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Don’t buy the Pixel 7a — this is the best cheap Pixel of 2023

Sage green Pixel 6a and Snow Pixel 7a held in hand
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Last month, Google held its annual developer conference, Google I/O 2023. The event gave us a peek at some exciting new hardware coming soon, including the Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet. But Google also dropped the latest in the Pixel 7 lineup, the budget-friendly Pixel 7a. For just $499, you get a 64MP camera, a 6.1-inch display with a 90Hz refresh rate, the Tensor G2 processor, and wireless charging capabilities.

However, in an interesting move, Google decided to keep the Pixel 6a around, as it is still available to purchase. But it also got a big price cut, bringing it down to a mere $349.

On paper, all of those new features of the Pixel 7a sound enticing, but is it really worth $150 more than last year’s Pixel 6a? You also need to consider that the standard Pixel 7 is just $100 more than the Pixel 7a, and you get even more features (like larger camera sensors, reverse wireless charging, and a larger display).

Let’s revisit the Pixel 6a and see how it does in 2023.

The megapixels don’t really matter

Google Pixel 7a vs 6a back design comparison
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

As someone who pretty much relies on smartphone cameras because I lack an actual, standalone digital camera, I usually consider megapixel count as an important factor when getting a phone. However, don’t be fooled by the Pixel 7a’s 64MP main camera, because one of the great things about Pixel phones is that they all take great photos — largely thanks to the computational processing involved, not necessarily because of the hardware. This includes the Pixel 6a.

I did a camera comparison between the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a, and honestly, there’s almost no difference between both devices. If there were any differences, they were so negligible that you wouldn’t even be able to tell unless you were to inspect every photo with impeccable scrutiny. Most photos end up being shared on social media these days anyway, and trust me, no one is going to be combing over every fine little detail.

Even though the Pixel 6a only has a 12.2MP main camera, 12MP ultrawide, and 8MP selfie, it’s not the camera hardware that creates good images on Pixel phones — it’s more about the software and processor. With Google’s Tensor chips, there are a lot of AI and computational processes involved with things like photography, so the end result will always be a good-looking image. So despite the fact that the Pixel 7a has more megapixels, photos you take with the Pixel 6a can look just as good as those taken with the Pixel 7a due to Google’s computational photography magic.

As I said in my camera comparison, the Pixel 7a is not worth $150 more than the Pixel 6a if you want good cameras. Yes, the 64MP camera may be enticing, but Google’s computational photography process is so good that it doesn’t really matter. You end up with very similar results even with a 12MP camera.

The display is still good

Google Pixel 7a vs 6a display compared
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

The Google Pixel 6a comes with a 6.1-inch OLED display with a 1080 x 2400 resolution and a 60Hz refresh rate. For the techies, the 60Hz refresh rate may be a pain point compared to the 90Hz refresh rate that the Pixel 7a offers. But for the average person? I doubt that they would really care or notice.

I have the Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a side by side, and while the Pixel 7a does have slightly smoother and faster scrolling animations, the Pixel 6a is by no means bad. I wouldn’t even say that the 90Hz refresh rate is worth an extra $150 over the Pixel 6a. If it were 120Hz, that would be a different story, but it’s not.

Refresh rate aside, the Pixel 6a’s display is still good, especially for the new price of $349. It’s still an OLED display, and the colors are bright and punchy. Brightness levels are pretty good, too, even outdoors, and text looks crisp and sharp in all the apps I use. I may be used to 120Hz with my primary iPhone 14 Pro, but the Pixel 6a’s display is just fine for the price.

The Pixel 7a’s wireless charging isn’t great

Google Pixel 7a metal frame angled view
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Though Google decided to add wireless charging capabilities to the Pixel 7a, it may have been better to just leave that feature out. The Pixel 7a’s wireless charging caps out at 7.5-watt charging speeds, and it doesn’t even have reverse wireless (aka Battery Share). On the other hand, the Pixel 7, which is just $100 more than the Pixel 7a, has up to 20W wireless charging and supports Battery Share.

Wireless charging has never been as fast as wired charging, but 7.5W for the Pixel 7a is just a slap in the face. At that speed, you’ll barely get a charge when you need it, and it’s best for overnight charging at that point. But even then, you have to make sure that the phone doesn’t move off of that “sweet spot” on wireless charging pads; otherwise, it will all have been for nothing.

Even though the Pixel 6a doesn’t have wireless charging, you may not miss it. I typically don’t use wireless charging much anyway because then I can’t use my phone while it charges, and I prefer faster charging speeds with a cable. I only really use wireless charging if it’s something like Apple’s MagSafe system.

And on top of all that, the Pixel 7a even has a smaller battery capacity than the Pixel 6a — 4,385mAh versus 4410mAh, respectively. It’s not a particularly large difference, but the Pixel 6a has better battery life, which is odd considering that the Pixel 7a is supposed to be better.

The Pixel 6a is still a strong value in 2023

Sage green Pixel 6a and Snow Pixel 7a
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Despite the fact that the Google Pixel 6a came out in 2022, it’s still a great budget phone to consider in 2023, especially if you want to try out a Pixel.

Though the Pixel 7a is also a good phone, I just don’t see the new features that Google added as making it worth $150 more than its predecessor, which is still available to purchase. And if you’re going to shell out that kind of money, you might as well go a little further and get the standard Pixel 7, which has everything the Pixel 7a has and then some. The $499 price tag just puts the Pixel 7a in an odd place in the current Pixel lineup.

If you want a budget-friendly Pixel that still works great, especially for photos, then you really can’t go wrong with the Pixel 6a. And when the Pixel 6a still holds up as well as it does a year after its release, you have no reason not to consider it.

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