Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 6a: Should you upgrade?

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a
(Image credit: Future)

A Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a comparison should matter to anyone who's got one of Google's older midrange phones. Assuming you bought your Pixel 6a when the phone first came out in 2022, you've been using the same device for two years — long enough to consider whether it's time to upgrade to a newer model.

The Pixel 6a remains a formidable phone with its Tensor processor enabling some impressive AI features (though maybe not as impressive as the newer capabilities found on the Pixel 8a). The cameras remain top performers two years after the phone's debut. In an era when people want to hold on to their phones for longer, the Pixel 6a certainly qualifies as a device with a bit more life left in it.

But the Pixel 8a may prove to be too tempting to ignore. A newer Tensor chipset means new AI features. The display has also seen a serious upgrade over the last two years, while Google has another chance to tackle one of our lingering complaints about the Pixel A Series — improving the battery life of those phones.

We're still testing the Pixel 8a so stay tuned for our full review. (Our Pixel 8a hands-on does have some first impression of the new phone.) But now that the Pixel 8a is official, our Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a comparison is better equipped to tell you what's different between the two phones.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 Google Pixel 8aGoogle Pixel 6a
Starting price$499$449
Screen size6.1-inch OLED (2400 x 1080i)6.1-inch OLED (2400 x 1080i)
Refresh rate120Hz60Hz
CPUTensor G3Tensor G1
Storage / Expandable?128GB,256GB / No128GB / No
Rear cameras64MP (f/1.89) main; 13MP (f/2.2)12.2MP main (f/1.7), 12MP ultrawide (f/2.2)
Front camera13MP (f/2.2)8MP (f/2.0)
Battery size4,404 mAh4,410 mAh
Wired charging speed18W18W
Wireless charging?YesNo
Size6 x 2.9 x 0.4 inches6 x 2.8 x 0.35 depth inches
Weight6.8 ounces6.3 ounces
ColorsObsidian, Porcelain, Bay, AloeCharcoal, Chalk, Sage

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a price

As of this writing, you can preorder the Pixel 8a, which costs the same $499 that Google charged for last year's Pixel 7a. For Pixel 6a owners, though, that's actually a price hike — they paid $449 for their phone when it came out.

An extra $50 may not be that big a deal in the greater scheme of things, but Pixel 6a owners will still want to know if the changes to the phone help mitigate the extra cost. At least the Pixel 8a comes with more RAM — 8GB vs. 6GB — and the new phone has a 256GB option to go with the 128GB base model. The 256GB Pixel 8a does cost a pretty penny, though, at $559.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a design

Google Pixel 8a in hand.

Pixel 8a (Image credit: Future)

In a sense, not much has changed with the Pixel A series design over the years, so both the Pixel 8a and 6a bear a resemblance to one another. Both phones have that camera bar that stretches across the back, mirroring the design of Google's Pixel flagships. 

However, there are some differences of varying subtlety. The Pixel 8a features rounded corners contrasting with the sharper edges on the Pixel 6a. The new phone also features a matte-textured back, which should do a better job of repelling smudges than the glossy back of the Pixel 6a.

Google Pixel 6a review

Pixel 6a (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Color options are slightly more plentiful with the Pixel 8a, which features black, white, blue and green. The Pixel 6a has black and white options of its own (Charcoal and Chalk, Google calls them), along with a lighter green called sage.

Durability hasn't changed much. Both phones use Gorilla Glass 3 for their front panel, and both offer IP67 water resistance. 

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a display

Google Pixel 8a in hand.

Pixel 8a (Image credit: Future)

Google kept the 6.1-inch screen size in place for its latest Pixels, though the display has seen other improvements since 2022. The Pixel 8a features a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, while the Pixel 6a remains firmly locked at 60Hz. So upgraders can expect smoother scrolling and more immersive graphics from games that support fast-refresh rates.

In fact, Google adapted the Actua display found on its Pixel 8 flagship phones for the Pixel 8a, which means that peak brightness is now 2,000 nits. We measured the Pixel 6a at 778 nits when we tested that phone's display. Even if the Pixel 8a doesn't come close to reaching its maximum brightness, it's a safe bet that the former's screen will be easier to see in direct sunlight than the display on the Pixel 6a.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a cameras

Google Pixel 6a review

Pixel 6a (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Google made its big camera upgrade to the Pixel Series A lineup with the Pixel 7a, turning to a 64MP sensor for the phone's main camera. That setup returns for the Pixel 8a, where the 64MP main camera is joned by a 13MP ultrawide lens, along with a 13MP selfie cam up front.

