Google Pixel 8A Review: The Best Smartphone

A personal gadget needs to feel, well, personal. I have what I call the table test. If I’m out at a restaurant or coffee shop, do I leave the phone with its screen facing up? Or flip it around and admire the design?

Well, it might be functional—placing a Pixel face down toggles on Do Not Disturb mode and keeps me away from attention-grabbing notifications—but the Google Pixel 8A is also too pretty to hide its looks away, especially in the new Aloe color.

This is often a rarity on a smartphone that costs less than $500. Flagships get the star treatment and cheaper phones look bland. This year, I’ve noticed a change, with smartphones like the Motorola Moto G Power 5G and Nothing Phone (2a) making things more aesthetically interesting at the low end. Google’s Pixel 8A continues that trend with its elegant, matte, colorful design.

Say Aloe

Minty! Smartphones are getting more aesthetically interesting at the low end.

Photograph: Julian Chokkattu

Google’s A-series phones take elements from the flagship Pixels while cutting costs elsewhere to make the package more accessible. The Pixel 8A employs 76 percent recycled plastic in the back cover versus glass, uses the older and less protective Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for the display, and has an OLED panel that doesn’t get as bright, not to mention lesser camera specs. There are other small changes, but this helps bring this phone down to $499, which is $200 less than the Pixel 8.

And yet, this phone doesn’t feel too out of the ordinary compared to its pricier siblings. The metal frame and camera bar give it that luxe look; the lovely curved edges and its 6.1-inch screen size make it a comfy phone to hold and use one-handed. This is the most refined A-series Pixel to date, and the Aloe color steals the show.

My mom noticed it in my hand immediately and asked about it, admiring the translucent green hues. (Google’s official case also color-matches the phone perfectly and makes the camera bar flush with the back so it’s still thin.)

The 6.1-inch screen doesn’t feel too small—it’s quite refreshing considering most of the phones I test these days have screen sizes 6.5 inches or more—and the OLED display is sharp. I stared at this screen on a near-perfect sunny day in New York City this past weekend, and the Pixel 8A ratcheted up its brightness accordingly so I didn’t have to squint. This used to be a common flaw with Pixels of old, but screen brightness is no longer a problem. Google also has brought a 120-Hz screen refresh rate here, so everything is wonderfully fluid (make sure you turn this on in the phone’s settings).

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