Google Pixel 7a vs Pixel 6a: What’s the difference?

Google has just revealed its new budget-focused smartphone, the Pixel 7a, set to take on the mid-range market in 2023.

The question is, how does the Pixel 7a compare to its predecessor, the Pixel 6a? There may not be much point in upgrading if the two are functionally similar, after all. However, unlike the jump from the Pixel 5a to 6a, there’s a lot to get excited about with this year’s Pixel 7a.

Here are some of the key differences between the Pixel 7a and the Pixel 6a that might push you towards one or the other. 

Pixel 7a has a faster display

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Pixel 7a, aside from how similar it is to the Google Pixel 7, is the display. While both the Pixel 6a and 7a measure in at the same 6.1 inches, there’s a key difference: the refresh rate.

Every Pixel ‘a’ phone, including the Pixel 6a, has stuck with a generic 60Hz refresh rate. While that would’ve been fine a few years ago, particularly in the mid-range space, in 2023 even budget phones offer a super smooth refresh rate. That’s likely why Google has finally decided to up the refresh rate of its budget-focused Pixel 7a to the same 90Hz as the Pixel 7.

While it’s not quite the 120Hz of some competitors, the jump from 60Hz to 90Hz is much more notable than 90 to 120, or 120 to 144. 

Google Pixel 6a

Pixel 7a has better cameras

The Pixel 6a boasts a decent camera offering comprised of a 12MP main and 12MP ultrawide on the rear and an 8MP snapper for selfies. Our reviewer was thoroughly impressed with camera performance across the board, describing the main lens in particular as “better than I’d expect at this price” with impressive HDR performance, sharp detail and plenty of definition.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Pixel 7a takes that up a notch with a new 64MP main camera with a sensor 72% larger than that of the Pixel 6a, which should vastly improve low-light performance in particular. That’s paired with a 13MP 120-degree ultrawide and a matching 13MP front-facing camera that can record up to 4K@30fps. 

We’re yet to fully test the camera capabilities of the Pixel 7a, but our reviewer noted in his hands-on impressions that the low-light performance seems to be “better, faster and more reliable than on an iPhone 14 Pro Max“, so it’s certainly promising. 

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The Pixel 7a has a faster processor

Both the Google Pixel 6a and Pixel 7a sport Tensor chipsets developed by Google in-house and exclusively available on Pixel devices like the Pixel 7, Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet, though there are slight differences between the two.

While we had no complaints about everyday performance with the Pixel 6a, it sports the same Tensor G1 chipset that appeared in the Pixel 6 range back in 2021. That’s pretty old in 2023.

That’s likely why the Pixel 7a sports the upgraded Tensor G2 chipset found in the Pixel 7 range, and while we’re yet to run benchmarks on the new budget option, performance is very likely in-line with the flagship Pixel collection, which is to say it’s solid, though not quite as performative as the likes of the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.

Still, for a phone that costs half the price of some flagships, that’s not bad going. 

Pixel 6a

Both offer advanced AI smarts

While the Pixel 7a’s newer Tensor G2 chipset introduces a few new AI-powered features to the budget Pixel’s roster, both smartphones excel when it comes to AI prowess. 

Regardless of the model you opt for, you can get access to key AI-powred photo features exclusive to Pixel phones including Magic Eraser and Photo Unblur, but it goes beyond camera improvements with features like AI-powered translation and transcription chops that shouldn’t be sniffed at.

In fact, our reviewer noted that “the Recorder app transcribes recording better than any other solution I’ve tried” when looking at the year-old Pixel 6a, and we expect the same from the 7a too. 

The Pixel 6a is cheaper

It’s clear at this point that the Pixel 7a is a worthy upgrade to last year’s Pixel 6a, but there’s one area that stops it from being a complete winner: pricing.

Don’t get me wrong, both the Pixel 7a and the Pixel 6a boast distinctly mid-range price tags, but the Pixel 7a has seen a slight price increase compared to its predecessor. While the Pixel 6a came in at a tempting £399/$399, the Pixel 7a costs a slightly increased £449/$499, representing an increase of £50/$100.

Still, with all the upgrades on offer, it’s an easier pill to swallow, and the Pixel 6a will likely be available at an even steeper discount now that the newer version is available to buy. 

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