Pixel 8a.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When you’re considering a new smartphone, it’s always important to take a look at how they perform. In the case of the Pixel 8a and Pixel 6a, there’s a pretty big difference here.

The Pixel 8a uses the newest Google Tensor G3 chip with Google’s Titan M2 security coprocessor, the same one that you’ll also find in the mainline Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. The Pixel 6a uses the first-generation Google Tensor G1 chip, which isn’t a bad chip, but it is a bit dated compared to the new G3.

The Pixel 6a also only had one storage option: 128GB with 6GB RAM. The Pixel 8a has two: 128GB or 256GB, and both options have 8GB RAM. The extra RAM pairs nicely with the improved performance and efficiency of the G3 chip.

Someone holding the Google Pixel 6a. The display is on and showing the phone's home screen.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

The batteries on the Pixel 6a and Pixel 8a are similar, at 4,410mAh and 4,492mAh, respectively. So, you do get a bigger battery with the Pixel 8a, and with the performance and power efficiency of the newer G3 chip, that should also mean more battery life.

In fact, Google claims that you should be able to get an average of “24 plus hours” of battery life from a single charge on the Pixel 8a. But in our testing, we found that getting that result really depends on your usage. In our review, we stated that we had about three or four hours of screen time per day with mixed use and typically saw 25% battery remaining by the end of the night. That’s not going to get you the 24-plus-hour claim that Google claims. But if you’re OK with a phone that you’ll have to charge at the end of the day anyway, then the Pixel 8a is fine.

Unfortunately, charging has remained unchanged. The Pixel 8a still only has 18-watt wired charging like the Pixel 6a. However, the Pixel 8a does support 7.5W wireless charging, while the Pixel 6a lacks wireless support entirely. (The Pixel 7a was the first Pixel A-series phone to have wireless charging support.)

Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: cameras

The Google Pixel 6a. Someone is holding the phone with the camera app open.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Google Pixel phones have a solid reputation for taking good photos, but the hardware still matters. And the difference between the Pixel 6a and Pixel 8a is quite significant.

The Pixel 6a just has a 12.2MP main camera with a 12MP ultrawide lens, as well as an 8MP selfie camera. But the Pixel 8a features a big jump up to 64MP main camera with a 13MP ultrawide lens, and the selfie camera is 13MP.

Though the Pixel 6a still takes good photos, the Pixel 8a definitely has better specs that will result in even better photos. With a massive jump in megapixels for the main camera, your shots will have much more resolution and detail, which is better if you ever plan to print out your photos.

A person taking a photo with the Google Pixel 8a.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Though the Pixel 8a is not perfect, it still takes very good photos. Colors pop with brightness, there’s a lot of detail, and the resulting photos are consistent. It does not have a telephoto lens, but it can do 2x digital zoom, which isn’t too bad.

The Pixel 8a also has better software tools for helping you get the best photo possible, including Best Take and Magic Editor, which are possible here due to the better performance of the G3 chip. Best Take lets you take multiple group photos and then combine the best faces from each one into a single photo. Magic Editor lets you enhance your photos with various AI-powered filters and effects.

But the Pixel 6a isn’t without some AI magic of its own. The Pixel 6a still has the Magic Eraser tool, which lets you get rid of unwanted objects in a photo.

Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: software and support

Android 14 logo on a Google Pixel 8 Pro.
Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Another important thing to consider when getting a new phone is how long the hardware and software will be supported. After all, not everyone buys a new phone every year, right?

The Pixel 6a came out in 2022 and shipped with Android 12. At the time, Google promised three years of Android OS upgrades and five years of security updates. This means that the Pixel 6a will last through Android 15, which should come out later this year.

The Google Pixel 8a ships with Android 14, and Google has upped the ante with seven years of support across the board, just like with the main Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. So, the Pixel 8a will last through Android 21. This is also the first Android phone that will have Gemini Nano AI capabilities for under $500, but those features will be coming later.

Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: price and availability

A render of the Bay blue Google Pixel 8a.
Google

Since the Google Pixel 6a is an older phone, you can’t buy it from the Google Store anymore. However, retailers like Amazon still seem to have some stock left, with prices under $300. While this may sound like a good deal, remember that it won’t be supported for much longer at this point.

The Pixel 8a is available now, starting at $499 for the 128GB version and $559 for the 256GB model. You can also save some money on a Pixel 8a by looking for special trade-in deals and other sales.

Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a: is it worth upgrading?

The Google Pixel 8a surrounded by daisies on a lawn.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

It’s pretty clear that the Pixel 8a is a big upgrade over the Pixel 6a. Considering that the Pixel 6a is getting close to the end of its life at this point, it would be a good time to upgrade, and the Pixel 8a is a fantastic choice.

The Pixel 8a has a new design and colors, and the 120Hz refresh rate on the 6.1-inch OLED display provides a much better experience than the 60Hz on the 6a. With a maximum brightness of up to 2,000 nits, the Pixel 8a is also much easier to use outdoors in bright sunlight.

For photography and video, the Pixel 8a will definitely impress with its 64MP main camera, 13MP ultrawide lens, and 13MP selfie camera. This is almost as good as the regular Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, and it’s a huge step up from the Pixel 6a. And with cool AI features like Best Take and Magic Editor, getting the best photos is a breeze.

The Tensor G3 is also much improved over the first two iterations of the chip and even has less tendency to overheat. The slightly larger battery will get you through the day better, and you even have wireless charging. The Google Pixel 8a comes with Android 14 and will be supported through seven years of Android updates, so this phone will definitely last a while.

The Pixel 8a is easily one of the best value budget handsets this year. If you’re still holding on to your Pixel 6a, you should definitely consider upgrading this year. That said, you may also want to consider going for a Pixel 8, thanks to Google’s fluctuating pricing.

Editors' Recommendations

Christine Romero-Chan
Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade. She graduated from California…
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