Contrast that with the cameras on the Pixel 6a, which makes do with a set of 12MP rear cameras — one handling the main camera duties and the other for ultrawide shots. An 8MP front camera takes care of self portraits.

The hardware changes over two years are significant enough before you take Google's photo processing into account. The bottom line should be much better pictures with the Pixel 8a, and that's before you consider editing tools enabled by the newer Tensor G3 chipset. The Pixel 8a supports features like Magic Editor for resizing and moving objects in photos, Best Take for improving group shots and Audio Magic Eraser for removing unwanted sounds from videos. The Pixel 6a offers Magic Eraser with the ability to remove or camouflage unwanted objects in photos.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a performance

Google Pixel 8a in hand.

Pixel 8a (Image credit: Future)

As we've already mentioned, the Pixel 8a's Tensor G3 chipset is a couple generations ahead of the Pixel 6a's Tensor G1. Not that Tensor chips are ever known for their blazing performance, but you should get more processing oomph if you upgrade to the Pixel 8a.

We know this just by looking at the benchmarks for the Pixel 8 and comparing them to the Pixel 6 since both Google flagships feature the same silicon as their respective A series devices. The Pixel 8 Geekbench scores are well ahead of the Pixel 6 on both the single and multicore tests of this general performance benchmark. In terms of graphics, the Pixel 8 posted a 54 frames per second result on 3DMark's Wild Life Unlimited benchmark, topping the Pixel 6's score by 59%. We'd look for similar Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a numbers when we finish testing Google's new phone.

Of course, the real story with Tensor chipsets is what kind of AI features they enable. We've already mentioned the photo editing tools available to the Pixel 8a, and we'll dive into to other Tensor G3-specific capabilities in the software section of this comparison.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a battery life

Google Pixel 8a in hand.

Pixel 8a (Image credit: Future)

There's no sense in mincing words here: Battery life on the Pixel 6a stunk. When we tested the phone, it fell just shy of 6.5 hours, which is about 3.5 hours short of the average phone's performance on our battery test. Things improved considerably with the Pixel 7a, so now it's time to see if the Pixel 8a can keep up that momentum.

The specs are certainly in the newer phone's favor, even though the phones have roughly the same-sized batteries. We're betting that the Tensor G3 is a more power-efficient chipset, which should help the Pixel 8a wring more life out of its battery, but testing will ultimately determine whether we're right. 

Charging speeds remain at 18W over a wired connection, but the Pixel 8a has another trick up its sleeve. Like the Pixel 7a before it, the 8aa supports wireless charging — something missing from the Pixel 6a. 

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a software and special features

Google Pixel 6a review

Pixel 6a (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The story here is all the capabilities offered by the Pixel 8a thanks to the Tensor G3 chipset. If you're familiar with the Pixel 8, none of this will be a surprise, but you can expect the Pixel 8a to offer a more sophisticated on-device translation capabilities and Circle to Search for looking up information without leaving the app you're in. The Pixel 8a's Call Assist feature has tools for screening calls, navigating phone trees and improving audio call quality.

As significant as the Tensor-powered features are, I'm not sure they're the biggest software difference between the Pixel 8a dnd Pixel 6a. Instead, it's Google's more extensive software support that grabs my attention.

Pixel 6a owners have already seen two of three Android updates that Google guaranteed when the phone launched. This fall's Android 15 launch will be the last, though security support runs through 2027. If you really want to extend the life of your phone, consider that the Pixel 8a now offers seven years of software and security updates, matching what's available to Pixel 8 flagships.

Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a outlook

There's no question the Pixel 8a is a step up from the Pixel 6a. How big a step that actually is will depend a lot on the results from our battery testing and head-to-head camera comparisons.

But before we finish those tests, it's already clear that the the Tensor G3 chipset powering the Pixel 8a brings more features to the table, and the display on the new phone is going to outshine the Pixel 6a's screen. Add in Google's extensive software support, and even reluctant upgraders may have to concede that the Pixel 8a is a better long-term value than the Pixel 6a.

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Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

  • gatesbuster
    admin said:
    If you bought a Pixel 6a when it first came out, you may be wondering if it's time to upgrade. Our Google Pixel 8a vs. Pixel 6a comparison looks at all the changes from one model to the next.

    Google Pixel 8a vs Pixel 6a: Should you upgrade? : Read more
    the only thing I care about is the battery life. The 6a camera is pretty good. The drawback that a new phone will bring to me is battery life and how bright the display when outside on a very sunny day, so I can actually see the display. The 6a display is not great outside on a bright day